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Next Men #2

A comic review article by: Ray Tate
Lost in various ports of time, the Next Men attempt to adapt to their new surroundings, but all does not go well. History is a violent place and seldom kind.

Next Men ally, Toni Murcheson ends up in the Civil War era. John Byrne holds nothing back. He paints an unflattering yet accurate portrait of the Confederacy. The lion's share of the group were racists. They believed Black people were subhuman. Byrne's Gray cast demonstrates the banality of evil. They casually torture Toni simply because they believe with hopeless, unerring conviction that they are doing the right thing.

Normally, Toni's respectively future fighting techniques would in essence give her a superpower. Toni battles admirably but her disbelief over what occurred hampers her success. She mistakes the Gray Coats as sane people. Toni thinks she merely teleported to the middle of a re-enactment. She makes a mistake, and that mistake gives the primitives all the edge they need.

Meanwhile in World War II, the allies encounter Nathan, who possesses vision powers and the mutated eyes to dispense them. Byrne cleverly incorporates Nathan's odd appearance into the time frame. The allied forces mistake him for one of the starved, dehydrated and tortured Jewish prisoners, and there is a startling resemblance.

Byrne makes use of a common occupational hazard of the time. A cuckoo in the nest captures Nathan, and Byrne defies clich├ęs by establishing a communication problem. This Nazi does not speak English. Many of them did, but not all. Several believed so strongly in the misbegotten Aryan ideal that they believed other languages to be guttural tongues. Nathan of course does not speak German.

No matter the period, Byrne demonstrates his research in detailed, historical backdrops, timely fashions and supporting cast members. I can't see what more you can want in a comic book. Next Men continues to fascinate, years later.

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