Review: ‘Flight, Vol. 5’ edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Flight, Volume Five
Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Villard/Random House, July 2008, $25.00
As always, the stories in the annual [[[Flight]]] volume are gorgeous and fun, created by a group of artists who worked on storyboards and other art for animated movies, and Flight is easily the most visually diverse of the new breed of mass-market comics anthologies.
But I can’t help but think that most of these stories are square watermelons – the products of creators trained and taught to run their imaginations down narrow channels to produce upbeat, kid-friendly stories with defined beats and clear morals. Nearly every story in Flight 5 could be seen as the treatment for a big-budget “family” animated movie, and many of them feel explicitly like the first scene or two of such a movie. Even once these guys – and all but two of them are guys, which some people may find notable – have been given the freedom of Flight, they continue to tell stories in that one, confined mode, like so many victims of Stockholm syndrome unwilling to leave their own prisons.
The stories are each well-told, but, as they pile up one after another, the number of naïf protagonists learning about the world (often under mortal peril) become just more variations on the same theme. There’s the fox-like world-saver of Michael Gagne’s “[[[The Broken Path]]],” the anthropomorphic fox-man of Reagan Lodge’s “[[[The Dragon]]],” the self-consciously ironic Bigdome of Paul Rivoche’s “[[[Flowers for Mama]]],” Dave Roman’s series of folks who could all be “The Chosen One,” the probably-delusional child Princess of Pluto in Svetlana Chmakova’s “On the Importance of Space Travel,” and – the youngest and most obvious lesson-telling of all of these – boy hero of Richard Pose’s “Beisbol 2.”
Pose’s story also fits into the group of stories here that have kid protagonists, which is also a sizable fraction of the book. (I’m a cynic, so I suspected that some of these stories weren’t good enough to get into the recent kid-focused Flight Explorer, but were good enough to make Kibuishi want to keep them around.) Other kid-filled pieces here include Kibuishi’s own teenager in “[[[The Courier]]],” the robot-loving kids of Sonny Liew’s “Karakuri,” the childish funny-headed creatures of Scott Campbell’s “[[[Igloo Head and Tree Head in Disguise]]],” a cute but deadly l’il ninja in Phil Craven’s “n,” the very juvenile pregnant heroine of “[[[The Changeling]]]” by Sarah Mensinga (which also is supposed to be a story of true love, though we never see that love), two kids lost is the woods in Kean Soo’s “[[[Jellaby: Lost]]],” and two different kids lost in the woods in the immediately following “[[[Two Kids]]]” by Grimaldi and Bannister.
One of the most obvious message stories in Flight 5 is Kness and Made’s wordless “Voyage,” in which a polar bear apparently floats from pole to pole, seeing the wreckage of humanity’s creations, in the space of sixteen pages. Like most of the work here, it’s visually stunning, but the visual fireworks are leashed to a story that either says nothing or says something banal. (The bear is also explicitly a cub, for another example of the relentless juvenile focus of Flight 5.)
I’m probably protesting too much: Flight 5 is full of solid stories with wonderful visuals that those of us who have kids can share with them. I just wish that, especially now that [[[Flight Explorer]]] is explicitly the young-readers arm of the Flight empire, that the parent series would mature a bit and tell stories about and for grown-ups. (But I should remember that comics have never been all that good at stories for grown-ups.)
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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