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'The High Ways:' Advance TPB Review

The High Ways is a new, interstellar miniseries from IDW created, written, and drawn by comics legend John Byrne. Possibly most well-known for his work on The Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont and his run on Fantastic Four, Byrne has worked on more titles over the years than can be listed here, as artist and as writer. He has also created many original properties in his near five decades working in comics, including John Byrne’s Next Men. Now, he has added The High Ways to his ever-burgeoning list of credits. Taking place at the meeting of the 21st and 22nd centuries, this is a story of scientific intrigue, interplanetary travel, and space trucking. Eddie Wallace is on his first trip out of earth’s orbit into deep space aboard the Carol Ann, an old, reliable space freighter captained by Jack Cagney and his partner Marilyn Jones. Marilyn has a thing for nicknames and so Eddie is known as “Sprout” for most of the series, which works as a nice reversal once some elements of Eddie’s past are revealed later in the story.


The Carol Ann’s next assignment, and Eddie’s first, is an eight-month trip to the planet Europa to pick up an unknown payload. So begins an adventure full of twists and turns and plenty of danger, more than the average space trucker is used to encountering, especially one as wet behind the ears as Eddie. As the story progresses, the crew of the Carol Ann meets characters they don’t know if they can trust, mysterious cyborg creations, a mad but brilliant scientist, and uncover a nefarious plot bigger than they ever imagined. But, that is where Byrne surprises us, as various secrets come to light that make us re-examine the main characters’ choices and motivations, and, as the stakes are raised, we wonder just how Eddie, Marilyn, and Jack will deal with the challenges they face.

Byrne’s work truly shines when it comes to the science fiction of it all. With his art, he creates a kind of low-fi sci-fi technological world that has embraced space travel, but hasn’t worked out all of the kinks yet, so even though things are very hi-tech, the processes are often still rudimentary. There are bulky space suits, big gargantuan space ships and stations, hibernation pods, and a plethora of other interesting ideas and images that Byrne brings to life. The story is also full of intelligent ideas which he takes in directions we don’t see coming, keeping us guessing up until the end. This means we are often as surprised as the characters are as new threads of the mystery unravel, and the action keeps us on our toes, as it often erupts in unexpected moments.

The High Ways
is a unique mixture of old and new, from the distinct art style and the technology to the familiar and unfamiliar places the story takes us. This is very much Byrne’s creation, and it is entertaining to step into his vision of outer space and to encounter the characters that populate this future, realizing they are not much different than the people that populate our present. Everyone’s reasons for traveling The High Ways are different, but for us it is to think about the possibilities the future may hold, good or bad, and to experience an out-of-this-world adventure, courtesy of the imagination of John Byrne.

 

 

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