The Breathless Battle For Chicago: Skyward #14

by Richard Bruton

The latest issue of the chronicles of Willa in the world of low-G brings Skyward’s hero to Chicago to face off against farmers on butterflies determined to bring war to the city.

Yes, it’s a strange world in Skyward, but it’s been a wonderful world to spend time in over the last year. But, right now, I’d like it to linger a little on the storylines.

[**Spoiler warning for Skyward – Fix The World below!]

Ok, I held off the big spoilers for months now, but it’s part four of the ‘Fix The World’ storyline and to talk about the issue and the few problems I have with Skyward, I really need to mention a couple of big things that have gone on in prior issues.

Right then, so far in Skyward, there’s been an awful lot that’s happened in just the first couple of story-arcs in issues 1-10. We’ve seen the new world of low-G life, met Willa and her dad, discovered that he and Roger Barlow were working on the possibility of low-G before it happened, found out that Barlow is now amassing money and power after taking advantage of the situation, and seen Willa’s dad die. We’ve explored the world some, seen many brilliantly worked examples of the way the world would be affected in low-G, both small and large scale. We’ve seen a farmer community forced to mass produce food utilising the giant insects that developed post-low-G day and discovered that their leader, Lucas, is something of an egotistical maniac determined to bring war to the city of Chicago. Case in point from issue 14…

Now, we’re into the third story-arc, ‘Fix The World’. And so far, the issues have simply been frenetic in pace. Way too fast, in my opinion, something I’ve mentioned before in these issue by issue reviews.

We’ve seen Willa discover that her mom didn’t die, found out that there is no fix for the low-G problem and that the solution her dad was working on was, in fact, a secret underground city.

Revelation after revelation after revelation comes and goes, the rush to move on to the next thing all powerful. And I just want it all to slow down, to explore the (potentially great) storylines. Instead, with part four in this issue, we’re going all out once more, to the detriment of the comic.

Here, Willa races to Chicago, desperate to get there before Lucas and his butterfly riding farmers get there. She’s in a plane trying to dodge the floating debris, Lucas has already made it to the city and Willa crashes the planned party…

Within just a few short pages the whole thing is over and done with, the battle for Chicago, built up over the last couple of issues is over and done with before it’s begun. When, to be honest, there’s so much in here that could have been explored far more, far better.

This isn’t to say that there’s not plenty in Skyward, including this issue, that aren’t enormous fun. For starters, Lee Garbett’s artwork (and those consistently fabulous covers) has been perfect from the start, capable of simply, effectively, communicating the often complicated ideas brought forth thanks to the low-G concept, but also more than capable of developing great characters, lots of very effectively done close shots of the cast.

Then there’s all those little details I’ve talked of before, the science behind the world that Henderson frequently includes have been a real highlight. Similarly, in Willa, Henderson has created a wonderful, believable, exciting modern hero. In fact, the very best thing in issue 14 comes directly from Willa’s character and her willingness to do the different thing, to think around the problem, to not go the obvious route…

Yes, it was all set up to be a big fight between Willa and Lucas, but obviously that was never going work out for Willa and it’s to Henderson’s credit that he went this way, that simple moment of ‘No, I don’t need to fight you’ is perfect for this hero.

So there you are, I’m conflicted with Skyward. On the one hand, it’s a really fun, very well done thrill ride that careers from storyline to storyline with abandon. But, on the other hand, there’s a growing feeling in the back of my mind that this just can’t be sustainable over a longer period of time. It needs to slow down and explore the world, take the time to look around, develop characters and plot ideas with a slower pace. Maybe this is simply not what Henderson wants to do and that’s absolutely his call. But, based on what I’ve read and seen so far, Skyward has a writer and artist more than capable of crafting something longer, more involved, whilst retaining everything that’s made it so good thus far. I’m hoping to keep seeing issues of Skyward for a long time to come, but to do that, it does need to just stop occasionally and breathe.

Skyward Issue 4 – Fix The World – Part 4. Written by Joe Henderson, art and cover by Lee Garbett, colors by Antonio Fabela, letters by Simon Bowland.

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