Or – “Rock! Paper! Scissors! But Where’s Spock?”
As I am a child of the 1980s, the news that John Byrne was working on a new superhero title in a classic style had me excited. I’m a regular monthly reader of Next Men, but I still kind of miss the days of Byrne’s Fantastic Four (one of the last times I really enjoyed Reed Richards, I might add) and hoped to see this title reach those kind of heights. Shall we dance?
Previously, in Trio: From the very beginning of his career (with Charlton Comics, drawing the likes of ‘Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch), John Byrne has had a very particular and noticeable art style, and his expansion into writer/artist at Marvel Comics led to some of the most memorable comics books of the Bronze Age of Comics. Moving on to revamp the first superhero, Superman, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Byrne later moved on to found the Legends imprint at Dark Horse, then as one of the most sought-after artistic legends in comics… So, with all that under the bridge, what’s the deal with the Trio?
THEY KNEW IT WOULD BE A BIT FAMILIAR…
The issue starts smart with a “cold open” featuring a group of super-villains robbing a bank, crowing about how the superheroes aren’t coming to save them this time, as the city’s resident heroes are dead. It’s a familiar moment, and the next beat is perfectly timed, as a rocky hero busts in, announcing that rumors of his demise have been blah blah blah fishcakes. Byrne plays with shifting timeframes well, showing us two things happening simultaneously in and outside of the bank, then cutting away to show a monstrous creature attacking a fishing vessel in the ocean. There are definite elements of the Fantastic Four in play here, and Byrne wisely puts them right up front, from Rock’s quipping to Paper’s quasi-stretching abilities, to a strange visitor from beneath the ocean. The art is, as always, stellar and manages to homage the creator’s previous works (Rock is in the same ballpark as the Thing, but has a different body style, bearing and carriage) without falling into parody.
HANGIN’ A LAMPSHADE ON IT.
One small touch that I find myself enjoying in the issue is that none of the three main characters is a blonde, Silver Age caucasian with a square jaw, and the characters’ backstory is tantalizingly hinted at. There are implications that a bigger villain is on the horizon, and the issue ends with another moment that echoes Fantastic Four moments without becoming a knockoff, hearkening back to his big ‘Atlantis Attacks’ crossover in the 90s. All in all, the book switches gears very well, and a couple of moments (especially Scissors’ reminder that “Good guys don’t kill”) really pop as fun. The largest weakness (if it can be considered a weakness) is that the book feels more like a #10 than a #1, seeming like a later chapter of an ongoing book rather than the first appearance of these characters. I can see readers getting confused/irritated by that fact, but it didn’t completely undermind my enjoyment of the issue.
THE VERDICT: INTERESTING & FUN.
It’s not a perfect kickoff for a new series, but this issue has some fun with the idea of a classic creator returning to somewhat familiar territory, and it’s a great looking book from beginning to end. I’ll be interested to see if this series is designed to remind us of what comics used to be like or to completely deconstruct the Bronze Age formula, but either way this first issue has earned enough goodwill for me to give my usual six-issue pickup guarantee. Trio #1 has a nice mix of retro and contemporary, nice art, and a character concept that I’m amused by, earning a well-done 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.
About Matthew Peterson
Were pop culture a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Matthew still 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.