The idea of being home, of having a home – and not just the physical dwelling but the intangibly ephemeral emotional sense of belonging t00 – is so universal that it’s taken as a given that everyone has one.
But not everyone does; for a whole host of reasons, people feel like they don’t in where they are but one of the big ones, and one this reviewer hasn’t experienced himself through years of bullying at school and a sense that he was just a tad too queer for the mainstream, is not ever feeling like you’re part of the gang, the group, the people who make the world go round for better or ill.
Many times it’s an innocuous sense of nothing much with the majority happy to just ignore that there’s a queer minority in their midst but sometimes its oppressive and uncompromisingly, almost fascistically cruel, something which is very much the case in Wynd Book One – Flight Of The Prince by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas, whose writing and art respectively brings alive how nasty the world can be in its attempts to squeeze you into its brutally constructed mold.
But, and this is what makes it equally compelling, if not more so, it also advances the idea, in ways warmhearted, funny and chaotically pell-mell, that even in the worst of times, you can find your people, your place (even when it’s unsettlingly mobile i.e. you’re on the run) and have that elusive home you’ve always longed for.
It’s not always easier to get, however, and much of the time, if not almost all the time, the titular protagonist Wynd is struggling to either find home or hang onto it, or both.
He is a magical being with telltale pointed ears who lives in the last pure human bastion of Pipetown, what can only be described as a visually bucolical medieval town with a people-supremacist heart, a place that lives and breathes the idea that the only good person is one untouched by magic.
Those who have been “corrupted” by magic are pejoratively known as Weirdbloods, and hunted down by the ruling elite, led by the King, who enforces the Blood Laws with a ruthless bigotry that aided and abetted by the creepy The Bandaged Man, a mysterious figure who makes the Spanish Inquisition looks like a teddy bears’ picnic.
Pipetown, also known as the last Empire of Man, is not the place to live if you are different and Wynd is demonstrably, wholly different – not that anyone sees that besides his adoptive innkeeper mother Molly and sister Oakley who, naturally, unconditionally love him for who he is – but he somehow makes a way, in love with the king’s hunky gardener’s son from afar, to make where he lives feel like home.
It isn’t really home, of course, not outside the cocoon of Molly and Oakley anyway, and when events conspire to force him, Oakley, the gardener’s son Thorn and the king’s rebellious son Yorik, who is morally opposed to the Blood Laws on the run, Wynd discovers that maybe home is where you are so much as who you are with.
It’s a revelation for a young super-magical man who has never felt comfortable in his own skin or city of abode – he has recurrent nightmares that he transforms into a monster that no one loves, least of all Oakley – and while his ride to self-acceptance, even giddy delight in owning who he authentically is, isn’t easy, a considerable part of the charm of Wynd Book One – Flight Of The Prince is watching Wynd come into his powerful own.
And powerful he is, his magic finally allowed to be free and instrumental, as it turns out, is saving the people who very quickly become the kind of found family, and in Thorn’s case, love interest, of which legends are made.
Wynd Book One – Flight Of The Prince is not subtle in its messaging that there are people who are different in society and that they should be valued rather than persecuted and that if you are among the Other that you need to own and celebrate it, but so beautifully written and evocatively, vividly drawn is it, that it never feels even the slightest heavy-handed.
In fact, it feels like the sort of heartwarming reassurance all of us who have ever felt we don’t have a home in the mainstream need, not just once but regularly.
It’s easy to feel beaten down and cowed and afraid, but Wynd Book One – Flight Of The Prince encourages you, with an adventure that is tension-filled and scary but also liberatingly inspiring, to go for broke, to celebrate your real self and to fight those who would stand against you.
Again, it doesn’t for a second pretend it’ll be easy, and there are some very dark moments in the graphic novel which underscore that to a heartrending degree, but, and this is a very important but, Wynd Book One – Flight Of The Prince is also clear that even the vilest threats and the most brokenly cruel of systems can be resisted.
It’s not instantaneous, and with Wynd Book Two: The Secret of the Wings out there waiting to be read with further evil-fighting adventures to be had that is abundantly clear, but simply by saying so and refusing to let the brutalist regime have its way, ou are taking a significant step to liberating yourself and others from oppression and finding a home, within yourself and with others.
Alive with world-buildingly rich art that pops off the page, both with colour and superb characterisation, and writing that is thrillingly epic and empathetically intimate all at once, Wynd Book One – Flight Of The Prince is a superb fantasy tale that does what the genre does best, giving you thrills and spills but with enormous heart and a humanistic sensibility that acknowledges the world can be truly awful but that you can find your home in it anyway.