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Barnstormers #3 Review

barnstormers #3

All good things must come to an end, and with Barnstormers #3 it’s clear as day why the series won an Eisner Award.

Editor’s note: For a recap of issues #1 & #2 check out @zach-shin’s reviews here and here.

The end of Barnstormers has arrived, and alongside it, is the end of a chase for the ages. After two issues of romance and murder, Bix and Tillie’s freedom is reaching its conclusion. Barnstormers #3 brings Scott Snyder’s, Tula Lotay’s, and Dee Cunniffe’s wild ride to a smooth landing, complete with a jolt of excitement. 

The narrative in this issue is predominantly told from the point of view of Zeke West, the private detective tasked with capturing Bix and Tillie. His perspective as an observer who just began to enter the playing field grounds the story, heightening the stakes by making them feel more real than ever before. In his eyes, this chase has become more black and white than the grey it used to be. His moral reservations are tossed out the window, and Bix and Tillie are firmly in his target.

Scott Snyder brings these wonderful characters to life.

West’s development over the story has been very intriguing to witness. As the calm to Peyton Carlyle’s rageful persona, he consistently worked to provide objective and empathetic takes on the unusual situation he has found himself in. However, West’s role has now shifted to that of the antagonist, adding an even more captivating layer to the narrative as the jaded lawman takes center stage.

Following the events of issue 2, a group seeking vengeance formed a hunting party. Building escalation is a skill Snyder has mastered, and he flexes it here with the use of violence. The hunters are armed with machine guns, gathering 500 rounds while one member wonders if that’s enough. The public has taken notice of the situation, and a media circus has descended upon West, providing an opportunity for some banter. The newspapers have also reported on Bix and Tillie’s circumstances, which has attracted the attention of other barnstormers. The duo encounters these strangers after needing to refuel. Initially, both sides are wary, but an appeal to the ideal of brotherhood brings them together. The barnstormers offer to help Bix and Tillie escape by proposing one final barnstorming adventure.

A sequence for the ages.

The full exhilarating potential of barnstorming unleashes itself. This time it is not just Bix and Tillie, but an entire group of tandem barnstormers. They’re performing all sorts of stunts, including a daring dance where Tillie jumps from one plane to another. What makes this sequence particularly thrilling is the buildup. Snyder first tells us about other acts that took place before. Barnstormers ride bicycles on a wing, and others play tennis, but this whole time the focus is on one person, Tillie, as she executes her leap. Everyone around her is pulling off the most ridiculous exploits, but this is a leap of faith in a story built on leaps of faith.

What West sees is the crowd reacting to an act of defiance, which he commented on in issue 2. Bix and Tillie defied the roles set out for them when a barnstormer entered their life. And now it is vital to wonder if West can also break free from his expected role.

With Barnstormers Tula Lotay (and Dee Cunniffe) have thrust themselves into the upper echelon of comic book artists and colourists.

Just like West’s narration, the art also falls into a more grounded approach. Dee Cunniffe’s colors are built on browns and blues, as opposed to some of the striking colors seen before. A significant portion of the story takes place in the rain. But rather than being the typical storm that thrives on shadows, it revels in its contradictory atmosphere. The sun peaks through rain-filled clouds, while lightning flashes through a baby blue sky. The heaviness of each raindrop is visible from the way they land and slightly obscure scenes. When the rain clears at last, the sun reveals itself at magic hour, illuminating the sky in gold and contrasting with the cool grey rain clouds.

The tumultuous journey of Barnstormers reaches a surprising and beautiful conclusion, thanks to Snyder’s clever use of ideas that misdirected readers throughout the story. The dynamic characters, jaw-dropping art, and thrilling spectacle of aviation make this book an instant classic in the world of romance and adventure.

Barnstormers #3 from Dark Horse Comics is available now.

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