By Clyde Hall. The mind reels at all the implications posed by the premise of Skyward #1, and it begins in the time-honored tradition: What if? What if the world, in an instant, became a low gravity environment? How low? Enough that a slight bit of propulsion could find people rising into the stratosphere, doomed to die in the cold upper elevations and perhaps drift on into space. I’ve never been a connoisseur of hard science fiction, preferring writers with a talent for making incredibly complex technical concepts and their implications understandable to the layperson. Folks like the late Michael Crichton come to mind. Despite this, the consequences of a low-G Earth and how humanity copes with it fired my imagination afterburners.
If people living in weightless conditions aboard the International Space Station for long period of times experience health issues as a result, there’s more to such a planet-wide environ than quaintly drinking globs of floating liquid from the air. The sense of up and down is impaired, the proprioceptive system that keeps track of just where your limbs are in relation to the torso is affected. Bone deterioration as calcium is flushed along with waste products from the body is a long-term concern. And writer Joe Henderson briefly touches on such new wrinkles in the low-G human condition. Artist Lee Garbett makes especial use of the ‘what is up and what is down, exactly’ orientation and does so with a clean, precise style that serves the story perfectly.
But there could be more made of the world-spanning, gravity-reduced habitat beyond what’s shown in the first issue. What coping strategies have evolved? How does manufacturing work now? While some industries and professions would be helped by weightlessness, others might become impossible. Or extremely hazardous. Even the classic ‘how low-G toilets work’ topic rises to mind. Investors in the Velcro market would probably be richer than Croesus. We’re treated to little of such concepts here, but I hope the scope expands in future issues.
What we are treated to is G-Day, the day when gravity changed and almost fled the planet altogether. Then we’re scooted forward 20 years, to a world that has adjusted enough to have delivery service, free floating criminal elements, and the ongoing threat of propelling yourself from the ground into the sky with nothing to grab onto and no way to descend. We also meet Willa Fowler, an infant on G-Day and now a young woman who doesn’t remember a time when people didn’t ‘fly’. She’s a savvy and capable delivery worker, and her main concern isn’t going fatally airborne as much as dealing with her protective father who had insights, and perhaps a hand, in lessening Earth’s gravity two decades before. We also meet some of Willa’s associates, including the physically challenged Edison, a man who does remember the full weight of former gravity and knows that his life was made better by G-Day.
Henderson shows us implications of this terra incognito for his characters, the positive and the heart-crushing. He invests us in craving details on a global scale by first investing us in his protagonists, and for this series it’s a wise tact. Garbett’s job in turning that world on its head, literally, is crisply and cleverly achieved. His art transmits the joy of individual-powered flight for everyone, and never gets weighted down with the darker aspects of that setting. He brings us all the repercussions, gorgeously. The creative team has placed all the elements into proper perspective to address the question lying beyond the What Ifs: Is a gravitationally safer world necessarily a better world? And how will each of the Skyward characters deal with that proposition?
Written by Joe Henderson.
Art by Lee Garbett.
Colors by Antonio Fabela.
Letters by Simon Bowland.
7 out of 10