Flight Vol. 6 (Villard)

flightvol06-header.jpgAnother "transcendent" volume of Kazu Kibuishi’s annual flight-themed anthology.

 

 

 

288 pgs., color; $25.00

(W / A: Various, Edited by Kazu Kibuishi)

 

When I was in ninth grade, I dated this guy. It was, of course, a high school relationship at its finest and I was, like, fourteen and he was a worldly sophomore from another school. We’d met at a debate tournament and it was…puppy love at first sight? I think his team won a round we were in together, which I can’t even stand to think about in retrospect, but I’m not sure. (I do remember our breakup, which was the catalyst that set off a wild few weeks at debate camp, and was Drama at its finest.) I also remember that he was solely responsible for introducing a number of new things in my life, things that have stuck to this day. I have N to thank for Matthew Sweet and some SCHWA stickers that are still floating around my house and Japan. We started off slow, working from my already-blossoming Sailor Moon love and working up to things like Vampire Hunter D and an anime in four parts that was beautiful and swirly and will always be overwritten with a "this is something new" stamp in my brain. I sat in my father’s tiny living room, alone and separated by the tyranny of distance from my then-one true love, and watched as beautiful things happened in a nearly silent movie, if memory serves. Beautiful new things, something I’d never seen before. Things that grabbed me by my eyes and then my brain and, finally, my heart.

Memory, of course, hardly ever serves, choosing to keep us dancing on its whims, but I remembered exactly what the light looked like in that twilit living room the first time I picked up Flight Vol. 6. And, dear readers, I’m ashamed to admit that I put it to the bottom of my slush pile because I was afraid I couldn’t capture the feeling in words. I’ve never had anything cross my desk that I was afraid to review because I was concerned I couldn’t do justice to it but they tell me there’s a first time for everything. Of course, not all of Flight manages to reach the heady heights I’m describing here, some of it only being "excellent" and not "transcendent," so I decided to curb my enthusiasm and get on with it.

Click for a larger image.Flight is an annual anthology that chooses stories that are done by up-and-coming artists and that’s about the only thing the stories have in common—they’re new to most of us. Some of the characters within the book are established and have appeared in Flight before, Kean Soo’s sweet Jellaby being one of them, but most of the characters within are brand new. Despite these differences, the colors used reflect a deeper palette throughout, as opposed to more primary shades. Even the stories that do make an exception for brighter, more playful color schemes tend to stick to darker tones. The effect is one that draws the eye in throughout the book and the sequencing (by artist, writer, and editor Kazu Kibuishi) is done with expert skill. The one time I did turn the page in surprise was during a shift from Rad Sechrist’s pastel, almost art-deco ancient Japan to a bright modern Iron Chef-based tale envisioned by France’s Bannister and Grimaldi. Entire stories are presented without text, forcing the reader into the story with their visual senses rather than literary comprehension, with the text tales clustered together to allow for linear flow through the book.

It’s a rare thing but, with a little supervision, Flight continues to be age-inclusive, including stories such as the aforementioned Jellaby tale and Flight alumni Richard Pose’s whimsical tale of nocturnal adventures, "The Z’s." There are deeply mature stories of love and loss, such as "Dead At Noon," a jarring story of a man defending his love with pistols under the blazing sky over a Western town square. The first story, Michel Gagne’s "The Saga of Rex: Soulmates" is a wordless journey that, I swear, left me weeping with the sheer joy of it. It’s a sci-fi retelling of an age-old story, love triumphing over hesitation to reach the land of Happily Ever After, beautifully rendered in dreamy shades of purple and red and green. It’s a savvy choice for a lead-in, leaving the reader captivated and then following it with JP Ahonen’s amusing and oddly resonant tale of an unemployed ninja watching his fellow Ninja School graduates take jobs at big box retailers. There’s even a little Viking nepotism in "Magnus the Misfit," Graham Annable’s tale of a Chief’s son marching to his own beat all the way to the shores of America.

The art ranges from Cory Godbey’s dramatic colors and fantastic scenes to Kean Soo’s Jellaby, a character who I would certainly watch in 22 minutes chunks on Cartoon Network. There’s bunnies, of the zombie and armored varieties, and punning crimefighers and steampunk detectives populating this book, waiting to be discovered with a flip of the page. There’s a splash of violence scattered throughout the book, only one instance of which would give me pause before I handed this book over to a young comics fan and, even then, it almost serves a purpose worthy of inclusion, provided a watchful parent has the right conversation later. If I had to pick a favorite, it would either be Flight‘s opening gambit—the aforementioned Michel Gagne tale—or "Walters", Cory Godbey’s breathtaking true-story sky opus covering a massive 40 pages and twenty miles horizontally and three miles vertically.

Of course, Flight is an anthology, which means there’s probably something for virtually everyone in here, making it cross all sorts of preference ranges. Flight has a reputation for being the premier comics anthology, getting all sorts of rave reviews from places from NPR to Library Journal. Even Playback:STL has gotten into the act previously, with reviewer Steve Higgins calling Flight Vol. 5 "virtually perfect". I can’t really add anything to the rave reviews except this—I don’t think I’ve ever had another comic made me cry from sheer wonder.| Erin Jameson

 

 

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