Review: ‘Barnstormers’ #1 Is An Evocative, Intriguing And Beautiful Debut Issue From Scott Snyder And Tula Lotay
by Olly MacNamee
‘Barnstormers’ #1 transports readers back to the Roaring Twenties, where we meet Hawk E Baron, ex-serviceman and one Hell of a flyer. But a man seemingly haunted by his past. One part Bonnie and Clyde and another part The Great Waldo Pepper, Scott Snyder and Tula Lotay capture the era effortlessly and evocatively through a soft-focus lens.
Barnstormers #1 may very well be promoted as a Roaring Twenties Bonnie and Clyde romp through the air, but there’s clearly something more to this than meets the eye. But, before we get to that, let’s spend a moment on admiring Tula Lotay’s art, can we? Her style favours a soft focus sensibility, delivering a quality to her art that, for me at least, evoked the ’20s as captured in such cinematic classics as The Sting. That and Scott Snyder’s uncanny ear for the language of this period too, which he incorporates into his script so well, works so well in establishing both characters and settings. A real slice of Americana of the period. And it certainly captured this reviewer’s attention even before we got into the story properly. Which we do rather quickly after some brief background explanation on what exactly barnstormers were, and how they rustled up trade at a time when money was tight across America.
The Twenties may well have been roaring for some, including a particularly mean-spirited set of wealthy society folk we meet when our hero, Hawk E. Baron, lands rather unceremoniously in their midst, but for many this was a time of the approaching Great Depression and the original cost of living crisis the twentieth century faced. A time, even before the crash of 1929, when people scratched and scrapped a living, much like Hawk himself.
And while there is a good deal of carefully placed portentous and ominous dialogue, all designed to grab the reader’s attention, there is nothing more disturbing than what we witness in a brief flashback Hawk recounts while trying to flirt it up with a local phone operator. But, to reveal what exactly he has seen would be too much of a spoiler. However, I will say that what he does see will no doubt have huge repercussions not only on the plot, but the very reality Snyder and Lota have meticulously crafted in Barnstormers #1. A very left field inclusion you just could not see coming.
From Hawk to the various folks he meets, this is a sumptuous book full of beautiful people but none more so than the cover’s star. Someone you may be wondering about given her late appearance in this issue, but someone who will, no doubt, become the Bonnie to Hawk’s Clyde. From the soft-focus and pastel colours to the handsome and beautiful cast of characters, this feels and reads like a forgotten silver screen classic; Redford’s The Great Waldo Pepper meets Beatty and Dunaway’s Bonnie and Clyde. And out now on comiXology.