(John Byrne / Leonard O'Grady / Robbie Robbins; IDW)
Okay, time for a “nerd confession” (sorry Meyers and Shockling, I should have called this in to Comics Therapy), but I would not be reading or reviewing comics at all if it were not for John Byrne, and I'm sure I'm not alone on this one.
When I was growing up, I liked comics well enough, but they were just distractions, fluff, tools to add to the epic stories I was already creating in my imagination. It wasn't until 1979 and, somehow, The Uncanny X-Men #125 “There's Something Awful on Muir Island” dropped into my lap that all that changed. Suddenly comics mattered; Claremont and Byrne brought me a story with which I connected. I was engaged in what I was reading – the characters, the mythos, the pathos, the confusion, the excitement, the adventure – all of this coalesced into a desire to know more because for some reason I saw a part of myself in the story and the story-telling. It wasn't just Claremont's words at work here either, something about Byrne's art made all the difference. His character design, his panel layouts, the very humanness of the emotions he captured – damnit, I was hooked.
And thus, I became the man I am today.
Time has passed and my tastes in entertainment have changed. My appreciation for comics have evolved as well. Nowadays superhero comics don't hold the pull for me they once did, but when the opportunity came to review Byrne's new book from IDW, Triple Helix #1, the nostalgic draw overwhelmed my nascent comics snobbery and I leapt at the chance to check it out.
When I landed I found that I had read a pretty solid superhero book.
Which is kind of a complicated thing.
Byrne's got tightly dressed characters flying and jumping and punching and musing all over the place. It's fun, moves quickly, and it pretty much keeps you from thinking about anything of substance or depth as long as you stay immersed in the book. It is a nice example of what one of my old High School English teachers used to call, “Fritos for the mind.” And there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes Fritos are just what you are craving. Salty, crunchy, pleasant enough – although sometimes if you eat too many, you feel kinda sick, don't you? They certainly ain't no sandwiches.
See what I mean by complicated?
Anyway, apparently Triple Helix #1 takes place after the events of some of Byrne's other books, so we are pretty much dropped into a story in which much of the exposition has already occurred, but, as there's not a lot of depth to this tale, connecting to the action is pretty easy. And since Byrne cuts his characters out of broad and familiar cloth, figuring out who is who is just about as easy as knowing that a red tie looks good with a blue shirt.
Is this the kinda comic that will create a life-long lover of the medium because of its complexity of narrative and intricacy of character? Is this the Byrne book that will be the torch to lead a young reader along the journey to comic book discovery? Will someone say some thirty or so years later that it all started for them with Triple Helix #1?
These may be rhetorical questions.
But you know what – John Byrne can still whip up some tasty, salty corn chips, and occasionally they make a nice side dish to that healthy and delicious sandwich you should probably be eating for lunch.
A little crunch, a little texture, a little Byrne's Triple Helix.