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)

Robert Frost

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:

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About The Author

Associate Editor and Podcast Co-Host

Bob was rocketed to Earth as an infant after his parents were scared by a huge bat! Landing on an island of Amazons, he was injected with the super-soldier serum and sent into space where he was bombarded with cosmic rays! This might explain his love for comics, but probably not. 'Nuff said?

5 Responses

  1. RepStones

    Greetings and salutations Job.

    Have to say, I loved this opening issue. Byrne really knows how to set up a story. His art is just as good as ever, that lovely old school feel that i wish those guys who opt for that more photo-realistic style, would take a leaf out of Mr Byrne’s book.
    His choice of panel layouts are nice, not staid, but not overly inventive so that you don.’t know which panel to read next (as can occur sometime if people try to be too fancy).
    The science jargon sounded legit, and again not so overwrought that a layman couldn’t understand it. O’Grady’s colours really pop from the page and lend to a kind of 70′s feel to the comic – as it reminds me of those old 70′s disaster movies when the techincolour was turned up to an 11.
    Byrne has managed to cram a lot into this first issue, as you say. Lots of interesting character dynamics are introduced (being a former Catholic myself, I particularly like his depiction of the pontiff)
    What I really enjoyed about this comic was that ever son small but definitely very present sense of fear whilst reading it. That this could actually happen and Armageddon is not a fairytale like the numerous religions that predict it are.
    All in all, a typically brilliant bit of Byrne.

    • Bob Reyer

      Patrick,

      As much as I enjoyed The High Ways, this new title is even better!

      As you say about the colors, the plot of Doomsday.1 certainly exists in that disaster movie milieu, but it also has the feel of the more literary Science-Fiction films of the period such as The Andromeda Strain or Colossus, the Forbin Project.

      With just one issue, I’m already emotionally invested in the crew, and I do fear that not all of them will make it through this journey; that says quite a bit about the still-formidable talents of John Byrne!

      Patrick, thanks for chiming in, and my best to your lovely ladies at home in Belfast!
      Bob
      ps) That is a heck of a lovely getaway scene, though I will refrain from saying by whom!
      pps) Don’t fret over the typo, as I often feel like Job, in that I have to exhibit uncommon patience whilst trying to proselytize for the “You Should Read the Originals” Movement! rrr

  2. Giant Woman

    I just your judgement Bob, and if you say this is a good read that is enough for me. Plus that single page you posted has a wonderful 70s vibe to it. So, the question is… I’m on a tight budget: is this worth picking up as a monthly title, or do you think there will be a trade for me to latch on to instead?

    • Bob Reyer

      Here’s the thing Ms. G-W,

      As a “Byrne Victim”, I have to pick up the monthly installments, just so as to have my regular dose of Mr. Byrne’s classically-styled work in this new-fangled comics world. If you don’t mind the wait, Doomsday.1 will undoubtedly be a fabulous read as a trade; so with all things considered, perusing an epic tale of a scorched Earth might be quite warming during a cold Winter’s night!

      Thanks as always for checking in, Sarah!
      Bob

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