The 1970s were full of dystopian future tales like ‘Logan’s Run’ and ‘Soylent Green,’ and even comics weren’t immune. Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Doomsday+1 #1 awaits!
Writer: Joe Gill
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: John Byrne
Letterer: John Byrne
Editor: George Wildman
Publisher: Charlton Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $8.00
Previously in Doomsday+1: After starting his career at Timely Comics during the Golden Age, Joe Gill actually scripted a number of early Captain America stories before moving to Charlton Comics cirac 1948. He became Charlton’s primary staff writer, turning out literally thousands of comic books over the next thirty years, co-creating Captain Atom and The Peacemaker and helping to revive Golden Age character Blue Beetle in 1964. By 1975, Charlton Comics was flagging a bit in sales as Marvel and DC continued to take over larger portions of the comic book market, but Gill teamed with a young artist named John Byrne (pronounced “burn”, in case you weren’t sure) for a series taking place in the far-flung future year 1996!
We are introduced to Captain Boyd Ellis and his crewmates Jill Malden and Ikei Yashida (who, for some reason, is dressed in hip boots and a tiny leotard) as they prepare to blast off for a scientific mission in orbit. Boyd and Jill are an item, in a very unprofessionally PDA-laden way, while Ikei is overtly and obvious jealous, which may explain her provocative clothing choices. Unfortunately for our astronaut trio, dictatorian madman General Rykos finds himself under siege, surrounded by his enemies as the curtain drops on his fiefdom. In his final moments, Rykos chose to fire nuclear warheads at Moscow and New York City, triggering the moment that WOPR would warn a young Matthew Broderick about just a few years later.
Of course, it’s a comic from the 1970s, so there’s a little bit of casual racism thrown in there as well, with retrograde depictions of what seem to be African and Inuit people. For his part, a 25-year-old Byrne is showing the beginnings of the style that would reshape the X-Men in just a year or two, showing the horror in Jill’s face as she seems the explosions from their orbiter. Boyd decides to keep the ship in low-Earth orbit for an undisclosed amount of time (which, if you’ve ever read a Joe Gill story, is a pretty common occurrence, as the exact amount of time in any given story is always somewhat nebulous) before he is forced to bring them down due to lack of food and supplies. Seeing that much of the Eastern seaboard of the US is flooded, they choose a low-radiation area in what was once Greenland, bringing their capsule down somewhat explosively in the now-melting ice cap.
You’re cold, Ikei, beause you’re wearing your underpants on an ice floe. (That’s #OneToGrowOn!) Exploring their surroundings, they find a wooly mammoth, perfectly preserved, with Jill explaining that an instant freeze could cause a creature to become perfectly preserved, only to live again years, or centuries later. Right on time, another mammoth appears to attack them, only to be brought low by a spear from out of nowhere, hearalding the return of the mammoth’s primary predator: a hulking specimen of proto-humanity.
The story indicates that he mammoth, and by extension, their new friend Kuno, has been frozen for 10,000 years, meaning that he comes from a time when agriculture was starting to develop among humans and dogs were being domesticated, midway through the Stone Age. That makes his iron knife perhaps a bit out-of-place, but it’s a comic book from 1975. We’re lucky he’s not accompanied by a triceratops. Another undefined time period passes, as the new friends begin traveling across what was once Greenland, teaching Kuno their language as they go. Eventually, they discover a fishing village, where they borrow an abandoned shipping vessel and sail back towards Canada and civilization. Unfortunately, they find that they’re not the only survivors, as their ship is buzzed by a clearly hostile fighter jet…
The revelation that not everyone was destroyed will lead our team of Goths and scientists into a series of new adventures, drawing upon many of the standards 70s sci-fi tropes, including cyborgs, angry Russians, and even undersea Atlantean types, but the most interesting part about Doomsday+1 for collectors is the numbering scheme. The first six issues tell a complete story, albeit one with an ambiguous ending. Issues 7 through 12 are reprints of the first six, released a couple of years after the cancellation of the series, meaning that collectors who insist on being completists will own twelve issues but only six issues worth of material. Regardless of Charlton’s odd reprinting scheme, Doomsday+1 #1 is a remarkably solid first issue, packing a ton of story into it’s 20-odd pages and featuring some interesting early work by Byrne, earning a better-than-average 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. You’ve probably run into this book in back-issue bins and flipped right past it, but it really is worth your time to find the first six issue… or the last six, I guess.
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It's a clever, if somewhat familiar premise, that is more successful than it could have been. It's well worth seeking out for fans of sci-fi or of Byrne.