Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Flight of Angels

Written by Holly Black, Louise Hawes, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, and Todd Mitchell
Conceived and Illustrated by Rebecca Guay

I think I need to preface any discussion of this book with the honest admission that I know that I am not the target audience for a graphic novel such as this.  I love the fact that comics are appealing to ever more diverse groups of people, and niche audiences.  I enjoy a variety of those genres and sub-categories, but need to be perhaps a little more careful in recognizing when a book is not for me.  The thing is, I've enjoyed Rebecca Guay's art since she took over on the short-lived Black Orchid Vertigo series many years ago.

A Flight of Angels is the right book to give someone (not to pigeonhole too much, but someone female most likely) who misses Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, or Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges's House of Mystery.  This book opens with a variety of faerie creatures gathering in the woods around the still-living body of an angel.  The reason why the angel has fallen, and whether or not that falling represents his having "fallen", the quotations signifying great Biblical meaning, takes up much of the framing story.

One of the faerie, an exiled courtier with a fondness for dalliances with courtesans, suggests that they hold a tribunal, which seems to consist of each fair creature telling a different story about angels, which they do.  How this serves as judgment, and why the youngest of the group acts as he does, is never quite made clear.

The stories are generally well-written.  In putting together this book, Guay has gathered five writers for the different stories.  I'm only familiar with two of them - Bill Willingham, best known for Fables, and Alisa Kwitney, who I remember as having attempted to stretch out the Sandman property after Gaiman left with the Dreaming series (which I never read) and a couple of companion books.  The others are either young adult or fantasy writers.  The stories shift in time and place, from a modern, big-city set story about an angel who fails at all tasks given him to stories set in the Jewish Russian countryside.  Louise Hawes alternate telling of the story of the Garden of Eden is probably the best in the book.

Guay's art is spectacular.  She makes changes to her style in approaching each of the different stories, painting some, while drawing others.  Her work really is the main reason why someone would want to read this book, and in that area, she doesn't disappoint.

I'm underwhelmed by this book though.  Partly, it's because I don't share in or care about the mystical view of angels that I feel has become such an American thing in the last twenty years.  These are (aside from in Willingham's story) the types of angels one would find if Harlequin had an angel series (which, for all I know, they do).  This book borrows a great deal from Gaiman, without reaching his level of planning and insight.  It's not horrible, but it's definitely not for me.

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