Flight: Volume One
Published by Image
I’ve hit a sad patch in my review pile where nothing’s grabbing me enough to want to write about it, so here’s another look at an older book worth another look.
Written and Illustrated by Bengal, Bill Mudron, Catia Chien, Clio Chiang, Chris Appelhans, Derek Kirk Kim, Dylan Meconis, Enrico Casarosa, Erika Moen, Hope Larson, Jacob Magraw, Jake Parker, Jen Wang, Joel Carroll, Kazu Kibuishi, Kean Soo, Khang Le, Neil Babra, Phil Craven, Rad Sechrist and Vera Brosgol
It’s weird, but as afraid of heights as I am, I love to fly. Especially when the plane gets above the clouds and you can’t see the earth… just white fluffiness from horizon to horizon. It’s otherworldly and peaceful.
There’s a reason so many superheroes fly and it’s not just to make it easier for them to get around. It’s a common fantasy that we earthbound creatures have. How many times have you been stuck in rush hour traffic and wished that the year 2000 had yielded all those flying cars we thought we’d have by then when we were growing up? Up you’d go and off you’d go, without having to worry about lanes or lights or signs or other cars or even pesky geography like trees and rivers. We’ve all wished we could fly.
The creators of Flight set out to tell stories around that theme. Coming together from all corners of the internet, these online cartoonists banded together to give us a look – sometimes literal, sometimes metaphorical – at what it means to fly.
Some of the stories are just plain fun. Kazu Kibuishi’s two stories about a boy named Copper fall into this category. So does Jake Parker’s “Hugo Earheart” about a boy who secretly delivers messages on the back of his flying whale for The Great Seer and “Tug McTaggart: Circus Detective” by Phil Craven, which is about a circus daredevil who solves the mystery of a missing snake. In Bengal’s art deco “Formidable,” thieves use flying wings to attack a massive zeppelin.
I had the most fun though reading “Beneath the Leaves: Jump” by Rad Sechrist. In this story, a flying squirrel tries to convince his mother that he’s old enough to jump from the top of his tree to the roof of a nearby house, all the while suffering peer pressure from his two buddies: a young bat and a flying lizard. I’d never heard of Beneath the Leaves before, but I’m a fan now.
Other stories in Flight are downright touching. “Air and Water” by Kean Soo and Enrico Casarosa beautifully captures the experience of lifting-off in a seaplane. Jen Wang’s “Paper and String” is about two girls who went to school together but hung out with different crowds. After meeting in a park they connect as they talk about kites and what flying them means to them. Wang’s combination of ink with cut-out bits of paper is perfect for her subject matter and gives the story a wonderful and exotic feel. The characters in Chris Appelhans’ bittersweet, untitled story use an airship to escape and rise above the destruction going on in their war-torn country. In “All Time Low” by Dylan Meconis and Bill Mudron, a man explains the childhood trauma that he’s trying to overcome by being a pilot. Seeing his ordeal and struggle to beat it is a heartbreaking experience, especially for a parent. In Kean Soo’s “Migrations,” flight becomes a metaphor for moving on as a man and a bird come to terms with the fact that their loved ones have left them. Flight is a symbol of freedom in Khang Le’s “Outside My Window” as a little girl learns what life is like for the butterfly she keeps in a jar. A couple of stories by Erika Moen talk about how uplifting experiences like faith and creativity can be like flying. “Create” is more convincing than “Faith,” but I don’t know if that says more about Moen or about me. Figuring that out is a provocative exercise.
Probably my favorite story of the whole book is Phil Craven’s “Deep Blue” in which a penguin on a crowded iceberg is able to escape the rest of his flock and create for himself the illusion of flying. Watching the joy on his little penguin face as he indulges in his private fantasy reminds me of those rush hour moments I was talking about in which I wish that I could get away from it all and just fly. Good for you, little penguin. And good for my soul as I’m able to experience the moment vicariously through you.
Not every story in Flight is a winner by any means, but that’s the way it is with anthologies. Some pieces I didn’t understand how they tied in with the theme. Other pieces I simply didn’t understand. Still others I understood perfectly, but they didn’t especially connect with me. But out of the twenty-three stories that appear in this book, fourteen of them stood up, reached out, and grabbed a hold of my heart. That’s an excellent percentage. That’s fourteen beautifully told and illustrated stories that I’m going to want to come back to again and again.