The Good: One or two interesting stories
The Bad: Erratic/terrible artwork, Simple/uninspired stores, Light on character development
The Basics: After all of these months, I check out Flight, which turns out to be an exceptionally erratic anthology of comics pertaining to flying.
At the beginning of last year, I decided that because so many new movies coming out had graphic novel tie-ins and so many movies that are hitting the market are adaptations of graphic novels, that it was about time I started giving the medium a serious look. Through most of 2009, the bulk of my book reviews were of graphic novels and, truth be told, I have not spent a whole lot of money on graphic novels last year or this. Instead, I have spent a lot of time at my local library and Barnes & Noble reading various graphic novels. At virtually every place I have gone and checked out graphic novels, I have encountered the Flight series, which now seems to have at least six volumes of thick story-laden pages. As the year nears a close, I decided it was time for me to pick up one of these books and read it.
I don’t see what all the fuss (if there is any) is about.
Flight (Volume 1) is a collection of 23 comic book short stories, all of which are involved with – on one level or another – the act of flying. So, for example, in “Maiden Voyage,” Copper and his talking dog Fred get up the last supplies for their plane and launch it (paying in nuts in the world they live in). But the overall book is hit or miss. Like a collection of short stories, this 160 page comic book (while this is closer to being a graphic novel in that it is not reprinted comic books bound together for one storyline, it is truly a trade paperback anthology as it collects various short stories and makes them into a single comic-book sized – novel thick – book) meanders from story to story without any sense of coherent narrative or character. Don’t like the story you’re reading, flip four pages and odds are, you’re in a different story.
This might be a strength in most anthologies like this, but I continued to find it to be a detraction in the first volume of Flight. If the story was one I was enjoying, it ended quickly. If it was a story that plodded along in a way that I did not care one wit about, it seemed to go on forever! And the writing is of drastically varying quality, which makes sense because different writers and artists worked on each story. So, for example “The Bowl” has no words whatsoever and tells its story only through the panels, while “Hugo Earheart” is dialogue heavy and creative.
The stories vary thematically, though most of them have flight in them at one point or another. These range from the childlike thrill of flying in “Maiden Voyage” to the creativity of “Hugo Earheart” which features a flying whale to the dark story of pirates in the air in “Formidable.” There is even an extended story of animals playing in a yard in “Beneath The Leaves: Jump” which stretches the binding theme of the book.
The only story that truly resonated with me and impressed me in terms of story and artwork was “Untitled,” a very short story by Chris Appevians. Appevians illustrates the stocking of a zeppelin with bombs and the process of it unloading its cargo. There are no characters in that story and the faceless, silent panels are washed out in grays and browns and the effect is brilliantly oppressive. It is powerful, adult and intriguing.
The rest of the book left me utterly unimpressed, so much so I cannot fathom how a franchise of these books has sprouted up. The artwork is so variable as to make flipping the pages an unpleasant gamble. One story, for example, is written on – I kid not – paper mache in spirals. “I Wish” is so sloppy in the artwork and lettering as to make one wonder how it managed to get published. As well, the stories go from being bright comic book comics – like “Beneath The Leaves: Jump” to moody painting-quality artwork that is beautiful and haunting. Story by story, it is a real crapshoot and while stories like “Hugo Earheart” are endearing for the creativity of characters flying around meeting magical creatures, that story is the exception to the rule.
Most of the stories are ridiculous and by the time the one came up with elves and (essentially) furries, I had had it with the book. Flight is creative in points, but mostly, it’s a collection of stories with characters that either learn obvious morals (making this an overdone children’s book) or are laden with complex themes that make them stand out amid the extended comic-strips with characters preoccupied with flying. In short, it doesn’t know what it wants to be and with so many varying quality writers and so many varying quality (most sub-par, to be honest) artists, Flight is to erratic to come even close to recommending.
For other graphic novels, please check out my reviews of:
Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns
For other book and graphic novel reviews, please be sure to check out my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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