Angela and Sera: A Triumph of Queer Love and Existence

This is the second time I’ve written this piece. The first version of this was a perfectly serviceable summary of Angela, Sera, and their journey together from lovers to Queens over three volumes of series they share and how Marvel Comics utterly dropped the ball with one of the most exciting and bold queer storylines in the company’s history after their cancellation. The fact that I could sum it up in that sentence is why I decided to scrap it and start fresh. Angela, and, especially, Sera are more than just factoids to me, stories to recount and complaints to hurl at their publisher. The love, passion, and sheer level of craft put into Angela and Sera’s tale by Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Stephanie Hans, and more artistic partners is something that hits me in my core in a way few comics have ever managed, and that deserves to be celebrated.

Angela: Queen of Hel #2 - Bennett, Jacinto, Silva, Cowles - Marvel Comics, 2015
Angela: Queen of Hel #2 – Bennett, Jacinto, Silva, Cowles – Marvel Comics, 2015

If you don’t know who Angela and Sera are, well, that’s not that surprising. The pair didn’t hold a comic series (with Marvel Comics at least; Angela’s history is long and complicated and not relevant to this piece) until 2014’s Angela: Asgard’s Assassin. Despite Angela being revealed as Thor’s sister, neither character has held any level of prominence within the Marvel Universe and has largely faded into the background following their final outing in Angela: Queen of Hel. Angela is a warrior of Heven, the secret 10th realm of the cosmos, and roams the galaxy as a peerless huntress who follows a strict code of “nothing for nothing” in all aspects. Sera, her loving wife, and sister-in-arms is a silver-tongued trans sorceress who chooses her own fate every day of her life. The three series they headlined, Asgard’s Assassin, 1602: Witch Hunter Angela, and Queen of Hel run the gamut from comedic to tragic and embrace sapphic love and identity in a way no other Marvel comic has come close to matching.

I’ve seen myself in comics before. It’s part of the joy of superheroes, seeing these larger-than-life figures who go on world-shaking adventures and being able to find tiny pieces of yourself in their stories. It’s one of the reasons Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse resonated with people so well. As a trans woman and lesbian, unfortunately, those moments are a bit few and far between. Dr. Charlene McGowan in Immortal Hulk and Heather After in The Dreaming: Waking Hours are two recent trans narratives that struck a chord with me and I truly appreciate, but nothing has grabbed me by my heart and refused to let go like Angela: Queen of Hel #3.

Angela: Queen of Hel #3 - Bennett, Hans, Cowles - Marvel Comics, 2015
Angela: Queen of Hel #3 – Bennett, Hans, Cowles – Marvel Comics, 2015

The issue follows Angela and Sera on their quest to overthrow Hela’s rule in Hel, the only way to restore Sera to life and let them be together. Meeting the first of three trials, the pair must relive an important memory and offer it as a sacrifice, never to remember it again. Both lose the memory of their first time killing. For Angela, it is an act on the battlefield, against a fellow angel. For Sera, it is a moment of desperation, having been caught exploring beyond the bounds of her duties as an anchorite. Sera, unlike Angela, was born an anchorite, a silent devotee underclass of Angel society reserved for men. While the killing itself is a deeply resonant fear, the panic in Sera’s eyes is something I remember all too well from my years still in the closet and fearing discovery, the moments before are what burned themselves into my brain and refuse to leave.

Angela: Asgard's Assassin #3 - Bennett, Gillen, Hans, Cowles - Marvel Comics, 2014
Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #3 – Bennett, Gillen, Hans, Cowles – Marvel Comics, 2014

Sera’s life as an anchorite was not a happy one. Never lonely, but always alone, her days in prayer, meditation, and song left her wanting and unsatisfied, knowing both it and the identity foisted upon her were not her future. Quiet scenes like Sera painting a beautiful woman in the margins of her transcriptions, or taking the hymns every anchorite knew by heart and changing them to fit her own, are some of the most moving, powerful depictions of trans life I’ve ever seen in a comic. Stephanie Hans’ art is absolutely breathtaking and lends the scene a sense of weight and majesty that any other artist wouldn’t be able to pull off. But it is Marguerite Bennett’s script that hit me like a sledgehammer.

“Anything they give, I will make beautiful.

I will make my own.

No one will contain me.

No one will hurt me.

No one.”

This is my life. This is the life every trans person I’ve spoken to lives every day. A society that does not want us, and refuses to provide. Every moment I live is clawed from an uncaring world with my own hands. Sometimes they’re easy, little fights. Other times, they terrify me to my core and leave me a sobbing heap. But I get up and claw for more, because I am the me that I have made, no one else, and that is beautiful.

Similarly, Angela’s love for Sera, a passionate undying love that transcends realities, time, and death itself, reminds me of why I keep going. Angela doesn’t just love Sera for who she is, she accepts that their love will never be without challenges and hardship and not only accepts this, she does whatever she can to help Sera with those challenges. Never hesitating to pick a fight, no matter the odds, if it meant ensuring Sera can exist as her true self. Never complaining or considering another way. It reminds me of the support and love I’ve received since coming out. My partner has held me as I felt as though I could never be happy in my skin. My friends have listened to me vent over whatever fresh bullshit comes my way. Family members I would never expect to stand by me offer their love and support. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by the best people I could hope to know, and I see them all in Angela.

It is hard to be a queer fan of superhero comics, a lot of the time. LGBTQIA+ creators rarely get the same spotlight and opportunities their cis, straight counterparts do, and queer characters are relegated to supporting roles, quiet erasures, and, if we are lucky, short-lived star turns. The, frankly, piss-poor handling of Sera in the years since Queen of Hel’s cancellation is something I have had plenty of time to be angry about, and I still very much am. But re-reading these series has reminded me why I love these stupid, amazing stories. Angela and Sera’s life-and-death spanning love story ran for a total of 17 issues over 2 years. It’s ultimately a blip compared to your hundreds and thousands of issue-spanning titles like Detective Comics and Amazing Spider-Man, but those 17 issues will stick with me more than any Batman story ever could.

Angela: Queen of Hel #5 - Bennett, Hans, Cowles - Marvel Comics, 2015
Angela: Queen of Hel #5 – Bennett, Hans, Cowles – Marvel Comics, 2015

Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Phil Jiminez, and Lan Medina, and others crafted something truly special with their Angela Trilogy. A story of lesbian love and trans existence that sacrifices not a single ounce of authenticity and weight in its tale despite being a Marvel superhero comic book. It is vital reading in every possible use of the term, both necessary and full of life and fire. One day Marvel Comics will hopefully realize the magic they have in Angela and Sera and give them another turn in the spotlight. Given the current issues plaguing trans and queer woman representation, it may be a while. But until then, we can take a page from Sera herself, take these stories that resonate so powerfully with so many people and make them our own. Make them beautiful.

Zoe Tunnell

Zoe Tunnell

Zoe is a 29-year-old trans woman who has been reading far too many comics for most of her adult life and can't stop now.