October 14, 2009

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Flight Volume 4

Written by Various Writers
Illustrated by Various Authors
Villard (Random House)

So yes, I am corny enough to have taken Flight with me to the airport. This is me we're talking about, so don't act so surprised.

Just in case anyone's going directly to this review and not those of the other volumes, I'll just briefly mention here that Flight is a series of anthologies that started with a group of friends and has expanded over time to include a wider range of artists.

The original group had a concentration in animation, leading to artwork that was often stretching the limits of what the printed page could reveal. It was very solid work, and has continued to be good, if a bit more child-oriented as time went on.

By this volume, the pattern is well established and the results continue to be spectacularly solid for an anthology. At least one story keeps going, such as Michael Gagne's "The Saga of Rex," but for the most part these appear to be standalone works.

There weren't any stories in here that I didn't like, but I will concentrate on those I liked the best for the purposes of this review, to help give you an idea of what's inside this time out. I'm sure each reader's favorites would be different, there's so much to choose from!

"Food from the Sea" by Amy Kim Ganter, is about two rival food vendors who end up getting so consumed in their greed they forget the bigger picture. It also shows what happens when customers follow a company blindly. This is my favorite kind of modern fairy tale--you can get the point, but it doesn't get in the way of the story.

"Cyclops!" by Israel Sanchez, tells the story of, well, a cyclops, who tries to fit in amongst the world around him. Done almost entirely without words and almost entirely within 12-panel page grids, Sanchez takes us through years of the protagonist's life, in a way that's both charming and funny. Plus, the gag at the end is classic.

"The Window Makers" by Kazu Kibuishi is a touching story about the way in which artisans are disappearing as time goes on, and people move into more standard careers.

"The Forever Box" by Sarah Mensinga looks like an ordinary imaginary story but has an ending that slams you in the face. I would normally say that's a problem, but Mensinga structures the story in such a way that it works.

But the scene-stealer for me is Scott Campbell's "Igloo Head and Tree Head," a delightfully funny story about exactly what the title describes---two creatures with an igloo and a tree on their head, respectively, who live with others who also sport interesting headgear, like poolhead, canoehead, and my personal favorite, public library head. The story is simple, but the different heads are hysterical. I was not expecting this one at all, and it's my pick of the anthology.

"The Rabbit Mayor" is a Mayan folktale adapted by Jon Klassen, who doesn't do a lot with the art, but the mock woodblock style fits the piece. Why are rabbits always the crafty ones?

Clio Chiang has an interesting look at another fairy tale, this one being Little Red Riding Hood. The two main characters talk about story and what people want out of a legend in a way that reminded me pleasantly of Gaiman.

"The Story of Binny" by Lark Pien has the feel of a fable, but is modern to my knowledge. A loner goes to a zoo and encounters a talkative animal that's also feeling left out of the world. They form an unlikely partnership that may just be a bit too one-sided. Soon, the man is off to return the binny to his home. But what is he to do in the binny's world?

Again, this is not to slight the other stories that were in here, whether it be Raina Telgemeier's tale of a girl who just wants to be part of the group in "Dinosaur Egg," Graham Annable's killer stick figure, or the wavy lines of Neil Babra's "The Blue Guitar."

Flight is a fantastic anthology series, and it's one I'd recommend without hesitation.