by Randy Lander

FLIGHT VOLUME 2 original graphic novel

Flight v2

Image Comics
Writers/Artists: various
Editor: Kazu Kibuishi

Price: $24.95 US

The first Flight anthology was one of those universally-beloved comics, and the second volume is maybe a little bit better, and certainly a lot bigger, adding some familiar comic creator names to the list of accomplished newbies and animators who made up most of the cast of the first Flight. As with any anthology, every story won't appeal to every taste, but there's a surprisingly high basic level of quality at work, and even the stories that don't resonate are bound to gain some acceptance on a visual level. Forget the theme of flight, which doesn't even exist in some of the stories in this second volume; the real unifying element of Flight Volume 2 is amazing full-color artwork that is bound to lead to a few dropped jaws.

420 full-color pages of story. At $25, Flight Volume 2 is a hell of a value, and it's a dense enough read that most readers won't be able to work through it all at once. Fortunately, that works out just fine, because Flight is 420 pages, but it is also home to over 30 stories, giving a nice balance between enough bang for your buck and stories that are light enough to read without a major time investment. Some of the stories are a little slight, some go too long, but in general, the creators make use of the format to provide perfectly paced bite-sized tales. And lots of them.

The first Flight roster was made up mostly of names that comic readers wouldn't know, even though a lot of these creators had worked on comic fan-friendly animated projects, or more widely seen commercial art or webcomics. With the reputation of Flight firmly established, volume two sees some more established names joining the roster. Michel Gagne, who has his own comic Zed as well as having done backups in Detective Comics, opens the book with the visually stunning wordless tale of a normal-looking fox enduring the dangers of his homeworld with the help of a mysterious alien. Doug TenNapel, of Tommysaurus Rex and Creature Tech fame, enters the fray with a bizarre and charming tale of two anthropomorphic friends throwing a tea party that reads like a cross between kids' cartoon Maisy and TenNapel's own twisted Earthworm Jim. Demo's Becky Cloonan delivers some visual poetry with lyrics by Greek cartoonist Vasilis Lolos that looks almost like a comic book version of a music video. And Bone's Jeff Smith delivers an all-too-brief but still fun four-pager about two friends walking through space while one suffers ultimately dangerous hunger pangs.

While it's always nice to see the big boys come to play, though, they're hardly the only star attractions here. Everyone will have their own favorites in this kind of thing, but for me, the standouts were mostly by creators who did work on the first Flight anthology or who I was seeing for the first time here. Surprisingly, only a few of these stories really play with the flight theme to any real extent. Jake Parker's "The Robot and the Sparrow" is a wistful, uplifting little modern fable that is also in Image's Free Comic Book Day offering this year, a good choice given that it's approachable, done in one offing, all ages in content and exceptionally beautiful to look at. Then there's Johane Matte's "Icarus," a hilarious twist on the doomed flight of the Greek mythmaker that recasts it as a father-son piece about a hapless scientist and his even more hapless son and guinea pig.

Many creators followed the flight theme in a loose way, taking it as any kind of journey. Neil Babra's "The Golden Temple" recalls the look and feel of Craig Thompson's travelogue Carnet De Voyage, a comparison I made last time when I enjoyed the first chapter in Flight Volume One, and though the connection to the theme is nonexistent, it's undeniably a good story. Jen Wang's "Destiny Express" is also a stretch as far as the flight theme goes, being a tale of a journey, but it's visually stimulating and a fascinating insight into the nature of change and the fear of change that we all have at one time or another. Rodolphe Guenoden's "The Ride," colored by Kazu Kibuishi, features a vivid recreation of the French countryside, a beautiful Frenchwoman and a terrific little twist at the end that makes for one of the strongest stories in the book. Doug Holgate's "Laika," a wordless story of play between a normal dog and alien cats, is beautiful and fun and light, given just enough weight by the sad fate of Laika's homeworld.

Some of the really entertaining stories aren't even remotely tied into a flight theme, but are instead slice-of-life or strong character pieces. Khang Le's "Monster Hunters" is a really great look at a friendship that seems to exist beyond the bounds of the story but doesn't feel any less self-contained as a result, and the muted colors and expressive faces of the artwork are gorgeous as well. Bannister's "Dust on the Shelves" is an honest tale of love found through comics that any given comics fan can relate to as a tale of hope and true love. Richard Pose also strikes biographical gold with the tale of Francisco Sanchez, an inspiring story of a young Cuban boy who finds his calling in baseball with the help of an old player of the game.

While there are a variety of art styles at play in the pages of Flight, there's not a bad art job in the bunch. There's a lot of vivid, almost painted color work going on in these pages, with standout performances from Sonny Liew, Phil Craven, Clio Chiang, Giuseppe Ferrario, Joana Carneiro and Paulo Visguerio. There are any number of stories which feature work reminiscent of animation, such as the work of Herval, Justin Ridge and any number of other illustrators I've also mentioned. There's also a fair amount of high detail backdrops and anime-inspired visual spectacle, with Rad Sechrist's "Ghost Trolley" being perhaps the most exceptional example. Basically, there's a wide range of art styles, but the unifying factor is an amazing use of color and a level of quality and beauty that is exceptional.

Flight Volume 2 is a treat, and with 420 pages of story from over thirty creators, many of them new or relatively new names, it's a must-read primer for the comics industry that is to come. You'll be seeing most if not all of these names again sooner rather than later at work in this industry. 9/10

This comic book was not among this week's new releases.

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