Probably the most obvious reason to read this particular graphic novel is because of the author/artist, John Byrne. Byrne’s name is nearly synonymous with comic books to anyone who spent much time with comics in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Seeing Byrne’s name on a comic, particularly as artist, was usually a sign that it was a comic worth reading.
And now we jump forward thirty- forty years, and I discover that Byrne is still writing and drawing comics. Clearly a blessing to have a younger generation of comic/graphic novel readers discover one of the greats.
Except maybe not so great or such a blessing … ?
The artwork is solid … crisp, classic, and despite the detail Byrne puts in to his work, it never gets so muddy or so complex that you can’t enjoy each panel. I personally found the artwork refreshing, but it might be seen as ‘simple’ or even comic-book-ish as it doesn’t have the slick, glossy smoothness or gritty realism that much of today’s books have. Again…I personally find this to be an asset to the work.
But the story is another matter. This book tries to tell too much story. So much, that it jumps about quickly and takes such unexpected turns that the reader has to simply accept the leaps because nothing is developed. When writing a storyline for an established series, the characters are pretty well developed and only deviant behavior needs to be explained. But in a one-shot series like this, where we don’t know who the characters are, the change in behavior is annoying — even if the change in behavior is the purpose of the story. When nearly all the major characters change as much as they seem to here, it only confuses the reader and muddles the story.
One character changes so drastically (I’m trying hard not to give too much away) that even the way the character is drawn changes, which only created disbelief to this reader. Disbelief that the character could have gotten away with the disguise in the first place.
There’s nothing wrong with a grand scope … trying to take on some powerful ideas … but in doing so, Byrne left too many unanswered questions, and a wave of head-spinning twists that take some thinking.
Over-all, not bad. I’m glad I read it. It had a nostalgic feel (there is a bit of a Forbidden Planet feel to it). Anyone my age (50’s) who knows comics would likely enjoy it. My graphic-novel-reading-kids? Maybe not so much.
Looking for a good book? This is not too bad.
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The High Ways
author: John Byrne
artist: John Byrne
publisher: IDW Publishing
paperback, 104 pages