When a reviewer says that something is special, it can often times come across as disingenuous, like an influencer who tells you how “obsessed” they are with a new fridge magnet or sticky note. Despite that fact, I am am 100% serious and genuine when I say this week’s comic, Barnstormers, is indeed something special.
Right now a lot of indie publishers seem to be struggling, with sales slumping across the market. With inflation on the rise and people struggling to make ends meet, investing in a new comic is challenging. $5 for what amounts to about 15 minutes of entertainment is hard to justify when you can get unlimited movies and TV shows from most streaming platforms for $10.
This is why I work hard to only recommend books that are a) well written, b) well drawn, and c) well worth your money. If it can’t tick all of those boxes, why bother?
That’s why I am pleased to say that Barnstormers #1 from Dark Horse Comics ticks all those boxes and more.
So enough with the preamble, let’s dive into this extra long first issue and explain why it is so good!
Here’s the blurb:
A high-flying, WW1 adventure story that’s an intimate portrait of love and war–and a meditation on the dangerous level of trust required in both romance and aviation.
It’s 1918–the early days of the barnstorming era, when pilots competed with each other by performing deadlier and more wondrous feats, as we’ve never seen it before. Pilot John Baron is back from the frontlines of the war, where he was injured. At eighteen-years-old, he’s an adventurer who lives his life traveling from town to town in his plane, entertaining folks across the of whom have never seen a car, let alone a plane. His world changes when he meets Helen, a young woman who shares his passion for aviation and adventure. They become a traveling act, flying from town to town, delighting folks with their antics. Helen even becomes John’s wing-walker, climbing out on the wing of the plane mid-flight to perform death-defying acrobatics. Along the way they bond, confessing their secrets, and begin a romance in this lush, character-driven series that explores the early days of aviation and the evolving relationship and romance between two young pilots.
This Bonnie and Clyde romp brings together writer Scott Snyder (We Have Demons) and the breath-taking illustrations of Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose) — her longest sequential work to date.
Now, cards on the table, I am a huge fan of Scott Snyder. There are few comic writers working in the business today that have his level of passion, genius, and creativity. I have never been disappointed reading one of his titles, and I would easily rank him among the top 5 creators in the market today.
So yeah, I’m a little biased.
That being said, when I read the screener for Barnstomers I actually missed the creative team. I was so taken by the cover and the premise that I just dove in, and only when I went back to check did it click that of course it is written by Scott Snyder; it’s amazing.
What I love about Snyder is that he is great at writing about desperate people doing desperate things to survive. That theme has come up in a lot of his work over the years and continues in Barnstormers. His characters don’t just do things to do them; his characters feel real and fleshed out, acting for legitimate reasons that the audience can understand and empathize with. In a 2D medium it can be easy to write 2D characters, but with Scott Snyder there is always a genuine piece of humanity in everything he writes, and I love that.
Both of his leads in this book are desperate people, doing desperate and dangerous things, and in the hands of a lesser writer they could have easily come across as a pathetic pastiche of tropes and one-liners. Instead, Snyder makes them come alive in a way that made me start to genuinely pull for these two, even as more and more things warned me that a happy ending was not in their future.
While I know the marketing and blurb call this a Bonnie and Clyde story, and there are clearly elements of that at play, I feel that is too reductive of a description. Barnstormers is its own thing, and while there are clearly elements from classic, tragic love stories sprinkled in it, at no point did I stop and think “well, this is just a Bonnie and Clyde retelling,” or “this is just a play on Romeo and Juliet.”
And not only is Snyder’s writing in top form, Tula Lotay’s art is genuinely breathtaking. Her art has a depth and reality to it that not only makes this one of the most beautifully unique looking books on the shelf, it also adds an additional air of reality and credibility to the story. Her painted style fits perfectly with the older setting of Barnstormers, and honestly I legitimately am hoping Dark Horse Comics put out a deluxe, oversized hardcover of this entire series when it wraps because art this good deserves to be displayed.
Barnstormers #1 comes out this week, so call you LCS now and make sure they hold you a copy. Issue one is an oversized first issue, with a heck of a lot of story for a very good price. Help support a publisher that deserves our respect!
That’s it for me this week. Until next time, Stay Safe.