It feels like Eddie has barely set foot on the space station – which is of the same general design as the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey – before one of his new crewmates, Marilyn Jones, finds him. She finds him before we’re even aware he’s looking for anyone, and from there the pace is hectic, the characters always moving from one place to the next. There’s plenty of talking on the go, but there’s no standing around and chatting. Visually, that means there’s usually something happening, though it’s easy to get the impression that the characters are always rushing from place to place, even when they aren’t.
Though the Carol Ann was originally supposed to head for Mars, her captain, Cagney, picks up a job from Europa at the last minute. That’s eight months away, even though it’ll go fairly quickly for Eddie, Jonesy, and Cagney, who will each only need to be awake for a week or so at a time just in case anything goes wrong. This is the sci-fi of long, dull trips, of hardsuits, of microgravity, and Jonesy spares no opportunity to explain its idiosyncrasies to newbie Eddie, who she calls “Sprout” to an irritating degree. No ray guns, no space cowboys – though there is mention of pirates.
Things get a bit complicated when the Carol Ann reaches Europa, a little more than halfway into the issue, and that’s where plot and character start to replace exposition as the principle function of the dialogue. The story picks up considerably from there, and by the end I was interested in certain mysteries that had cropped up, and had a better feel for who the characters were than I thought I might. The High Ways might suffer from feeling the need to explain its lightweight science early and often, but at least the rules of this world are established.
Byrne handles both writing and art, with Leonard O’Grady providing colors, and though I’m not a huge fan of how the main characters are rendered, generally speaking, you can practically hear the airlock seals aboard the ships and stations. The denizens of the station at the beginning of the issue suggest a more diverse setting than we really get to see, yet, and I wonder if later issues in this mini will follow up some of those visual hints. It evokes the sort of design of sci-fi flicks like Alien or 2001, sans xenomorphs and monoliths.
That said, so far, The High Ways doesn’t do anything terribly new or special. It’s pretty much what the cover would make you expect. Fans of John Byrne ought to find it readable, and those who just really like this style of sci-fi can certainly fill some time with it, especially since there isn’t much in this particular subgenre on the stands right now.