It is now December 2012 and the world is quickly approaching the end. At least according to the Mayans. Now that we are all cautiously sitting around and praying in the hopes that the sky isn’t going to fall on our heads, let’s read about one man’s crazy prediction of the future. We’ve got plenty of time til the winter solstice ends.
This time we have John Byrne’s crazy prediction for what the future could possibly look like if it survives this apocalypse. So why don’t you put on your head phones and plug in some Rush as we travel 100 years in to the future with a glimpse at the year 2112.
John Byrne’s 2112
Why I Bought It
John Byrne is one of those names that has floated around the industry for years. He has worked on almost everything and has been the guy behind some of the best, worst and weirdest stories in the industry. The best however could truly be called that. John Byrne is the man who worked on the X-men during it’s heyday, Superman when he needed a new face, and the Fantastic Four when they needed someone to turn them in to something fantastic again. So obviously, when I see a book plastered with his name on it, I get a bit curious.
I mean the cover is interesting alone looking like he got bored and decided to mash up Jurassic Park and Blade Runner while hiding Iron Man in the background. It kinda screams at you to pick it up. Maybe that’s just because I think dinosaurs are awesome.
I also have this unspoken rule that any comic book that costs a quarter and has a spine to it deserves a look.
In the mid-1980s, John was working at DC doing Superman when he began pitching his own series known as Freaks to the company. DC never picked up John’s idea, but they did promote it in a portfolio with many other famous artists at the time called the History of the DC Universe. This book was a showcase of the talent DC had in its arsenal and inside was a splash of Freaks nestled in between iconic DC characters.
While Freaks never did come out, John would be able to retool the idea in to a number of projects he had. One of which would be an idea Stan Lee pushed on him in 1990. Stan was looking to create a future version of the Marvel Universe and he would ask John to take the helm. John would plot and draw 64 pages for Stan to come back in and fill in with the script. This would be the pitch for Marvel’s 2099 story lines.
Since the book didn’t have many ties to much of the current day Marvel universe, Stan asked for more and John had to put in an additional 12 pages of Marvel references and art in to his pitch. John had purposely kept the original 64 pages clean and when Marvel didn’t take it, he ripped the dozen pages Stan wanted out of it and re-purposed it once again in to the original concept he had made. He then met up with Dark Horse after talking with Roger Stern and they loved his ideas. He would then rework that futuristic concept in to the prequel to another pitch of his. The Next Men would now be promoted as a tie in to John Byrne’s 2112.
In late 1991, Dark Horse would publish a Next Men prototype in their monthly anthology called Dark Horse Presents. These shorts would lead in to 2112 which again would jump start the main series of John Byrne’s Next Men a few months later.
With five years or so of planning, John finally had his own series and he made damn sure to plaster his name all over it. John Byrne’s Next Men would run for 30 issues with Dark Horse before finally ending on a shocking cliffhanger that wouldn’t be answered until he continued the series with IDW in late 2010.
What John Byrne’s 2112 Is All About
In 2112 the world is radically different. For starters, they have mini dinosaurs. Which they put in arenas and have them cock fight. What an awesome future this is. The future however wouldn’t be the future without the flying cars, androids and virtual reality internet sex. This is the pinnacle of what society could possibly become, but let’s be realistic. The brighter society shines, the worse the darkest parts become.
Safeguard, Inc. is the cause of all this prosperity and they are responsible for maintaining the prosperity of society. In charge of the most dangerous tasks are the prime agents. The prime agents are 6 rainbow colored policemen that are both enforcers and mentors of the upcoming talent coming from the academy. This is where we meet Thomas Kirkland. Kirkland had the fortune of being assigned to the most respected agent there is. Tannen is the equivalent of a wrecking machine. He kicks ass, takes names and he throws Thomas in to the shark tank by taking down a massive mutant and torturing him for information on his boss.
This is where Sathanas comes in. Sathanas, who is a cross breed between Iron Man and Black Hand, is the main villain of the Next Men series. How he’s gotten 100 or so years in to the future isn’t really elaborated upon inside this book, but he’s currently the leader of a massive mutant militia hell bent on taking down the beautiful people in their shiny city. Tannen leads a small handful of Kirkland’s school buddies in to the lion’s den to take Sathanas on direct. They do as good as you would think 5 or so people would against an army of mutant powered monsters.
The recruits are all captured after Tannen gets blown up. He miraculously survives rescues them and then has an amazing standoff with Sathanas which doesn’t end up well for Tannen. Knowing that Tannen is the only one who can strike fear in the mutant race, Kirkland assumes his identity and uses it to bolster strength among the agents coming to rescue them. They capture Sathanas and instead of returning his people back to the hole they crawled out of. So he blows them all up and Kirkland decides to keep Tannen’s identity for himself.
Is It Good?
John Byrne’s 2112 is a great reminder of the early 1990s. It had color coded super agents reminiscent of the Power Rangers yet the book predated it so that naturally makes it cooler. It had a super crazy cop in Tannen and his young cop apprentice really screams of the Lethal Weapon series. The world itself is like Krypton before it exploded all over itself.
It is like the craziest mash up of ideas all thrown in to a 66 page comic book that’s honestly not all that good.
It suffers where all great mash up ideas tend to. It’s too chaotic with too many ideas to become something truly interesting. This quite possibly has a lot to do with the chaotic history the title had in prototype stage between publishers, but the script is a bit forced.
What works however does work well. Sathanas, despite having a really bad name for a villain, is a legitimate dictator. Society functions quite well and it does subtly hint at the chaos that will kick start the Next Men, so it is good that way. It’s just a bit on the nose with everything.
Maybe if the book were longer, then I think many of the great ideas Byrne has brought to many other books could have come out. There is some legitimately interesting things with the Kirkland/Tannen relationship. Tannen really gets under Kirkland’s clean interior and there seems like a legitimate old cop, young cop dynamic here. If this were a four issue miniseries, maybe something could be here. Unfortunately at 66 pages, everything gets thrown together and blammo Kirkland’s now Tannen. There just isn’t enough here to really build up this apprentice becomes the master situation.
The art itself is very John Byrne and looks quite nice. The coloring is all digital coloring in a time that digital coloring wasn’t all that great. For Byrne’s lines, the colors tend to be all over the place in quality and overall, it’s just too heavy and dark. If you compare the cover to the interior splash which is the exact same image, you can really see the difference in effect.
This book was just a precursor to John Byrne’s Next Men and it fills the role. It presents the villain in an interesting way and has some interesting things going about it. The biggest of which was the fact that this was actually drawn as the jump start to Marvel’s interesting 2099 experiment. Not sure if I would have paid $10 in 1992 for this, but for a quarter, it was an interesting look at the future. I don’t know if my kids will have flying cars or androids, but I could only hope that they would have cock fighting mini dinosaurs.
I mean honestly, that is the only pioneering science I could truly want for the future of civilization.
Where Can I Find John Byrne’s 2112 Today
IDW has collected 2112 and 12 issues of John Byrne’s Next Men series in a 432 page hardcover edition called The Compleat Next Men. Odd spelling of complete is apparently intentional. This trade is a black and white collection, but seeing as how uninteresting the coloring is in 2112, that can only be a good thing. If giant trades at bargain pricing aren’t what you are looking for then there is always the original for a bit cheaper.
John Byrne’s 2112 [Amazon]