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Barnstormers #2 Review

Fresh off their Eisner win for Best Digital Comic, Scott Snyder and Tula Lotay’s high-flying, WWI adventure story continues to soar with the release of the print version of Barnstormers #2.

Editor’s note: For a recap of issue #1 check out @zach-shin’s review here.

Together Tillie and Hawk (now going by his real name Bix) have taken the barnstorming act down the East Coast, turning it into a two-person show. To drum up anticipation, Tillie will establish relationships with operator girls who then inform towns of the duo’s impending arrival. In the skies while Bix flies in poetic motion, Tillie will hang from the wing attracting crowds the size of which Bix has never experienced.

The two may come from different backgrounds, but it doesn’t stop their relationship from growing. The skills they have acquired throughout their lives are taught to one another. While Bix can teach Tillie to fly in the air…on the ground, it is another matter. It is Tillie who knows how high society parties work—a skill she learned from her ex-fiancée. It is with these skills that they go from town to town, sneaking into lavish parties along the way for free food and whatever else they may desire.

Barnstormers #2 serves as a reminder as to why the creative team is worthy of all the accolades.

Their relationship, once off to a peculiar start, has truly blossomed into a full, beautiful romance. The dialogue in their conversations is emotional and soft. Scott Snyder makes it clear how much they care for each other. There is a moment where they tell one another a story from their past, which is expertly conveyed by Tula Lotay and Dee Cunniffe via the paneling and stunning use of warm and cold colors. A sequence in which an apple decays will make one pause in awe. 

The art team does not miss a beat from the lofty standards established in the first issue. Lotay knocks it out of the park again providing an ethereal quality to the whole affair. Characters look as striking and beautiful as ever. Her ability to portray just how unpredictable, dangerous and graceful flight can be, is unmatched. It is an exhilarating reading experience that she excels at covering and switching with ease, between moments of pure action and tranquility. Cunniffe’s colors complement so well, blending realism into an almost dream-like look. The synergy between the artistic duo is a sight to behold.

Private eyes (and robots) keep readers on their toes.

Much of the first half is told by Zeke West, a private detective hired by Tillie’s enraged ex-fiancée Peyton Carlyle. West is tired of his profession and takes the case because the prospect of a manhunt excites him. However, the longer he works on the case, the more he realizes that there is more to it than Carlyle has led him to believe. There is a great conversation between the two about the appeal of barnstorming that reveals Carlyle’s perspective on the world. He finds the notion of risking one’s life for a few dollars utterly absurd. He explains that his marriage with Tillie is necessary in order for his farming business to continue to thrive, and that many people are forced to do things they don’t want—to ensure the world goes on. West retorts maybe that is why people enjoy barnstormers—rebels who defy this belief.

The second half of Barnstormers #2 offers an insightful look into how Bix and Tillie see each other. Tillie is not afraid of pulling off wild stunts, and Bix isn’t afraid of being with her. Both of them are willing to give up their freedom for the other if necessary. The mental state of Bix is also put into question, as the mysterious figure in issue 1 is revealed to be some type of robot he hallucinates about due to an electrical accident. This robot could stand for many things, but fear seems to certainly be one of them. The creative team are masters at balancing these raw emotions of fear, love, and rage—portraying them in a variety of different ways. These include facial expressions, metaphors, dialogue and the choice of color palette. 

Final thoughts.

There are two big moments that occur in this issue that preludes the doom of their relationship. As quickly as they got together, a separation may come even quicker. But time will tell if their love will allow that. This issue’s cliffhanger ending, along with its excellence across all areas, will leave readers desperate to see what’s next. The death-defying acts displayed by Hawk and Tillie escalate to higher and higher stakes in Barnstormers #2. Scott Snyder, Tula Lotay, and Dee Cunniffe turn in another captivating and spectacular issue.

Barnstormers #2 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.

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