When I reviewed the first volume of Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett’s Image comic last year, I was more impressed by its unique premise than the actual storytelling mechanics. Like the best stories in science fiction, it was a “what if” scenario: “what if the world suddenly lost its gravity?” Much like a lot of first volumes published by Image, Skyward Vol. 1 somewhat suffered from being setup, but there was enough engagement to keep me interested in what is to come in the future. Can the second volume maintain this strong premise?
Declared as a fugitive in her home city of Chicago, Willa Fowler hits the road with her companion, Edison Davies, as the duo embarks on a journey to Kansas City, where she hopes to find the thing that will bring back gravity to the Earth. What starts off a train ride to their final destination takes a dangerous detour as they and the other train passengers get lost in the middle of a forest where they all become prey of giant, man-eating bugs.
That’s right, bugs! As we have stepped away from the high buildings of Chicago, Henderson expands upon his world-building by bringing in the classic sci-fi trope of giant insects. This element adds horror, as well as showcasing new areas of the low-gravity world where people have to adapt to, such as the presence of warrior farmers riding on giant butterflies. As ridiculous as that sounds, it leans into the outlandish nature of it all in a humorous fashion, most notably with the hunky arrival of the farmers’ sword-wielding leader, Lucas Serrano, who evokes those muscular heroes of the pulp sci-fi stories.
As the initial volume was juggling many characters, some of which didn’t get much development, this volume streamlines the narrative by solely focusing on the relationship between the two leads. It’s a friendship with the possibility of becoming something more, despite the fact that Willa is being secretive towards Edison about the true nature of their journey. With more obstacles along the way from unknown presences to returning foes, there is humor and tension that makes you care about the central relationship that could collapse at any moment.
As this volume expands more on the premise, it allows artist Lee Garbett to take advantage of the more outlandish nature of this world, which takes place in the lush greenery of the forest. With a greater emphasis on action, the characters are always on the move and Garbett keeps everything dynamic through his large panels. A big shout-out to colorist Antonio Fabela, who uses a wide range of colors that give each of the many locations their own identity, and in the few pages where there is no light apart from the giant fireflies, it is a perfect marriage of artist and colorist crafting artistic beauty.
Following a decent first volume that has to set up a lot, this second volume streamlines the narrative while expanding the world-building into stranger and more humorous directions. If it’s able to maintain the unique premise and progress the characterization, Skyward might become the next Y: The Last Man.