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Fallen Angel #1

(IDW Publishing; US: Dec 2005)

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Fallen Angel is a rarity in the world of comics—a title that gets a second shot at life, and a well deserved one at that. Fallen Angel was published by DC Comics from 2002 until earlier in 2005. The book did well with the critics and had a loyal fan following, but neither was enough to make it worth DC’s time to continue to publish. So after 20 issues, Fallen Angel ended its life at DC Comics.

The title seemed out of sorts with the other titles published by the DC imprint. The subject matter was more mature than the other titles in the line and the main character didn’t fit the traditional mold of a superhero. The plots were more complex than your normal mainstream fare. Perhaps the title would have had a longer life if it was published under DC’s Vertigo imprint, but as a mainstream DC book, Fallen Angel seemed doomed from the start.

Upon cancellation, the rights to the property reverted to its creators, Peter David and David Lopez. They were free to take it and try their luck with another company. Luckily for them, IDW stepped up to the plate and gave Fallen Angel a new home.

The first IDW issue of Fallen Angel has just hit the shelves, and it does a good job in making the title enjoyable for the longtime fans and also to first time readers.

Peter David is one of the most underrated comic writers working today. He might not be as widely respected as Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman or as “hot” as Brian Michael Bendis or Mark Millar, but he has been delivering consistently good stories for over twenty years. And his experience shows through in this issue.

David tells new readers everything they need to know about the title and its characters within the first 11 pages, telling it in such a way that anyone who already knows the story won’t be bored. Then he begins to set the scene for where the series will be going in the future. The plots introduced tie into the history of the main character and take her in an entirely new direction. The writing hooks the readers and makes them want more.

David Lopez is no longer the artist on the title (although he did provide a variant cover). Instead, the art chores are taken over by J.K. Woodward. Woodward has painstakingly painted the book, and for the most part does an excellent job. His use of light and dark provides an excellent contrast and fits the overall tone of the book admirably. The artwork is clear and concise, not muddy as painted artwork sometimes can be.

The only criticism that can be made is in Woodward’s use of photographs as references. It’s obvious that he uses actress Lucy Liu as a model for one of the minor characters. Using famous people as models is nothing new in painted comic art. Alex Ross based many of the characters in Marvels on famous people: Tony Stark resembles actor Timothy Dalton, Professor X looks like his movie doppelganger Patrick Stewart, and Reed Richards was based on Russell Johnson, the professor from Gilligan’s Island.

However, Ross only based his characters on famous people. Woodward appears to go one step farther. An image on page 13 looks like it was taken directly from a publicity photo of Ms. Liu’s. In the panel, the character is pulling out a cigarette out of the pack with her lips. This action does not look realistic because the character’s lips are tightly pursed. This leads me to believe that the pack of cigarettes in the panel was superimposed as he copied a photo of Liu. Painted artwork is difficult, especially with a monthly comic book. However, copying a preexisting image exactly, if this was what happened here, is the type of short cut that could get a person in trouble. Regardless, the character’s similarity to Lucy Liu takes away from otherwise excellent artwork Woodward created for the book.

Fallen Angel has started its second chance running. The writing and art is strong and the story is interesting enough to garner repeat business. Perhaps in the land of the independents, where the financial bottom line is more lenient when it comes to sales, the title will have the long and successful run it deserves. And judging that IDW has just granted Fallen Angel an extension past the guaranteed 5 issues based on the sales of the first issue, a long run is a good possibility.

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