Thursday, 13 May 2010

‘FreakAngels Vol.1’ – Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield (Avatar Press)

Where does the time go? When I received a copy of ‘FreakAngels Vol.1’ for review I vaguely remembered posting about this book going online as a web comic. A little bit of trawling through the blog and I realised that post was way back in the depths of 2008… As always, I was full of good intentions and made loud noises about how I’d follow this one for a bit. Of course, life got in the way and I totally forgot all about it. This was possibly down to my not getting on well with reading stuff off a screen. The printed page has always been my friend so when ‘FreakAngels’ turned up I took a few seconds to feel faintly embarrassed at my earlier well intentioned intentions… and then got stuck right in. Is anyone else reading the webcomic though (is it even still running…)? If so, what do you think?

23 years ago,
Twelve strange children were born in England at exactly the same moment.

6 years ago,
The world ended.

This is the story of what happened next.

Warren Ellis is clearly playing a long game here. There’s no hint of the furious fast paced action that I came across in ‘Black Gas’, something a little more in depth is hinted at in the way that Ellis lets things slowly unfold. Volume 1 isn’t about letting us know how the world ended or even how the FreakAngels were involved in this. There’s going to be plenty of time for everything to come to light… In the meantime though, Paul Duffield’s excellent artwork (along with Alana Yuen’s colouring) offers some hints. There’s a delicate hint of the surreal in how ‘washed out’ everything looks that suggests we’re not just dealing with any old ‘end of the world event’ here…

What we get instead is a strangely gentle look at life in the aftermath of whatever it was that the apocalypse threw at the world. There are some moments of extreme violence (although again, not so in your face as ‘Black Gas’). Ellis is more interested though in introducing us to the FreakAngels themselves and showing us how they’re coping with their feelings of responsibility both for their own powers and for the shape of the world as it is now. On the whole, their focus is on the community that has grown up around them. If they’re not literally watching over them (Kirk) then they are making sure that various engines keep ticking and that there is always fresh water to drink (Carolyn). This can lead to things initially seeming a little flat as there isn’t much actually happening. Stick with it though…

What we lose out on in terms of action (of which there is plenty at the end of the book) we more than gain in terms of character study and a plot that promises plenty of answers to all the interesting questions that we’re given. I found myself really wanting to get to the bottom of what makes Arkady tick and hoping that Luke finds a little peace (although I’m not hopeful of that). The big question though is whether the mysterious Mark is actually alive or not…

I’m definitely hoping for more volumes to come. This was a book where, once I spent some time with the FreakAngels, I didn’t realise where the time had gone. One of those books where you can lose a couple of hours out of your life and not even notice. ‘FreakAngels Vol. 1’ may be a little bit too much of a slow burner for some people’s tastes (it was a close thing for me) but give it a chance and you’ll find there’s something there for everyone.

Nine and a Half out of Ten


Thufer said...
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Thufer said...

Yes, FA's is still going every (well, most every) Friday. If your not following, your missing some excellent writting and art. The passage of time is interesting and the story itself has only passed a few days (that's a guess, don't quote that; but time passage is an ongoing topic in the FA forum), from the beginning of the story.
EDIT to add: There are currently 3 Vols. in print and Vol. 4 in story just completed and shoul be in print shortly.

drxray said...

Warren has also written a novel, Crooked Little Vein, that I'd highly recommend