As with the other two “Scottober” releases, out from Comixology Originals today, the real showcase isn’t Scott Snyder at all, but each incredible artist the writer has collaborated with. In the case of Barnstormers, the star of the show is Tula Lotay’s indelible world.
Set in the 1920s, Barnstormers sees Lotay embrace the style of high-glamour Saturday Evening Post covers and advertising illustrations. Our protagonist, the barnstormer Hawk, seems chiseled from the same stone as the square-jawed leading men of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Late introduction Tillie could easily have been drawn up by particularly good ad men working for Macy’s.
While barnstorming—a sort of aerial stunt show performed by nomadic, grifting pilots—could be narratively compelling enough to support a book on its own, Lotay and Snyder have managed to pack the book’s thirty-odd pages with a dynamic set of hooks and mysteries, including but not limited to mystery narrators and retro-futuristic robots.
Our central characters—Hawk and Tillie—don’t quite feel like much more than archetypical snapshots, but I think that’s by design; this is, after all, the opening reel of that old-cinema story. We need Tillie to be a headstrong badass and Hawk to be a rakish rogue with secrets right away to capture the dynamic, to settle into the action before the shocks of character depth are fully earned.
This type of story is meant to be striking—visually, archetypically—because it is modeled after old (sometimes simple or formulaic) adventure stories of the era. What the book already promises is something richer and deeper than all that. With all its grim, heavy-handed foreshadowing, the book seems ready to surprise us with subtlety and something genuine (if, of course, bombastic).
Of the three Scottober books (and with a fourth creator-owned book of his from IDW this week), Barnstormers has the most oblique elevator pitch, but it’s also the most compelling—the sky, after all, is the limit.
With Lotay’s artwork, Barnstormers also threatens to be one of the most beautiful books out this week.
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