She Could Fly reaches (what I thought was going to be) its final chapter and to say that it goes out with a bang would be a bit of understatement. The tension hits its boiling point and things quite literally explode. Even in spite of this being the end, there are still twists and turns and things never feel quite rushed.
The issue starts out with newfound friend Verna having joined Luna and her family as they eat breakfast. It’s sort of humorously bizarre, a nice family meal is happening and a random woman comes off the street, one whom Luna openly admits she met on the internet. You can sense the skepticism in the voices of her parents as they try to figure out what’s going on. Later, a few series of confessionals play out. Luna explains to Verna how her mental health deteriorated from when she was very young. As she is relating her history, Dana, the guidance counselor, barges in, wounded cat-head and all, and tries to attack Verna. Later, after things settle, Dana and Luna actually talk for what seems for like the first time, and in an interesting role reversal, the counselor is confessing her history to the counseled instead. All this is interrupted by a three-way-dance between the Chinese Intelligence, EON-DEF, and the ATF that literally spills into the Brewster household. The results are not pretty. But in the end, Luna, Verna, and Dana each find the courage to take big steps in their lives and achieve true mental peace. Their paths and means might be completely different, but you can feel happy for each of them.
Although this has arguably been the best comic of 2018, it wouldn’t have been far off to declare it as a bit of a slow burn. Especially in issue 2, with all the symbolic elements, it could be argued that this comic is not major on plot and is more about getting inside people’s heads. Let’s be clear – the plot moves very quickly in this issue yet somehow it manages to keep the focus purely on mental health and even expands ever so slightly into the somewhat related topic of abuse; particularly abuse of women. After revealing herself as the true hero in the last issue, Verna continues her trajectory in this issue and is the first one to truly get Luna to talk about seemingly normal incidents she dealt with growing up that led her to be the way she is. Not surprisingly, Verna gets it because she suffers from similar challenges.
As for Dana, while in the last issue it wasn’t clear why she was getting mixed up into the main story, we learn about her being a victim and how that opened her up to all sorts of trauma and mental health difficulties; suddenly it makes more sense. The chaos that occurs, despite its insanity, gives us a strong statement and various paths of mental health. You can control it if you have the strength (Luna), you can fight it and let the fight change you (Verna), you can give in to it (Dana), or you can just stand by and do nothing because you believe someone else will fix everything for you (Gamma). With some of the revelations at the end, Cantwell shows us that there is not one right way to handle this, and that’s incredibly realistic. The other players including Bill, EDI and the family, fade into the background as the struggles of these four women become our main focus.
The letter from Cantwell to the reader is incredibly personal and powerful. Normally, post-issue letters from the writer or editor are just humorous tripe. But in this case, Cantwell confesses his own struggles with mental health and talks a little bit about what else is to come in the future for this story. If you have ever struggled with even an ounce of what Luna has to deal with, you will understand and appreciate Cantwell’s perspective.
If you were to open the middle of the comic book, you would think this was more of an issue of Ice Cream Man (Mrazzo’s other project) rather than She Could Fly. The over-the-top nature of the blood and guts is pretty shocking. Brains, severed body parts, blood, and all sorts of human anatomy are detailed. But the expressive moments are also dominant as well. One scene in particular stands out, where in spite of his character standing in the background, we can see Luna’s father hang his head in shame as Verna and Dana discuss how “men are s--t.” It’s these little sorts of hints that take Mrazzo beyond just a good artist to a great artist. Other highlights include the repeated usage of Mrazzo’s signature creepy smile, which seems to be mostly owned by Dana in this issue.
There are some plot points that strain credulity. The biggest one for me is the fact that one of the characters who was violently taken down in the melee is shown to be standing tall in the end, with just a minor scrape. The other is how Dana isn’t kicked out and separated after what she tries to do – instead, she is given a cup of coffee and hosted by the family. But these are ultimately minor quibbles in what is otherwise a flawless book.
I’m a little reticent to hear that the story of Luna is going to continue in spring, after a break. I thought the book was virtually perfect, and that the story ending where it ended made sense. I’m not sure I have much interest in hearing about her love life, Bill’s fate, and the bad guys’ next steps, for example. But if there’s anyone that can make it work, it’s this team, so you can count me in. For now, this series has been an absolute gem and privilege to review and the news that it has spawned a TV version inspires hope that as a result, our society’s conversation about mental health continues and grows.