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‘Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder’ TPB (review)

Written by Scott Snyder 
Art by Tula Lotay
Presented by Best Jackett Press

Published by Dark Horse Comics

 

Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder stands out as a historical fiction graphic novel, transporting readers to the thrilling and dangerous post-WWI America of 1927.

It’s a unique blend of romance, mystery, and aviation, capturing the golden age of flight when pilots risked their lives to entertain the public. This comic pushes the boundaries of storytelling, bringing the thrill and danger of these stunts to life in a way that’s never been done before.

The heart of the story beats with Hawk E. Baron, a war veteran turned pilot, and Tillie, a spirited wing-walker.

Their love story unfolds against the backdrop of America’s skies, where they not only perform daring stunts but also navigate a web of secrets and survival.

The narrative takes a dark turn when they are accused of a heinous crime, turning their already perilous escapades into a desperate fight for their lives.

Tula Lotay’s artwork in Barnstormers is a visual feast.

Her illustrations are a masterclass in capturing motion and emotion, bringing the thrill of barnstorming and the intimacy of Hawk and Tillie’s relationship to life. The use of color and panel layout is strategic, enhancing the narrative’s pacing and making the thrill of flight and the tension of the plot palpable on every page. Each panel is a work of art, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the story.

The graphic novel dives deep into themes of trust, love, and the human spirit’s resilience.

It explores how the backdrop of aviation mirrors the highs and lows of Hawk and Tillie’s relationship, making their story a metaphor for human aspiration and the risks we take for passion. The comic’s accolade as a 2023 Will Eisner Award winner for Best Digital Comic underlines its excellence and the strong reception it has garnered among critics and readers alike.

Barnstormers can be likened to a blend of Bonnie and Clyde meets The Great Waldo Pepper, where historical intrigue meets romantic drama amidst the clouds. Scott Snyder’s storytelling prowess, known from his works like American Vampire, melds effectively with Lotay’s expressive artwork, marking a significant entry in the genre that is both a visual and narrative feast.

Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder is a compelling read that soars in its execution and narrative ambition. It is a testament to Snyder and Lotay’s ability to craft a story as expansive as the skies their characters explore and as intricate as the emotions that drive them. This graphic novel is a must-read for anyone who appreciates a story of adventure, love, and mystery set against the rich tapestry of early aviation history.

It is a soaring narrative that cleverly navigates the turbulence of its setting to deliver a heartfelt exploration of its themes.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

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