Review - Airboy #1

"Get over yourself. It's certainly not the worst thing I've ever asked you to do."

Airboy hails from the Golden Age of comics, created by Charles Biro, Dick Wood and Al Camy. He was a fictional aviator hero of a World War II era comic who faced off some seemingly unconventional opponents, although few of them are likely as unconventional as those in Image Comics' Airboy #1. The issue is written by James Robinson and illustrated/lettered by Greg Hinkle.

When acclaimed comics author James Robinson is hired to write a reboot of the 1940s action hero Airboy, he's reluctant to do yet another Golden Age reboot. Just what the hell has happened to his career-?! His marriage?! His life?! Hey, it's nothing that a drink can't fix. It's after one such night of debauchery with artist Greg Hinkle that the project really comes into its own. Quite literally. Because Airboy himself appears to set the two depraved comic book creators on the straight and narrow. But is the task too much for our hero?

Depraved isn't really a strong enough word for Airboy #1, as it's chock full of debauchery and vulgarities as part of the rock and roll lifestyle of a comic book writer. Robinson infuses the book with a sense of personal influence, giving the story a feeling that shatters the fourth wall in many ways. The majority of the issue revolves around Robinson's struggle with finding a story to work with for an Airboy reboot; a struggle that's channeled into the night of drinking, drugs and random sex. At first, the concept seemed pretty amusing, but the fact that most of the issue is Robinson and Hinkle cavorting wears a little thin by the end. It's at the end where the issue seems to come into focus, but it feels a little underwhelming because the build-up to it feels weak.

Feeding into the somewhat distorted narrative of Airboy #1 is Hinkle's art, which relies on elongated body types and facial expressions that feel like caricatures. The style is very fitting for the work, as it further expands the seemingly ridiculous nature of the work itself. Hinkle nails the sheer hedonism that comes with an all-night bender, ensuring the reader knows exactly what the duo is getting into and not shying away from any of the more NSFW aspects. The colors used present a dark setting, symbolizing a potential descent into madness that accompanies drugs and alcohol. Hinkle uses the palette as a means of amplifying the reveal at the end, making the character appear as a beacon amidst the darkness of despair.

Airboy #1 attempts to reboot a character in a way that takes a shot directly at the comic book industry itself. The reliance on excess in life is used in a way that contrasts sharply with the ideals that Airboy stands for, setting up his moral position more firmly. Robinson pours a sense of himself into Airboy #1, littering the book with the events of a night spent cavorting that present him (and Hinkle) as almost amoral at times. Hinkle's illustrations are distorted in a way that mirrors the likely state of mind of the creators, emphasizing the ludicrousness of the night's proceedings. Airboy #1 will have appeal as it's a book that's very unconventional, but whether or not it will successfully relaunch (reboot? reimagine?) the property remains to be seen.

Airboy #1 is in stores June 3.