Written by: Ron Bricker
What's truly endearing about this book is not the science fiction craziness. It doesn't matter how this phenomenon has happened, it's how it affects the world. Think about it: what would really happen if you woke up one morning able to fly? How would that affect your life? Better yet: how you would you feel if for weeks you thought you were the only one, only to fly into the sky one day and see humans cluttering it like locusts? You won't find an explanation in this book, nor will you in its eventual continuation, Dubious Miracles, presumably. Martin has given us a character so relatable in Paul Krutcher that it's easy to see yourself in his eyes.
When you finish this book, the result won't be daydreaming about how glorious having the ability to fly would be; more likely it will be how disastrous it could become: getting caught in power lines, floating into air traffic, things falling out of your pockets and plummeted dangerously to the Earth below…these are the things that Martin tackles in the story – the logistics of actual human flight.
While the first series of Bizarre New World followed Paul incredibly closely, often in very private moments with his son and alone in his house, PE expands the narrative a bit. While it remains very much Paul's story, much more of this world is shown off as Paul's journey takes him on a road trip to find his son after he receives a foreboding voice mail from him amidst the chaos. And while we see the anarchy happening around Paul, most of the thought provoking concepts that are presenting come in the form of a radio broadcast. There are some instances that I found myself wishing for a more subtle approach in these ideas; less exposition and more dangers implied in the panels by things Paul encounters while on the road – but like I said, this story is less about the anarchy than it is about the humanistic.
And to that point, the most poignant moment in this book occurs when there is nobody flying, and with only two people. There is a superbly written scene in a diner when Paul stops off on his journey to his son. The dialogue is laced with socially aware commentary, which is something that is actually not very prominent throughout the series, even though it is prime material for doing so. Paul and a waitress discuss, quite cynically in many ways, the exploitation of tragedies in America by Hollywood and the media. In the end, I think that this scene works better because it stands out as a commentary on society where the rest of the book does not.
That being said, none of this really means much in the comic format without the gorgeous work of the art team. Provencher's characters are so diverse that there are literally hundreds of people in these panels, and everyone is unique. Especially impressive is his ability to be able to draw these dozens of people flying through the sky in their own unique ways. In both the original BNW and PE, there are things in the background that prove the artists' love for this material as well as what they do. In the original series, catching the DeLorean on the highway with a license plate reading "BTTF" made me fairly certain that I would love this series. That feeling was confirmed with a similar catch towards the shocking conclusion of this book. Without spoiling anything, keep an eye out for movie posters.
As I mentioned, Provenchers pencils are vividly brought to life by the colors of Wes Dzioba. His attention to detail is showcased often; one in particular that stands out is a sequence in Paul's dark editing room job, with the glow of the monitors radiating throughout the room and on the face of our lead character. It's so obvious, but that slightly blown out area around the edges of the monitors simply add to the realism of the artwork. What I love about the colors in BNW is that Dzioba doesn't limit his color palette: often times in graphic novels, especially ones with running themes, the colorist will limit his palette so as to "contribute" to the tone of the book. Which, I suppose, Dzioba does as well. In this case, he contributes to Martin's reality-grounded tale in that real life's color palette isn't made up of only tans and reds, but blues, blacks, greens, purples, pinks, yellows, and oranges as well.
If you are looking for a new alternative to superheroes, or continuity, or eight trades worth of catching up, look no further. This is a book that anyone can jump into. There is no need to familiarize yourself with a certain character, or a certain world. There is no need, because these characters are ourselves; this world is our own.
4.5 out of 5.