Written by Joe Henderson
Art by Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Image Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Even when it veers into some harrowing territory, there’s a wonderful sense of playfulness that defines the new Image series Skyward, buoyed not just by a simple but spacious high concept from Joe Henderson, but also by some tremendously energetic and charming artwork from Lee Garbett and colorist Antonio Fabela. And in many ways, that’s Skyward’s biggest strength - this is one of those rare comic books that doesn’t feel so self-consciously writer-driven, but instead gives the art team ample breathing room to not just inhabit the story, but to actively define it.
Skyward’s premise is one of those easy elevator pitches - what if humanity was suddenly unencumbered by gravity? Yet as Henderson reveals from the jump, the “G-Day” transition was far from easy, as we see the horrific aftermath of the event - an unholy ring around the planet composed of floating corpses, cars, and even airplanes. It’s a quick way to puncture what might be considered a ubiquitous fantasy, but Henderson has an agility to his writing that lets him have his cake and eat it, too - while we’re introduced to the potential threat of zero-gravity, our main character Willa proves to be complete wish-fulfillment, exuding a love of floating on every single page. Energetic and impetuous, Willa is a charming protagonist, given just enough weight with her dynamic with her agoraphobic father to make her story compelling without losing any of its energy.
But ultimately, what lets Skyward take flight is really the superlative art team. Lee Garbett should be feeling very good about himself right now, because this is some career-making work - he hasn’t just leveled up from his previous work, he’s launched it into the stratosphere. His design on Willa is both understated yet instantly eye-catching, thanks to her gravity-defying hair that bends and twists to show movement like a superhero’s cape - but even more importantly, there’s a visual vocabulary at play here that feels unique and well-developed, allowing Garbett to make the best use of every panel he’s given. Additionally, Garbett’s expressiveness is on point, whether its Willa’s wide-eyed reaction to her father’s conspiracy theories, or the clear romantic tension between her and the dreamy Edison. Colorist Antonio Fabela also is the best partner for Garbett, with a wonderful sense of rendering and contrast that just elevates the artwork to the fullest.
Granted, there are some bits about Skyward that can’t help but feel a bit by the numbers - particularly when some people tied to the anti-gravity craze are harboring a particularly evil streak. There are some who might consider this book to be underwritten- but I’d argue that reaction comes from an industry where books are regularly overwritten, working hard to impress readers with twists and turns and continuity shakeups rather than stepping aside to let the art speak for itself. For someone like Joe Henderson, who has been a showrunner on the TV show Lucifer, it’s almost unheard of to see a writer be this gracious and generous to his art team - but it’s that lightness of touch that makes Skyward a fun book that should not be ignored.