G’Day folks! Pleasure to see you all again, hope the beginning of this week has not been too hard on you? In the unfortunate event that it has, have no fear – it is wednesday and it’s all downhill to the weekend from here.
So site back. Relax. And enjoy the extra awesomeness of what I have for you today.
Im assuming at the start that you all know who Warren Ellis is, he is the snarky, brilliant, painful, mind-bending and one of the most loved writers in comic-dom – known for his techno wizardry and transhuman, extropic, steam-punk and well… generally unconventional narrative styling and concepts.
Still not certain? Well lets see, his more famous works include (but are not limited to):
More recently and mainstream he revamped Marvel’s Thunderbolts into the incarnation we’ve known and loved since Civil War, wrote a solid run on Astonishing X-Men after Whedon left the title, revamped Tony Stark with the legendary Extremis arc which gave us the Iron Man we know and love/hate today, he was the brains behind destroying Stormwatch over at Wildstorm and creating The Authority and DV8, the totally bad-ass b*tch-slap to trekkie space adventures Switchblade Honey over at AiT/Planet Lar and even a couple of runs on Hellblazer at DC/Vertigo. Not to mention the vast majority of titles over at Avatar Press.
And believe you me folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the number of awesome titles this insane genius has put out over the years. Hell he even wrote G.I.Joe Resolute having never known of the franchise before being asked and the final movie (highly recommend it to all fans!!) was in fact so wicked I wished that had been the story for the live-action rather then that sad-sack ‘Rise of Cobra’ movie.
One of my personal favourites of all time and an inspiration, he has been producing something for a while now that is yet again a redefining move in comics and THAT is what I am here to bring to you.
We are all familiar with webcomics – we see them all the time, some posted daily, some weekly, and on and on. Most are humorous except perhaps a small few and quite a few even have continuing stories, albeit often simplistic and incidental to the main humour, pop-culture, etc. directed focus of the comic strips.
Well for quite some time now Warren Ellis and artist extraordinaire Paul Duffield (who I discovered through this project) have been quietly putting out a regular series on the internet since early 2008 over at Freak Angels – which incidentally is the title of the comic itself: Freak Angels. What is it? Well I would start by simply quoting what Ellis himself stated atthe 2007 SDCC, “I’ve written two hundred pages and I still have no idea what it’s about… it’s retro-punk, it’s near future steampunk”. Sound bizarre and vague? Well yeah, thats Ellis for you.
But if you’re at all familiar with his work you will have an inkling of what to expect and a healthy open-mindedness to be aware that chances are its like nothing before it really. And it isn’t.
Not a terribly complex story filled with Machiavellian intrigues or crazy action or even angry rhetoric and idealism like some of his better known works – Freak Angels is a slowly developed masterpiece in this reviewers opinion. Set in a post-flood London, the tale follows a group of young-adults possessed of telepathy and other extraordinary abilities who are called the Freak Angels and may or may-not have been the cause of the big disaster that struck the world years earlier. The poster tag-line reads: “23 years ago, 12 strange children were born in England at exactly the same momenr. 6 years ago, the world ended. This is the story of what happened next.”
The Angels reside in the Whitechapel area and they are akin to benevolent caretakers of a peaceful community of a few hundred human who are surviving and thriving quite well in this new world – largely thanks to these young and mysterious protectors. Oh and don’t worry, there is action to be found from quite early on because lets be honest – whats a post-apocalyptic world without bandit groups and raiders to fend of, am I right?
Released in weekly installments of 6-full-colour pages and eventually collected into hardcover volumes (for fans like myself) that are published periodically through Avatar Press, the series has grown and evolved in ways few comics ever have in my opinion.
The biggest strength of this series that makes it all the more an amazing read is the fact that it is not primarily done to generate profit as it – sure they bundle it in volumes and sell it but you dont HAVE to buy it to read it and that comes out only once in a while, there have been 5 volumes spread out over the last 3 and a half years. Want to read it down to the latest page with no restrictions on quality or censorship or anything at all? Just go to the site and jump in anywhere at any given time.
The result of all this is that there is no pressure to write the story as arcs or issues or one-shots or any standard format except 6 pages at a time and even that is not broken up as “chapters” or any-such, the story is told literally in volumes so from the start to finish of any of them it is just one continuous narrative developed at a pace unlike any other comic simply because of the freedom and flexibility of telling a story this way.
And the best part is that it gives Duffield and Ellis both enough legroom to develop a rich an textured world and atmosphere that literally fills the pages and draws you into this easy-moving but always intense series with its well built and intriguing characters that will surprise you constantly – just when you think you’ve figured out the obvious and found the cliché or sterotype or what have you, they pull the rug out from under your assumptions and make your eyes go saucer, manga style!
If you were even somewhat intrigued by this review – I would strongly urge you to check this series out and show your support for this remarkable endeavour. I promise you won’t regret it. And besides, its free so it costs nothing to give it a shot no?
Cheers until next week lads and ladies…