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Airboy #1

Writer James Robinson
Artist Greg Hinkle
Published by Image Comics
Released June 3 2015

For those who remember Airboy – the character first debuted in 1942 through Hillman Periodicals. The character then reappeared in the modern era through Eclipse Comics in 1986 and was revived for a third time by Moonstone Books in 2009.

Now we get a fourth incarnation of the character, and unlike the previous three versions this time we take a bold and unexpected turn into a more alternative viewpoint. Thanks in large part to Image Comics – Airboy has been revived by the creative team of James Robinson and Greg Hinkle. The pair takes the character into a highly bizarre backdrop of drugs, sleazy sex romps and a wild Hunter S. Thompson scenario to further fuel the fire of the plot.

As some may know writer James Robinson cut his teeth writing such series like Starman and JSA for DC comics, often getting labeled as that “Golden Age” writer guy. Well he’s taken that sentiment (to heart) and implanted it into the characters that inhabit the wacky world of Airboy; in what I feel is a unique character study.

Inserting oneself into the story might be a little narcissistic, but Robinson pulls it off without a hitch. In fact artist Greg Hinkle also gets inserted into the narrative and joins his creative partner in what I describe as art imitating life or is it life imitating art. Either way, the pair who play themselves, look for inspiration as they have been assigned the task of bringing Airboy to life as a comic from Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson.

Still following me? Good, because what ensues next is a drunken and drug binged adventure for Robinson and Hinkle to break out of an artistic slump, while holed up at a cheap motel in San Francisco. I feel like this is homage to the Cohen’s Barton Fink and maybe for the stark tones of artist Adrian Tomine; the sort of gritty underground stuff you might have seen in Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage comic, or Ed Brubaker’s Lowlife series.

So with the background of the story set for you, the central plot really has nothing to do with the actual appearance of Airboy; despite his brief appearance in the story. Hardcore fans of the character might be a little disappointed, but I beg to differ. What you get is a slice of life; a bit of self-deprecating humor from Robinson’s point of view, coupled with the reluctant weariness of Greg Hinkle’s character going along for the ride.

Robinson’s script is filled with such biting satire and remorseful dialogue; gelling nicely with the wonky cartoon style that Mr. Hinkle brings to the table. I am not all that familiar with Greg’s work, but after reading the first issue I am definitely all in. If you read this first issue and begin to dig his work, then check out his horror graphic novel called “The Rattler” that he co-created with Jason McNamara. His work is exceptionally good and after reading this first issue I can see why he is the artist of choice here.

This latest look at Airboy might be the most offbeat one of all, but I am certainly intrigued with the set-up. The approach is unorthodox to say the least and Robinson isn’t afraid to knock himself down a peg or two; revealing a deeply emotional and complex writer with a fragile psyche. The self-deprecation and downbeat viewpoint he often shares with Hinkle during their nightly romps of snorting coke and picking up plus-sized hookers had me laughing out loud. It’s so dark and almost to the point of being black comedy, so while you read through this you might be wondering how Airboy fits into this. Don’t worry I was wondering the same thing too.


"Inserting oneself into the story might be a little narcissistic, but Robinson pulls it off without a hitch."

I think there is a grand plan overall, but it might take a few more issues to fully understand the machinations of Robinson’s ideas. As far as I know there are 4 issues planned and I hope there is more beyond what has been announced so far. In the meantime though, give this a read and let it be known that James Robinson is more than just a “Golden Age” writer guy. I think he’s just getting started here.

Kenneth Gallant, HMS

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