Thursday, 16 May 2013

New Beginnings - Doomsday.1 #1

Right then readers, first thing I have to do this week is make a confession. When I saw the list of upcoming reviews included Doomsday.1 my mind initially wandered to some new spin off from DC, following a Superman villain. Luckily watching over me was the editor who left a link for me to follow to see how wrong I really was.

Doomsday.1 is a new IDW title brought to us by John Byrne - a revival of a comic called Doomsday + 1 that he did in the Seventies with writer Joe Gill. This time Byrne serves as both writer and artist. Now personally I can be a little wary of when the writer/penciller boundary is broached. Byrne's writing was also unfamiliar to me, so I did a little research before reading and I’m glad I did. John Byrne has a phenomenal back catalogue of work across a large range of brands; for instance this is the man that drew the well known Dark Phoenix arc in X-Men. His career has stemmed from artwork and moved to writing so with this settling my mind I opened the pages.

Doomsday.1 is an apt title as this is a story about the end of the world. From the lofty heights of a space station scientists have discovered and recorded a solar flare of enormous proportions, almost four times the size of the Earth. The bad news keeps coming. The flare is not dissipating and will strike Earth giving rise to a catastrophic event.

In the wake of the news breaking worldwide - after the American president takes extraordinary steps by announcing it to the nation instead of hiding the fact - the issue mainly follows how various groups around the world react, including our astronauts on the space station. While Earth is anticipating the worst, the astronauts are preparing to return.

One of my favourite parts of this story is that it feels honest. The reactions, the decisions and the actions people take don’t feel out of proportion. It may have a slightly incendiary couple of pages involving the Pope - and I’m sure someone somewhere will latch onto those frames - but aside from that it has a realistic feel to it, with a subtle hint of underlying panic. Very interesting stuff and provokes some even more interesting thoughts.

The issue ends - after a moment of self sacrifice - with the space voyagers having a rough landing and setting foot on what remains of the Earth. With only odd fires scattered here and there and no real signs of life, what do you do and where do you go?

Byrne’s artwork is a frustration to me. The very first page features the space station in orbit and is a really good image with plenty of detail, but it's not a traditionally clean image. Byrne is known for being strongly against the use of simple straight lines. After that though the artwork felt a little dated and very similar to a lot of his work from the Eighties. Another slight sticking point is the sheer volume of information, both graphically and literally, that Byrne tries to convey. You can see he has really put a large amount into this and wants to get a lot of emphasis and information across but sometimes (for example the President) this floods the frames leaving them feeling cramped. With such a strong story it would have been interesting to see how this may have worked as a collaboration with another artist instead.

On the whole the presentation and depiction of this story is good and I enjoyed it from an intellectual point of view as it made me engage with the subject matter. The second issue promises even more, as this first issue was about establishing an understanding of the situation on such a massive scale. I think this could be a sleeper hit as a result but future issues will tell all.

Matt Puddy would greatly appreciate your support for Hockey For Heroes.

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