Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews — now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘She Could Fly’ #1, out July 11 from Berger Books and Dark Horse Comics.
THIS REVIEW OF ‘SHE COULD FLY’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
By Jarrod Jones. She Could Fly #1, underneath the blue-skies optimism on its cover, is quite a few things; some of them are interesting, most of them disturbing. It’s a conspiracy, a mystery with moments of humor spliced with bursts of horror, ridiculous in places, severe in others. The latest original series from Karen Berger’s Dark Horse imprint Berger Books, She Could Fly allows the reader to inhabit spaces both friendly and hostile, to crawl inside the head of one of its characters to discover all the raw, unfiltered things anxiety and depression can and do inflict on a person. Initially it makes you want to understand Luna, the main character of this melodrama, and then later, when you get an eye-full of Luna’s life, it makes you wonder if you really want to hang around to see how her problems work out — if they ever do.
In short, it’s disturbing. I suppose it’s oddly compelling, too, in that “AMC television pilot” sort of way, which makes sense when you consider who’s at the wheel here: Writer Christopher Cantwell, co-creator of Halt and Catch Fire, is intimately aware of how to lure you into a story, and employs all the dirty tricks at his disposal that keep a viewer glued to a long-running series. (She Could Fly will run for four issues.) Subplots are introduced, explored, and then, when it looks like we’re about to acquire a critical piece of the narrative puzzle, they’re dropped for future installments to address. That’s par for the course and more than fair. In fact, Cantwell’s work on television and his mastery of its tropes lend themselves well to comics, a medium that makes its dough, just like TV, by luring folks back for every successive chapter. I wanted to read more despite the elements that bothered me and became frustrated when the issue pulled the “pop-song montage ending” motif found in most cable shows, largely because those types of endings are rarely satisfying and this one certainly was not.
But I get ahead of myself. The central intrigue — sightings of a mysterious woman flying over Chicago have ended abruptly and violently — is the story’s real hook and the inciting moment that lets Luna finally take the matters of her fractured life into her own hands. There are periphery subplots, such as a disgraced physicist and his burgeoning relationship with a prostitute and Luna’s grandmother returning from a seven-year zen retreat, that will likely reveal their importance in coming issues. For now, these bits in She Could Fly come across as silly, especially when their intended humor (the physicist’s paramour likes to be called “Pumpkin Pie” during coitus and grandma does go on about her bhavanga) is cut off at the knees by Luna’s very frightening psychological issues. The elemental desire to lift off of the ground and hurtle away from our problems is personified by Luna, a high school sophomore with devastating anxiety and a propensity to visualize the most extreme and violent ends to otherwise commonplace scenarios. (A gift sends Luna down a mental path that ends with someone’s eyes getting gouged out of their sockets. Actually, eyes get a lot of abuse in this issue.)
As a conspiracy drama/horror tale, She Could Fly has an ace-in-the-hole in artist Martín Morazzo. His work on IDW’s The Electric Sublime and Image Comics’ anthology Ice Cream Man (both with writer W. Maxwell Prince) have honed Morazzo’s sense of place and timing in the horror genre. There are panels in this debut that are suitably unsettling, particularly when Cantwell’s story puts Luna’s toxic fears at the forefront of the action. Morazzo counters all the dismemberment and viscera with euphoric moments, like when Luna’s fascination with the flying woman gives her a momentary release from her despair and, for a few fleeting panels, we’re flying through the skies with her. Miroslav Mira colors the book in natural tones, giving surfaces and people a soft glow, and in the more fantastic sequences elevates his palette to evoke feelings of hope. It serves a nice contrast to the stark realities of Luna’s life.
This first issue is structured to obscure things — truths, motivations, perceptions of characters both externally with the reader and internally among its characters. (Luna’s parents are somewhat oblivious to Luna’s despair and Luna doesn’t seem especially eager to share with her school counselor.) Cantwell has a canny ear for dialogue, so these characters have an engaging naturalism to them, and while we still don’t know too much about these people by the end, it makes this debut a more assured read. We discover things as characters do, and so we feel obliged to follow them. She Could Fly has an interesting story to tell, but there’s no ignoring the turbulence in this flight of fancy.
Berger Books/Dark Horse Comics/$4.99
Written by Christopher Cantwell.
Art by Martín Morazzo.
Colors by Miroslav Mira.
Edited by Karen Berger.
7 out of 10
‘She Could Fly’ hits stores July 11.