Written by Frank Cho
Art by Frank Cho and Marcio Menyz
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
While Frank Cho might be best known these days for courting controversy with his unapologetic advocacy of cheesecake art, even his most vociferous critics might find themselves with little to complain about with his latest creator-owned series with BOOM! Studios, Skybourne. Reading like a Mark Millar riff on a James Bond opener, Skybourne proves that underneath all that online pot-stirring, Cho is a still a striking visual storyteller in his own right, delivering an exciting, action-packed thriller that will leave you wanting more.
On paper, Skybourne has such a strong high concept - an injection of fantasy to the James Bond action/espionage archetype, featuring a trio of super-strong and immortal siblings as they solve crises around the world. Focusing primarily on sister Grace Skybourne as she tears through a room of goons trying to liberate the blade of Excalibur, this is the kind of broad concept that could keep a series going for a long, long time, if Cho so desired - but he does seem to have some complications already in the works, showing that the power of immortality has more than its share of burdens and wrinkles to this already unconventional family.
Now, when I first heard about Cho collaborating with BOOM! Studios - a traditionally progressive publisher responsible for girl-friendly comics like Lumberjanes and Goldie Vance - I’ll admit my eyebrows raised a bit, but it’s nice to see that Skybourne seems to fit in nicely between what you’d think might be two very different types of artistic sensibilities. I mentioned Mark Millar earlier in this review, and it’s nice to see Cho doing an admirable job at beating his old "Marvel Knights" collaborator at his own stylized game - like Millar, Cho has a strong sense of letting the visuals and the occasionally bloody action speak for themselves, as Grace crashes through a steel door or chops a bad guy’s head in two with a single chop. Say what you want about his Spider-Gwen pin-ups, but when you put Frank Cho in a situation where he’s actually telling a story, and his perceived inclinations towards cheesecake get tamped down immensely in favor of just some good, old-fashioned ass-kicking.
Of course, while Cho is a masterful artist, occasionally the seams show with his scripting - and like Millar before him, there’s a definite sense of decompression to the pacing of this book, considering it’s almost exclusively a single fight scene. (The James Bond comparisons are pretty apropos here, too, since this issue feels like everything you’d see just before the movie’s theme song would play.) Cho’s humor lands best when he’s sardonically underplaying just how powerful Grace is - like her nonchalantly saying she’s headed to the roof before she leaps an entire building in a single bound, or when she throws a henchman at the car like a missile because she wants to “try to slow them down.” Other gags, however, fall a little flatter, like Grace’s use of the term “mitch,” or the kind of archaic, boilerplate misogyny spouted by a fairly one-dimensional mystic adversary later in the book.
But that might be reading a little too deeply into a book that is clearly and unequivocally interested in one thing, and one thing only - entertainment. Frank Cho gets things started off with a bang - or more accurately, more than a few senses-shattering punches - with his first installment of Skybourne, and whatever you might think of his online persona, this is the kind of work that shows he’s got the talent to back up his off-color commentary. Skybound looks great, hits hard, and at the end of the day, is every bit the kind of well-produced popcorn thriller that fantasy and action fans are clamoring for.