When we were kids, the future was presented to us by magazines like Popular Science and the long-gone Omni and pulp magazines was one that had us using jet packs to go to work, beaming to a planet, and using family VTOL rec vehicles. Other notions included colonies on Mars, cities in the sky and tricorders as seen on Star Trek. These developments back then were forecast for today, but as we all know that future missed its mark and was ultimately proven to be unattainable as of 2013. Except for the tricorder, which is a lot like smartphones. The new comic book limited series by IDW The High Ways takes place in the late 21st century and the future it represents seems like an attainable one.
Written and drawn by John Byrne, The High Ways has a future that seems as if its midway between our world and that of Star Trek. Space travel is much more common than it is now. Humanity has begun to travel regularly within our solar system, but faster-than-light travel is still a distant dream.
The limited series features Eddie Wallace, your typical young rookie navigator who is out seeking adventure in space. He can’t wait to go out into space and we first meet him in this vast space station inspired by the spoke-like wonder seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Naturally, what he expects and what he encounters are two very different things. Byrne’s skill as a detailed artist are put to good use in this comic book. There is hardware everywhere and it’s not aesthetically appealing like in Star Trek. In The High Ways, things have a lived-in look as seen in Star Wars and Alien, but not as advanced. Workers have to virtually live within their spacesuits. There isn’t any artificial gravity in the Wallace’s assigned freighter, the Carol Ann. The ship isn’t sleek at all, if anything, the Carol Ann is downright bulky and cobbled-together looking, even the Serenity on Firefly looks more appealing. From looking at Wallace’s expression when he first sees the ship that even he isn’t impressed.
At the station, Wallace meets his partner, Marilyn Jones, an attractive though slightly older and more experienced worker. She takes a liking to him in the way a big sister is fond of her little brother who is just out experiencing the world for the first time. The other main character is the Jack Cagney, the captain of the Carol Ann, who is short and craggy, looking much like movie legend James Cagney. According to Jones the captain only loved two things in his life and one of them is his ship and is only willing to take two people along with him on the Carol Ann on an assignment to Mars.
As they set out on the Carol Ann, their assignment is changed and they are diverted to a station orbiting Europa, Jupiter’s moon. There is where the mystery begins. For starters, the personnel at the station didn’t seem to know that the Carol Ann was assigned to the station. After meeting a normal, motley crew at that station, Wallace notices something isn’t quite right. The station crew seems oblivious to this ominous feeling that is plaguing Wallace. What is revealed in the final panel is downright creepy and actually gave me the creeps. I can’t wait to read what happens next.
The High Ways had very endearing characters and is a fun read at the same time it gives us readers a believable and attainable future setting; I recommend it to everyone who loves science fiction. Byrne is in his element with this story and he’s at his best when he writes and draws science fiction tales.