But, this story is not really about Airboy. It is, instead, about its own authors: James Robinson and, along for the ride, artist Greg Hinkle. Robinson is offered a job reviving Airboy. Cynical about the task but in need of the money, Robinson recruits Hinkle (“I figure if I do Airboy with a normal artist, no one’s going to care,” Robinson explains) to take part in creating the series, to “shake up” his own stagnated creative process.
What this actually means is Robinson takes them on a bender fueled by all the alcohol and drugs they can get their hands on, Hinkle gamely tagging along, perhaps waiting for Robinson to just, please, get to work. And that’s about when Airboy himself shows up. Dimensional slip? Hallucination? Who knows. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
Airboy is odd, to be certain, but it’s not Grant Morrison odd. Comics that engage in meta-commentary have sort of a reputation for getting very heady. Instead, Airboy is brutally but simply reflective of Robinson’s own destruction and reconstruction of himself. It’s also raunchy and bare and explicit, and at points (even with a number of edits since the series’ original publication) potentially offensive. Robinson, at least in the book, is aggressively unlikeable, and it’s hard not to wonder whether Robinson the author is being aggressively self-deprecating or simply repentant. Hinkle often fares little better, but he brings a quirky and, if need be, psychedelic look to the book that manages to accomplish drab realism and four-color fantasy at once.
In short, it’s good. It’s really good. It’s hard to say that Airboy is fun or exciting – though it pretends to be those things capably here and there – but it is, in its way, grossly sincere. Fewer Nazis get beaten up than do comic creators here. Its heroes are properly unpleasant. And we are left wondering how true it all is. I suspect it’s true enough.