Okay. I’m just going to go ahead and say it: you shouldn’t expect much from this review.
Let’s just say that I’m not presently at my best. Blame it on a headache. A headache and a vague sense of missing time. Frankly, I’m not even sure how I made it home last night. Ouch.
I was sitting at the bar drinking my usual. Single malt scotch. Neat. Laphroaig, I think it was. I was chasing the scotch with Miller High Life. You know, the champagne of beers. Don’t judge me.
I struck up a conversation with a guy at the bar who seemed to be a regular. The bartender teased him. People patted him on the back a lot. He seemed like the kind of guy who was going to be there for a while and I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere either. Talking to him made me feel like a regular myself. How about another round?
Long story short, I have a headache and amnesia and my editor gets this poor excuse for a review.
It’s his fault, after all. My editor’s I mean. He’s the one who called me up with this assignment. “I want you to write about Airboy this week,” he says.
And I’m thinking Airboy? Air. Boy.
Some golden age hero that no one gives a damn about? What am I supposed to write about Airboy?
“It’s by James Robinson,” he says to me then. And I think, “of course it is.” I guess he’s gonna do for Airboy what he did for Starman. A fresh but reverent look at a forgotten icon from the past!
“It’s been done,” that’s what I’m thinking, but instead of saying that I say something like “why me?”
Stupid question because I already know the answer. My editor, he always says that he likes my writing because I appreciate the deep heritage of our comics culture. He once called me a “curator” of the tradition. Can you believe that?
So I know he’s going to say something like that again. And he does. But I know what he really means when he says it. He really means, “hey, you’re the oldest guy on staff. You probably remember Airboy from way back when. You probably love Starman and the JSA and all that retro stuff. You’re old, I’m sure you’ll like it.”
And I do like that stuff, usually. Though I’m certainly not old enough to remember Airboy from back in the day. I just know him the way everybody else knows him. The reboots. The previous attempts to make relevant a World War II pilot who flew an airplane equipped with flapping wings.
What was I supposed to write about that? I mean it’s hard enough to do this job week after week as it is. But this? Writing about something as old and tired as Airboy reworked by a writer who has already done this before.
And besides, did I see that Greg Hinkle is doing the art on this book? Whose idea was that?
So, when I couldn’t think of a damn thing to say, I went to the bar. Get the old juices flowing, I thought. But it didn’t help. I just got drunk. Hence, the headache. Hence, this crummy review.
But then I did something that we critics seldom do. I sat down and read the book that I was supposed to write about. I read Airboy # 1. I read it cover to cover, then I read it again.
And I’ll be damned if this isn’t the best comicbook I’ve read all year.
And whoever thought of Hinkle for this book is a genius. A genius.
I mean that. It’s not just the scotch talking. Not just the High Life.
Robinson and Hinkle have blown my mind. This stuff is irreverent. Funny. Not suitable for children. Not suitable for adults. Wrong in so many ways. Unexpected. Crazed. Perfect.
And I learned so much. Not so much about Airboy, but about the size of editors’ offices. Enormous. And about the size of comicbook artists’ junk. Likewise enormous. Both, just what I always suspected.
Oh man, this is good. I know we critics always say this but this time I mean it. This time it comes from a sober heart on a Sunday morning coming down. I’m writing this with the moral clarity, the guileless innocence, of a man who woke this afternoon to face the day as a newborn babe, a man whose transgressions of the night before have been washed away by forgetfulness. I really mean it.
I’ve never seen anything like this before. This is perfect.
Single malt and High Life? That’s nothing. This is whiskey and coke and heroin and inappropriate sexual activity and public urination and oh boy these guys must have had some kind of headache.
And to think it all started when this guy Robinson, the world’s greatest comicbook writer, got a call from his editor.