“My Low-G Life, Part One”
Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: Simon Bowland
Editor: Rick Lopez Jr.
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Normally, it’s characterization that makes or breaks a comic-book title for me. If I can relate to the characters, if they really feel like they live and breathe beyond the two-dimensional confines of the page, that’s often what resonates with me. Skyward offers some strong characterization, but with this first issue, it’s the premise that grabs the reader’s attention. The notion of a world that loses its gravity is presented as both a horrific tragedy and a heaven-sent miracle, and both perspectives are true. What makes this presentation of such an immense idea work, though, is how focused it is. Writer Joe Henderson takes us into just one small corner of a world without gravity, with a small cast of characters — which just happens to include a pivotal player in the story.
Twenty years after Earth’s gravity just up and disappeared, Willa earns her living as a delivery person, risking her life by going outside and using a compressed-air tank to keep her floating away into the wild blue yonder (which is how she lost her mother in the fateful event known as G-Day). While many were lost in that cataclysmic event, there are throngs of people who delight in life in the skies, life unencumbered by being forced onto the ground.
Lee Garbett’s linework brings a lot of energy to the book, and the visuals are incredibly effective. I would imagine this premise offered some visual challenges, as direction — specifically, up and down — are off kilter, but the artist brings the zero-gravity world to life incredibly well. His efforts here remind me a great deal of the style of Sean Gordon (Batman: White Knight) Murphy, with some Pat (Untold Tales of Spider-Man) Olliffe influence thrown in for good measure. Despite the tragic tone of the opening flashback scene, there’s a brightness in the linework and colors that reflects the young heroine’s optimism and sense of adventure. Antonio Fabela’s digital-coloring effects are striking at times as well, notably when it comes to how he conveys a 3D look with floating-liquid elements in the story.
The title perfectly captures the premise and spirit of the story, but when I heard about the impending release of this comic, it rang a bell — not the concept, but the title itself. A quick search confirmed that Action Lab Entertainment had its own title by the same name five years ago by the late writer/artist Jeremy Dale. It’s unfortunate that this comic book adopted the same title as that well-received effort from Dale, especially in light of the up-and-coming creator’s death in 2014 at age 34. But that’s neither here nor there when it comes to the quality of this comic book.
Henderson does an excellent job of convey Willa’s free spirit and her delight with being able to fly, essentially. Her savvy and skills in the skies, however, are offset by her social awkwardness. The sky is her element… people, not so much. Edison’s inclusion in the cast is a smart move. That a disabled person would embrace and relish a world without gravity makes perfect sense, but even in a world in which the playing field has been levelled, Henderson cleverly portrays Edison as still feeling like an outsider. Even though his lack of legs doesn’t matter anymore, he still feels different and judged.
The plot is clearly headed to a place that brings Willa and her father into a ideological conflict: one lives for her time in the sky, and the other longs for the day when things were returned to normal. He only sees the danger, and she sees the freedom. Like I said before, both are right, and it will be interesting to see how father and daughter influence each other’s perspective going forward. 8/10