Fallen Angels #2
Frank D’Armata (colors), Bryan Hill (writer), Szymon Kudranski (artist), Tom Muller (designer), VC’s Joe Sabino (letters), Ashley Witter (cover)
November 27, 2019
So I’m very hit or miss with Bryan Hill’s books. Fallen Angels #2 firmly falls in the latter column. Most of Dawn of X has been so fantastic, that the couple of books that aren’t up to the standard of the line really stand out, and not in a good way. The first issue of Fallen Angels was by far my least favorite of the opening salvo, so color me disappointed that the second issue somehow got worse.
One of the biggest problems I have with Fallen Angels is Hill ignoring literal years of character growth when it comes to Laura Kinney. Tom Taylor did such a tremendous job of developing her into her own person, removed from Logan. Through two issues, it almost seems like Hill didn’t read a single issue of All-New Wolverine. Gone is the confident woman that made the name Wolverine her own, and in her place is the Laura that existed before that series, driven by rage. It’s a pointless regression of character development, inserted just for Hill to tell the story he wants to tell. The thing is, there are plenty of X-Men characters that ware still driven by their rage, that could have easily been used instead of Laura. Maybe that will change in future issues, as Hill has admitted to bad characterization of Laura in the first issue, but there’s no indication of that yet.
On top of the poor characterization, the story itself is just not very strong. The whole thing reads like an angsty teenager’s creative writing homework. It’s also been relying on a shocking amount of child death, and if it keeps up at this rate, it might as well be Revenge of the Sith. There are similar problems in Hill’s Batman & The Outsiders run, so I’m not surprised at the amount of angst that is seeping out of his script.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also talk about the problems with the art in this book, and they are numerous. Kudranski’s interior art in particular is grating to me. He uses a lot of extreme closeups that are unnerving and a bit grotesque. Panels that aren’t zoomed in on eyeballs or teeth are very dark and hard to read. It’s also worth noting that it is very hard to distinguish between Kudranski’s faces, especially Laura and Kwannon. There are conversations between them where they look exactly the same, with nothing but slight differences in the coloring.
Which brings me to the coloring itself. A running problem in the current X-books is the coloring of people of color. Wendy has talked about this problem in the otherwise phenomenal Marauders, but it is an issue that permeates this book as well. Starting with the cover of this issue, Kwannon appears to be very, very white. Alongside cover artist Ashley Witter, interior colorist Frank D’Armata also seems to have problems distinguishing skin tones between Kwannon and the Caucasian Cable and Laura. Kind of a big problem when a primary focal point of the story you’re trying to tell is one of reclaimed identity. Specifically, the reclaimed body of Kwannon after Betsy finally went back to her own body. If your focus is on an Asian woman working out the harsh reality of a life lived in her body without her present, you might want to take care in making sure the audience can tell she’s Asian.
And that takes us right back to Bryan Hill’s writing. Other faults with the script and characters aside, one has to wonder if Hill is the right author to tell this story. Hill is trying to tell a story with statuses that don’t intersect with his own very neatly. I feel that either Marjorie Liu or Mariko Tamaki would have been better fits on telling the nuances of Kwannon’s story, as both of them can pull from lived experiences better. Certainly, both of them would also be better fits for continuing Laura’s story as well, as they both contributed to her development thus far. That’s not to say that a writer can’t tackle characters that don’t look like them, as there are many examples that say otherwise, but it’s clear in this book that, at least in this case, Hill isn’t the most comfortable with these characters.
I want to like all the Dawn of X books, because House of X and Powers of X were so compelling, and set such a brilliant status quo for us. I’ve always been at the cusp of X-Men fandom, I have my favorite mutants, I’ve read a few runs, I follow the Jay & Miles podcast weekly. But I’ve never been sucked into the whole line like some of my friends have. I thought that might change with this new era, but Fallen Angels #2 didn’t improve upon the lackluster debut issue. Unless the title starts rising in quality, its not going to be one that I follow for much longer.