Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: James Robinson
Art: Greg Hinkle
Release Date: 5th August, 2015
Issue three opens with a complete 180. Now James and Gregg are in Airboy’s universe and can’t quite believe it, but the style of James writing continues onward and a couple of pages in there is already a really clever mention for Mike Mignola, and I loved that James uses it to degrade himself (again). Immediately, the new setting of the comic places us the thick of the action with Airboy and our two protagonists on the run from a German Bandit. Of course, we have to stay true to the soul of this comic: this level of excitement and danger gives James a huge erection, and Gregg soils his pants. It’s simply brilliant.
Airboy takes James and Gregg to his base and introduces them to the Air Fighters – Skywolf, Iron Ace, the Black Angel, the Flying Dutchman and Airboy’s partner and love interest Valkyrie. It’s a funny exchange, and there are a few jokes playing with 21st century English versus 1940s English. While Greg cleans up, James explores the compound with Airboy and finds the James (of this universe) dead in the Morgue. This revelation prompts a dialogue between James and Airboy that explains his behavior in the first two issues, it’s is a bit touchy-feely and Airboy offers him some hope that no matter how bad things are, they can get better if you want them to. This tender moment doesn’t last long, as Greg has been dicking around and screws everything up once more. Airboy gets mad (again) and decides sends them on a mission, setting up the final chapter of the story.
It’s fun to see James play with the script, and it’s very apparent that this really is a story of two halves. There are lots of dual themes running through the story. James and Gregg: the screw ups, versus Airboy: the shining example of hope and courage. When Airboy is dragged into James’ universe he’s a bit timid, unsure of himself, and allows himself to be brought down to their level; but back in his time he is very sure of himself, forthright, and decides to try and drag James UP to his level. Its clever writing and I’m keen to see if our two protagonists do find some type of atonement in the final issue. I do think there may be a surprise (or two) left, and I have some suspicions, but I don’t want to look silly and second guess what happens only to be wrong. We’ll see.
Within the world of Airboy it is fun to see Greg’s art flipped from the previous two issues. The universe of Airboy is wonderfully colourful compared to James and Greg’s characters that are drawn in shades of washed out blues. It gives the cast of Airboy a wholly solid feel in comparison to our two protagonists who look like ghostly visitors to this time (and technically they are). Whereas in issues 1 and 2 Airboy was in full colour compared to the world of the 21st century whose characters, inhabitants and locations Greg created in single colours. This made Airboy stand out and seem so alien to that environment, a shining beacon of what was, and by keeping Greg and James characters’ colour palette in Airboys environ it makes them seem like unwelcome additions that will leech – for want of a better word – the goodness and vibrancy that surrounds them there. The one complaint I have – and it’s a minor one – is that on a few panels the flow of the speech bubbles is not easily apparent, but not to the extent that it ruins the reading experience.
The bizarre thing is this monotone colour scheme was not pre-planned. James Robinson had seen it in Hinkle’s earlier work (The Rattler) and wanted it used for Airboy, so this turned out to be -initially at least- a happy accident. I can’t give enough props to Greg Hinkle, not only does he ink this title, but he does the colours and lettering too – and it’s safe to say this is his first major title. He’s getting a lot of exposure and well deserved praise taking all this on solo. Hey, the guy counts Mike Mignola (who got a mention in this issue) and Bill Patterson as two of his influences. I’m totally sold on him already, plus it helps that this guy’s talent is amazing.
James Robinson’s Airboy is a fantastic mini-series and the best of his work that I’ve read, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. Yes, it’s debased, full of drinking, drug-taking, sex, and pokes fun at both the industry and the authors. Here’s the thing – that’s the whole point of the story – the apposition of today’s technicoloured, sensory-overloaded, and anesthetised society against the quaint, reserved, and refined times of pre-war America and the superheroes of that age. There, I’ll say it again – this is one of the building blocks the entire story is based on – so it infuriates me [personally] that certain reviewers have deliberately marked it down because they are too much of a prude to crit it on the actual story, rather than their own socially judgmental views and mock outrage – the comic was rated M for Mature for a God-damn reason. I mean, where is the fun in that? I even read one reviewer that had the supposition James was just trying to shock the reader more and more because it was easy to write that way and wasn’t creative. The entire point of the banality that James’ and Greg’s characters find themselves revelling in is to articulate the idea that this is a counterpoint to Airboy and his perceived world – this point becomes even more valid when you read Gregg and Airboy’s exchange in the morgue. In fact, it’s when they bring Airboy down to their level at the end of the second issue that he decides it’s enough and pulls them into his reality to show them a different way of existence.
[Sidebar: I am not talking about the complaints arising from issue 2 over the Transgender portion of the story that has caused some offence, James Robinson has already issued a statement on that (which Greg Hinkle supports), apologising for any offence caused.]
Airboy three carries on brilliantly from the first two issues, whilst completely flipping the story James Robinson has managed keep the momentum, humour and interest without missing a beat. Greg Hinkle’s work is not only exceptional, but very complimentary to a story by holding up two contrasting styles denoting past and present without making them look too polarized.
Rating: It has to be another 5/5 from me.
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.