My reaction to reading the first collection of "Air" was rather akin to Homer Simpson's response to "Twin Peaks": 'Brilliant...I have no idea what is going on.' The beginning of G. Willow Wilson's new Vertigo series (which, as this trade paperback notes, was nominated for the Best New Series Eisner Award) was fascinating but rather confusing, dropping you (much like the main character) into a strange sci-fi/fantasy setting with a number of seemingly competing plots going on. "Flying Machines", the second trade paperback, picks up where that series left off, and is a considerable improvement in terms of understanding, as the nature of the world starts to attain a certain amount of coherence. Some spoilers follow.
"Air" is the story of Blythe, a flight attendant who finds herself in the middle of a strange conspiracy involving Aztec mysticism, global capitalism, and the future of airplane propulsion. "Flying Machines" picks up where "Letters from Lost Countries" left off, with Blythe getting acquainted with the apparently-alive Amelia Earhart. Yes, it's a strange book. Earhart and her colleague supply some much-needed exposition about the nature of what has been transpiring in the preceding storyline, and give the plot a bit more direction, though the array of players involved apart from them can still be a bit on the vague side. The other ongoing thread here is the character of Zayn, Blythe's sometime-love interest whose life, previously mysterious, gets further development here, in a few unexpected ways. Wilson delivers a well-written Arab character, and handles his contact with western culture well. The collection concludes with a standalone one-shot set in Aztec Mexico circa AD 1000 (yes, it's a strange book) that provides some foreshadowing of future stories.
I can honestly say that I've not read anything that is really like "Air", which takes some doing these days. Individual elements bring other things to mind, such as the discussion of Blythe's power being derived from the interpretation of the primal symbols; these sorts of discussions about words and imagining calls that Vertigo staple, "The Sandman", to mind. The historical conspiracy elements recall everything from "Lost" to "The Da Vinci Code" (though much better than the latter). All of this is well-illustrated by artist M. K. Perker.
The aggressively odd tone will probably strike some people as offputting, but it's worth a look if you like Vertigo titles that stray from the norm.