Writer: Peter David
Artists: David Lopez(p), Fernando Blanco(i), Nathan Eyring(c)
"Ray? Is that short for Stingray?"
"It's short for Raymond."
That exchange took place between Ray (Nick Mancuso) and Daphne Delgado (Robyn Douglass) in the hit television series Stingray which focused on a mysterious vigilante "who traded in favors." The reference pertains to an early scene in Fallen Angel which recalls the traditional opening of most Stingray episodes. This is not to say that Mr. David is purposely imitating the style of Stingray. These are simply the memories that Fallen Angel stirred, and yes, this recollection is a good thing.
Fallen Angel's spotlight falls on a mysterious entity named Lee who inhabits the corrupt to the core city of Bette Noir. The character is unique in that while she displays some of the traditional super-hero cloaks and clearly intends serving justice, the way in which she accomplishes these goals does not necessarily gibe with the typical super-hero means.
Lee seems not to want to advertise and become a symbol, but she is known to the community of Bette Noir and more substantial than an urban legend. She does not co-operate with law enforcement, but she does not get in its way. She does not go out on patrol, but she intelligently saves lives. Lee is quite the conundrum and creature of contrasts.
More than anything, Lee fits the Trickster archetype, but here again the fit bears some looseness. Tricksters typically never involve themselves with humanity except when wanting to toy with them. Scenes in Fallen Angel suggests that Lee is either part of humankind or wishes to be part of humanity. This sets her below the deific like Phantom Stranger or Madame Xanadu.
The plot to Fallen Angel takes a traditional private eye story and adds some inventive twists. It gives Peter David ample opportunity to setup the chessboard of Bette Noir, show off Lee's talents and generally draw in the reader. The plot deals with adult subject matter but does not include any gratuitous violence or nudity. While not meant for kids, I cannot see any harm in a fifteen year old latching onto the character and becoming engrossed in the story, which is easy to do.
The artwork by Lopez and Blanco is simple and coherent. It seems very much like a Vertigo style that eschews traditional cross hatching and painted musclemen flourishes. The artwork though is not static. Despite there being a nonjudgemental philosophy expressed by Lee that may persuade you to think, the book functions also with action that Mr. Lopez and Blanco supply impressively.
Bette Noir is a dark city where the battleworn gravitate, and like a typical Vertigo book everything has a grimy feel to it. The colors are muted, and Lee's garments and the curls of her hair that fall out from her hood are noticeably more lively. There is beauty to be found in Bette Noir, and when Mr. Lopez, Mr. Blanco and Mr. Eyring reveal it, the scene rivets your attention. David, Lopez, Blanco and Eyring have created uniqueness in the self-replicating genre of the super-hero.
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