• The High Ways #1 Reviews 

    Review: The High Ways #1

    By Michelle White | January 17th, 2013
    Posted in Reviews

    A new sci-fi miniseries from a big name — well, why not?

    Written and Illustrated by John Byrne

    Humanity has not yet reached for the stars, but the Solar System is still a busy, exciting, and sometimes very dangerous place, as young Eddie Wallace is about to discover, when he joins the crew of a freighter that hauls cargo along THE HIGH WAYS. John Byrne’s all-new, space-faring series begins here!

    Eddie’s new to the space-faring game, and as he says multiple times throughout the issue, he’s done it all… in simulations. Now he’s been given his first real assignment as navigator on a small spaceship, and all kinds of surprises await him along the way as he and his colleagues set course for Europa.

    In terms of pacing, this comic is about 95% set up, with a lot of story crammed onto the last page, and this might have been a better comic overall if the events pictured on it had been spread out a little. It’s a problem that comes up fairly often in sci-fi miniseries — how do you establish what this universe is like, while still driving the story forward? — but so far as expository first issues go, this one is compact and enjoyable. There’s a bit of character development alongside some cool scientific tidbits as Eddie’s friend Jones gets him used to life in deep space, while Byrne’s complex visuals keep the mood fun and engaging.

    Byrne’s work does tend to have a strong 80s vibe, and it’s definitely present here — particularly in regards to hair styles and clothing. But the slight campiness is a kind of mood of its own, one that doesn’t exactly clash with the near-future setting, and the science fictional staples do, at least, feel modern. The ships are intricate and believable, as is the interior of the space station that Eddie visits, and (as you can see on that cover) Byrne really nails the topography of Europa as seen from orbit. A standout double-page spread gets across a tangible feeling of disorientation, illustrating the difficulty of walking around a space station when your head’s feeling a different gravity than your feet, and crowded as that last page is, the last panel is effective, adding of dash of the otherworldly to a place you’d already think was alien enough.

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    Leonard O’Grady’s colours, meanwhile, give things a nice, bright veneer, keeping the palette diverse and surprising. It’s easy for the black of space and the white of spaceships to dominate a story like this, but O’Grady finds plenty of opportunities to shake things up, fleshing out a bright and colourful sci-fi world rather than a grim and grimy one.

    The biggest flaw overall is that Byrne writes really stilted dialogue, making some of the expository moments more clunky than they need to be, and the character interactions kind of laughable (the captain of Eddie’s ship could not be more of a cigar-chomping, no-nonsense tough guy, for one, and Jones’ sassiness is touch overdone). Again, this aspect of the writing isn’t without its charm in a retro kind of way, but it yanks you out of absorption in the story, which is a precious commodity in a science fiction series — particularly one that’s taking this long to get started.

    While it’s anybody’s guess as to how Byrne is going to flesh out a whole story with just three more issues to work with, overall, this is a campy but intelligent start to a brand new sci-fi miniseries. It’s probably not for everyone — it is so very 80s — but it holds together well and looks great. Fans of Byrne’s work should find plenty to enjoy here.

    Final Verdict: 7.3 — Browse

    Michelle White

    Michelle White is a writer, zinester, and aspiring Montrealer.