“Gravity’s just a habit that you’re pretty sure you can’t break” – Low G fun in Henderson and Garbett’s ‘Skyward’

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“Don’t stop,Can’t stop
Until you feel it goin’ down
I wish I had said the things you thought that I had said
Gravity’s just a habit that you’re pretty sure you can’t break”

“I’m tired of dystopias. I think we’re all fatigued by them” claimed John Henderson in a recent interview about his debut comic , Skyward “This is a world where something terrible happens, and then humanity moved on.” Created with artist Lee Garbet, Skyward is certainly a comic more in line with societies tenacious nature, peoples’ tendency to pick up the pieces and just, you know, get on with it. Certainly as far as dystopias are concerned, it’s been a long time since one we’ve breathtakingly dangerous yet appealing. Dare I even say…cool?  Truthfully I didn’t initially pick this up when it was released, it took a few days of daydreaming about the simple yet alluring premise of Henderson and Garbet’s world, the double page spread of our young protagonist Willa leaping gracefully and effortlessly between Chicago’s skyscrapers that I was compelled to pick it up. It stuck with me and made me smile the way a half remembered dream does. The fact that flying is a sleepy time staple only reinforces this even further in a book already created to appeal to that child like fantasy of flight, that sense of wonderment at seeing and experiencing the world a new.

Henderson succeeds in delivering to us with both a dystopia and a joyous story too, achieved in part through the flip in perspective from how a story like this would usually be presented. Henderson choosing to present a post “G-Day” world not through the eyes of the more experienced Nate, but instead his high spirited daughter Willa as she leaps and bounds across the windy cities skyline, using places and spaces as they were never intended to be used all the while sporting an unshakeable smile and and sense of delight. Born just after the Earths gravity diminished, Willa knows only this strange new world, which to her is now simply just ‘the world’ not matter how strange it is. Even in her first appearance as a child she seems perfectly calm and wide eyed floating around her nursery. Early on we see relics of the old world treated with humour and derision, stuffy artefacts best left in a boring and dusty past. It’s a compelling way to present a story about the distance and differing experiences between generations using a sci-fi setting. Hinting at friction between conflicting world views, in particular her scientist father who is literally being held down in this new world by the past and personal tragedy while his daughter makes the best of it, setting up the dynamic that looks like it will be at the centre of Skyward going forward.

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Although a regular length comic, most readers will find themselves breezing through Skywards debut issue in a matter of minutes and might feel a little slight to many, but it’s mostly down to the light and speedy pacing, not surprising when Henderson hails from a TV background (most noticeably, the fluffy yet impossible not to enjoy Lucifer). To me at least it’s perfectly suited to a story focused around movement and low gravity. It feels like there are countless things that could be explored in this environment and this issue hits the perfect balance needed for a first instalment, setting up likeable and intriguing characters and showing just enough of the world to want to see more without falling into a front heavy exposition trap with the bulk of this task left up to Garbett to show visually.

Gabbet’s art captures the quick paced, gravity defying parkour like action and free flowing movement of it’s characters and even in the comics few dialogue filled pages, favours character designs that only further serve to illustrate the subtle difference in this world, presenting the effects of the low gravity world in visually inventive ways. Willa’s hair billows and flows about and when embarrassing herself in front of her legless coworker slumps upside down onto the ground in an exaggerated show of embarrassment and defeat. His pages are filled with small background details of the differences in this world such as impossibly high up advertising signs, entrances and safety ropes that are just begging to be explored in future issues.

Although feeling like a breezy and slightly light read at times, Skyward’s first issue still packs in all the joyful exuberance of a hazy, dimly remembered flight dream brought to the page with a stylish and youthful flair.

Skyward issue 1 released April 18th with Issue 2 to follow on 23rd May

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Artist Spotlight: “We’d forgotten what it was like to be kings”- Emily Rose Lambert’s ‘Dreamscape’

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Having spent the last week and a half in daze, both rushing about in the last hectic days of work before summer all the while both simultaneously worrying about having nothing to write about or the time to really find anything, it’s a relief to have a handful of things fall into my lap in the last few days. If anything it reminds me to just ask around and that generally the comics community online, especially on twitter is eager to give you recommendations on new things and promote each other.

One thing I bought on a whim from a chance encounter online was the comics anthology Dirty Rotten Comics. I’d never heard of them before now and needless to say I didn’t expect anything so polished and professional in it’s presentation. It’s a delightful mish mash of comics talent from around the UK that I fully intend to dig into with a full review in the next few days. However I did wan’t to talk one comic in particular separately.

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Emily Rose Lambert, is an illustrator and first class graduate from Loughborough University who works as a greetings card designer. Her work encompasses comics, design and illustration, often featuring repeating patterns, showcasing a preoccupation with indigenous American culture, nature and animals.

Dreamscape is the lovely, achingly cute story of two adorable animal characters travelling through a series of dreamlike vignettes that evokes the ephemeral nature of dreams and conveys that sense of disjointed dreamlike logic as the characters drift between seemingly disparate situations and emotions. The story floats effortlessly from the fantastical, one of the figures breaking into fragments, one lovingly patching up the other with clay and leaves to the more everyday, as the dreamers enter a birthday party late and unable to sing along with the other revellers. From the small embarrassments that gently gnaw away at us in the night to the gentle sense of dread as an unknown figure watches us from afar, each instance captures the moments in dreams where feelings seem always just a little too close to the surface, more immediate and raw.

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On her own blog, Emily briefly describes her process behind the comic revealing an early draft that she had begun creating digitally until, as she puts it a “boost of confidence in using ink and pencil” promoted her to switch over to more traditional methods resulting in the final comic. It’s a decision that definitely works in her favour, as does the restriction to black and white owing to the anthology it’s collected in.

DS page 1The first draft almost seems too solid, too real while the traditional hand drawn panels fit the otherworldly tone of the story perfectly. The final version with the soft pencils and ink give her story a suitably intangible feel in the way that dreams often are. A sense that if you tried to bring it any more into focus, recall it in more detail, it would fade away. The sudden sadness upon awakening as you desperately grasp at details that moments ago seemed so clear become more fleeting and blurred around the edges the harder you concentrate on them. Only half remembered,  leaving you only a feeling or a vague sense of them.

The comic ends where it begins as one of the figures looks out onto the stars once more, again emphasising it’s roots in dream logic and the recursive, circular nature they sometimes taken on, with motifs or events being repeated over and over. Her sparse dialogue has the rhythm and mood of a fairytale. Sweet, whimsical and imbued with both trepidation hope,it manges to cover a complete gamut of emotions in only two pages.