Friday, March 27, 2009
Chronic Review: Air Vol 1 - Letters From Lost Countries
Collects: Air # 1-5
Scripts: G. Willow Wilson
Pencils: M.K. Perker
Air follows the unlikely misadventures of Blythe, an acrophobic flight attendant for Clearfleet Airlines. Blythe's mundane life picks up the pace when she's simultaneously approached with a mysterious briefcase by the Etesian Front and romantically entangled with dreamy Zayn, who's working the other side.
Other side of what, you ask? Well, there's where it gets complicated. Air is interested in peeling back the layers of the world we know to reveal countries, people, machines, and gods we are only half aware of.
The crux of the plot seems to be driven by an ancient propulsion technology created by Aztecs. I say "seems to" deliberately, because nothing ever follows through at face value in the book. If you want to read Air, you have to be flexible in your thinking.
The Etesians want this Hyperpraxis tech because the oil just can't last forever. Clearfleet has it, Zayn doesn't want the Etesian Front to get it, and Blythe seems naturally attuned to it. Hyperpraxis works more on symbology than physics, which means Air takes you places you can't find on a map. Sound like fun? It is.
Airs greatest attribute is its ambition. This is a story crowded with fresh takes on old ideas, and the themes come quickly as well. This is a book that routinely asks you to consider personal/national identity, fate, terrorism, friendship, love, alliances, trust, and epistomology. Wow.
Like any good writer, Wilson understands that in order to reach an audience with this quagmire, you have to ground it with a character who is as confused as the reader. Blythe works just fine for that. Moral support is provided by Fletcher, her intrepid (and almost certainly gay) companion. The characters of Air are a nice blend of the likeable and the bizarre.
But the rescue mission to non-existent Narimar was not resolved with any real drama, for my money. I had some logical issues with it as well - if Narimar is lost to history and nobody can get in or out, how has it survived much less kept pace with technology? Hmmm.
Maybe there's a good answer for that, but if there is, Wilson is content to let it slide for now. And this is fantasy, so perhaps I should let it slide as well.
As usual, Vertigo released the first trade at a $9.99 price point. Your average mutt of a comic book is probably worth that. Air is significantly better than the dregs, certainly worth the money and your time. In fact, this is what I'd hand to a brainy woman if I wanted to make a comic convert out of her.
If you read the reviews, one would come to conclusion that Air will replace sex as mankind's chief form of entertainment. I'm not ready to go that far yet.
Right now, I find it to be a unique and pretty darned good comic book. If Wilson can make us really fall in love with Blythe, and if she can hit upon a really compelling conflict, Air might end up as the next Y the Last Man. And that's about as much praise as one can give a book.