Welcome to Wild Blue Yonder, a high-flying, post-apocalyptic adventure series created by the team of writer Mike Raicht, artist Zach Howard, and Austin Harrison under their Noble Transmissions banner, and released by IDW. Originally developed as a Kickstarter project in order to raise funds to pay artist Zach Howard, so he could take the time off from paid work to focus on drawing the creator-owned, five-issue miniseries, the project met its goal, and beyond, and the comic was picked up by IDW as an ongoing title.
Due to radiation and pollution, the Earth is no longer inhabitable, and so people take to the skies in huge flying ships to survive, where they now have a new challenge: each other. As resources are dwindling, fighting has become a constant way of life, and danger an everyday occurrence. These are not friendly skies.
Enter into this world of never-ending dogfights and scavenging a young pilot named Cola. She is searching for a new gunner for her plane, as her former did not make it through their last fight. Cola is a bit impetuous and hard-headed. She does what she wants because she believes it is right, and she is an amazing pilot to boot. She also is still dealing with her friend and gunner’s death, which has an impact on some of her choices. We soon learn that Cola is part of the crew of The Dawn, a mysterious ship that is rumored to never need to refuel as it is powered by the sun. Cola is a character we immediately like and are invested in. We want to see her succeed, because we know her heart is in the right place. On the other end of the spectrum is The Judge, self-proclaimed ruler of the skies through the terror and destruction wrought by the sheer numbers of his flying armada. He wants The Dawn, and he means business.
The colors in this premiere issue, done by Nelson Daniel, are wonderful, and I was intrigued by how little the sky is actually blue. But, this makes sense, because the sky has become a battlefield, filled with smoke, explosions, and death, and so the color palette reflects this through brown, red, dark skies – the sky’s beauty is disrupted by the constant struggle for survival. When we do get a glimpse of a blue sky, it reminds us of a simpler time, and also of what our heroes are fighting for. Zach Howard’s art is detailed and gritty, perfectly conveying the hardscrabble lives of our heroes. Also, the design of the characters, their planes, and equipment is an amalgam of 1940s pulp and low-fi science fiction, and it is a blast to take it all in.
Wild Blue Yonder is filled with intense action, from dogfights to jetpack fights to guys wielding axes, and since Cola has just lost her previous gunner, we know the stakes from the outset. But, there is also a sense of community, as Cola says she can offer newcomer Tug a home and a family if he chooses to become her new gunner, and we see this is true from the moment we meet the wild, violent, and funny Scram, another member of The Dawn.
There is not a great deal of backstory given about the world in this first issue, we jump into the story after a page of set-up, but that is probably for the best as the issue could have easily become bogged down with too many details. Instead, the creators focus on Cola and those close to her, and we get to learn about the world through their actions and dialogue. We will discover new details as we become invested in the characters of The Dawn, making that information more meaningful to us. This first issue is just the beginning. I see it as Raicht, Howard, and Harrison telling us to buckle our seatbelts as they take off from the runway, and where they are going to take this story, well, the sky’s the limit.