Due to my own tight comic book budget in the 1990s, I completely - and I do mean completely - missed out on "Next Men." Naturally, this meant a new issue #1 from IDW would be a perfect jumping on spot, right? Sort of.
This issue is random and odd, like walking into a room fifteen minutes into an episode of "Lost" from the second season. It's pretty easy to figure out who the players are, but that doesn't make the story any more clear. Jazz - or "Bounce" - is running through some imaginary worlds, one piled within the other, like matryoshka. Just when it seems like this might be the real deal, the bottom falls out.
This is a typical John Byrne free-for-all. Left to his own devices, and unhindered by worlds not his own, Byrne can do whatever he darn well feels like, and he does. Byrne puts so much into this issue that it borders on senses-shattering. There's a lot going on, on the surface, in the art, and throughout the whole issue. Through it all, I found myself wondering what I was supposed to be taking away from this experience and, more than once, had to remind myself to stop trying to figure this out and just soak it in.
Byrne's art is pretty typical of his work of late. The characters are bound by heavier lines, the backgrounds murky with sketchy detail, but through it all, this is John Byrne as his fans (and detractors) have come to know him. The work isn't as clean as Byrne's "Alpha Flight" work, but there is no question whatsoever that this is John Byrne, and like all of us, he has evolved. Fans of Byrne will be pleased with the work here, while fans of the "Next Men" concept will be more than pleased.
This is an unorthodox first issue, but definitely worth checking out, whether you're a fan of Byrne, a fan of the "Next Men" or a fan tired of avenging heroes, batpeople, and crossover-mania. I'm sure at least a few of those types of fans I've just listed will be thrilled with this book. Me? I'm going to go back and re-read this book. Maybe tomorrow, when I wake up in a different reality.