Comics Features Reviews

“Torch: Reclaim the Skies” Lights a Flame for Adventure

The first issue of Torch: Reclaim the Skies is infused with the effervescent energy of an outer-space starfight.

We’re quickly introduced to Torch, an uncomfortable earthbound pilot, and her friend Spark. Torch is an expert fighter pilot, and she yearns to return to the far reaches of space, to fly her ship again among the stars. The first issue opens with a remarkable splash page showing this life she led. An epic dogfight between unusual spaceships ensues. An assortment of creative ships and explosions, and a rainbow of warm colour fill the page.

And these colours then echo throughout the rest of the issue. Colourist Daniela Barisone soaks the world of the comic in the same vivid colours we see in outer space. Indeed, that’s Torch’s real world, this bright world of action and of adventure. This earthly setting of marketplaces, cities and the desert just lives on the fringe of that excitement. We feel Torch’s sense of longing – the comic actively recalls this eye-catching first page throughout the book. While exciting to us, these cities are just the shadow of Torch’s world in the sky.

Writer AJ Rojek’s priority of this first issue appears to be this emotional hook for Torch. We are introduced to her, Spark and their place in this futuristic sci-fi setting. Worldbuilding takes a backseat then, and the story is better for it. Instead, it teases us with a few mysteries in issues to come, and we get a range of interactions that reveal Torch’s character. There’s flashbacks to her time in the barracks: Torch is brash and too big for the room even then. In another sequence, a patron in the bar comments on her history: “The kid prodigy. […] You’re the only person to ever reach class-0 rank.” Soon after, Torch wins one then another barfight, and then with Spark, she has an epic hover-car chase throughout the city.

This chase is one among several good moments in the comic that showcases a rich, busy environment in artist Tom Hoskisson’s detail. Backgrounds are full of futuristic alien vehicles and civilians, revealing truly lived-in cities. Again, this detail gives texture to the world rather than expend parts of the story for extraneous world-building.

The most effective sequences of Torch: Reclaim the Skies are its most subtle, but at times it seems the comic doesn’t have the confidence to leave it at these moments. Torch’s desire to return to outer space perhaps punctuates one too many sentences, and the point is belaboured a bit when pages might be better spent introducing us more to Spark.

As the series goes on I think this emphasis could prove to be necessary. I understand the story will be exploring Torch’s depression as much as her nostalgia. As far as this issue goes though, as soon as the second page of the book communicates this side of Torch effectively.

After the explosive splash page in the start, Torch wakes up – she’s back on the ground. Shadow envelopes her in the dawn. The horizon hides the sun and the stars look a million miles away. The light of the stars dimly light Torch’s melancholic expression which take up a good third of the page. The placement of Torch both in the page and in her environment shows just how far away from the sky she is and how small she feels.

Torch: Reclaim the Skies introduces a bright protagonist with several very tender moments that reveal her character. After this first issue, I’m ready to follow Torch and her story wherever it goes.

For more information of where the series is heading, and to have a read yourself, check out the Kickstarter here. Then don’t forget to sound off in the comments below or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!

About the author

Matthew Smith