Fallen Angel

[23 February 2005]

By Michael Arner

If you follow the comic book industry, you already know that sales these days are quite meager compared to the days of old when most books sold well over 50,000 copies. These days, most books would be quite content to have such sales. The dwindling amount of comic book readers seems to be the theory of low current issue sales, but I believe it’s due to the high cost of individual comics and the quick trade paperback turnaround. With many comics costing three dollars a piece, a sturdier trade paperback, running usually ten to fifteen dollars and collecting four to six issues, just makes dollars and sense.

The ever-increasing trade paperback sales numbers seem to agree with this idea. I, like many comic readers, am guilty of adding to this trend of not purchasing single issues and generally waiting for the collections. With the demise of Peter Milligan’s Human Target and the possibly-cancelled Fallen Angel series, both published by DC Comics, I thought I would do my part to help. Sales figures put Fallen Angel at just over 10,000 copies per issue. According to the new DC Comics solicitations, issue #20 will be the last issue.

Fallen Angel takes place in the city of Bete Noire, a French phrase that translates as “Black Beast”. The titular Fallen Angel is a woman named Lee. She is very unlike the usual female protagonist: she drinks, she smokes, and she kills. We are introduced to Lee when she is hired by a mother looking for her son. Or, at least, that’s the way the story appears to begin. What we see in Fallen Angel is usually just a facade, with the truth lurking somewhere under the surface. Other intriguing characters in the story include Asia Minor, a drug dealer who lives in a mausoleum. Dolf, the barkeep, tries to look out for Lee. However, he is clearly more than what he appears to be at first glace, but after reading this collection, his true nature still remains a mystery. Despite these well-crafted characters, David does have the occassional misfire. The Chief Examiner, Slate, is more dislikeable because of his odd breathing affectations than because of his unsavory nature.

The ongoing thread of the book is the case of people gruesomely killed after asking Lee to help them. The killer taunts Lee with “late again” messages written in the blood of the victims. The Fallen Angel wants information from Asia. Asia wants sex in return. Determined woman Lee is, she agrees. But, she tells him that if he can’t get it up, she’ll tell everyone in Bete Noire. Asia informs Lee that some drugs and his hookah may help her investigation. The story in the trade collection comes full circle as we again meet the assassin Valdez, who makes another appearance in his attempts to kill Lee. This brings about some answers, though questions of what it means overall is still undetermined by the end of the collection.

I’ve enjoyed previous Peter David writing and within the first three issues reprinted here, I was hooked on Fallen Angel. I’ve hunted down the individual issues up to issue #18. If they are as powerfully interesting as this collection of the first six issues, I’ve quite a treat waiting for me. DC Comics has no current plans to further hook readers with another compilation of issues. This creates a catch-22 situation where no new issues are created for the audience that has discovered the series through the trade paperback and can’t find back issues because of low print runs. I hope this series can find its audience, despite lack of support from DC, and hopefully it will serve as an example for all comics publishers that just because a comic doesn’t have the breakout popularity of X-Men, that doesn’t mean it deserves the axe.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/fallen-angel/