The Next Men serve as security for a super-collider project. Disaster erupts and entraps Bethany in obsidian for 200 years. Future technicians recover her from the hardened tomb, and she begins to acclimate to this final frontier.
Forgive the pun, but it’s one of the reasons that this issue of The Next Men rates slightly higher than the previous issue. It’s a de facto Star Trek adventure.
Byrne’s love for Star Trek is on record. IDW currently owns the Star Trek license, and Byrne of course contributed to several worthwhile IDW Star Trek projects: Assignment Earth, Star Trek: The Crew and Romulans: Pawns of War.
When Bethany wakes up in the future, she sees a face that bears some similarities to a certain young Captain of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations to boldly — Oh. Sorry. Byrne isn’t the only one who loves Star Trek.
Future clothing appears to be patterned on the uniforms seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Ronda Pattison, in on the joke, encodes the garments with Star Trek ranking shades.
Maybe I’m inferring when Byrne isn’t implying? No, he’s implying, and he’s doing it cleverly. There are jokes that only Star Trek fans will get. For example, when Beth walks with Cate in the hall, the vibe is pure Star Trek. Now, Doctor Who cornered the market on corridors, and some of them looked occasionally Trekish, but Star Trek has a unique aesthetic, and Byrne replicates it. Bethany and Cate are walking through a Star Trek set. Passerby extras in Motion Picture garb walk past. Oh, look, it’s a Deltan in the corner.
I know what you’re asking yourself. Doesn’t Byrne’s “ripping-off” Star Trek make Next Men an automatic fail? No, because you can just feel the enjoyment Byrne is getting out of the whole exercise. He’s almost giggling as he throws in allusions to Uhura’s knowledge being erased. He’s laughing as he mimics some of Shatner’s unique delivery: “Ohhh. Poor, poor, Beth!” I’ll take a happy homage over a barrage of gratuitous violence and a wallow of torture any day, thanks.
Is there anything other than the tribute to all things Trek in Next Men? Beth is naked at one point, and Byrne displays that nudity. While most of her nakedness is hidden by body movement, Byrne treats his audience with respect and essentially states: “Yes, sometimes you wouldn’t see anything, but the occasional glimpse is a given.” I appreciate that artistic honesty more than some juvenile attempt to block the nudity with a mysterious lamp suddenly appearing in the setting.