Writer: Tad Williams
Artists: Dietrich Smith(p), Walden Wong(i), Chris Chuckry(colors)
Publisher: DC Comics
The conclusion of The Next offers the reader a heady, satisfying mix of science fiction and super-heroics. Though some have said Superman was unnecessary to the story, Williams makes his presence vital, not only in terms of power but also in terms of his effect on others.
The escape by the Next from the Iron Ring resulted in a tear in the fabric of space-time. Though they repaired the hole, something went wrong to create a being known as Oblivion. Williams makes the nature of the accident unique, and the accident explains the behavior of the creature quite well.
The Iron Ring sent an enforcer after the escapees. Superman and the Next eventually defeated the Iron Ring's enforcer, but Metron appeared to warn the heroes of an even greater threat--the Oblivion. Too late were Metron’s pleas. Metron's presence accents the level of danger in the threat, and it's nice to see Metron taking a more active, heroic role to preserve the cosmos. He's not the Watcher, and Williams distinguishes the New God from Marvel's ever-present observer.
Williams only uses what's at hand to defeat the menace that he developed from the story. This technique allows the reader to play along and engages his sense of wonder. The dialogue, seasoned with scifi jargon and often laced with humor beautifully generates a flow of interaction. The characterization at once creates stark differences and raises levels of depth.
While the Next is plot-heavy, Williams does not forget the medium in which he works. The language of super-hero books is action, and readers will enjoy plenty of it as Superman stalls the Oblivion's annihilation of the space-time continuum while the Next think of a plan to decisively defeat the creature. One by one the Next use up their delaying tactics. In the end it's the inspiration of Superman that instills courage in an integral member of the team that allows her to give up everything to make what appears to be the ultimate sacrifice.
Williams knits up nearly all the loose ends, but he leaves open one very important question: which of the Next decided to save Monika's life. The way in which she interacts with each member and they with her provides the clues, but the reader will have to keep guessing until the Next's second mini-series.
Williams was lucky enough to have Dietrich Smith, Walden Wong and Chris Chuckry on his team. Their artistic sensibilities suit his wild storytelling. While they know the demands of proportion, their art is slightly off kilter and provides just the right atmosphere and character design.
No doubt many passed up the underhyped Next, but Williams' story is a smart, science fiction tale that wisely employs guest-stars from the DCU and as well creates new interesting characters for the reader to follow. If you didn't pick up the mini-series, pick up the trade paperback.
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