Friday, May 8, 2009

Air (Vol. 1): Letters from Lost Countries

I've talked before about how Vertigo is always out to replace their completed hits with reconstructions both full bodied, like David Lapham's Young Liars 1: Daydream Believer, and pale like Outlaw Nation. I'm rather annoyed to hear about the imminent cancellation of the former, and it isn't helped by Air's more closely resembling the latter.

Like Preacher, we have a blond woman and her mysterious brunette paramour taking on a global conspiracy that would crush their love and lives. This time, the emphasis is on the heroine Blythe, an acrophobic airline stewardess. Blythe is tipped to strange goings on in the sky by a handsome, enigmatic world traveler she keeps running into in his different guises. While attracted to this man, coming into his orbit brings her to the attention of the Etesian Front, a tattooed cult of vigilantes who guard the airways. Blythe is unsure who to trust, tensions mount, and before long she's tied up in a skyjacking.

The opening chapter in this collection of the first five issues is an excellent oversized teaser of the series' premise. There was a lot of promise there, but the series seemed poised to jump the shark with the very next issue. A supernatural component is introduced, as events become increasingly more fantastic in nature. The book begins to favor action and intrigue over exposition, but a pointed observation comes into view: neither the writer nor the artist are especially adept with action and intrigue. Scenes shift without warning, characters appear and vanish without explanation, and violence is rendered in a stilted, awkward fashion. The invisible hands of the conspirators are all too apparent, and the creators are just plain hamfisted. The fourth issue deals in metaphysics and the origins of Blythe's phobia, by way of a rushed and unsatisfying conclusion to prior events. The issue ends with a big leap into nonsense, leading to a final chapter where a levy of bullshit breaks. There are big revelations, but they're silly and end about halfway through the issue. Then there's a mercilessly moronic action sequence involving Heckle and Jeckle analogues leading to a "surprise" guest appearance that's been done so often, its only impact is in its stunning predictability. You'll get flashbacks to the final seasons of X-Files, and it's the worst possible way to halt an introductory trade.

This isn't my first bad experience with writer G. Willow Wilson, who also subjected me to the clunky Vixen: Return of the Lion mini-series. Wilson is desperately in need of polish or a co-writer, because while she has ability, it isn't enough to provide a well rounded graphic novel narrative. Her strengths seems to be in her dialog and concepts, but her ability to translate them to panel work leaves a lot to be desired. Artist M.K. Perker comes off as Julie Douchet providing layouts for Ian Churchill. The book looks as good as that combination of disparate influences can allow, but it's a queer combination regardless. That's somewhat indicative of my issues with the book as a whole-- too many ingredients that don't quite relate to one another thrown into a soup.

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