She Could Fly launched to mass adoration last month, telling the story of Luna and the flying woman that fascinated her so much. With a great setup, the question now becomes if the team of Christopher Cantwell, Martin Morazzo and Miroslav Mrva can take things to the next level in the next chapter.
Interestingly, we don’t start off with the semi-cliffhanger we left on at the end of the last issue. It seems that we are thrown into a fascinating journey inside the human mind and spirit that sets the stage for the rest of the issue. We get a supposed alignment of two characters that at the moment, we think couldn’t be more opposite (Luna and her grandmother). Clearly, Cantwell has no interest in tethering the story to a “structure,” and he makes his intention clear from the start that he will casually dive in and out of the narrative at will. He then jumps right into the mystery of the flying woman, with Bill Meigs (apparently the mastermind behind her abilities) investigating her disastrous end and his old employers hot on his tail. Speaking of these old employers, they show their hand by revealing their motivation in chasing him down, and it’s a classic desire for money – in the words of their head honcho, Dan Laudermilk, “who gives a ****? We’re still getting paid.”
Cantwell then shifts the story to Luna, who is in another therapy session with her counselor, whose cat-headed appearance (to Luna) has apparently now become a normal part of the scenery. Then we shift to Meigs, who has brought along his prostitute girlfriend, Verna, on the trip to Chicago, and we get one of many more Chicago shout-outs in this issue, one of the things that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside as a local. A big letdown occurs though, when we see Luna hanging out with her dad in an effort to follow her counselor’s advice. This is confusing to me because any reasons she may have had for deciding to change her mind about running away from home — the cliffhanger from the last issue — are seemingly forgotten. Are we expected to chalk this up to Luna’s mental illness? In any case, it felt jarring.
The story of Luna’s grandmother deserves its own paragraph. Essentially, she reveals the truth about her nature in this issue. It brings the opening full circle, when we see her almost the victim of a cold-blooded killing, to deciding to leave home, and then the next thing we see is a bunch of dead people in her vicinity as she is discovered in shock by Luna and her parents. Nothing is ever directly stated, but needless to say, the issue brilliantly delivers on its seemingly confusing comparison of Luna and her grandmother by basically exposing her Zen-like calm as a sham, in an incredibly subtle and powerful way. By comparing her to Luna, and then seeing how Luna has almost heroically forced herself not to give into her mental demons and has some kind of direction and purpose in her life with the flying woman, it makes you question whether simply tacking the “mentally ill” label on Luna is appropriate, given everything she is capable of doing. In essence, it’s a great lesson to the reader to never assume, underestimate or even discriminate against someone with mental illness because they may fight to accomplish even more than the rest of us in spite of their challenges.
As we shift back to the story of Meigs and Verna, an unexpected element related to the Flying Woman comes back into play, and one has to stop and marvel for a moment that Cantwell is managing to juggle five different storylines yet makes each of them feel incredibly personal, emotional, and meaningful. The story continues on, and with Luna’s trip to the Flying Woman’s former employer, the hunt by Bill’s former employers, and Bill’s attempts to find out what went wrong while trying to lay low, you also get an appreciation for the expansion of the supporting cast. Each of these storylines produces new characters that tie critically into solving the mystery of the Flying Woman. Even more rewarding: two of these storylines finally come together at the end and it looks like the next issue promises the third will also intersect.
What is really fun about this book, as a result of the expansion of the cast and the storylines, is that almost every major character seems to get a momentary “big screen shot.” Luna has her moment of the literal “inner demon” almost taking over and we get the usual stunning art, but other characters like her grandma and Verna get some fascinating close-ups as well that betray a great deal of emotion and shock, which showcases Morazzo at his finest. He also doesn’t overdo it, as the cat-head effect from the last issue is now just treated as a normal part of the story. Mrva also continues his focus on “mood lighting,” this time starting things off with a number of scenes that occur in light-heavy settings, to the end of the story, where the setting is literally in a dark basement. The gradual decline of light with every page is fascinating.
She Could Fly #1 exceeded my expectations and in the second issue, the series goes even further. The focus on mental illness remains, but with an expanded focus and analysis of other characters, their relationships, their passions and ambitions. This broader perspective sends an incredibly powerful message that mental illness is not something to be pitied, but rather is something that could impact any of us, regardless of who we are, and those who fight it every day are true heroes.