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'Blow Away' #1 is a proper adventure into exciting and poignant terrain
BOOM! Studios

Comic Books

‘Blow Away’ #1 is a proper adventure into exciting and poignant terrain

Are you ready for this trek?

I really wanted to like what writer Zac Thompson was doing with the recent Hunt for the Skinwalker. The only issue was that rather than getting a really scary and exciting story of aliens invading a family’s ranch, we got something bogged down by its source material. A book that couldn’t shake its commitment to reality even when that attentiveness ultimately damned the whole thing.

Luckily, Thompson — alongside artist Nicola Izzo (Buffy: The Last Vampire Slayer) — doesn’t have those same issues with his latest BOOM! Studios release, the neo-noir crime thriller Blow Away.

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Much like with Skinwalker, Blow Away is concerned with a deep and prevailing sense of reality (even as it’s not based on an actual story — I hope). That reality in question focuses on wildlife photographer Brynne Brautigan, who while isolated on the desolate and freezing Baffin Island thinks she witnesses a murder between two climbers on a nearby mountain. So, it’s just like the promised tagline of tradition of “Fargo and Rear Window,” and not just ’cause of the cold weather and camera equipment.

Because more than anything else, Thompson’s storyline gets us to successfully engage with Brautigan. We see how meticulous she is in trying to get shots of local birds, and what that says about her as a person and what this island assignment just might represent. We feel her sense of isolation and loneliness, and how that may or may not inform her state heading into the incident on the mountaintop. And Thompson also expertly hints at larger events and energies that have defined our lead, and how all of that both informs the story as much as it extends it into some grander conspiracy.

Blow Away #1

BOOM! Studios

I love the whole approach, and how it treats Brautigan not just as some galavanting adventurer photographer but someone with real worries and emotions and plenty of layers. Someone who influences and is influenced by her settings/circumstances, and how that deeply human aspect is more thrilling than even an appearance by a bloody polar bear. That’s because Brautigan’s humanity is used to ease us into this world, and when things spike in terms of action or intensity, they’re always about how they impact her and extend the story and never just as cheap thrills.

In that way, this slower, more deliberate approach works wonders — it’s how we stay grounded to a reality and a person and allow the magic of the story to grow and develop in a way that brings us in full strength. Unlike Skinwalker, I feel connected to Brautigan more than the forces around her, and you’ll just as easily cheer her on as this story unfolds with a force and precision. If you can nail the lead so early on, then everything else is just frosting on the giant ice cream cake.

Still, it’s not just the way that Thompson organizes the story and maintains Brautigan at the center. It’s the work of Izzo (and colorist Francesco Segala) that help foster some of this debut’s biggest achievements and sets up Blow Away for some important developments and payoffs in subsequent issues.

Blow Away #1

BOOM! Studios

For one, Izzo knows how to create shots or moments that give power without distracting. So, for instance, we get some neat looks at Brautigan at work, and while they feel like something out of a Tomb Raider film, we still feel her sense of struggle or her weakness in this desperate place, and that is essential in keeping our attention and making Brautigan all the more vivid and real. Similarly, the way they treat weather and the island itself is vital — it’s an appropriately scary and intimidating place, but it’s also regarded with a sense of efficiency and deliberateness to make it feel like a story could really happen here. (And that’s important in balancing the two sides of this story, a crime thriller and a story of surviving the odds.)

And like Thompson, Izzo uses some small, hugely real details and artifacts to tell the story. Be it a Tim Horton cup that looks extra warm and inviting, novel camera shots to tell part of the murder, and/or scaling the world and Brautigan in a really compelling way, it’s about using those “small” details or tidbits to tell this story and make it feel the right kind of big and intense.

Blow Away #1

BOOM! Studios

And when it comes to nailing the bigger moments, Izzo similarly is careful and studious. That approach aligns perfectly with the story itself — giving us something big to latch onto without ruining the intimacy (bordering on claustrophobia) that informs so much of this story. Especially toward the issue’s end, and without revealing too much, Izzo turns up the sense of romanticism and starkness in such a way that we feel the massive stakes deep within as opposed to another mostly temporary flash of excitement. It’s a really powerful visual experience, and it works with the character development and context to bring us into the world and feel every tinge of emotion, every spike of adrenaline, and the sheer scope of this unflinchingly raw story.

Maybe it’s unfair to compare Blow Away with Skinwalker. They couldn’t be more different books, and what works for one may not work at all for the other. But there’s no denying some essential, albeit nebulous connections, like the emphasis on humans surviving against unrelenting foes (aliens vs. the wilderness) and how powerful a slice of life story can be with the right spin and add-ins.

But such comparisons aside, Blow Away works because Thompson and Izzo are dedicated to building this world, inviting us in with humanity and action working organically together, and giving us just enough rope to continue the climb upward. No matter how cold the winds, or craggily the rocks, I’m ready for this journey and then some.

'Blow Away' #1 is a proper adventure into exciting and poignant terrain
‘Blow Away’ #1 is a proper adventure into exciting and poignant terrain
Blow Away #1
The debut of 'Blow Away' sets the stage for a deeply human journey into a cold, hard world of big emotions and equally giant mysteries.
Reader Rating1 Votes
I love the intimacy and sense of approachability that defines much of this story.
Our lead, Brynne Brautigan, is already so interesting and hugely compelling.
The art remains sharp, vivid, and poignant no matter how the story swings.
Not everyone may like the more grounded, often deliberate pacing of this story.
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