To Serve In Heaven

For the past month or so I’ve been reading through Trade Paperback Novels for “Fallen Angel” written by Peter David. It’s a dark, gritty and noir-ish tale about a fallen angel who takes up residence in a city called Bette Noire – which is one of three cities or so that the world is apparently modeled after. The idea is that, whatever happens in the city – decides the fate of the rest of the world.

Liandra has retained all of her angelic powers, and most likely some of her angelic rationalizing, but is decidedly human in many of her relationships, and her alcoholism.

She is a morally ambiguous character, so right away – it’s hard to determine which and whose side she will be on in any given situation. That’s a key element of any exciting anti-hero.

The first TPB that I read caught my attention right away, and I could barely put it down once I started reading it. The artwork was engaging and the coloring gorgeous – the main character Lee is visually arresting and almost fully covered in a cape – with only her arms and feet (she goes everywhere barefoot) visible most of the time. She looks tough, and talks even tougher. It’s impossible not to be intrigued.

Back when it was first published in 2003 by DC, it was quite a departure for them. And quite a departure for Peter David. I’m excited to see that so much of his talent and ideas have leeched over into his latest run on X-Factor, dark and noir with a hint of moral ambiguity.

“Fallen Angel” of course – is much darker than “X-Factor” could ever hope to be, and the heroism is a little harder to define.

For all the accolades I’ve heaped on the book – there are some issues I need to bring up. The first of that being the artistry.

Because DC dropped the book in 2005 – and it was picked up again by IDW in December 2005 – the artistic work of the book changed hands. And, I’ve unfortunately not been able to read the books in order either – so I got to watch the art switch back and forth between the fine penciling of David Lopez and Fernando Blanco, who had created a beautiful and harsh world in the original 6 issues of the series to the work of J.K. Woodward. Not that Woodward is bad – indeed, his paintings are even more gorgeous than the consistent work of Lopez.

My beef? The consistency. The art of JK Woodward bounces between painting, hand coloring, and the digital coloring that is most prominent in recent comics. Sometimes – in the same book, or on the same panel.

The latest collection – “Heroine Addiction” was probably the most attractive and most consistent throughout the story-line involving Shi and Liandra. Though the art style shifted between pages – I thought it flexed very well to match the story line. In the more dreamier sequences, the color was muted.

Unfortunately – later on in the book, during “Chapter 4” it took on a rough, sketchy and pixal-ated quality.

I don’t know how I feel about Woodward. I can’t get a handle on how he views the characters, because the style shifts, sometimes in conjunction with the story – other times with what appears to be a mere whim.

To me – consistency in art of the character is just as important as consistency in writing of the character. This is something I’ve taken umbridge with in the other regular books I collect too. It may sound stodgy, and like a strange complaint for someone who loves on-going series comics, but having a regular style of art sets the mood for the reader. The art and the story are integral.

I was going to complain about how jumpy the stories were, but I realize now that’s my own fault for reading out of sequence. Although for the sake of the entire series, it would be beneficial for DC and IDW to better label their books. I couldn’t tell them apart without doing some research on the net.

I will definitely be following the book in the future. The heroine, minor characters and the city itself are compelling…enough for me to overlook the erratic art.

Much Love, Mindy C

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

2 responses to “To Serve In Heaven”

  1. Michael says :

    Wow! Great entry! I, too, fell for Dark Angel after reading the first TPB. However, the love didn’t prove strong enough for me to continue reading the series beyond that arc. I thought that it wouldn’t be as good. After reading this, I’m realizing that maybe I need to go back and give more of their stuff another try.

  2. J.K. Woodward says :

    Hey Mindy,
    I’m sorry to hear the inconsistency of the art through you off, but I feel I should mention that there were 4 issues that had different artists in the TPB you mentioned. I only did 20 or so pages ion that book. So the art you’re seeing looks so different because it was done by different artists.If you look at the latest TPB “Red Horse Riding”, I think you’ll see a more consistent style.

    It is true that I changed styles from the first TPB to the most current, butthere are only the 2 styles I use; fully painted watercolours and the most current pencil/ink/colours.

    I hope that clears things up. There has been a lot confusion about this. Particularly with “Heroin Addiction”, but I think there has been a good run with consistent art since then.

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