REVIEW: Skyward #3 by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, & Simon Bowland

 For the third straight issue,  Skyward  shows itself to be a gorgeous and charming comic.

For the third straight issue, Skyward shows itself to be a gorgeous and charming comic.

By Zack Quaintance — The concept in Skyward has been strong from the start—gravity has inexplicably lessened, sending humans floating fatally into the sky—as has the delivery of information about our characters and the world’s plight. Skyward #1, to be perfectly blunt, was a book I had few expectations for, as the creative team was unfamiliar to me, but I loved the first issue. Why? I attribute the ongoing success of this book in large part to how expertly information has been doled out from its start.

One of the most difficult tricks in plotting is knowing what to reveal and when, how to hit a sweet spot and orient an audience without gumming up the pacing with too much info. A lot of debut issues suffer from that, as if creators have accepted forced exposition as a necessary problem of #1 issues and are spilling it fast so they can get the actual story.

Skyward does not once make a concession in that regard, instead finding organic and natural ways to let us know about our hero, her family, and what’s happened to the world. The book essentially floats through its earliest reveals, focusing heavily on the family—a girl and her parents—that is at the heart of our story. The result is one of the most charming books in comics. This issue continues to be excellent.  

  Skyward  expertly uses storytelling tools unique to comics, including a juxtaposition of the shading and reaction in the bottom right panel.

Skyward expertly uses storytelling tools unique to comics, including a juxtaposition of the shading and reaction in the bottom right panel.

Last issue ended with our protagonist’s optimism, trust, and naivety catapulting her into danger, and Skyward #3 picks up immediately there. The expert reveals continue, but I also began to notice new strengths, too. Admittedly, I’ve maybe been too preoccupied with Henderson’s script choices to notice the feats of characterization Garbett and Fabela have pulled off with the artwork. This issue, though, it really stood out. The panels here are framed to reveal fear or recklessness, while the characters are shaded to indicate sinister motives or apprehension. Hell, even the walls in the villain's place tip toward emergency red. It’s just all so well done, using the full breadth of storytelling tools comics put at one’s disposal.

This issue also ratchets up the intensity, with some well-placed but tasteful violence. Even so, the book maintains its heart by deploying sharp incidental humor between tense moments (the bit where a kid asks a question about weak gravity creating—ahem—a new way to get pregnant is so sharp), before wrapping up with an absolutely killer cliffhanger for the third time in as many issues.

Overall: Skyward’s incredibly adept use of pacing and its engrossing concept—the gravity that once bound humans to the earth has dissipated—continue to make for one of the best original comics of the year. The team of Henderson, Garbett, Fabela, and Bowland are doing so many things right. I am once again surprised at how thoroughly I’m enjoying this book. 9.5/10

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.