by Kieron Gillen (Writer), Dietrich Smith (Artist), Ruth Redmond (Colorist)
The Story: Meet Dark Angel, a woman with rather great powers, yet with also a great responsibility to Mephisto of all people.
The Review: Reinvention and reintegration of older concepts are probably rather tough to do right. There are always older fans to please as well as potential newer ones, with a story that needs to be nostalgic yet also moves forward. It needs to introduce its key concepts without hammering them down to the readers. It’s all a matter of balance in order to interest everyone that might open this book up.
It’s why it’s always nice to see such talented people like Kieron Gillen bringing their wits with them in such endeavours. The British writer brings a lot of his charm here, yet also knows how to adapt his general style to one that is perhaps more suited to the tale at hands, with a very British sensibility brought to the action and humor.
One good aspect is the general way Gillen is able to put readers up to speed rather quickly on the powers, personality and quirks of the character in order to tell the story, presenting the concepts behind Dark Angel with a certain panache. Doing so in a prompt manner, Gillen is able to focus instead on the tale and how it connects to the general story behind Revolutionary War. He does not do so perfectly, giving only the opening and conclusion of his story a connection to the grander tale, yet the tale focusing on her plight and problem is interesting enough to provide plenty of entertainment.
What also makes this work, in a way, is how Gillen give every character a distinct voice through their action, quips and jokes. Dark Angel and her friend are rather charming in their own way, presenting different versions of magic, with an exaggerated and a subdued one being at the center of all things. Perhaps the most interesting one, though, is Mephisto, a character Gillen did wonders with in his Thor and Journey Into Mystery runs. His general mannerism, his attention to details and his manipulative ways are always entertaining, especially when handled by this specific writer.
Where it does go a bit wrong is in how even things are shown to the readers, with things being set up a bit too quickly and the general sensation of British comics being a bit too far. While it does seem to be the point, the general lack of big excitation or the severe lack of fuss over certain details seems to be a bit of a setback rather than a strength. The manner in which some characters seems no to take things rather dramatically in the story does add a certain touch to the script, yet it also deters to it in some minor ways.
Still, it’s a relatively minor annoyance compared to some of the better aspects of the book, like the art of Dietrich Smith. Smith, a rather good artist, is able to properly convey the sense of mysticism and the normalcy through the panels, and constant switch of background and scenery in quick successions. There is a certain sober approach to characters and some of the elements, making them appear flat in a larger environment, giving a restricted feeling that is subtle yet adds a lot of depth to the visual department. The panel layout, for the most part, is good, although not that exceptional in most cases. It is highly competent and makes the story flows well, yet does not do anything to cause a revolution in terms of storytelling. The characters, though, are a bit flat in terms of expressions, with Dark Angel gritting her teeth in most of the same ways through the issue and other characters being a bit unexpressive, which does not add a lot of diversity for the emotions on display. There are a few problems, yet Dietrich Smith is highly competent nonetheless.
The colors of Ruth Redmond, though, are close to flawless. Playing with empty space, invading grimness and some very simple contrasting techniques, Redmond does not miss a beat as the fairly simple, yet effective colorization manage to put the focus on the right elements most of the time. There is a certain straightforwardness to the approach with colors in this comic, yet it is never to the detriment of the characters, themes and the storytelling in general, which is a huge bonus to this book.
The Conclusion: Presenting a straightforward tale with quite a lot of British personality put into it, this issue provides for a good continuation of the story and present some good ideas on the table. It may be too subdued in some aspects, yet not so much in the aspects that count for the most. A nice read overall.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière