By Katie Knowlton
It’s often difficult to review a trade paperback for a series from the middle of its run. It’s hard to jump into the middle of a story with no background on the characters or any real sense of the plot development to that point. Air is definitely a title that suffers from this problem as it attempts to be complex and full of mystery with varying degrees of success. But Flying Machine, volume two of the series, collects issues 6 to 10, and shows that a lot happened in those first six issues.
For instance, the first issue opens with the main protagonist Blythe, a stewardess who is afraid of heights, being shockingly introduced to Ameila Earhart. Yeah, that Ameila Earhart. Turns out Ameila didn’t die on her failed attempt to fly around the world. Rather, she was piloting a ship controlled hyperpraxically, essentially with her mind. In the world of the comic, a device exists that allows certain people (predominantly women, hence Earhart’s use of it) to control things with their minds, allowing them to, in the case of flight, transport themselves from one location to another. What happened was that Earhart was being tailed by Japanese pilots and lost her concentration, thus sending her to the end of the Earth. When she returned to the modern world, it was the 1980s. Now, she is working with Blythe to help track down the original device from a guy named Zayn, a guy who sometimes turns into a flying dragon thing. Oh, and Blythe also has the inherent ability to use these hyperprax devices.
And that’s all within the first ten pages.
It’s hard to judge this trade independent of the rest of the story, because the trade is so dependent on it. This is a very serial book, and you need to keep on top of it in order to have any understanding of what is going on. I think that’s one of the main problems with Air. It would work really well as a graphic novel, or perhaps a few graphic novels, but a lot of the story needs to be in one volume for the reader to get any sense of real story and to get themselves invested in the characters. If this series ever gets popular enough to warrant one of those deluxe hardcover volumes that collect 20 to 30 issues at a time, that would be the best way to experience this comic.
The other problem that this book progresses at a glacial pace. As you could probably guess from the very long paragraph about Amelia Earhart earlier, there is an insane amount of back-story and exposition. After the five issues collected in Flying Machine, I felt the story had gone almost nowhere. There was some plot movement, but it felt like there should have been a lot more. Again, this ties into Air being a monthly comic with regular trades of five to six issues; it just moves too slow for that kind of format.
That being said, Air has a lot of potential to be great. The story is intriguing, and anyone who loves conspiracy theories, or even TV shows like Lost or FlashForward would probably enjoy Air quite a bit, as long as they didn’t give up on it because of the sluggish pace. There are secret organizations, shape-shifting, time travel, a little action, quite a bit of adventure, and just a hint of romance, because why the hell not? There’s even a country that disappears and reappears depending on whether people believe it exists. And of course, there’s Ameila Earhart.
M.K Perker’s art is serviceable. It’s nothing too fantastic, and definitely nothing that hasn’t been done before. But the story is based around characters and their interactions more so than any action sequences. It’s when those action sequences show up that there are some problems. There is no real sense of urgency when a plane is about to crash, or Blythe is falling from the sky, certainly to her doom. The art is very removed from the situation on the page, and that works for the aforementioned character interactions and scenes with heavy dialogue or exposition, but I think action scenes require a bit more. For this story, because of the pacing problems and long sections without action, the art should be a bit more action-oriented. Perhaps Perker hasn’t done much in the way of that kind of art, but this title would be a great place to practice.
Air has a lot of potential. It could be an outstanding title, but pacing problems, as well as the format in which it is released, keep it from being really great. Not all of that is the fault of the writer, G. Willow Wilson, but a good portion does fall to her. A graphic novel format and a slightly quicker pace would do wonders for this book. But for those interested, Air is published monthly by Vertigo comics, and a trade of the first six issues is out, which I highly recommend reading before picking up Air.