There’s an old screenwriting adage that if you’re out of ideas, one need only combine two previously successful concepts. For example, Alien is Jaws in space. Barnstormers! combines occult monsters with World War I biplanes. Van Helsing meets The Red Baron if you will. And the result of this mixture is a remarkably fun read. There are some moments in the comic (many of them involving air fights against giant beasts) that are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Kenny Porter, who wrote the series, is a smarter writer than just this unique pairing of ideas.
That doesn’t mean Barnstormers! is fluff. There’s plenty of heart in Barnstormers!. Engaging characters. A dollop of strange humor. I’m a massive fan of Barnstormers!, which is currently a project on Kickstarter and I recommend that you give the series a read if this description sounds at all interesting to you. To enjoy the series, though, you have to take enjoyment out of reading about giant toads, dark wizards, floating ships, and all kinds of other occult related subjects.
The hero of Barnstormers! is the monster hunter, Roscoe, who is a headstrong, courageous hero along the lines of Indiana Jones. The difference between Barnstormers! and the Indy series is fundamental: where Indiana Jones took a handful of 1940’s serials as inspiration and let Indy be as flawless as these adventurers were, Roscoe is much more fallible and imperfect and resultantly a much more engageable character. That said, I’m not sure that Barnstormers! is even supposed to take place in World War I. If anything, the series is descendent of steampunk ideas because there are traces of the modern world in the three comic series.
There are plenty of unusual twists and turns in Barnstormers! that get introduced along the way. New types of guns. New forms of magic. In the midst of juggling a monster hunter career, Roscoe must fight the villain, Filipe and the Iron Dragons, who have unleashed a monster called Orgath in San Francisco. Not to mention, it’s always exciting to figure out how a man in a tin bucket biplane is going to take down an enormous beast. With the ability to write such an original and compelling story premise, it’s no wonder that Porter won the Top Cow Talent Hunt for Writing in 2012 and has had a series of other comic successes.
While it might sound like Barnstormers! could become very complicated, it doesn’t, and that’s worth praising. I’d prefer to not read elaborate rules about monster hunting or the occult in this type of premise. The main plot of Barnstormers! revolves around Kenny flying around like some harebrained aviator ready to die a nearly certain death as he goes up to fight some gnarly toothed monster. This wide-eyed wonderment is the virtue of Barnstormers!. There are some complications in Barnstormer! constructed around Roscoe’s fiancee, Anna, and friends, but these story elements are still being developed. I appreciated that Anna is not a doe-eyed, helpless woman but is actively ready always to challenge Roscoe. The comic book artist, Renny Castellani, does a captivating job of switching between dialogue exchanges that build up to boss battles. Colorist, Jon Alderink, also uses a very suitable color palette that both evokes the gray and olive world of steampunk while also giving life to the monsters.
In short, I’d pick this one up or support its Kickstarter campaign.