Reviews

Short & Sweet: Orphans & Angels

Orphan Black #1Orphan Black variant #1

Graeme Manson, John Fawcett, Jody Houser (W)
Szymon Kudranski (A), Mat Lopes (C)
IDW
February 25, 2015

The first issue of IDW’s comic book adapation of sci-fi series Orphan Black has made its way into my greedy little hands and… it’s bad. It’s a bad comic, guys. The issue tries to recap the first arc of the TV show but without narrative structure or logic. The whole of this first issue is a series of disjointed recollections; moments from the Sarah Manning’s life as she comes back to town to collect her daughter, meets a woman who looks just like her, watches as she kills herself, and then takes over the woman’s life, only to find out that, oh shit, clones are a thing, and Sarah is one. In the TV show, the introduction of Sarah, her family, and the clones, takes about half of the first season. In the comic, it’s compressed into one issue, with nothing else added. No story, no point, no revelations, no nothing.

But who can this appeal to? Written by several of the show’s writers, the comic is billed as a deeper look into the Orphan Black mythos and is meant to tie into the show. The comic, then, is supplementary, not a standalone story. This impressionistic intro issue is unnecessary for existing fans, and likely to be off putting to potential new ones: I can’t imagine their being able to navigate it. The next issue will focus on serial-killing clone Helena, and I welcome that narrow focus. Without the burden of (unnecessarily) re-introducing the show’s material, Hauser, Manson, and Fawcett can focus on telling a story, and Kudranskis’s lovely pencils can be put to good use. As a fan of the show I’m invested in the comic — the clone club wants issue 2 to be better, IDW. Please don’t disappoint.

— Megan Purdy

The Black Hood #1

black hood 1 cover, writer duane swierczynski, artist michael gaydos, archie comics 2015

Duane Swierczynski (W), Michael Gaydos (A)
Dark Circle
February 25, 2015

The Black Hood is the first big release from Archie imprint, Dark Circle Comics. The titular Black Hood is a fairly typical street-level vigilante, operating in Philadelphia, with a twist. I mean, of course there’s a twist. In Black Hood, that old cop-turned-vigilante chestnut is freshened up with a prescription painkiller addiction, a workplace shooting, and an absolute lack of good intentions. The Hood isn’t a good guy, but nor is he an out and out bad guy, and that, more than anything, is what makes this a comic worth watching.

Far more in the tradition of modern crime comics like Criminal and 100 Bullets, and blessed with Michael Gaydos’ moody line and colour work, Black Hood is less a power fantasy of vigilantism than a meditation on things gone and going wrong. Is it a good idea to become a vigilante? The comic makes clear that no, it is not. Do vigilantes have pure intentions? Oh, probably not, Black Hood argues. Our eventual Black Hood–he’s just starting out here — isn’t so much hitting the streets to bring the justice he can’t effect as a cop, but more, he’s getting the high of fighting behind a mask, operating without scrutiny, kicking bad guy butt without censure and feeling good about it.

This is a promising but not thrilling first issue. There’s not much here to wow readers so far–it starts fairly slow and differentiates itself from superhero-vigilante stories at a similarly leisurely pace–but lots to suggest that the series is going places. The art is great, the characters quickly and skillfully fleshed out, and the setting given a real sense of place. It has all the makings of a solid comic, so I’ll be sticking around to see where it goes.

— Megan Purdy

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #4 cover, Angela: Asgard's Assassin #4 cover

Kieron Gillen (W), Phil Jimenez (A), Le Beau Underwood (I), Romulo Fajardo (C)
[Substory: Marguerite Bennett & Kieron Gillen (W), Stephanie Hans (A)]
Marvel
March 4, 2015

Angela has been pursued by the horde of Asgard ever since she stole its heir (an act that finally gets some explanation in this issue). Luckily, she knows a team of scoundrels that don’t mind helping out a criminal friend in need: The Guardians of the Galaxy. If you’re not familiar with Angela, she’s the sister of Thor and Loki who was raised by Angels in Heven, the long kept secret Tenth Realm. While her story is tied to about two years worth of Marvel events, her solo title is incredibly accessible to new readers. Angela isn’t your typical superhero, because Angels are all about agenda. She’s tactical, lightning fast, and often plays the straight man against wackier characters like Star-Lord, but she’s not without emotion.

Each issue thus far has featured a substory with a different creative team that helps build Angela’s mythology and is often narrated by Sera, the Gabrielle to Angela’s Xena and the first transgender character I’ve read in the Marvel U. The main story in this issue is rip roaring: Kieron Gillen is hilariously on point and there’s plenty of action to satisfy every Guardian and Angel. The artwork has teeth-gritting intensity and shiny, highly expressive faces, but in the substory, everything becomes softer and darker. Marguerite Bennett teams up with Gillen to expose Angela’s insecurities and leftover guilt from failing Sera in the past. It’s a tender aside to an otherwise outrageous installment.

I’m pretty excited about Angela. She’s tied to both the mythological and cosmic sides of the Marvel U, making her that much more interesting. Plus she’s rocking some kickass armor that’s a nice break from what I suppose you could call her tactical bikini. There was a lot of hullabaloo surrounding her move from Image Comics to Marvel, so I’d like to imagine they’ve got something very interesting in store for her. There’s plenty of time to catch up on Angela’s journey before the next issue comes out in April!

— Sarah Register