Sunday, 13 November 2016

Expecting To Fly by John Allison Review


Expecting To Fly is like a bridge comic between John Allison’s pre-teen series Bad Machinery and university life title Giant Days (and if you’ve never heard of Giant Days before, stop right here and check that out, you can thank me later!). Set in 1996, it‘s about two 16 year old high school kids, Shelley Winters and Ryan Beckwith, who become friends and face defining moments in their lives. And like most of John Allison’s stuff it’s bloody brilliant! 

Allison pulls off his usual impressive balancing act between humour and pathos perfectly, centring both protagonists’ stories around serious events but surrounding it with witty dialogue, subtle character-building moments, and generic-yet-somehow-fresh-feeling scenes of friendship. He’s such a master storyteller - if you want to know how to tell a story through comics, study his. 

In just two issues - and that’s my only complaint, that the series is too short! - he creates two wholly realistic characters with depth. Shelley is vulnerable but hides it with bravado, she’s sassy and gets carried away a bit but there’s goodness to her (she’s essentially a prototype Esther from Giant Days); Ryan is still a kid in some respects and far older than his years in others thanks to a rotten father. I feel like I know these characters better than some in Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead and that series is 26 volumes long compared to just two single issues here - that’s how good a comics writer John Allison is! 

Expecting To Fly is a compelling, convincing and entertaining portrayal of high school life that’s sweet and unexpectedly moving too. I loved it and anyone who enjoys John Allison’s comics, and good comics in general, will too. Highly recommended reading - more!

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