Thursday, November 08, 2007

Review: Fallen Angel #21

Fallen Angel #21
Originally uploaded by Heidi Meeley
“Mature readers” looking for a quality read: I have the book for you. Fallen Angel by IDW Publishing is the kind of book that can revitalize a person’s love for the medium. Featuring a city that I get lost in and characters that are unforgettable, this is the comic book that captures the imagination.

Originally published by DC Comics, Fallen Angel chronicles the life of Lee, a guardian angel who lost her favored status with God and now resides in the city of Bete Noire, nicknamed “the city that Shapes the World”. Increasingly, the city and its occupants have taken more of a front row in the book, and some of the mystery surrounding the characters is coming to life. As Lee’s son begins to find his place as the new magistrate of the city, his part in the book has become more pronounced. Left in an orphanage, her son had no idea what he was meant to be and became a man of the cloth. His confusion and horror at his new job have textured the book in a whole new light then I believe originally intended.

This is the kind of book that seems to write itself. Writer Peter David has let the book go in directions I would have never expected. Most readers picked up the book in its original incarnation hoping to find that Linda/Matrix/Supergirl (David's previous book) had come to a new title with a new life. What they got is so much more. A city of mystery and deadly secrets with a jaded magistrate, an angry drunk of an angel, a barkeep with great heart, the remorseless drug dealer Asia Minor, and Black Mariah, the female who is still mostly a mystery. Many characters on the peripheral have come and gone, adding a dimension of fear and life on the edge.

In issue #21, the Fallen Angel herself takes a back seat as her son Jude starts to realize his influence. Noting that a terrible dictator by the name of Antar Yyv has emerged and is committing horrible atrocities, Jude turns to those he does not trust for help. His enforcer Slate sends him to Black Mariah who fills him in on Yyv’s secret weaknesses. Asia Minor also enters the fray as his role in the city is made clearer. Together they can indeed “shape” the world.

I have to pause to praise artist J.K. Woodward. Since the book has been at IDW, Woodward has become as integral to its success as David. The art here is so gorgeous that it sometimes gives me pause. With muted shading and excellent pacing, Woodward takes the reader on a visual journey that serves to enhance the story being told. The images can be stark in their horror as well as their beauty. At this point, I can’t imagine the book without this creative team in place.

The story here involves several characters but still manages to feel intimate. That is amazing to me. What a gift this creative team has. The dictator is painted as human and frail, with many flaws. As his life is revealed, the reader can feel the horror and the pity for him. When he meets a young girl and their fates become intertwined, I found myself holding my breath waiting to see what would happen next. The reveal is the ultimate treat here, with a clever twist that put the bow on the package.

I hate to gush, but Fallen Angel is truly a high quality book with consistent excellence. From the lush covers to the gut wrenching appeal of the city of Bete Noire, I always feel like I am included in the story being told. Other then Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, this is the second book I have actually dreamed about. The characters are flawed but compelling. Their story and that of the city intertwine to entertain and affect the reader’s emotion and gut.

Bottom line: If you haven’t read Fallen Angel, you are missing something special. Issue #21 is no exception, and as self contained story, it is a great starting point for new readers. So what are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy!


Lisa said...

I've always enjoyed this series! Peter David is a great writer and I like almost anything he does. This series is one of the best comics people are not reading. I cannot urge people enough to take Heidi's advice and read this. The graphic novels are all readily available as well, so if your LCS does not have them on the shelf, ask them to please order them for you.

Eaglewing said...

Nice review. Sounds like something I should check out. Any book set in a town called Bete Noire has got to be intriguing.

Heidi Meeley said...

Lisa, you said it! Go ask your retailer if they can get a copy of Fallen Angel. You won't be disapointed! Peter David is at the top of his game here, with rich textured story telling that compels and enthralls. I can't recommend it enough.

Heidi Meeley said...

Eaglewing, I think you would enjoy Fallen Angel. It is very cool to say the least. The characters are intriguing, cloaked in a mystery that is starting to unfold a bit. This book is Vertigo-esque with a twist.