It's not exactly a John Byrne renaissance, with TRIO. It's an okay title if you're looking for your basic superhero narrative. Byrne checks off them comic book tropes one by one. In a near autocannibalistic move, he channels his younger self - the classic 1980s John Byrne - back when he was untouchable with the FANTASTIC FOUR, really good with ALPHA FLIGHT, and brilliant with his reworking of Superman. John Byrne is on my all-time list of great comic book storytellers. I anticipated good things from TRIO. I was hoping to be blown away. Here was another chance for Byrne to frolic and be creative in the independent field, this time with IDW Publishing.
When the lordly, blue-fleshed merman with a grudge summons a leviathan from the ocean depths to assault the surface world, can the city's government-sponsored superheroes rise to the challenge? The answer is: sort of. These heroes refer to each other by designated numbers: One, Two, and Three. Everyone else - especially the media - calls them Paper, Scissors, Rock. Byrne stacks up the odds against the heroes, pits them against skyscraper-tall monsters, and normally that would make the victory all the sweeter. Except that for most of the story arc, One, Two, and Three sort of mill around as ineffectual bystanders. They finally do contribute at the eleventh hour; they sort of luck into it. It doesn't help that Byrne skimps on character development. None of these characters made me want to care about them. Across the board, each character seems flat as, well, as Paper herself.
There are many moments that plunder the pages of the FANTASTIC FOUR. Nautilus, blue awesome master of the sea, is obviously a knock-off of Namor the Sub-Mariner. Kosmos is Galactus. The Trio themselves seem familiar. I hesitate to call it straight-up lazy storytelling because Byrne does throw a wrench in the works by neatly upending the tropes in the end. So I like the plot reversals. Except that if you were to tweak or send up them tropes, you must establish a compelling enough backdrop so that the reader can invest. I don't feel that Byrne fleshed out his characters enough. It doesn't help that Byrne's narrative captions are straight out of the '80s. Maybe Chris Claremont was a house guest when Byrne scripted this bad boy.
By the way, what modern-day 15-year-old uses an expletive like "Blast!"?
I have a hope that John Byrne has got bigger and better things planned for TRIO. He's promised further adventures with them. The worldbuilding needs some work, plenty of mysteries are unplumbed. Maybe Byrne was merely whetting our appetites. He's already introduced the next villain, an archetypal World War II big bad from a parallel dimension. How does he stack up against a hot-tempered guy who can form T-1000 blades with his hands? Or a 15-year-old kid who can painfully transform into a rock creature? Or a literally two-dimensional lady who can sub for Flatman whenever he needs time off from the Great Lakes Avengers? He probably stacks up very well.
Thankfully, John Byrne still can turn out a gorgeous-looking page. His line work and figure drawing are in top form here. That was never the problem.