DOOMSDAY.1 #1 (IDW)
Story/Art/Cover: John Byrne
Colors: Leonard O’Grady
Letters: Neil Uyetake
Reviewed by Bob Reyer
“Some say the world will end in fire,
some say in ice.”
“Fire and Ice” (1920)
Quickly upon the heels of his last Science-Fiction mini-series The High Ways, writer/artist John Byrne once again brings us a tale of the near-future, although what kind of, or how many more tomorrows there will be is open to question in Doomsday.1 #1, the first issue of his apocalyptic new undertaking for IDW.
The tale opens aboard the International Space Station as astrophysicist Dr. Hikari Akiyama discovers that a massive solar eruption is heading toward the Earth. Mission Control confirms, but doesn’t seem worried, despite her data that indicates this flare will not dissipate, but in fact has grown so large as to have its own gravity which has caused it to be encircled by a cloud of plasma larger than the Earth itself! As mankind’s dire fate commences, the multi-national crew of the ISS (plus some civilian sightseers) plan to use their docked shuttle to return planet-side, even if that only serves to delay their inevitable demise. Reactions below range from tearful prayer and attempts at reconciliation to ugly self-interest as doom approaches. The shuttle leaves the station just ahead of the flare’s impact and orbits an Earth engulfed in a firestorm followed by a miasma of smoke and ash, and as Capt. Greg Boyd poignantly intones “Those who died instantly may have been the lucky ones.”
For those with long memories, this is not a “re-make” of of the 6-issue 1975-76 Charlton comics series Doomsday+1, created by writer Joe Gill (Captain Atom) and which featured some of John Byrne’s earliest four-color comics work.
This is instead a more serious work, and quoting Mr. Byrne: “I’ve been thinking for some time that I would like to revisit a post-apocalypse kind of scenario, such as was seen in my very first ‘dramatic’ work in comics, but this time without the more obvious fantasy elements of that original series (mermaids, alien robots, frozen mammoths, etc.),” said Byrne. “When bits and pieces of this new series first started to percolate around in my head, I knew almost at once the shape that ‘revisit’ would take; something in the ‘All-New, All-Different’ vein. And the first time I doodled some images of my ‘crew,’ I knew I was there!”
As would be expected. the art in Doomsday.1 is stunning, with interesting panel lay-outs, page designs and technical details, but which never overwhelm the depth and breadth of emotions that Mr. Byrne instills in the faces of his characters, and often only through their body language. Additionally, the palettes chosen by colorist Leonard O’Grady add immeasurably to the atmosphere as we pass from the cold of space to the images of a world aflame.
As with all of his creator-driven work for IDW, Mr. Byrne has brought to life an engaging cast of characters, and even at the outset, whilst dropping us head-long into the action, you empathize with their predicament, cheer their heroism, mourn for their losses, and mull over the motives of others. It is rare in this day and age of de-constructed story-telling that so much groundwork is laid in both the plot and character sense as Mr. Byrne does here, but that has been one of the hallmarks of his distinguished career, and it makes for a beautifully-rendered portrait of a civilization on the brink, with humanity’s attributes both positive and negative on display.
VERDICT: John Byrne has delivered another winner to fans of straight Science-Fiction with Doomsday.1 #1. This isn’t a 1950’s drive-in “end-of-the-world” with irradiated mutants and giant insects, but instead an intelligent saga with characters whose ultimate fate you’ll care deeply about. Doomsday.1 is Highly Recommended by this corner of the Talking Comics offices!
TRIVIA: John Byrne’s internet forum “Byrne Robotics” takes its name from the art credit that Mr. Byrne adopted with issue #4 of the Charlton series where he was penciller, inker and letterer!
Soundtrack (kinda): A must-see that relates to Doomsdsay.1 is the fabulous (but under-sung) 1962 British film The Day the Earth Caught Fire, directed by Val Guest from his screenplay with Wolf Mankowitz, the trailer for which can be seen below: