Split between the setting of the International Space Station and a few scattered interludes to catch up on the action on Earth, “Doomsday.1” #1 from John Byrne with colors by Leonard O’Grady and lettering from Neil Uyetake depicts the end of the world as we know it. From their roost on the space station, the inhabitants discover a massive solar flare wide enough to engulf the Earth in flame.
The seven residents of the space station include the predictably cliche assemblage of people from across the globe, all drawn in Byrne’s style. That said, these are “ordinary” people and Byrne draws them with ordinary appearances, nothing flashy or extravagant. The one person who stands out a bit to me is Colonel Yuri Kunov, who bears a striking resemblance to Zach Galifianakis in more than one panel. Honestly, that’s the only reason he makes a visual impression on me. The rest of Byrne’s art is filled with background details to the point of distraction surrounding the characters that wear simplistic monochromatic attire, like Power Rangers, to keep them distinguishable from each other. Those colors, courtesy of Leonard O’Grady, give the book a superhero vibe more than the straightforward science fiction suspense feel Byrne is tries to inject into the story.
As already mentioned, Byrne’s cast of characters is predictably cliched with the Russian bear of a man in Kunov set as commander of the space station. His wife, Yulia, joins him onboard as does the Asian astronomer Hikari Akiyama. She discovers the solar flare that sends the action and suspense going in this issue. Stereotypical Frenchman Pascal Brussard is also among the crew, as are Greg Boyd (whose father is a General and advisor to the President) and Canadian Gordon West who appear with mission funder and Richard Branson analog Benning aboard Benning’s Vantage Space Lines shuttle. None of the characters make much of themselves beyond their voice and their stance on the best way to avoid the flare and/or survive it.
Byrne makes some interesting story choices for the planet-side vignettes he injects into “Doomsday.1” #1. Readers see the pope reacting to the pending crisis, as well as the President of the United States. Their reactions are more interesting than the bickering and arguing on the space station. Additionally, Byrne shows a prison riot in Texas and a submarine settling on the bottom of the ocean near New Orleans. I have no doubt the paths of these stories will cross with the journey the space station inhabitants take, but for now, these are all just random interludes connected by staples.
This is low budget sci-fi oddity without any really interesting characters. In this first issue there are no aliens, dinosaurs or other spectacular creatures, just humans making decisions that impact the people around them. It’s all plot and movement around that plot. All in all, it’s a decent enough read, but not packed with anything extraordinarily memorable. I’m sure science buffs will punch all sorts of holes in it, but as a vehicle for Byrne’s over-the-top storytelling and hyper-detailed, stylistic art, “Doomsday.1” #1 hits the mark. Personally, I prefer more dynamic applications for Byrne’s art.