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‘Air Vol. 1: Letters from Lost Countries’ TPB (review)

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by M.K. Perker
Published by Berger Books /
Dark Horse Comics

 

Neil Gaiman describes Air as a book that, “starts off as Rushdie and then parachutes off into Pynchon,” and that’s a perfect blurb. I definitely needed to buckle my seat belt and be mindful of the nearest exists for this wild, heady ride of a story.

Wilson and Perker’s first book in the Air series introduces Blythe, a flight attendant who falls into a cloak-and-dagger caper involving a handsome man and a world-changing piece of technology.

Sure, that’s the plot, but the story is so much more!

Amid the fights, flights, bruises and romance, Air turns the metaphysical and political landscape of air travel into a literal thing.

What if you could dissemble the world as a series of symbols, and in reworking them, move through space with a thought?

What if the world you conceptualize becomes physical reality? For example, if a country is erased from a map by being reapportioned in new, post-colonial borders, perhaps that actual country and its people become actually removed from the world, too.

It takes a bit before this series begins to truly take shape, and for a while I was disoriented trying to get into the story. Air begins as one story about a flight attendant who meet-cutes a handsome Arab man who may also be a terrorist. Then it’s a story about that flight attendant meeting some secret society of post-9/11 white nationalist creeps and being on the run. But then those stories intertwine along with dream sequences that seem to also be reality.

Blythe has her own “woman figuring things out” storyline here, a pert blonde woman backed by her very-2000s diverse sidekicks in an emo gay man and an older Indian woman. Does it help that things veer off further into the absurdism of Pynchon and DeLillo?

By the time you get to issue No. 4, the pieces all start floating together as more fantasy elements come to the fore. It’s a credit to Wilson’s storytelling that it does cohere, and quickly, for a heady trip into the meaning of, well, meaning when someone can travel the world with a thought.

And it’s a big tip of the cap to artist M.K. Perker, who legibly walks the reader through everything that (actually and metaphorically) happens in a way that feels grounded and lively.

This is precisely the kind of story that you’d expect to have seen in DC’s Vertigo heyday under legendary editor Karen Berger, who edited this book under her own imprint at Dark Horse Comics.(Editor’s note: It was. Vertigo originally published Air from 2008-2010.)

A lot of weird, a little sexy, a bit violent, all in a college-level framework of deconstructionist realpolitik.

Grade: B

 

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