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I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Jonathan Hickman’s return to Image and his first creator owned book since A Red Mass for Mars. I intentionally kept myself in the dark about the series so that I could go into The Red Wing the same way I did The Nightly News, Pax Romana, Transhuman and the afore mentioned A Red Mass for Mars. Each of these I went in not knowing what I would get and each one was more than surprisingly good. Now Hickman has become part of the Marvel system and while he’s done some great and amazing things in the corporate playground his creator owned stuff always sits high on my must read list as true examples of what can be achieved in comics.
The Red Wing unfortunately did not strike the same cords with me as I had hoped. The series instantly comes a crossed heavily influenced by Doctor Who and Hickman’s own work at Marvel. In a clever turn, Red Wing actually refers to the type of time traveling fighter jet that the characters in the story use to fight a war across time. The very first thing that’s told to the reader is that time is not linear and there is no Paradox which basically flips everything we’ve learned from Futurama upside down.
We’re then introduced to two characters that are about to ship off for basic training. They’re fathers were both Red Wing pilot’s before them, but died due to shield failure. This is brought up a lot in the first issue as Dominic is hopeful that his father survived and is stranded somewhere out in time. They drink their last drinks and head to basic training. In the present… maybe… Dominic is flying a Red Wing and ends up crashing through time and waking up in the Aztec era.
First of all the concept is brilliant, but some of the storytelling and dialog is left to be desired. Hickman manages to introduce enough of the world so that the reader isn’t lost, but keep the rest of it a mystery to be explored. The obvious pit fall of this story is Dominic’s father. It can be assumed that his father is going to show up at some point and if he doesn’t Dominic will go through the same thing his father did and survive somehow. A major hang up on the story is the real purpose of the Red Wing’s since all that’s shown are the ships flying in formation through time. They don’t ever engage in battle and yet continue to get shot down by the enemy. And who is that enemy? Only Hickman knows because they were not introduced to the reader, not even in name. There is two panel’s showing them, but it’s not enough to go on.
The art is really good and frankly the only thing that is really apparent of Hickman’s touch as I’m sure his guidance was there for the entire process. Nick Pitarra does a great job on the art for the book. His style is a cross between Ryan Bodemheim and Frank Quietly which makes the book a treat to look at. Pitarra is basically drawing every era of man in this book. The pre-historic age, the future, our current timeline and then we land in the Aztecs and Pitarra draws them all brilliantly. He’s a remarkable talent and the industry should be on the lookout for his next project as his style continues to grow.
I was definitely under impressed by this book, but I still enjoyed it enough to pick it up and continue with the series. It may not be Hickman’s best work, but it’s good to see him spanning out and getting back into creator owned books again. Hopefully that keeps his tools sharp for the corporate gig and he doesn’t end up like Bendis a one-trick multiple book pony. If you missed Hickman’s premier at Image then do yourself a favor and don’t miss The Red Wing.