Air #1 cover image
In the recently launched Vertigo series, AIR, from writer G. Willow Wilson and artist M.K. Perker – the team behind the graphic novel, Cairo – a young woman discovers that her job in the airline industry is taking her off the map of the known world. Where is she going? Those places can certainly be described as uncharted territories.
In AIR #1 (Letters from the Lost Countries,” Part 1), we meet Blythe, a flight attendant for Clearfleet Airlines. The story opens with her dreaming of falling in the sky, but she is not alone. A mysterious man named Zayn holds Blythe, who has a fear of falling, close to his body. Later, while on duty, she encounters a passenger who reminds her of Zayn, and from there, things only get weirder. This mystery man seems to be literally following Blythe’s footsteps, and her encounter with The Etesian Front, anti-terrorist vigilante group. only complicates matters. When she inadvertently becomes involved in an attempt to hijack a Clearfleet plane, Blythe really finds herself off the map and maybe into Zayn’s arms again.
THE LOWDOWN: If her interviews and essays are any indication, G. Willow Wilson will tackle a number of themes, ideas, and real world issues with AIR, not the least of which are terrorism and air travel. Perhaps, more important than the ideas – the depths of which the writer will plumb – is how Wilson will engage the reader. After all, we have to care about this series if AIR is to succeed both in terms of narrative and in the marketplace of readers.
One could view the airport terminal as being like the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with Blythe being Alice. All we the readers have to do is follow along, but that doesn’t seem to be what Wilson expects of her readers. As with Carroll’s Alice, Guillermo del Toro’s Ofelia (the film Pan’s Labyrinth), and Neil Gaiman’s Barbie (The Sandman: A Game of You), Wilson’s Blythe is not merely someone we follow to wonderful fictional places, but she is also a vessel through which we travel to worlds of strange notions and ways, in which we have to unravel the secret meanings without being told everything. We are the travelers and not mere readers seeking passive entertainment.
Without being oblique, Wilson’s narrative is complex, but not confusing. Her ideas aren’t “one size fits all,” but in Blythe’s confusion, struggles, ordeals, and adventures, readers can find moments and ideas with which he can identify or can recognize as common concerns. AIR isn’t perfect, but neither are enchanted places.
In M.K. Perker, Wilson has a wonderful creative partner. His style, which almost looks like an earthy take on Michael Kaluta, has the flourishes of realism, while offering the reader a chance to imagine the strange and troubling coming to life. The striking cover image of Blythe that Perker drew for the first issue perfectly encapsulates his ability to create comic book art that takes readers to new places.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers who want to follow Alice to Wonderland will want AIR.