[Spoiler-Free Review] Dark Horse Comics’ BARNSTORMERS: A Ballad of Love and Murder TPB

PopCultHQ received a review copy of BARNSTORMERS: A Ballad of Love and Murder TPB from Dark Horse Comics. which releases on January 9th in bookstores & January 10th in comic book shops. This Bonnie and Clyde romp brings together writer Scott Snyder (We Have Demons) and the breathtaking illustrations of Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose)–her longest sequential work to date.

BARNSTORMERS: A Ballad of Love and Murder TPB

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Tula Lotay
Colors by Dee Cunniffe
Letters by Richard Starkings

Cover Art by Tula Lotay

Format: FC, 200 pages; TPB; 6 5/8″ x 10 3/16″
Genre: Action/Adventure
Age range: 12+
SRP: $24.99

Bookstore release date: 1/9/24
Comic shop release date: 1/10/24

Winner 2023 Will Eisner Award – Best Digital Comic.

A high-flying, post WWI-era historical fiction graphic novel that’s an intimate portrait of love and war–and a meditation on the dangerous level of trust required in both romance and aviation.

It’s 1927–the late days of the barnstorming era, when pilots competed with each other by performing deadlier and more wondrous feats. Injured pilot Hawk E. Baron is back from the frontlines of the war. Still a young man, he’s an adventurer who lives his life traveling from town to town in his plane entertaining folks–most of whom have never seen a car, let alone a plane.

His world changes when he meets Tillie, a young woman who shares his passion for aviation and adventure. They become a traveling act, delighting folks with their antics. Tillie even becomes Hawks wing-walker, climbing out on the wing of the plane mid-flight to perform death-defying acrobatics. 

When they learn they are suspected of a horrific crime, their journey becomes an even deadlier race against time. Along the way they bond, confessing their secrets, and begin a romance in this lush, character-driven series that explores the early days of aviation and the evolving relationship and romance between two young pilots.


In a world where many different stories are jockeying to grab attention in today’s market, one rarely gets adventures focusing on flight and taking to the skies behind the yoke of an airplane. If you are a fan of Scott Snyder and his work with the superhero set, then, dear readers, you will get a kick out of Barnstormers. Scott’s writing and the art from Tula Lotay will transport you to a world of yesteryear in a heartbeat. A genuinely standout moment for all will be the superb splash panels, which will transport anyone away to a realm of pure imagination thanks to the script and art.

Writing:

Scott Snyder has made a name for himself in comics over the years. Most famously, of course, for his time tackling the world of Batman for DC, along with other such titles as American Vampire, Swamp Thing, and the Dark Nights: Metal series. But this has to be one of the most fantastic things I’ve read from him that wasn’t all capes, cowls, and world-ending apocalypses. Barnstormers is a fun, exciting, and engaging script, full of rich world-building, interesting characters, and literal high-flying adventure. He makes you connect with the main characters, embrace their flaws and struggles, and root for them. This book was delightful to dive into, thanks partly to Scott’s masterful storytelling.

Art:

I’ll be candid: Until now, I had never heard of Tula Lotay or known about her work as an illustrator. But after having read Barnstormers, I want to look further into her other work. Her linework is clean and smooth, and the high level of detail is rich and absolutely gorgeous. Being a fan of planes and flight, I especially enjoyed the splash panels with Hawk and Tillie as they go soaring through the skies. And as a bit of an action nut, the panels full of explosions, gun fights, and good old-fashioned brawling were fun. Overall, Tula’s artwork was a real treat, and I can’t wait to check out other books she’s done. 

Colors:

Dee Cunniffe nailed it with his work as the colorist for this book. But what do you expect from someone who has worked on such titles as She-Hulk, Joe Fixit, or House of El? When you want a quality colorist, you get someone who can stand and deliver top-notch results. I want to highlight Dee’s palette during the panels when Hawk and Tillie are flying. Everything feels so real, as if, at any moment, the plane will zip off the page into the real world. That takes someone with a lot of talent, and I’m glad that person is Dee Cunniffe. 

Letters:

Richard Starkings has been around for a long time as a letterer and font designer. He’s done tremendous work on his own and as the founder of Comicraft. But this is one time where the lettering wasn’t just up to snuff. The dialogue was punchy, but instead of hearing the characters clearly in my head, there seemed to be only silence. It is disappointing because Richard’s lettering usually helps to take me away from the world when I dive into a book he has worked on. Maybe it was me; perhaps it was because I wasn’t getting that same thrill from Richard’s contribution as I had in the past. Whatever the issue, the lettering fell short of the mark this time.  

Overall Assessment:

In all honesty, this was a fun book to read. It has an excellent script, stunning art, and lavish colors. Even with the lettering leaving me feeling a bit off, it was enjoyable. Scott Snyder fans will appreciate the story and these complex, down-to-earth characters. Combined with the other creative elements, it is a winner. Don’t walk… run, drive, or fly to an LCS and pick up a copy of Barnstormers this week. 

PopCultHQ’s Rating:

PopCultHQ 4.5 Star

4.5 out of 5 stars

About Dark Horse Comics:

Founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics is an excellent example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and transform a company with humble beginnings into an industry giant. Over the years, Dark Horse has published the work of creative legends such as Yoshitaka Amano, Margaret Atwood, Paul Chadwick, Geof Darrow, Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Faith Erin Hicks, Kazuo Koike, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Kentaro Miura, Moebius, Chuck Palahniuk, Wendy Pini, Richard Pini, and Gerard Way. In addition, Dark Horse has a long tradition of establishing exciting new creative talent throughout all of its divisions. The company has also set the industry standard for quality licensed comics, graphic novels, collectibles, and art books, including Stranger Things, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, Minecraft, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Dragon Age, James Cameron’s Avatar, Game of Thrones, Mass Effect, StarCraft, The Witcher, and Halo. Today, Dark Horse Comics is one of the world’s leading entertainment publishers.

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