John Byrne. You ever heard of him? If not, then I suggest you stop reading this and bone up one your comic book history ASAP. Byrne is the mack, the man who wrote some of the most enduring Superman and Fantastic Four stories. He’s an opinionated man whose been lampooned by everyone from Jack Kirby to Erik Larsen. To some he’s the red headed menace, to others he’s a gift. The man can draw, he can write, he is an icon of old school comic books, the work that launched the medium from kids stuff to adult literature. John Byrne’s latest endeavor is an IDW published titled called Trio. Yep, Byrne is back doing superhero work.
Does Byrne still have it? Is Trio any good? Well, that depends on how much you love comics from the '80s and early '90s. If you love them like I do, then Trio is a refreshing romp down a largely unused road that never falls prey to nostalgia. If you hate that era and are too closed-minded to re-think that stance, then you’ll hate Trio.
Byrne tells the story of three heroes that form a super team. One is a giant monster made of stone, the other is a girl who can stretch and manipulate her physical form and the third is a strong hero with arms that turn into swords. Yes, I know, there is a heavy Fantastic Four element here but what did you expect, this is John Byrne.
Trio #1 is an establishing book. A faceless team of bad guys, akin to Marvel’s Hydra, attacks the city and the heroes defend it. Meanwhile a larger threat surfaces from the depths of the ocean. The three heroes refer to themselves as 1, 2 and 3 but the world at large refers to them as Rock, Paper and Scissors. It sounds cheesy and it is, but Byrne wanted it that way. Even going so far as to create a schlubby, jerk reporter who gave the Trio that name as a mean spirited jab. By the end of Trio #1, we understand the group dynamic and the big secret of “Rock”. The secret is awesome and totally made me feel like I was ten years old again.
Unlike a lot of overly drawn-out plots and excessive story arcs in modern comics, Byrne gets right into it. Here are your heroes, here is their reality and here is their enemy. It’s an older style of writing, one where the writer was given the tricky problem of telling great stories and still making the issue fun. Modern comics have a lot more leeway to be dark and sinister than older books. Trio #1 is all adventure, action and exposition. It may get deeper and more sublime as it goes on, but for now it’s like picking up an old issue of Spider-Man or Batman – it’s just a good time. There’s an argument to be made that books like this appeal only to the lowest common denominator of reader, namely children, which I understand but see no problem with.
The art, also from Byrne, is exceptional as always. I love that Trio is published on card-stock paper instead of glossy. The panel layout is very traditional, but still great to look at. Byrne’s art is larger than life, a great mix of ability, ego and experience. He doesn’t waste any space on superfluous backgrounds or details. Everything is focused on the characters, which affords Byrne the ability make every panel a rich and highly detailed portrait. There’s simplicity to this kind of art, a love of drawing without being “edgy” that’s lost on a lot of modern artists. Trio isn’t the greatest book I read this week, but it is a good one. If you love Byrne or his era of comics, I highly recommend it.
(3 Story 5 Art)