G. Willow Wilson and M. K. Perker, creators of the recent Vertigo original graphic novel, Cairo, reunite with the latest Vertigo series, Air. The first issue is one of the stronger first issues of a Vertigo title that I have seen recently, but as to what that means for the book’s viability remains to be seen.
Regarding good first issues, two current Vertigo books that I love, Fables and Scalped, did not exactly have auspicious debuts, but in both cases, they came with a strong foundation for a series, so that they were able to sustain an extended run with their premise.
The concept of the book is that a stewardess named Blythe (who is afraid of heights) gets caught up in a struggle between forces she cannot comprehend, and at the center of it seems to be a man she finds herself deeply drawn to, a man who hails from a country that does not exist.
So the real test of the series will be how well Wilson develops the conflict between the two factions (as of the first issue, the Etesian Front, a vigilante group devoted to protecting the skies, sort of like an airborne Guardian Angels, does not strike me as all that interesting of a rival – they seem more buffoonish than anything). That will likely determine how viable the comic is as an ongoing series.
But for just this first issue, it was an enjoyable experience, especially the mysterious stranger, Zayn, who appears to Blythe first as a Pakistanti, then as a Greek, then as a Spaniard, then as an American and finally as his true self – but who IS his true self really? Heady!!
Artist M.K. Perker tells the story quite well, although I can’t say that I’m fond of a lot of his character work – often, character’s faces (except for Blythe, luckily) seem to be lacking in definition, as though Perker finds one disguishing feature, accentuates that and then hurries the rest.
The issue really succeeds or fails based on the interaction between Blythe and Zayn, and luckily, Wilson delivers there, particularly their dramatic introduction into the comic on the first page (they’re plummeting from the sky together).
One thing that sorta took me out of the comic was the ending (spoiler warning!) – Wilson seems to want to end the issue on the intriguing cliffhanger that Zayn comes from a country that does not exist. That’s a cool idea – however, I don’t think it is explained in the comic well, at all. At the end, Blythe gets a letter from Zayn. The return address is from the country of Narimar. Blythe then gives us the “duh duh duuuuuuuuuuuuuh” moment of the ending “Don’t you see? That’s part of what I don’t understand. I’ve been to almost every country in the world with an airport big enough to land in. There is no Narimar. Zayn is writing from a country that doesn’t exist.”
So my problem is – why in the world would she have THAT reaction, and not “Oh, Zayn made up a country to mail his letter from – you know, just like how he made up four different personalities the other day”? I think that problem could have been easily addressed if we had seen Zayn speak about his country, or better yet, have a member of the Etesian Front refer to Narimar. Just give us SOMEthing that would explain why Blythe would believe that it could possibly be a real country, because Zayn putting it down as a return address just is not nearly enough. And while it may seem like a minor detail, it’s the hook that Wilson wants to end the book on, so I think it is a pretty big deal for the issue.
In any event, the issue overall was a good issue, with some nice character development, and it sure is nice to read a Vertigo comic starring a woman (coupled with Madame Xanadu, Vertigo went from not having a series starring a woman for, like, fifteen years to suddenly having TWO!).
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