A month ago, Skyward issue #1 hit the stands with a gloriously simple premise: What if gravity suddenly almost disappeared? The resulting comic was a quite wonderful introduction to the brave new world where the sky was either something to embrace and rejoice in, or treat with fear, always expecting to float up to your death.
Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett created an immediate hit, full of joyful positivity thanks to their young star, Willa, a native of the skies, born just before the world-changing G-day. And with issue #2, we’re going further into this strange world turned upside down.
At the end of issue 1 we saw Willa’s dad open up to Willa that he was to blame, but he had a plan…
“This is all my fault.”
“The world isn’t supposed to be this way.”
“The sky kills, Willa. One wrong step means death.”
“The entire world is upside down.”
“Great, Dad! Tell me something I don’t know.”
“I know how to fix it.”
But for all that determination, Willa can see right through her dad. His life was destroyed on G-Day, as he watched his wife float away to die, destined to join the millions of others in a macabre new layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.
And that’s something we get to see in all its hideous detail from Garbett straight off…
Because it would be all too easy to see this world through the eyes of the post G-Day sky natives, the young ones who’ve embraced the new life, love the freedom given to them in this new low-G world. But there’s just as many who live in fear, in grief, terrified of the new dangers they face.
And sadly, Willa’s dad is one of those. For all his talk of being able to fix the world, he’s not been able to leave the house since G-Day, and the inevitable estrangement of Willa from her dad might be yet another reason why she delights in being so free up there in the sky.
Willa’s dad’s backstory becomes the driving force of the tale now, with Willa drawn into it through her desire to do the right thing, to help her dad, and just her general character that sees the best in things. We learn of her dad’s research into gravity, the discovery that there was something wrong with the Earth’s gravitational field, and his friend, maybe his colleague, Roger Barrow.
When G-Day happened and her dad’s life went off the rails, Barrow made the most of things, using his knowledge to gain power and money from what he knew.
Yet, bless her, all Willa can see is a way to help her dad…
And that’s just what she does, heads off to see if she can have a quick chat with Chicago’s most powerful man.
Ah, c’mon, you know just how this one’s going to pan out don’t you? Sure, once she eventually gets face-to-face with him, after a clever and comedic stand-off with his hired goons, he’s all sweetness and light, seemingly so happy to find out his old friend is still alive. But, I don’t think anyone reading this will have any doubts about just what side of things Barrow is going to end up on. And anyway, just because the bad-guy is obvious, it doesn’t spoil any of the fun in Skyward.
To get to Barrow, Willa needs to go down to his level, street-level, where he’s made his fortune equipping those who fear the sky with the means to stay fixed on the ground, desperate to live the lives they used to have before the sky turned deadly. And it’s this descent that’s the real thematic high-point of issue two, just as the exploration of the freedoms of the skies and the freedom of those exploring and embracing them were what issue one had at its core.
That’s the view from the street, and it’s just one side of a double page spread from Garbett that really epitomizes the great things he’s doing here. The shorthand he’s using is what allows Henderson to move the story forward so quickly without having to fill the pages with exposition. The billboards scream out to stay grounded, use the mag-boots, and there you see it, the spark under the shoes, all laid out, the way these street dwellers are keeping the world the way it used to be. Simple artwork, gorgeous to look at, but also packing in the storytelling elements. That’s what really makes Skyward so impressive.
If the first issue was all about the huge idea and the equally huge personality of Willa, this second issue is a more grounded thing, dealing with the world that remains, determinedly, literally, fixed on the ground, down at street level.
Where the first issue had those huge skies for Willa to soar through, this issue is more contained, the street level scenes lacking the brightness and color of what we’ve seen before. And just as that contrast between the optimism of those living with the big sky and the closed-off thinking of those doing their street-level living works beautifully, there’s now a contrast we’re going to explore between the innocent, naivete of Willa and the calculating machinations of Barrow.
That first issue set the scene, blew us away with the idea, the scale, the freshness of it all. And this second issue beds us down into the plot, but there’s no slowing down, no losing the wonder and fun we’ve already seen.
Skyward keeps going higher and higher, even as it descends into the darkness beneath the big, bright, open skies.
Skyward Issue 2 released on May 23rd by Image Comics. Written by Joe Henderson, art by Lee Garbett, colors by Antonio Fabela, letters by Simon Bowland.
And as for next issue… here’s the gorgeous Lee Garbett cover for that one…