SKYMAN kicks off in just the right spot -- both for a series revamp and for a story that feels connected to a bigger universe -- and launches us immediately into no-nonsense action. Structurally, it's about as new-reader-friendly as an issue can get without being a total hand-hold, opening with a concise recap of the-story-so-far, an instant action sequence to grab interest right away, and the swift debut of a reluctant hero (sprinkled with just enough information about the past to give us context and buy-in). For CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT fans, there's an instant connection to make, and the handoff feels very clean.
So often, the differences between a superhero and their civilian alter ego are trivial; take off the suit and add a less glamorous lifestyle, bam. With Eric Reid, we're given a hero who is on an entirely different plane when he's in the suit -- his daytime counterpart isn't just a guy, he's a guy who can't move without feeling intense physical pain (and we haven't even scratched the surface of the psychological impacts of his injury and the events that caused it). Widening the gap between a hero's super-self and their mundane-self makes Eric's struggles to balance his two lives that much more interesting -- I can't wait to see if he gets addicted to being in the suit just because of its departure from his normal life.
Driving much of the narrative in this issue is a storm of racial tensions; not only does the initial action sequence call the former Skyman's bigoted views to everyone's attention, but General Abernathy's reaction is also very tightly grounded in race and public perception. Further complicating these tensions is the stew of emotional reactions from the team; Lt. Sharp's anger may be rooted in rejection rather than prejudice, but everything gets muddled -- and heated -- very quickly. It will be interesting to see whether Skyman's struggles with a racially-biased team/system will outshine his battles against series villains; this book could take several widely variant directions depending how it's handled in subsequent issues.
The book's handling of its primary antagonist (so far) is very strong -- not only is there the intrigue of an enemy within the ranks, but there's plenty of potential for added complexity when Skyman and his unreliable-puppeteer face a common greater threat. Will he let Skyman succeed despite his deep and lethal resentment, or ditch him at the last moment?
Manuel Garcia does a killer job of drawing the Skyman suit and expressing superhero-scale movement; it's really clear that he loves drawing heroes in action. I'm a little bit less in love with how the civilian side of the story is shaping up visually; things seem to move and drape a little bit less cleanly when they aren't on or near a spandex-clad hero.
SKYMAN debuts with exactly the right beats to set up a promising and engaging new ongoing -- it's not as inaccessible as some revamps (which make readers feel obligated to "do homework" on the older version of the series) and it's completely straightforward in its narrative. The book is loaded with complexity -- in the form of character interactions (and conflicts!) and personal discovery (hello, brand new suit and hero-job!) -- and Fialkov & Co. have seeded plenty of exciting story possibilities. I'm sticking with this series to see how the "who's running the show?" dynamic plays out, and expecting a few surprises and a lot of brawls.