There are few ideas in fiction more fascinating to me than time travel. At the same time, I’ve rarely seen it done in a way in which I can both appreciate it and understand it, which are key elements to enjoying a work of fiction. “The Red Wing” #1 handily manages both, and sets a brilliant stage for a fascinating series about one of our most engrossing ideas.
It’s nice to see Jonathan Hickman stepping outside of superhero comics, not because I don’t want him writing superhero comics, but because I always like to see really talented writers do other things, as well. This feels right. In “Red Wing” #1 we’re introduced to a world in which time travel is a reality, and it’s being used to fight an endless and world-engulfing war. Our protagonists, two young time travel pilots about to head off to training camp, are Valin and Dominic. They are but two of the “sons and daughters of The Red Wing,” whose fathers died in the line of duty, which is to say, time travel mixed with endless deadly war. But as always with time travel, little is certain, and nothing should be taken for granted.
Hickman hits every note he needs to here, pulling us in nicely to Valin and Dominic’s individual journeys while easily setting the larger stage, no easy task when you’re juggling past, present, and future. Nick Pitarra’s art recalls a slightly cleaner and neater Frank Quitely, and I mean that in the best way (to both of them). His work feels grounded and real, solid, and satisfying. It’s painstakingly detailed, but the execution feels fluid and wholly uncomplicated. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors are a fine match for Pitarra’s work. The palette is soft and slightly muted, never competing or overwhelming the art and finding a nice subtle balance that pops just when it needs to.
By far my favorite aspect of this book is Hickman and Pitarra’s ability to come together and create a world that I don’t doubt for an instant. Their world building is flawless and recalls ever so slightly everything from “Star Wars” (the good ones) to “Torchwood,” in the best possible ways. They only have time in a single issue to give us a sketch of this new world, giving us enough originality that it feels endlessly interesting. There are also enough familiar touchstones that Hickman and Pitarra can use a sort of shorthand and not spend endless amounts of time delving into frustrating back-story. Hickman jumps us right in and the story flows effortlessly from there, despite the jumps in time. The story ends on a not unexpected, but highly satisfying note, delivered sublimely by Pitarra’s visuals.
“The Red Wing” #1 is a brilliant start to what looks to be a fascinating series. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in months, in part because while it delivers a lot of satisfaction within this single issue, it promises so much more for the future.