America is a melting pot of races and cultures, where there have been both successes and failures throughout the years, especially for African-Americans. From slavery to oppression to the first black president, we have come a very long way. Dreaming Eagles is a narrative of one man’s story as a pilot for the US Air Force in World War II and it is beautiful in its candid portrayal of the plight of the colored community
The story takes place as a flashback narrative told by a grandfather to his teenaged grandson who has been beaten up by some thugs (Note that I’m inferring a lot here, since I missed the first three issues, unfortunately). The old man begins the issue by introducing the planes his black only squadron, the 332nd would be flying. They speak of the P-51 Mustang’s as though they hold the key to a bright future, with its bold design and aerial prowess. The narrator illustrates the difficulties with both segregation and war, and the ways in which they overcame those obstacles. Triumph, humiliation, death… nothing is glossed over. The all-black regimen is considered by many of the top brass as expendable, so their unexpected success catches the attention of superior officers. The pilots confront the blatant racism with such decorum that I felt proud. And even with the strong sociopolitical overtones, the story still has its fair share of action scenes that are beautifully portrayed in a classic airborne battle styling.
I’m amazed this was done by two native Europeans, Ennis Garth and Simon Coleby, rather than a black creative team. Garth absolutely nails it. He completely enters the mindset of a man who has endured some of the most distressing parts of American history and came through it with his head held high, knowing he made a difference even when the odds were against him. The dialogue between the teenager and the veteran feels authentic, as do the conversations amongst the military personnel. This is the first comic I’ve read drawn by Simon Coleby and I thoroughly enjoyed it. His use of shading and unconventional point of view drive the three-dimensional aspect of the story and alludes to the dark tone of the situation, even in the victories. I also have to give colorist John Kalisz credit for not using bright or bold tones. The coloring is accurate, but doesn’t pop except for gunfire and explosions. It adds to the flashback feel and reminds me of how Kansas is in black and white in The Wizard of Oz. The present in this narrative always has the bold blue of impending twilight in the background, so there is never a question of whether or not we are in real-time.
Now, I will admit I am a frequenter of superhero and sci-fi comic books and normally don’t stray from that genre, but Dreaming Eagles made me glad I did. There are no “wow” moments, splash pages, or twist endings. It is just a real, genuine piece of this man’s life that can be used to impact the life of one of today’s youth. This one breaks the sound barrier of comic standards and I highly recommend it. Rating: Five of five stars
(CA) Francesco Francavilla
(Colors) John Kalisz
(Letters) Rob Steen