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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Flight Volume Three -- 350 pages of spectacularly coloured light fantasy, lots of children, teens, anthropomorphic animals, clouds, trees, kitties, swords, and the guy who colours Jeff Smith's Bone reissues for Scholastic Books. As you'd expect from those books, he can set a wondrous tone (of the undersea world, here) with a vivid, convincing pallette. The drawings themselves are...okay. The story is, as with almost all things Flight, cute, quick, and insubstantial.

Panel borders must be getting very expensive, because lots of the folks in here eschew them altogether. Better to afford the copious dragons, fairies, mysterious forests, old houses, and funny hats. Prices on those must be plummeting; lots of 'em in Flight Volume Three. I think there was an ogre with a snaggled tooth; oh, dear.

I find myself not remembering much about the book already; just yesterday, discussing the Flight phenomenon with a key industry figure, he told me he couldn't remember anything from Volume One, which he read when it came out. "Not even the obnoxious Scott McCloud text piece?" Nope, he didn't even remember that ridiculous essay-from-the-future, which put forth the even-then dubious claim that many of the folks associated with Flight would someday be regarded as masters of comic art. Maybe someday, over the pretty-coloured rainbow.

What else is in this third volume? Great production values. One guy who draws like a cross between Craig Thompson and Tomer Hanuka. Becky Cloonan, far less interesting here than in Demo, but slightly more interesting than American Virgin.

One guy kind of draws like John Byrne, a story about a subway attack that isn't, coloured by editor Kazu Kibuishi, whose own story continues the trend for a third volume of being one of the few you'll remember anything about a year from now. Bannister -- a cartoonist I noted in my comments on Volume Two -- draws his piece here very well. Draws a convincing bus, great iPod headphones, and a cute girl. Like the very best of anything in the three Flight volumes, it is, at best, an audition for a possible gig as a cartoonist. Looks like you might have the stuff. Are you ready to show me some real comics?

What I take away from Flight, all three volumes now, is that it is much very pretty ado about mostly nothing, and this newest volume is another big slab of potential talent, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. The dress is pretty, but I've seen it before.

I know there are a lot of undiscerning people who think these books are the future of comics. They aren't. And if they are, they need to start proving that with actual stories featuring those hoary old cliches of depth, weight, character, conflict, history, personality, individualism, and/or passion. Passion for something besides accomplished colouring and knowing how to tell the printers how to reproduce your work spectacularly well. There's a metric fuckload of visual craft here, but not enough true comics art to fill a mid-sized Tupperware bowl. "Comics are just words and pictures," according to Harvey Pekar. "You can do anything with word and pictures." I wish this gang would get started.

Time to jump out of the nest and see if you can really fly, Flight crew. By which I mean to say, do you have any stories worth reading? Better yet, worth telling anyone about?



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