- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - John Byrne, one of comics’ acclaimed writers and artists, is launching a new ongoing series called "Cold War," that explores the nature of espionage during that era and is his first all-new comic series in more than a decade.

The new series from IDW Publishing begins with the four-part story "The Damocles Contract" and introduces secret agent Michael Swann, formerly of Britain’s MI6 and now doing freelance work for the government on jobs with which it doesn’t want to be associated.

Byrne, who wrote and illustrated critically lauded runs on Marvel’s "The Fantastic Four," "X-Men" and "Alpha Flight," along with DC Comics’ "Superman," is writing and illustrating the new series with Ronda Pattison coloring the art for each 32-page issue.

"After years of working with John on licensed properties like `Star Trek,’ as well as seeing him complete `John Byrne’s Next Men,’ I’m happy as can be to have something all-new from JB," Chris Ryall, Byrne’s editor and IDW’s chief creative officer, said Wednesday. "Of all the stories John’s told over the years, he hasn’t really done anything with this level of period detail, spy-story intrigue and sexiness, so I’m happy to have him tell tales in a time period so rife with that kind of storytelling potential."

In the first issue, Swann is asked to stop a British scientist from defecting to the Soviet Union and, in the process, helping them expand their nuclear weapons program.

"He operates on a freelance basis, and occasionally his former bosses call upon him to handle something that is perhaps a bit too messy for Her Majesty’s Government to be involved" with, Byrne told AP in an email. "So he knows that when he is called upon, things have reached some dire straits. His response to this is usually very straightforward and brutal."

Byrne said that he’s been fascinated by what he called "period pieces," and had been looking to the Cold War as a possible avenue.

"And I’d been thinking for quite a long time that it would be fun to play in those dark and dangerous days of the Cold War," he said. "Skulk around some of those dark alleys visited by the likes of Ian Fleming and John Le Carre. With maybe a little John Steed around the edges."


Matt Moore can be followed on Twitter by searching (at)MattMooreAP.




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