With all the hype going on for the All New Marvel NOW! titles, the ongoing Image explosion, and DC’s Forever Evil coming explosive conclusion, fans should not forget that Dark Horse has a superhero renaissance of their own going on, and there is some exciting caped innovation going on at the Horse. The latest addition to Dark Horse’s growing stable of heroes is Skyman. The Golden Age Skyman first appeared in Big Shot Comics #1 published by Columbia Comics in 1940. The Skyman of yesteryear was written by the great Gardner Fox with art by Ogden Whitney and has been all but forgotten by contemporary fans. But that didn’t stop Dark Horse from dusting off the Golden Age great for another flight!
Skyman is a spinoff of Dark Horse’s Captain Midnight (and if you haven’t been reading that book, shame on you) and deals with the fallout from Skyman’s recent battle against the good Captain. The newest Skyman was a psycho racist that tried to blow up a building to bring down one of Captain Midnight’s enemies. Skyman #1 opens with the disgraced Skyman taking his frustrations out on an African-American bartender during a drunken bender, terrifying the elderly man; Skyman is filmed screaming racial invective at the elderly man while committing grave bodily harm on the helpless victim. The U.S. government steps in and creates a new Skyman to save face from their initial casting of a violent racist in the role.
The new Skyman chosen to replace the publicly shamed sociopath is US Air Force Captain Eric Reid, a black man who lost the use of his legs when his plane went down. It is clear Fialkov has a feel for Reid as the readers get a sense of the Captain’s pride and disgust at not having use of his body. Reid has a loving wife and bravely endures rehab to repair his ruined vertebrae, but Fialkov makes it clear that a quiet life isn’t what Reid wants. The call to adventure comes as the U.S. government kidnaps Reid and cures his broken body so he can become the new Skyman.
The pacing gets a little wonky here. It probably would have been better to have Reid volunteer for his new role as his kidnapping and speedy transformation into Skyman gives the reader a case of plot whiplash. Fialkov stretches the bounds of believability that Reid was so trusting of his captors particularly when one of his handlers is borderline racist. While the affirmative action parallels set the stage for some interesting conflicts, it all feels rather clumsy. Reid is an interesting character with great potential and Fialkov sets him up as the likable everyman thrust into a fantastic situation, but the pacing issues and sledgehammer politics reduce the book’s impact. Manuel Garcia’s art is clean and crisp and nicely tells a story that sometimes barrels along at unwise speeds. But Garcia does a great job making sure the reader doesn’t get lost while expressing the right emotions through his characters.
Skyman‘s premise of a brave and broken warrior having to fix himself and the legacy of the superhero identity is a sound one, but the book needs better pacing and a dash of subtlety if it is to be a worthy companion to Captain Midnight. Fialkov and company should be proud of the character they created, now they just have to build a story worthy of their creation.