Dave Galanter
December 1st 1969 - December 12th 2020
He was loved.

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Location: Lancashire
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 40,480
Subj: New From Darkhorse: Skyman #1
Posted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:01:56 am EST (Viewed 174 times)

When Darkhorse came to planning this issue of their latest venture into the Super-Hero genre did they deliberately decide the right way of marketing it would be by creating such a tacky and utterly generic cover?
If so that would amount to a spectacular bit of misjudgement, as apart from being misleading to the actual strength and tone of the story inside it was bound to turn a lot of potentially interested customers away. The actual content inside the book is a good deal more intelligent and compulsive than a cover that states 'Generic superhero #8619', so quite why Darkhorse didn't market that interior quality with a cover to match suggests a marketing department that doesn't understand what attracts the actual bulk of the super-hero audience.

Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Manuel Garcia deliver a polished and surprisingly political superhero fable that both borrows and combines the concept behind Captain Midnight and fuses it to the darker side of American army internal conflicts, there is also the additional subject of media relations and how they can influence and intimidate even the most right-wing of military brass into reactive thinking. For the debut issue of this new ongoing series Fialkov does not shy away from the racism that can infect the military, indeed this book introduces us to the Skyman project and its new black recruit with great skill and more than a little cynicism where the portrayal of the military is concerned. In Fialkov's world the Army is apparently institutionally racist and our man being black must now endure and navigate this inherently hostile environment while playing the role they cast him in as the military's grand mobile assault weapon, which when on the homefront masquerades as its Super-hero. Yet despite the cynical, and incendiary, connotations that underpin his world Fialkov successfully offsets the potentially explosive issue of race by using his lead character as an example of the common man and his sense of decency. Brought in by General Abernathy to confront and combat this prejudice Eric Reid then is a very real hero, and as we find out, in more ways than one...

A soldier/pilot in the US army/Airforce, and severely injured in an Afghanistan mission, the invalided-out Eric Reid finds himself abruptly pressganged back into service and proves a remarkably willing recruit to solve the Army's unfortunate race problem. The Skyman project has hit the news after one of their operatives explodes into a racist rant while drunk and murders a black man, all caught on camera and now networked across the country. The Skyman operation is now under intense scrutiny due to this and some major media relations must be seen to be attended to. Urgently. The man in charge is General Abernathy, also black, but in line with Fialkov's view of the army he knows the environment he is in and he knows how to navigate it. He has a candidate in mind to solve the issue and tellingly rather than approach him directly and privately he sends out an armed team to snatch him from his home...

Waking up in unfamiliar surroundings we see that Eric recognises Abernathy, which is an interesting wrinkle in the premise, quite why Eric so readily accepts the General's offer is not made clear, but as the General introduces him to his proposed role we can see Eric does have the incentive that the Skyman technology allows him physical freedom from his crippling injuries plus the lure that the technologies side effects may well be able to heal him longterm, but in the meantime he faces a barrage of racial politics to endure and a zealous racist handler who may or may not detest him for what he is and what he now represents. Potentially this then is an ugly and uncomfortable book to read, but Falcov structures Eric's debut in such a way that it isn't the nastiness surrounding him that is the attraction for the reader, rather it is the story of the man himself. Eric Reid is on a journey, overnight transformed into a national superhero and now with his real name and identity made unexpectedly public... how will he cope with this?

As a debut issue this is a very confident and accessible success, Manuel Garcia's fine lines and shading lend this the right air of optimism combined with the undercurrent of tension and while there are some mild problems in the plot concerning motives Joshua Fialkov creates a premise that has a future.
While the Skyman project is the pivot of the plot the media and the way it influences, and even threatens, military thinking is the main element that underpins this entire concept. The Skyman facility is home to a squad of specially trained soldiers who operate the Skyman armour and engage as the military's living weapon, so when one of those operatives spectacularly explodes into a racist rant in full public view and spills the projects secrets before killing a black man the effect is not measured in terms of legal culpability, but media fallout. This is how the military think. To calm down public reaction and satisfy the media Eric Reid's role is media darling first and Skyman operative second. Image is everything, even if that image is not necessarily the truth as far as top brass are concerned, though from what the cover promises Reid may well turn out to be a force that subverts that thinking and turns Skyman into something more than a cold cynical tool used to deceive and mislead. In a sense this is a book all about exploring, and undermining, perceptions...

The cover is all wrong, the racist aspect overstated, but the general content is most definitely readable. I look forward to future instalments and compliment both Falkov and Garcia on an accomplished and successful debut issue. \(yes\)

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