Saturday, March 31, 2007

Book Review: Flight Volume 3

Take Flight with one of the best anthologies you have the opportunity to read.

Flight, Vol. 3, edited by Kazu Kibuishi. Various authors and illustrators. Ballantine Books, New York: 2006. ISBN: 0-345-49039-8.

I admit I haven't read the first two volumes of Flight, but that does enable me to tell you it doesn't matter. This collection is awesome whether you're already familiar with the series or not.

Flight is an anthology of comic short stories by highly talented artists and illustrators who are virtually unknown.

Many, probably most, of the stories are fantasy. The collection is big and I can't talk about everything, but here are some highlights:

Talking animals are, to my satisfaction, making a comeback in comics. A number of stories in this volume feature talkative (and cute) woodland creatures. Particularly memorable is Tony Cliff's "Old Oak Trees," about his grandmother's adventures as a young girl with some anthropomorphic animals and a fairy. In "The Brave Sea," a story of talking seals, Steve Hamaker demonstrates he's good at more than just colorizing Bone comics. "Tea" by Reagan Lodge features a talking fox named Wyit trying to make some tea for his mistress, who's apparently a warrior princess or something. This story is too short and not enough happens, but the image of Wyit seated on a cliff and smoking a pipe is a picture I keep flipping back to. Rad Sechrist's "Beneath the Leaves," following the misadventures of a hedgehog, squirrel, and pig, is apparently a serial, but it's fun and easy to get into.

Stunning, charming, and heartrending is Michel Gagné's opening number, "Underworld," an entirely wordless piece about a brave little fox. Without dialogue or narrative, this one particularly displays the storytelling ability of sequential art. Other stories in the collection manage similar accomplishments, especially "Message in a Bottle" by Rodolphe Guenoden and Kazu Kibuishi.

And definitely deserving a mention is "One Little Miracle for a Hungry Swarm" by Alex Fuentes, a weird sf piece so disturbing I couldn't stop thinking about it for a few days after I read it.

Not all the stories are so awesome. "Earl D." by Yoko Tanaka has one funny idea and little else. Azad Injejikian's morality tale "Polaris" starts great but gets too misanthropic even for my tastes, and Khang Le's "Lala and the Bean" doesn't make much sense. Still, a few duds in a collection this size are to be expected, and the duds are few and far between.

The artists and illustrators affectionately known as the Flight Crew are demonstrating that comics do not need nudity, excessive violence, or scantily clad battle babes to tell good stories. Imagination and experimental storytelling are the name of the game here. So take Flight.
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