Scott Snyder and Tula Lotay’s bold and beautiful WW1 adventure story, ‘Barnstormers’, flies high into comic shops.
Look through any book from Scott Snyder’s catalogue and there’s a good chance it will be filled with vivid worldbuilding and a penchant for history. Firmly rooted in the past is Barnstormers, a high-flying romantic tale set in 1927. The two lovebirds at its centre are pilot Hawk E. Baron and bride-to-be Tillie, who together, embark on the series’ subtitle—a ballad of love and murder.
Distributed initially as a digital-only ‘ComiXology Originals’, the book is at long last arriving in print. The creative team of Snyder, artist Tula Lotay, colorist Dee Cunniffe and letterer Richard Starkings, takes readers on a wild ride through the Roaring Twenties.
Barnstorming was a popular form of entertainment in which daredevils performed extremely dangerous stunts in airplanes. However, Hawk seems to have arrived on the scene towards the tail-end of its popularity. During this time, the craft was becoming irrelevant due to government regulations. Not just regulations, but also interest from the general public was waning. Hawk struggles to find audiences who will pay to watch his high-flying acrobatics. And so it is not just the sport of barnstorming that finds itself on its last legs but perhaps our protagonist Hawk as well. Early on in this double-sized issue we see just how risky a sport it is as witnessed in the book’s opening flight. This aerial mishap lays the ominous path for Hawk, Tillie and the reader in this fully immersive debut issue.
Character driven writing and lush, beautiful art take centre stage.
Scott Snyder builds Hawk’s character in an intriguing manner—exploring Baron’s arrogance and rebel attitude. All the while looking towards the deeper issues that must lie underneath the surface. What compels somebody to perform such death defying acts? Tillie is very much the spirited, independent co-star, which may seem familiar. But there are hints of another unique, and peculiar side. Snyder displays an innate ability to write a dialect that holds the charm of the time and doesn’t distract from anything else.
The issue sifts through some of the eccentricities of the era. It examines a rich man’s obsession with neon while concurrently unveiling the obsession of another prominent character. If I’m being cryptic it’s because I hope to compel you to pick up the book. (Editor’s note: pick up the book. It’s good!) There is also an unexpected and freaky character seen throughout that raises many questions and pulls the reader in a surprising direction.
If nothing else, Barnstormers must be read to see the art, and it is truly wonderful art. Lotay’s work is nothing short of breathtaking. Every panel has so much to say about a character, a building, a community. Skin appears soft to the touch, and everybody looks so bloody striking. The colors, courtesy of Lotay and Dee Cunniffe are gorgeous, with the right palette used to enrich the story set in the past, beyond just the typical use of architecture and fashion. Additionally, the letters too build the setting, with an older-looking style font used for the first-person narrative.
Dire consequences feel certain for this break out pair that is reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde. Yet in the midst of this, there is the tale of spontaneous love, making this a thrilling issue to read.
Barnstormers #1 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.
Editor’s note: want more Scott Snyder content? Well why not check out our review of his debut issue for ‘Clear’!