Flight Three anthology
Ballantine Books, 2006, $24.95, 352pp
ISBN 0345490398
See also my review of Flight Two This review first appeared on Emerald City
The previous two Flight anthologies (the second of which I reviewed here) have been showcases par excellence of the state of the art of the comics form; full of some of the most imaginative fiction, albeit in a comics format, that you’ll see just about anywhere. Flight Three continues that tradition, although with a couple of reservations.

First, however, let’s have a quick romp through some of my personal highlights, shall we? I could have picked almost any of the stories, really, but here are some of my favourites.
The penultimate story, ‘Snow Cap’ by Matthew Armstrong, is the archetypal Flight Three story, demonstrating some arch comic timing over just five delightful pages: a cute young girl discovers an egg from which hatches an endearingly clingy baby monster, all told in silence.

Israel Sanchez’s Kyle-Baker-with-a-touch-of-South-Park artwork perfectly suits ‘Saturday’, the tale of a baby Godzilla (not Godzooky, thank goodness!) and his/her endearing attempts to emulate the Japanese icon. Sanchez has a fine grasp of the subtleties of graphic storytelling that is belied by the simplicity of his art and emphasised by the lack of dialogue.

Phil Craven’s ‘The Rescue’ would seem to showcase the remarkable friendship between a boy and a Pokemon-esque monster being pursued by hunters, but there’s more to it than that. Like most of the stories here, it’s fairly slight, but far from stupid or dull.

Kean Soo’s ‘Jellaby – The Tea Party’ follows the hilarious faux pas’ of poor Jellaby, a monster, at a children’s tea party. It’s well observed, visually hilarious and contains dialogue!

And I couldn’t review any Flight without mentioning Michel Gagné’s ‘Underworld’, which continues from Flight Two the adventures of an intrepid (and, again, silent) little fox on a fantastical alien world. Gagné’s not at all scared to expend a half or even a whole page on just one panel, a single extreme close-up, of his courageous little cub. It’s a bold approach, but Gagné’s skill as an illustrator means the effect is both startling and enchanting. This is Warren Ellis’ often-overused idea of ‘widescreen comics’ given a fresh lick of ink.

Noticing something of a pattern forming? That’s right, there are a lot of cute stories in Flight Three: cute kids, cute anthropomorphic animals, cute artwork, and cute storylines.
Flight One and Flight Two both had their share of cuteness, but it wasn’t the primary mode of either of them. Flight Three really feels dominated by kids’ stories for grown-ups, although most of these would certainly be ideal for actual kids – unpatronising, intelligent, thoughtful and short, and with children as heroes. The artwork also eschews conventional ‘adult’ realism in favour of a more Japanese or Continental iconography, something many comicophobic Western readers may have last seen in – again - children’s books.

This preponderance of prettiness may simply be a charming coincidence, as it isn’t as though there are no adult stories in Flight Three. We have Bannister’s ‘So Far, So Close’, a disarmingly slight tale of longed for-infidelity; Matthew Forsythe’s ‘Voodoo’, a surreal tale of hope against despair – it might even be a religious parable! And then here’s Alex Fuentes’ ‘One Little Miracle For A Hungry Swarm’, a freakish, unsettling tale of the distant future, strongly reminiscent of the work of Cordwainer Smith and, perhaps, Richard Calder.

Just as with Flight One and Two, what’s not to like in Flight Three? There’s some truly remarkable talent on display here, both in the art and in the storytelling; when my daughter is old enough to want bedtime stories then you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be coming back to Flight Three for quite a few of them.

If I have a single wish for Flight Four (and at least one story here promises a continuation…) then it’s for a slightly harder edge to the stories, perhaps slightly less whimsy from some of the creators, just to show they can do it…

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