Set in a future where humanity has mastered time travel as an aspect of warfare, Red Wing tells the story of Dominic Dorne, a young and inexperienced pilot in over his head who is seeking out his father, legendary pilot Robert Dorne, who was lost in time at some point during an interdimensional, time lost battle. Along the way, both Dominic and we the reader learn more about the inner workings of time gravel, just who they really are fighting, and maybe, just maybe, the nature of humanity, fathers and sons. I’d been looking forward to this book for quite some time, but only just know finally gotten around to reading it. Written by Jonathan Hickman with Nick Pitarra on art, this book comes with some high-quality pedigree. Except for maybe Jason Aaron, I have not enjoyed the work of a single comic book writer these last 10 years or so more than Hickman; his Marvel stuff has been excellent. Go read his Fantastic Four stuff, it’s the finest FF comics you will ever read (sorry Stan and Jack). However, unlike Aaron, Hickman sometimes has a bad habit of not finishing things well; I’ve dropped off a lot of his independent stuff and am just waiting for it all to end so I can actually read it because he seems to meander so much in his storytelling sometimes. But the idea of a 4-issue series with art by Nick Pitarra had me all sorts of excited, even if the book came out years ago.
And it delivers, for the most part. Viewed as just the construction of a comic book, this book is impeccable. Hickman brings his really unique sense of design and imagery to the book and it works really well with Pitarra’s art. Hickman’s script is also tight, interwoven and extremely clever, with interesting explanations of the nature and scope of this kind of war working really well. There is a scene in the middle somewhere where our protagonists get attacked by an enemy wing and the “radar” warnings go off when the enemy ships are several years away, since they are attacking not through physical space, but rather time itself. It adds a great new way to access the story and throw off both the characters and us the readers. Beyond that, I don’t think Hickman is capable of writing a comic that is not, at the very least, interesting. He does a really nice job of using time travel to tell the story from a really sideways point of view that only makes sense after reading the book a couple of times.
Nick Pitarra is one of the most unique comic book artists working right now. His work on Manhattan Projects, also with Hickman, is superb; some of the most inventive, interesting and absorbing work I’ve ever looked at. And he delivers here as well. The story, somewhat surprisingly, does not allow him to be as inventive as he can be elsewhere, but it’s still rather good. Hickman also injects the book with his trademark single art piece with a paragraph of text pages that always seem to work better than they ought to. I would never want this to become a thing in the broader comic book industry, but it’s pretty cool when he does it. For a sci-fi, space epic, I did find the ship designs to be a bit boring; they reminded me of Z or B-Wings from Star Wars. Also, for a story built on time travel, I wish we had seen more of that throughout the book. Instead, we get some great stuff early on, with them transitioning through time during a dog fight, but for the most part, there is less of time travel visuals than I would have liked.
My problem with this comic is that I don’t think it gets anywhere all that interesting. Or rather, It almost does, it’s about to, but then it ends and we are stuck in some sort of causality loop where the evil descendants of the main characters from another dimension have started this war to punish their parents only these people are not their parents; they are alternative version of them and regardless of that twist, the Dorne men decide to go back and make things better; only they haven’t because the present is still the present, where they are fighting a war against their almost children. And look, that sounds interesting, right? And it is, especially in how everything connects at the end, as all good time travel stories do. But it never quite comes together in the actual book.
I’m pretty sure this was always going to be mini-series, but it feels like it’s right on the cusp of something much bigger and grander. It’s basically all just a complicated story about the status quo of this war being the status quo and despite the actions of those who know better, there is not much that can be done about that. That’s philosophically interesting, but maybe not a great story. Or rather, not a great story here. Overall, I enjoyed Red Wing a lot; good story telling, interesting plot, great art. It’s a very fun book that if you are looking for something quick and easily accessible that still feels creative and clever, check it out.