Just in time for the NYCC, IDW has published the third entry of the five issue mini-series ‘Archangel’, William Gibson’s tale of corrupt politicians attempting to disrupt history in their favor with the aid of a time machine.
I was delighted when I first heard back in May that William Gibson was getting into comics. Novel writers making the jump into sequential art is certainly not something new, scribes of the caliber of Stephen King, Dashiell Hammett and Margaret Atwood have done it before with various degrees of success.
What makes this case especially exciting is that Gibson’s particular style begs for visuals. The exuberantly detailed worlds he creates and his trademark knack for describing new technologies are traits that could offer vast and interesting possibilities to explore in the comic book medium.
3 issues into Archangel and yes, one can find his hand all over it. The relentless pace, compact dialogue and most of all, the focus on technology and its influence on human interactions are all attributes of his previous work that make their way into every panel. As he usually does in his novels, Gibson introduces us here to a wide array of gadgets and inventions, from invisible suits and drones of the size of a fly, right down to that ominous machine called “The Splitter”.
For the purpose of this review, I decided to read through the three issues published so far in one sitting. This helped me notice the cohesiveness of the whole story and its exquisite flow. Every issue is designed as a tiny three act arc by itself, all of them ending in a cliffhanger. To me that denotes a good understanding on Gibson’s part of how the medium works despite this being his first comic book.
At this point in the story, the corrupt, time traveling vice-president and his accomplices are chasing down the rebel pilot from the future in Berlin 1945. The previous issue ended with the anticipation of an epic showdown at an underground nightclub run by Herr Saugling or “Mr Baby”, a crime kingpin that very much resembles the great Peter Lorre. -by the way, is it just me or Colonel Yermakov looks like Udo Kier?- Issue 3 is perhaps the one packed with the most traditional action so far, depicting an orgy of bullets and explosions that would leave lovers of some good Ol’ BUDDA!! BUDDA!! BUDDA!! wanting for more.
The showdown ends with our three “good guys”, British Lieutenant Naoimi Givens, American Captain Vince Matthews and our mysterious pilot from 2016, reunited and escaping from death. A new character is introduced in #3, a leather clad badass blonde ala Marlene Dietrich but with guns. Huge automatic guns.
Artwork is much more concise in this issue than in the previous two. I’ve criticized before that the viewpoint chosen to depict the action and the composition of some panels leaves much to be desired. This time around those shortcomings are almost gone and overall the art is very solid. Butch Guice’s cover work is particularly impressive.
By pure coincidence, I finished reading another time travel tale, Rick Remender’s cult classic ‘Fear Agent’ just before I got into ‘Archangel’. Remender is one of the best writers working in the industry right now, so it’s kind of unfair to measure Gibson’s first foray into comics against a seasoned creator. Besides, both stories stand tonally on opposite poles.
Yet, my impression is that although ‘Archangel’ is not quite at Fear Agent’s level, it’s an original and honest work of art that I believe will be very well regarded by fans and critics in the future. (pun intended)
Oh, and pay close attention to the dates. Very weird things are coming.
You can buy Archangel #3 at IDW for $3.99. Covers by Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose), Butch Guice and James Biggie (G.I.Joe).