Welcome to Tony’s Tips! As I mentioned in the previous installment of this column-within-the-bloggy thing, I’ve narrowed the focus of the material reviewed here to those items I believe worthy of being nominated for industry awards. Sometimes, the items will have moved beyond their awards expiration dates. That’s unfortunate, but what matters to me is writing about some of the best material produced in the comics industry and beyond.
A couple years back at the Tales of Wonder website, I wrote about Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett’s Skyward:
Skyward Volume 1: My Low-G Life by writer Joe Henderson, artist Lee Garbett and colorist Antonio Fabela [$9.99] takes place in a world where gravity has weakened to the point where people and objects fly up into the sky to be lost forever. It’s a world where storms float above the ground in huge masses and pose a deadly threat to anyone who enters one. It’s a frightening world, but Henderson and company go beyond the horror to show us the matter-of-fact life of their new world.
Courier Willa Fowler is trying to find her way in this new world. She lost her mother on G-Day. Her father hasn’t left his home since that day. Dad has secrets. One of the most powerful men on Earth, a former associate of Willa’s father, wants those secrets. Willa is caught in an intrigue she had no idea existed.
Skyward has humanity and horror in equal doses. Henderson’s writing and character play is first-rate, as I might have expected from the show runner of the great Lucifer TV series. Garbett’s art is sheer wonderment. Fabela’s colors accentuate the humanity and the wonder well. I’m really loving this series.
Skyward is recommended to comics readers, especially those who like stories starring interesting female protagonists. This is a great time to be a comics fan.
That’s what I wrote in 2018. I’ve since read and thoroughly enjoyed Skyward [Image; $39.99], a beautiful hardcover volume that collects all fifteen issues of the series plus a brand-new epilogue and all kinds of bonus material.
Skyward fulfills the promise of that first trade paperback I read three years ago. It expands the low gravity world in truly wondrous and scary ways. It develops Willa and her interesting supporting cast. It brings the story to a satisfying conclusion. Published in March of this year, it’ll be eligible for various 2022 awards. The comic-book series was nominated for an Eisner Award. Next time out, it should not only be nominated but should be a serious contender for winning the Eisner. I expect it will do well in other awards as well. Consider my previous recommendation for the series and double it for this collection.
Two books for younger readers fill out this installment of “Tony’s Tips!” The first is Owly: The Way Home by Andy Runyon [Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic; $22.99]. Aimed at readers 7-10, this tale of a young owl who only wants to help others and make friends has all the feels you could ask for.
Owly, the worm Wormy and hummingbirds Tiny and Angel might appear like unlikely pals, but they just fit together. Owly is a godsend to his three smaller friends and they clearly value him as much as he values them. Maybe we all can get along.
The Way Home was published in early 2020, so this was its year of eligibility. It didn’t get an Eisner nomination, but maybe some of the other industry awards will be more perceptive. While we wait to see if that happens, I recommend this graphic novel to all readers young and old. It belongs in every public and school library and it would make a great gift for the budding comics fans in your lives.
After a century of being a deliberately buried part of the shameful violent history of racism in the United States, we’re talking about Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Massacre. It’s difficult for many adults to wrap their heads around that event. How do you even begin to teach children about it?
Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre [Harry N. Abrams; $15.99] is one answer to that question. Written by Alverne Ball with art by Stacey Robinson, this hardcover graphic novel is aimed at readers 12 years of age and up. Its 64 pages include a prose preface, a timeline of event leading to the Massacre, an essay and end notes.
The main attraction is, of course, the comics part of this volume. The history of Greenwood is written in an easy-to-follow manner. The art captures both the glory of Black Wall Street and the grim attacks that leveled it. If I have a complaint, it’s that the creators of this work seem to have toned down the horror of the events. Much like a movie trying to avoid an “R’ rating. I understand their choice, but part of me wishes they had not held back. Today’s students, as well as woefully ignorant adults, need to be aware of how bad these things were. The better to impress readers that we must never soft-pedal such atrocities. .
My complaint does not diminish the importance and quality of Across the Tracks. Published this year, it deserves to be considered for comics industry and other awards. It should be a standard textbook for the teaching of systemic racism in America. It definitely has a place in every public and school library. Kudos to Ball and Robinson, and all those who strive to teach even the most difficult truths. They are heroes.
That’s it for this installment of the new “Tony’s Tips!” I will be back soon with more award nomination deserving comic books, graphic novels and books.
© 2021 Tony Isabella