Over the last few decades, there's been a bit of an artistic renaissance in the field of graphic storytelling that can essentially be summed up in a few words: "comics ain't just for superheroes." Indeed, the market is broad enough that publishers have tapped other genres – historical novels, crime, thrillers, fantasy, and even romance – all with the desire to bring in additional readers. That's never a bad thing, per se, but in the heated shuffle what has kinda/sorta disappeared is the tendency to create new costumed vigilantes for us to explore. Instead, old faces retire, and new faces assume the mantle or the mask – again, not a disappointment, but that does little to sate the appetite for those of us who respect a monthly title solely for the sake of colorful fisticuffs.
If it's superheroes you want, then perhaps you could give SKYMAN a try. It taps into that oft-explored vein with the storytelling twist being modern sensibilities. Now that the first issue has officially streeted, I thought I'd pony up some thoughts.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you're the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,' then read on …)
The Skyman Program has apparently fallen on hard times, not due to budget cuts and the like but instead because of some disgraceful actions. Now, the puppet masters believe they'll need a fall guy – one who fits a certain profile – and they believe they've found one with crippled veteran Eric Reid. Defying the odds, Reid is finally starting to make progress with his rehabilitation; thus, he finds the wearing the Skyman suit and its abilities to mend his spinal trauma very appealing. If he can just figure out how to make the thing obey his commands, he might survive long enough to expose the hidden conspiracy!
As mentioned above, SKYMAN is a narrative throwback to a time when these books were all about heroes. These men and women never thought twice about suiting up, about throwing themselves into the line of fire, and that's why choosing a former military man is thematically keeping the tale in the realm of the plausible so far as comic-book-storytelling goes. But SKYMAN is not only a throwback to those kinder and gentler times; it's always a throwback culturally.
Curiously, SKYMAN is absolutely rife with race issues, so much early on in that that I was initially uncertain if this was truly a book for me. (It isn't that I don't tolerate discussions of race; it's just that I generally prefer reads that don't so much mirror my culture as they allow me to escape from it.) While the N-word isn't uttered verbatim, it gets implied several times. I'm not exactly sure this is how folks speak and behave in today's military – as I'm not involved with any branch of the services – so maybe writer Fialkov thinks he gets an honest pass as this is all supposed to be some covert organization. That may be the case, but I certainly hope he has more to offer than just ongoing tongue-in-cheek insults between blacks and whites in the future; otherwise, SKYMAN might crash back down to Earth much sooner than anyone expects … which appears to be a plot point as well. (Read the issue, and you'll get – if not appreciate – the pun.)
Race issues aside, SKYMAN's first issue feels a bit too obligatory. Fialkov's story plots out Reid's inclusion in the program like bullet points, leaving little room for thought or reaction to his selection, how he was selected, and what it all could mean. The art is done in what I'd term fairly contemporary styling – everyone looks hip, happening, and modern – but I don't mean it as a negative; rather, it all just feels a bit too natural in comic book trends for this first chapter to really distinguish itself from the other choices on the shelves.
Well … except there is that ‘black' thing …
Hopefully, we'll all know more in 30 days.
SKYMAN #1 (Ongoing) is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Joshua Hale Fialkov; the art is drawn by Manuel Garcia; with inks provided by Bit; the colors are by Marta Martinez; with lettering provided by Nate Piekos of Blambot. The issue has been edited by Jim Gibbons. It all comes with the cover price of $2.99, and that's none too shabby these days.
RECOMMENDED. I love a great superhero titled, and SKYMAN certainly fits the bill. Sure, it's all a bit nebulous as to what's really going on behind-the-scenes (there's the hint of a growing conspiracy associated to the Skyman Program and the government's need to create a possible scapegoat), but such is the ground typically treaded in inaugural issues. The real test will be here in 30 days – or Issue #2 – when introductions are out of the way so that the real fun can begin.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of SKYMAN #1 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.