Throwback Review: “Airboy” Issues 1-5 (Eclipse Comics, 80s August Special)

Welcome back to 80s August, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of the greatest decade since the baking of the first blackberry cobbler!

Today, we’re reviewing the first five-issue story arc of Eclipse Comics’ Airboy, which was a revival of the original Golden Age Airboy series published by Hillman Comics in the 40s and 50s.

The first Eclipse Comics issue landed in 1986, and the creative team cranked it out on a biweekly basis. This makes sense as there were just 13 story pages per issue, but despite the low page count, it’s remarkable how much action occurs in the span of a single issue (Yeah, there were backup stories, too).

Written by Chuck (Charles) Dixon and illustrated by the artistic tag team of Timothy Truman and Stan Woch, the new Airboy series picked up a few decades after the original left off. Davy Nelson, the original Airboy, has retreated to a monastery in Napa Valley. His enemies eventually catch up to him, murdering him at his home.

Now Junior (Davy Nelson II) is tasked with taking up the Airboy mantle, assisted in his adventures by the semi-sentient plane Birdy, The Heap (described by Dixon as “the original swamp monster”), a veteran combat pilot Skywolf, and long-time Nelson family friend, Hirota.

The new Airboy sets off for South America to avenge his father’s death. During the adventure, Airboy gets mixed up in a ragtag revolution that is at war with a corrupt government regime. Davy learns that his father was being blackmailed by a necromantic wizard named Misery, who has also captured his father’s lost love, the voluptuous Valkyrie. Airboy realizes that he is fighting on the wrong side of the revolution, and that his father’s good name has been stained, so his and quest for revenge turns into a battle to restore his family name.

BRRRT

Every issue is fast-paced and action heavy, and there’s no shortage of guns, violence, death. Even a decapitated head serving as a gruesome cherry on top. Not for the youngest of readers. The art matches fairly well between the two different illustrators, though I found that I slightly preferred Woch’s art to Truman’s. Woch also had the more action-heavy issues to play with, so he may have been working with a handicap, so to speak.

The colors are bright, vibrant, and well-fit for a newsprint superhero tale, though it’s a bit “over-bright” if you’re reading it reprinted on brighter, modern paper stock. There are a few exposition pages that are over-cluttered with panels, but it’s not the norm. I should also mention that the copy I have is in an Omnibus format titled Airboy Archives Volume 1, which was published in 2014 by IDW. Why is this worth mentioning? Because the glue broke down and the cover fell off the rest of the book upon the very first read. Pretty damn disappointing.

Va-va-va-voom! Valkyrie is a fetching lady, I tell ya’ what

Overall, the origin story in these first five issues is an engaging read with solid art. If you’re a fan of action/adventure stories like Indiana Jones or The Rocketeer, you’ll probably enjoy Airboy. You also don’t have to know anything about the Golden Age Airboy series to jump right in to this revival. I certainly didn’t.

If you continue with the Eclipse Airboy series, you might be shocked to see how much of a communist sympathizer Chuck -erm- Charles Dixon was in the 80s. Maybe Charles was Chuck’s commie pen name, sort of a Mr. Hyde to Chuck’s Dr. Jekyll?

Ha! We’re just joshin’ ya, Chuck! But we’ll still be keeping an eye on you… Trust but verify. You understand.

Happy trails, Davy!

Thanks for reading!

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