Or – “Time, See What’s Become Of Me…”

My biggest problem with this particular review was actually whether or not to use that quote at the top of the page.  Sometimes, you think you’re being clever but you end up just being a schmuck, and I’m occasionally not all that clear on the line between the two.  Likewise, the characters of Next Men have been put into situations where they have to make judgement calls as well, but theirs have consequences a lot worse than sounding like a putz on the internet…

Written by John Byrne
Art by John Byrne
Colors by Ronda Pattison
Letters by John Byrne
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Previously, on Next Men:  Five young people, each with a particular super-power, the Next Men escaped from a government experiment and went on the run with the help of federal agent Antonia Murcheson.  Their flight was short-lived, and they were captured by the very unpleasant Senator Aldus Hilltop, but ended up separated through time and space.  Last issue, we caught up with Jasmine and Nathan, who had been trapped in the distant past, living in a cave and scraping out an existence.  Jack also put in an appearance, some 15 years after the point where we last saw his teammates, discovering a Civil War-era grave that seemed to belong to his one-time savior, Antonia!  We still have little to no idea what has happened to Danny (the speedster) or Bethany (the invulnerable one), save for something that I’m pretty sure was just a dream of Jasmine’s.  One thing seems to be clear, though: Time is NOT on their side.

We open with a very uncomfortable sequence, as Toni Murcheson encounters what she believes to be a Civil War re-enactment society in action.  The truth is a little more dangerous, and the combination of a strong-willed black woman and a group of southern soldiers during the mid-1800’s goes about as well as you would expet for poor Toni.  She gets clubbed with a gun butt and tied to a post in preparation for whipping.  On the plus side, the characters (while a bit course) aren’t full-out despicable, but the entire thing seems to be designed to remind us of the unpleasantness of slavery and the mindset that leads to it.  Things aren’t any better for Nathan, who steps out of a portal into a war zone.  He is picked up by another group of soldiers, this time World War II-era Americans, who clean him up and get him some clothes.  Byrne’s art is very faithful to both time periods, giving us authentic looking uniforms and equipment for 1865 and 1942, which is a difficult enough proposition.

In the future, Jack is interviewed about Toni’s gravesite, while the woman herself falls deeper and deeper into the life of a Civil War slave, while Nathan ends up captured and taken to a concentration camp in occupied Germany.  We find Jasmine in what seems to be 17th Century England, and at least she doesn’t end up beaten by jerks, although her new patron, the Earl of Oxford, may have less than savory intentions.  The issue’s cliffhanger comes with Nathan in Germany starting to recognize someone (probably either Hilltop or his scientific advisor, Jorgensen) in the camp’s infirmary.  Best of all, the Next Issue blurb shows Bethany face to face with the shiny-helmeted creature that transported Nathan and Jazz through time in the first place, which makes me happy as Beth is probably my favorite character in the book.

There’s not a lot of explanation yet for the temporal machinations going on since the last couple of issues of the original series, but that’s okay given the strength of the issue.  While I have my reservations about the twin use of WWII concentration camps and slavery, this issue doesn’t veer off into sensationalism or flat-out nastiness.  I would say that if you’re sensitive about racism or violence against women, you might want to consider the purchase of this issue carefully, but overall it’s a well-handled tale.  JB’s art is excellent throughout, and his trademark use of heavy black areas in the art make it a unique experience.  John Byrne’s Next Men #2 is a good, if somewhat squicky, read and earns 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  While we may not know for sure why these things are happening, the storytelling is good enough that you’re drawn into the issue regardless, making this one successful for me…

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  What’s your opinion on comics touching on issues like slavery or historical atrocity in the context of an adventure story?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

Previous post

REVIEW: The Cape #1

Next post

RETRO REVIEW: Kurt Busiek's Astro City #1/2 (1996)


  1. Luis Dantas
    January 12, 2011 at 8:08 pm — Reply

    They’re just issues. I’m not much of a fan of Byrne the writer, but he used both of them tastefully here. I’m more bothered by the over-simplified politics of Captain America and the like.

  2. Damascus
    March 23, 2011 at 3:34 am — Reply

    Do you think that the basic set up for Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E. was lifted from the Next Men, or just somewhat coincidental? Also, since I’ve never read the original Next Men series, is their origin the same? Escaping from a government experiment and all that?

    Also, what constitutes a “squicky read”?

    And I don’t mind issues like Slavery and/or historical atrocities and the like showing up in my comics. Ultimately I get more enjoyment if the strong willed black woman has some awesome powers and slaps the crap out of those Southern soldiers. But, I also really like the way it was handled with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. They had Indy come face to face with Hitler and he signed his book and all that, it wasn’t necessary to the plot, but I always liked it.

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section