Even with a 16 year hiatus and jump to another publisher, you would think that John Byrne’s Next Men would be an easy series to map. However, there are a few little quirks to the series that keep it flexible for binders.
- The graphic novel 2112 that preceded Next Men in publication is often referred to as both a prequel and a sequel to the entire series. I think that distinction worked fine before the IDW continuation, but currently, it works best as a strict prequel.
- Second, the M4 backup strips start off as being flip books, but eventually just become straight up backup stories before the plots finally merge into the main narrative. Fortunately, none of the flip books share pages except for ads or editorial content, so flipping the pages for binding is no problem. However, some of the non-flip issues do share pages between the M4 and Next Men pages, so trying to rearrange the individual stories could be a challenge. I don’t bother to move any of the M4 material around because Byrne admits in later letter columns that the different subplots aren’t necessarily taking place in chronological relativeness to each other, and are often inserted for dramatic effect.
- Third, #6 chronologically takes place before #0 and #1. John Byrne states in the letter column for #20 that he intended for it to be placed before #0 when reprinted. #0 is a reprint of the stories that originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents, but even they are not in the same order in which they were originally released.
If you want to keep the Dark Horse and IDW issues separate and create 3 equally sized volumes, there is not really a good place to break the Dark Horse run evenly. #7-12 and #13-18 are both 6 issue arcs. And of course, that does bring up the question of if you do want to keep the issues from different publishers separate. I decided against it, because I don’t see myself ever reading just the IDW stuff. I might just read the Dark Horse stuff, in which case, I can just put the book down. I felt that the split between #18-19 was a good break, as the book moved to its “series of mini-series” approach.
So, here is my attempt at a two volume set. All of the M4 stories are left with their respective issues, but I did flip the flip books. I am leaving the letter columns in place, except for #6, where I am moving it to publication order, just to keep the comments in the right order.
John Byrne’s Next Men #6
John Byrne’s Next Men #0
John Byrne’s Next Men #1-5
John Byrne’s Next Men #7-18
John Byrne’s Next Men #19-30
John Byrne’s Next Men (IDW) #1-9 (also listed as #31-39)
Next Men: Aftermath #40-44