Skybourne #1-2 Review

I’ve read the first two issues of Skybourne, and was prepared to dislike it. I didn’t expect to hate it, mind you, but Frank Cho’s work of late has appealed to a fan base that doesn’t include me. Granted, the most visible of that work has been his sketch covers and I did miss Totally Awesome Hulk when it came out. Feeling horrible about my lack of giving his sequential work a fair hearing, I sat down to read the preview copies of Skybourne that Dynamite sent us.

skybourne_001_a_mainSkybourne #1 (of 5)

Writer: Frank Cho
Artist: Frank Cho
Cover Artists:
Main Cover: Frank Cho
Intermix Cover: Frank Cho
Incentive Cover 1: Brandon Peterson
Incentive Cover 2: Geof Darrow
Price: $3.99

Synopsis:

A new, original series from celebrated creator Frank Cho (Totally Awesome Hulk, Savage Wolverine)!
Full of fast-paced action, Skybourne is Indiana Jones meets James Bond with fantasy elements thrown in. Cho describes it as “one of the most cinematic stories I’ve envisioned.”
The legend of King Arthur is alive and well in modern day. Only one man, Skybourne, can stop the evil Merlin from destroying the world.

skybourne_002_press_a_mainSkybourne #2

Writer: Frank Cho
Artist: Frank Cho
Cover Artist: Frank Cho
Price: $3.99

Synopsis:

In the wake of Merlin’s attack on his sister, Skybourne’s quest for revenge is at a fever pitch.

Review:

I’m very pleased that on a creator-owned series, Frank Cho went with a strong action plot not centered on a female character. If you come to this series expecting Jungle Queen, then you’ll be disappointed. However, if you want a story in the vein of Mark Millar’s Secret Service, then you’ll be pleased.

I’ve used the comparison to Secret Service, although Skybourne is slightly different in that it isn’t toying with the tropes of the genre, but embracing them wholeheartedly. It also adds a mystical element in a protagonist that is superhuman and is facing off against mystical threats. Grace Skybourne is a typical, hard as nails female protagonist, who meets her end a provides the impetus for her brother Thomas to return to service. It could be argued that it’s another case of “women in refrigerators” where a female character isn’t really developed and exists only to die and inspire a male character to action. In this, it fails the inevitable Bechtel test, but the level of quality with the story is such that I’m willing to see where this goes.

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That failure of any female character development is the sole flaw here. By the time we get anything in the form of development in Grace, she’s dead. However, her final moments are intriguing, and I expect for her motivations to mirror Thomas’s at the beginning of the series. As much as it’s a spy thriller, it’s obvious to see that Frank Cho is exploring the burden of immortality just as his work is beginning to give him a legacy that he may not have initially chosen for himself. I’m looking forward to seeing this aspect develop as much as the chase for Excalibur.

The art is, as I would expect it, strong and highly detailed and naturalistic. Frank Cho can make a person doing super-human things look absolutely normal. I believe it was a Superman story that described the character as living in a tissue paper world. The power that the Skybournes possess is conveyed in just such a manner here. Grace is never depicted in a sexist manner, and that’s refreshing and critics of Cho’s depictions of women should see these panels to see that he can draw a believably strong woman without sexualizing her. As mentioned, the script of the first two issues gives critics plenty of ammunition, but without a full story, it would be a little unfair to immediately brand this story as sexist, as there may be an undercurrent running through this story that proves that assumption false.

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What Skybourne presents us with is a chance to hear out a controversial creator and take in his work as a whole. Even to the creator, Skybourne could just be what it is on the surface, with its flaws inherent to the type of story that Frank Cho tells. However, there could be something being said, albeit subconsciously about the nature of reputation, legacy and power. Do I think that Frank Cho is capable of that level of storytelling? Possibly. It has been a long couple of years since criticising Frank Cho became one of comics’ favorite sports. I’m personally giving all five issues of Skybourne a try before deciding if it’s working on multiple levels or it’s just what we see on the surface, but I’m hoping for the former.