Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Red Wing #1 of 4

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Pitarra
Company: Image Comics

Early on in his career, Jonathan Hickman was one of those writers that was a great idea man.  Books like Nightly News and Pax Romana and Red Mass for Mars had hooks that got under your skin, but the execution often times missed the mark.  One of the biggest issues was the wall of text that often assaulted the readers eyes and really took you out of the story.  That was then, this is now, as with things like Secret Warriors and Fantastic Four, Hickman has honed his craft to a fine point and really shown what he can do.  The ideas are still fantastic and off the beaten path, but the accessibility is so strong and the enjoyment levels are so high that for the moment, it seems that he can do no wrong.  But what about The Red Wing?  Did he finally manage to misstep and crash and burn?

That would be a huge negative, as The Red wing is tremendously satisfying.

The story itself is a fairly simple one.  It tells of a future that is in constant war, but one where battles are fought and lost through time travel. The main characters are the men and women of a fighter pilot squad who are the first line of offense in said battle.  The characters are diverse and feel real without being schlocky or redundant.  The Legacy nature of the characters, something that's a tried and true formula for pilot movies, works just as well in comic book form.

There's also just the neatness that comes from working with something like time travel.  It opens up limitless possibilities and opportunities.  It's a subject that Hickman seems to love.  It's also a subject that it is often used poorly, which I am happy to say is not the case here.  If there's one problem with the book, it's that we only catch a glimpse of who exactly our heroes are battling.  I imagine we'll get to them though.  Beyond that however, this opener does a lot to introduce the reader to this new future.  Its explanations of the fighter jets, or TAC IIs, and the technology that allows them to flip flop through space and fight the bad guys, are engrossing and original and the kind of ideas that you expect from Hickman.  The effect feels like a souped up Top Gun that collides head on with a Robert Heinlein tale.

The other half of this coin falls completely on comics newcomer Nick Pitarra's shoulders.  He did one of the tales in Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D. book a few months ago, but his work here on The Red Wing outshines that easily.  There's a bit of Frank Quitely to his characters, mainly in the anatomy portion, but he also reminds me of another newcomer to comics, Nate Simpson.  He gives things a very grand scale, whether that is neck and neck dog-fighting planes or extravagant backgrounds or what the ravages of time can do to person if and when their plane gets damaged.  Regardless, his art pops and works hand in hand with Hickman's action and sci-fi tale.  The designs for the planes are simple and clean too, which I found very welcoming.  Not everything needs to be so detailed to the point where it feels clunky and off-putting, which Pitarra seems to know.   

The Red Wing delivers.  It is a smartly written, beautifully drawn, tale that zigs and zags through levels of adrenaline fueled awesome.  Hickman continues to find the balance of story and accessibility that really sucks the reader in and does what a comic book should do:  Entertain.

This is an advance review.  The Red Wing hits comic shops everywhere on Wednesday 7/13/11.

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