by various artists & writers
(Image, 2004)

There's no time to waste reading this review. You need to go pick up Flight right now. Call your comics store, order it, put it on credit card if you have to.

Seriously, you're wasting your time. This is just a simple bit of text. Flight is a work of art, a collection of some of the most gorgeous stuff put out by comic artists who the comic industry may well not even realize exist. Within the simple, expansive theme of the title are collected a range of brief stories, between one and five pages long, that strike with the brevity of a butterfly's landing or sink into the heart with the inevitability of long, slow rain. There are no boring autobiographical musings, no pumped-up steroidal heroes or pointless art house experiments, just the kind of imaginative wanderings and colorful narratives that comics happen to do better than any other art form.

This is, in every way, a gorgeous book. Tightly bound in a smooth white cover, printed with deep colors and unusual precision, it's a hefty reminder of the tactile pleasures of print comics. Even the weight of the pages feels satisfying. The artists, all of whom deserve to be better known, don't require this fine production work to stand out, but they certainly put it to good use. The vibrant colors of cut paper in Jen Wang's "Paper & String" stand out with such texture that it seems they'll rip and smudge when the page is turned, adding a crackling life to her simple linework characters. Enrico Casarosa's earthy watercolor poem "Air & Water" shines just as brightly as the animated flat tones in "Taj Mahal." Kazu Kibuishi's web comic Copper stays with the restrained color stylings that serve it so well on the computer screen, but "Maiden Voyage" and "Picnic" illustrate how much effect a skilled illustrator can achieve with the slightest tweaks of hue. There's room for the soft blue surrealism of "Outside My Window," by Khang Les, and the hard-line adventure of Phil Craven's "Tug McTaggart: Circus Detective." All 23 stories are captivating, creating their own bright realities for however long the pages turn.

It would be nice to believe that Scott McCloud's optimistic afterword is the truth, and Flight will mark the beginning of a renaissance for comics, a new recognition of their potential beauty and appeal in readers not too jaded to notice beauty when they see it, no matter what the form. But there's always the sad chance that it won't, that it will make its brief appearance and go the way of other comic compilations, becoming a precious rarity of back bins and used-book dealers. So step away from the computer and go get it, now. Give yourself that chance to go soaring.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 11 September 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.