cover image Now Let Me Fly: A Portrait of Eugene Bullard

Now Let Me Fly: A Portrait of Eugene Bullard

Ronald Wimberly and Brahm Revel. First Second, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-62672-852-3

The winding life of Eugene Bullard (1895–1961), one of the first Black American fighter pilots, is streamlined by Wimberly (Prince of Cats) into a deservedly ripping folk hero origin tale. Born in Jim Crow–era Georgia, young Bullard stares down terror when a lynch mob invades his home seeking to kill his father. He runs away “to go someplace where people don’t want to kill us” and later stows on a boat headed toward Europe, which drops him off near Aberdeen. Prizefighting takes him to Paris; along the way he meets other Black expats, such as heavyweight Jack Johnson. In France he joins up with a patchwork infantry during WWI. Blazing trench warfare kills fellow soldiers and his own injuries earn a Croix de Guerre. Bullard’s valiant reputation secures him a spot on a flying corps of American mercenaries despite his lack of piloting skills. A quick study, he’s soon dogfighting Germans with a pet monkey riding along. Wimberly’s script navigates haunting scenes of racism and ultimate optimism and triumph. Revel (Guerillas) draws emotive faces and propulsive action, as fluidly rendering a boxing ring as a battlefield. Yellow and white coloring with deep inks reinforce the period landscape while lettered sound effects resonate. It carries off the lift of a pulp adventure, while memorializing Bullard’s warrior spirit. (Jan.)