Jay is a pilot for Avo, the Aviation Guild who is responsible for all flight in the region. And who is slowly but surely taking more political and military power over more countries. He could care less about all that, though: he just wants to fly, and is good at it. In fact, he frequently turns down promotions even as his friend and fellow aviator, Sable, continues to climb the ladder. That starts to change when Jay meets Fix. Well, when Fix tries to steal from him, that is. As remedial action, Jay takes Fix on and teaches him how to chart a course, draw a map, how to use the radio, and so on. The two become close – more than friends. When Fix is caught smuggling food and refugees to countries outside Avo’s influence, Jay, who famously wants to “fly and stay free”, has a choice to make. Does he keep his head down to continue doing what he loves, or help the person he loves even if it means giving up his livelihood?

The story is told over the course of the titular eighty days mostly through means other than dialogue. Exposition and conversations are often given in forms of logbook entries, letters, telegrams, and so on. Each part of the book is told from the point of view of one of the three main characters. It took a little getting used to, but the interesting experience you get out of it pays off. It feels as though you’re simultaneously reading primary material from and watching a movie of an historical event. Thus, the plot becomes thicker than the cigarette smoke hanging in every other panel – but just as intriguing.

The art underscores this by being presented wholly in black and white. It appeared to be a blend of charcoal, pencil, and ink washes. Scenes of relative stillness or calm were rendered very cleanly, evoking newspaper cartoons or Disney classics from the World Wars. Character designs also drew from military uniforms, aviators, etc. of the time. Unfortunately, the action scenes were not rendered so cleanly and they were very difficult to decipher. Dogfights between planes have to be very hard to draw, so credit where it’s due! It was a tad disappointing for me, however.

YA readers and up who enjoy pseudo-historical fiction with a slow-burn romance will adore this story of love and war.

– Kathleen

Esguerra, A.C. Eighty Days. 2021.