Airboy #1 by James Robinson & Greg Hinkle Review

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<i>Airboy</i> #1 by James Robinson & Greg Hinkle Review

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Greg Hinkle
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: June 3, 2015

James Robinson is one the comic medium’s most important storytellers. The writer behind some of DC’s most revered works including Starman and JSA as well as more recent Golden Age throwbacks like Earth-2, All-New Invaders and Fantastic 4, Robinson is known in the comics community for his thoughtful marriage of modern sensibilities with classic continuity and character. Robinson is a writer who remembers where the heart of comics and superheroes originally lies, and he’s able to tap into that sentimentality with ease.

The only inherent problem is… James Robinson is just so fucking sick of all that shit.


AirboyFear and Loathing

It certainly helps that Greg Hinkle is a master of both crude and subtle humor. Hinkle presents both himself and Robinson with a bit of bite; that the book opens with a shot of James Robinson on the toilet tells much about the tone to come. Hinkle is a talented cartoonist, someone who can breathe just enough realism into his work while still presenting his figures as caricatures, and that is played up with great effect here. No corners are cut when presenting himself, Robinson or anyone else in the book; personality stands at the forefront with the characters, and everything from Robinson’s vanity to Hinkle’s naivety shines on the faces of their in-comic personas. Where most books featuring meta-representations of the authors tend to display their avatars as triumphant gods walking within their stories, Hinkle drags himself and Robinson through the grime and the dirt, ultimately magnifying the comedic nature of the story ten-fold.

Airboy interior page by James Robinson and Greg Hinkle

Robinson’s embarked on an interesting path lately in his career. While he’s still writing books that operate as odes to the yesteryear of comics, looking at Airboy shows that the writer is re-focusing his attention. Some may find the self-referential nature of Airboy too direct, but Robinson has tapped into the same vein as Louis CK has on his eponymous FX show, offering a representation of himself through which he can skewer all of our preconceptions of a comic creator’s life. More so, despite showcasing it as a detriment, Robinson still puts the Golden Age of comics on a pedestal; displayed through satire and parody, the Golden Age Ideals are everything that’s missing in our lives today, and perhaps the one thing Robinson needs (even if the character doesn’t realize it).

Of course, what makes Airboy great could be the petard upon which the series hoists itself. The self-referential nature is a double-edged sword: the reader doesn’t specifically need to be aware of Robinson’s career as a Golden Age revivalist, but that’s where half the humor is found. Recognizing Robinson’s powerful and emotional storytelling in previous works makes the obnoxious and boorish character presented in the pages much more palpable; even lampooning cameos from someone like Image Publisher Eric Stephenson are intensified by having some knowledge of who Stephenson is. Given the lovingly epic character assassinations on display in these pages, some of the jokes may be lost on the unfamiliar.

Airboy interior page by James Robinson and Greg Hinkle

Still, Airboy is ultimately a book of unassuming grace and optimism, as personified by the appearance of the eponymous figure. Robinson is clearly attempting to differentiate himself from the creator he’s known as, and with the vibrant cartooning of Hinkle the series is off to a great start. We live in a world where meta-comics putting their creators at the forefront of stories is about as unique as grass being green, but when the book is done with this much charm and self-deprecation, it certainly makes the tale worth telling.

Airboy interior page by James Robinson and Greg Hinkle