SKYWARD Vol. 3: An underwhelming finale
Skyward Vol. 3 is the final volume in the Skyward series by Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett and it wraps up Willa Fowler's quest to fix a world where gravity no longer exists. The story picks up with Willa along with Barrow trying to stop Lucas from destroying her hometown of Chicago with an army of angry farmers riding on giant man-eating butterflies. At the same time, Willa is also following clues that her father left behind hoping to find a way to "fix the world" by restoring gravity.
As I alluded to in the title, I found this volume to be underwhelming. Which is unfortunate since I really enjoyed the first two volumes. I thought that they were original with a great premise and with good world building. Based on this, I felt that volume 3 had a lot of potential to be a satisfying continuation to Willa's story. However, that potential was not realized.
One major issue I have with this volume is that it is the end of the series. Writer Joe Henderson created such a rich world with interesting characters and I feel like it needed more than 15 issues to give a full satisfying story. I feel that volume 3 should just have been a continuation instead of a finale. Because the run is so short, this volume suffers from a rushed pace that sacrifices character development and wastes storytelling opportunities and cuts to the resolution of the story. It felt like a lot of things that should've been explored were ignored. For example, Willa finds an underground city that her father designed and built called Crystal Springs. Later she tries to leave Crystal Springs, and then a new character named Randy blocks the "only" exit to the outside world. I expected a conflict between Willa and Randy, but there was none, Randy was quickly forgiven and later even helped Willa find a different exit. There were no trust issues introduced or any kind of conflict between the characters though there was a legitimate reason for that to be present in the story. Another example would be the "final battle" between Willa and Lucas. In short, there was none. From the end of volume 2 we see the buildup of Lucas and his army making their way to destroy Chicago. However, this buildup doesn't payoff as the final battle is settled rather quickly and Willa's showdown with Lucas only goes for about two panels. This massive threat of an army with giant man-eating bugs didn't turn out to be so threatening after all. The final battle turned out to be very anticlimactic. Now, I do understand this direction for the story if the intent was to be subversive and break away from common comic book tropes such as "the final battle". If this was the case, then it unfortunately didn't connect with me. There was no good payoff from the setups in volume 2 and its rather cliffhanger ending.
Now, of course the book isn't all bad. The art is still just as solid as in previous volumes. I also appreciate the fact that it addresses "fixing the world" in an unexpected but welcome way. Basically, Willa is under the assumption that her father had figured out how to reverse "G-Day" and that she would be able to bring gravity back. What she found instead was Crystal Springs, an underground city. I appreciate the direction this took because it's different and it recognizes how difficult (and downright impossible) it would be to bring back gravity to a planet that has lost it. Which makes this comic a bit more grounded (no pun intended), as it teases that all it takes to fix the world is a big red button. However, this turns out to not be the case as there isn't some magical way to make things like they used to be as we have seen in other comics. Another thing I really liked in the book is that it subverted another comic book trope of the hero needing the antagonist to save the day because the antagonist is a genius. This book not only subverted this trope but at the same time it provided a bonding moment between Willa and her mother. In this part, Willa is reassured by her mother that she doesn't need Barrow to save Chicago because she has made it so far without the help of Barrow. This turns out to be a touching moment that gives Willa the courage and confidence that she can stop Lucas and his army.
Despite its great potential, the conclusion to this volume left a lot to be desired. The world of Skyward is so rich and I feel like it can easily be continued. Volume 3 brought a premature and incomplete end to a compelling series. I am optimistic in the fact that though this has been branded as "the end", the story is left wide open to continue. Thankfully, in the world of comics, the "end" isn't always the end.
finally, if I were to give it a rating it would be 3/5. For reference, this book's rating on Goodreads is 3.78 with 400+ ratings.