Writer: Peter David
Artist: J.K. Woodward
Ariel Carmona Jr.
Plot: Lee is a physical education teacher by day and the Fallen Angel by night, when the seedy elements of the city call out for a protector. On his son’s 18th birthday, the magistrate will retire and hand over the city of Bete Noire to him. Meanwhile at Furor’s, Xia’s visit with the Fallen Angel is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a mysterious figure from Lee’s past. Dr. Juris is shocked when the ritual he is conducting goes awry, and he discovers one of the Fallen Angel’s secrets.
Commentary: It feels really good to be back in Bete Noire, a place I enjoyed visiting for about 14 months, (I missed the last five issues of the original run) and soon after it was surprisingly taken away from me. The original book was a dark gem, a mix of dark noire and super hero action all rolled up into a deliciously violent and adult oriented package. Even though this IDW series is set twenty years after the DC version, most of the characters I enjoyed are back including Slate, the magistrate, Dolf the bartender at “Furors” where the Fallen Angel conducts business or kicks back with a frosty one, depending on the demands of the story, and of course, our mysterious titular anti heroine. (Though the lascivious Asia Minor has yet to make an appearance.)
I started collecting this comic because I heard a rumor that Lee might be Linda Danvers in disguise, David’s version of Supergirl before DC re-introduced Kara Zor-El. Though that story idea didn’t pan out, I am glad that I kept reading the book.
This introductory tale quickly brings new readers up to speed: Lee teaches by day, and the city comes alive at night. This was one of the most appealing aspects of the old book, the setting, which in the capable hands of Peter David became like an additional character, rivaling even Batman’s crime ridden haunts.
However, new elements are also introduced: David goes out of his way to craft a new origin for the scarlet clad enigmatic Lee, even as far as divulging her old moniker: It seems she used to go by the name of Liandra and her origin now appears to involve new characters named Malachi and Holly which could have supernatural and divine powers.
Speaking of powers, I seem to recall Lee possessing a few besides her physical attributes, but now she seems able to project laser like green rays from her eyes a la Superman’s heat vision.
Dr. Juris, who had previously been involved with Lee, now has a new wife: Xia, and a son, Jubal. The fact the magistrate and Lee have a history makes for an interesting subplot, as he appears ready for a changing of the guard. The most difficult element to get used to in this revamped Fallen Angel is the painted artwork by Woodward. Though every panel is rendered in vibrantly painted colors, I’m not sure the tone of the narrative is better suited by this new artistic treatment than by David Lopez’ pencils over at DC which endowed each character with vivid facial expressions on a monthly basis. Woodward seems to be using photos to base his characters on, and Xia’s resemblance to actress Lucy Liu, almost becomes an unavoidable artistic distraction.
Final Thoughts: You don’t have to read the old stories to enjoy this comic, as David and company have recapped the familiar elements while throwing in some new wrinkles. If David manages to give Lee a compelling enough back story to go along with Bete Noire’s appealing characters, we’re going to want to keep coming back for more.
There is something larger coming. That feeling from the first episode of LOST or the first installment of Sin City (back when it was divvied up in single scene chunks in Dark Horse Presents) struck me as I read Fallen Angel: Volume 2, Issue #1 – there are clues, but the final picture seems like it’s going to be much larger then they’re hinting at in these 22 pages.
Fallen Angels, Volume II from IDW, Peter David, and J.K. Woodward is the reincarnation of Peter David and David Lopez’s DC< version of the same character. [Read some more about that on SilverBulletComicBooks (Click Here).] After failing to connect with DC Comics in the long haul, a lot of lawyers, Peter David and IDW have worked very hard to offer the ever elusive second chance.
Peter David, J.K. Woodward, and IDW are making the most of it!
So, Lee awakes from a dream to attend her life as an aging Physical Education teacher in Bete Noire, a fictitious city. After work, she returns to her hovel and dawns her red robes before making it to Furors, a bar… where her powers seem to make her younger. There she runs into two people – one is the wife of the Magistrate of Bete Noire who does not seem happy with being married to the king, and the second is a seemingly evil man from Lee’s dreams. What follows is a fight and a big mystery that all made me a Fallen Angel convert!
Let’s take this from the new reader perspective and forego every bit of knowledge that did not originate in the 22 pages of Fallen Angel #1 from IDW.
Fallen Angel is the story of Lee (Liandra), an apparent angel who fell from grace at least 20 years ago (likely more)… Just from this issue you do not know if she is an actual angel or not, but it’s an interesting start. She resides in Bete Noire, a sizable city with a décor similar to the French Quarter of New Orleans… yet, the city does not exist to anyone who does not live there. Lee is some sort of (as the bar scene implies) righter of wrongs a la A-Team or WB’s Supernatural in the sense that at night, you come to “her” table at Furors and ask for help and she’ll do what she can (again, this feels larger than 22 pages could contain… it feels like there is more to it than the TV cliché. It feels like there is a history here).
Ultimately, this issue introduces a fully-realized world for people that have lost their way and offers a compelling story of a woman who may be, with this issue, finding her way again.
Lots will be made of Peter David’s writing (as should be), but lets take a minute to look at why this is a comic and not a novel – the art. IDW’s philosophy, as quoted to me, is to provide story-driven European comics (where many European books feel more art driven, IDW is trying to make them more digestible to English-speaker sensibilities). Thus, they (along with Peter David) picked J.K. Woodward, who offers us a painted , occasionally photo realistic, distinctive style that is breathtaking! I think this is one of the best art books out there. The characters have an individuality that few comics achieve. The action does get stiff at times, but that is balanced with insanely nice backgrounds, lighting and, again, characters. For J.K. Woodward, who cut his teeth on several Digital Webbing Presents and HOPE #1 drawing Crazy Mary, this is an opportunity and he brought his A-game to the plate!
So, we have a new series that works. Beautiful art. A story that is not dumbed down for anyone. That makes for a great read!
For more information on Fallen Angel, go to IDWPublishing.com.
For more information on Egg, click www.KamenComic.com.
I have, somewhere, the first eight or so issues of the first Fallen Angel series. I thought that Peter David wrote a very interesting cast of characters, and crafted a fascinating setting in the dark and deranged city of Bete Noire. The reason I stopped getting the book was because, while the setting and characters were interesting, the many plots and mysteries David set up seemed to go nowhere. I can’t possibly know whether that was what drove the title’s readers away, but I’d hazard a guess that it was the main culprit.
This time around, David seems to be taking a generally more accessible approach; although the city still has its mysteries, the writer seems more open to letting the readers peek behind the curtain just for a bit, and that concession makes for a much more enjoyable read. I enjoyed the eerie strangeness of the setting just as much as I did before, and it was good to see these characters in action again, but that slightly oppressive feeling of being lost and confused is blissfully absent; this is still a relatively weird comic, but at least there’s a good old fashioned plot in there somewhere to latch on to for narrative safety.
Sadly, the improvements don’t reach as far as the art. Woodward is rather too reliant on photo reference, which leads to some stiff and stilted images as well as a couple of moments when immersion in the story is completely shattered by the appearance of well-known celebrities as characters in the story. While Nick Fury’s resemblance to Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t harm the tone of The Ultimates, seeing Lucy Liu pop up in Bete Noire seems to violate the setting somehow; it’s almost as if the creators have worked hard to develop the dreamlike strangeness of this world, only to have these glimpses of a more solid reality invade and disturb it.
(I’m not sure why it’s a problem in comics when seeing Jackson or Liu playing characters on film or television doesn’t. Perhaps it’s because when they appear in a comic, they’re not actively involved in the creation of the book and are being “used”; whatever the reason, it’s a philosophical/psychological discussion for another time.)
What makes this worse is that Woodward is clearly a fine artist and doesn’t actually need to make use of these artistic crutches; his painting has an attractive depth and texture to it, and he’s a good storyteller. Similarly, when not forcing celebrity promo photos into the comic, Woodward’s characters look great, and I’m just baffled as to why that particular creative decision was made, as the comic doesn’t look any better for it.
I’m generally more confident about this version of Fallen Angel than the last. Peter David seems to have looked at the reasons why the previous series did not work as well as hoped and learned from them, and the comic has a more balanced and enjoyable feel as a result. With any luck, the title will be a success this time around.
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