When I reviewed the second volume of Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett’s Skyward, I said that this could be the next Y: The Last Man, in that both titles embraced the world-building based on a simple, but unique sci-fi premise, whilst being rooted in the exploration of relatable characters experiencing the extraordinary. However, this third and final volume never quite reaches the near-perfection of the Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra comic that ran for sixty issues. That said, all good things must come to an end, including Skyward.
Having survived the likes of terrifying storms, giant man-eating insects and farmers who are about to rebel and conquer her home city of Chicago, Willa Fowler faces her biggest challenge yet: fixing the world by its lack of gravity. As she pursues Roger Barrow in order to maintain control of Chicago before the impending invasion, Willa discovers the secret project her father has been working on, leading her to be reunited with her supposed dead mother.
Prior to the huge reunion, the initial issue primarily shows our heroine hopping her way to her destination, without the assistance of skyscrapers and along with the fear of being pecked to death by the birds hovering above her. This issue showcases how great the collaboration between Henderson and Garbett is, from the former injecting both tension and humor through Willa’s inner monologue, to the latter showing off his expressive artwork by presenting one person in this open but dangerous world. As much as the central narrative is this race against time with conflicts coming from multiple directions, the two creators take a moment of comedy by letting Willa treat herself with sugar bars whilst floating in the air.
The final page of the second volume hinted the return of Willa’s mother Lilly, and she makes her grand appearance here as issue #12 reveals what really happened to her on G-Day and what led to her being a resident in the underground city of Crystal Springs, the secret project conceived by Nate Fowler. As well as showing another side of the impressive world-building that this series is known for, it also shows where Willa gets her free-spirited if not rebellious attitude from as we see from Lilly’s perspective who has found love and tragedy during her own time in this upside-down world. Once the reunion between mother and daughter commences, emotions are in the right place in perhaps the most uplifting (no pun intended) sequence Skyward has delivered.
There are other characters in the mix, including Willa’s delivery buddies from the initial volume, even though they weren’t very developed in the first place. As we are approaching the climax of the story, Henderson tries to tie up all the loose ends with character arcs being resolved, even if some were better than others, most notably Willa’s potential romance with Edison Davies, who during his solo outing, confronts his arms-dealing parents. As for the villains themselves, they are not at all menacing, especially recurring antagonist Roger Barrow, who has now just become a punching bag, albeit a hilarious one.
As impressive as Garbett’s art remains, I did find the volume’s ending to be rather anticlimactic, with a lack of peril that resolved too quickly despite a long buildup. As for the underground city of Crystal Springs, which looks reminiscent of the fictional world of The Truman Show, it’s a shame that there wasn’t much time spent there as it suggested that classic sci-fi idea of the utopia becoming the dystopia. This may not be as outlandish or indeed as action-driven as earlier issues, but Garbett and colorist Antonio Fabela still make this series a dynamic and colorful visual feast with detailed environments and expressive characters.
Like I said before, all good things must come to an end. And while this series had potential to go even further in terms of world-building, Skyward never jumps the shark as the two creators finish their story on a good, but not great note.
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