Angelic #1 is a kind of wonderful piece of weirdness. The first issue of the new science-fiction series from Image Comics, created by Simon Spurrier (“X-Men: Legacy,” “Cry Havoc,” Titan’s “Doctor Who” comics) and artist Caspar Wijngaard (“LIMBO”) is definitely one of the most unique concepts you’ll see. Its boldness and original vision makes it the most enjoyable post-apocalyptic cybernetic sci-fi fairy tale/animal fable/religious allegory/feminist adventure you or your kids will read this year.
Angelic #1 is set in a world where humanity is long gone, nature having taken over the cities and technology. All that’s left is a collection of genetically modified and technologically enhanced animals who have built they own societies, traditions, religions and cultures. We focus in particular on a society of intelligent winged monkeys, in particular a defiant young female monkey named Qora. Qora is a monkey who chafes against the rigid structures of her society, which forbids females from forging their own destinies, ruled by religious devotion and forced into set gender roles, which include having their wings removed and being married off once they reach a certain age. But Qora consistently questions the traditions and restrictions of her society’s faith, which leads her into numerous dangers and discoveries, whether it’s the capricious flying dolphins that hunt the monkeys for sport or viscous cybernetic alleycats who embody the temperamental attitudes that any cat owner knows well. Qora’s questioning eventually leads her to a fateful meeting that may completely change her understanding of, and role in, her world.
Spurrier and Wijngaard have created a candy-colored visually brilliant world, one that feels as fully realized and unique as it is strange and unconventional. It’s a great marriage of art and script, frankly, with Wijngaard’s cartoonish approach merging perfectly with Spurrier’s use of the fable archetypes to convey some pretty sophisticated themes about gender, control and the dangers presented by religious dogma. Of course, what makes Angelic #1 work beyond its weightier content or its artistic sophistication is the fact that the story, and the world in which it is set, is crazy and boldly imaginative fun.
Qora is a captivating figure from the start, Spurrier’s skill at making her relatable and empathetic immediately eradicating any feeling of silliness at the fact that you’re reading about a literal flying monkey. There’s just enough weirdness and absurdity layered throughout everything in the issue, both in the art and the writing, to make you forget that Spurrier has structured the book not at all unlike the first ten minutes of a Disney movie. And I don’t mean any of that as a slight. There’s a reason why Disney so often has the protagonists of their stories stand apart as outsiders in their community or otherwise bristling against their assigned roles. It’s an effective way of getting on side with your protagonist, and Qora is a charming hero. She’s smart and curious and not at all satisfied with things as they presented to her. She is not going to settle for doing things because that’s how things are done, and who doesn’t want person like that as their hero?
Wijngaard’s art is terrific throughout, really capturing the feel of an all ages fairy tale for most of Angelic #1, but also realizing that pretty much every fairy tale contains moments of threatening darkness and horror. When Qora has to face off against the alleycat, Wijngaard doesn’t shy away from rendering it as a genuinely frightening and unsettling creature, matching the spooky but blackly funny dialogue Spurrier writes for it. There’s an off-kilter feel to the whole thing that makes all the talking animals feel strange but real as opposed to silly and evocative of say, Scrooge McDuck. And yet, the art never truly loses the quality of a kids comic book. The art is truly very lovely.
Angelic #1 is not going to be for everyone’s taste, perhaps. It is pretty strange, after all, and even if its approach worked for me I can see plenty of readers left scratching their heads. But it’s also really wonderful, and you feel throughout that you are diving into a truly unique and hugely imaginative world with lots of secrets and bizarre details and a real sense of fun. 8.5/10
Angelic #1 will be released September 20, 2017 from Image Comics.