ANGELIC #1 by Simon Spurrier and Caspar Wijngaard
ANGELIC #1 is a stellar opening issue for a story of flying monkeys and armored dolphins. With themes surrounding gender roles and autonomy, don't let ANGELIC's cartoony art deter you. This is a must-read comic for speculative fiction fans.
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Human scientific achievement has given us so many wonderful things. Through the power of the human brain, we have created cell phones, the internet, the fidget spinner, and domesticated dogs. However, as films like TERMINATOR and WALL-E have shown, human achievement can go too far. In ANGELIC #1, Image’s newest series, readers are taken into the post-post-apocalypse. The world belongs to animals, genetically and technologically enhanced creatures thriving in specified colonies. Humans are nowhere to be seen, though their cities are left behind. Written by Simon Spurrier (JUDGE DREDD, X-FORCE) with art from Caspar Wijngaard (LIMBO, DARK SOULS), ANGELIC #1 is a testament to the wonders of the comic book medium. Spoiler alert: you really need to read this book.

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Taking to the Skies

Angelic #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

ANGELIC #1 follows the story of Qora, a female from a tribe of winged monkeys called Monks. Qora is set apart from her fellows as she does not follow her clan’s religious doctrines or mores; she wishes to be a warrior in a society where women can only sacrifice their wings to rear children. As the story opens, technologically-advanced, armored dolphins called Dolts assault the Monk’s camp, and Qora is caught among the soldiers. The clan chief, Alfer, punishes her, attempting to calm her “disrespect” through triple-duty cleaning. Qora then learns that Alfer plans on making Qora his second wife, stripping her of her wings, and forcing her to give birth to his children.

After Qora learns of Alfer’s plan, she runs to the city’s edge, where a toxic gas cloud prevents her further escape. As she laments her circumstances, a mutated house cat leaps from the cloud and attacks her. Saved by the Dolts, Qora is stunned to learn that they wish to take her to their leader. They have plans for this BadMonk, plans that will change the world.

READ: Like Qora, DC’s RAVAGER deals with deep personal and social issues. Learn more!

Cute but Confident

Angelic #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

Wijngaard’s artwork on ANGELIC #1 is, in the best possible terms, nostalgic. It echoes the best children’s books, with cartoonish, animated character designs and a simple color palette that pleases the eyes. The artwork of this issue leaps of the page with energy. Wijngaard does an amazing job creating emotion and expression in his character art, which is a difficult task considering the Disney-esque style. The art is absolutely beautiful and is immediately gripping.

Given Wijngaard’s art in this issue, I was not expecting the depth of theme or plot that Spurrier introduces. At its heart, ANGELIC #1 is a story about femininity, gender roles, and social autonomy. Qora’s introduction sees her punished for exercising her free will, for questioning the ways of the “Makers.” By exercising her sense of self, she automatically becomes an outsider in her society. ANGELIC #1 succeeds by constantly reinforcing these themes throughout the issue. More importantly, Qora’s story is simply interesting. So many questions come up from page 1. Who are the Makers? Why do the Monks live in such a primitive society when they are surrounded by advanced tech? WHY ARE THERE ARMORED DOLPHINS WITH BRITISH ACCENTS?

ANGELIC #1 could not work without this inherent silliness. Much like CALVIN AND HOBBES and PEANUTS sought to explore social issues through the cartoon medium, ANGELIC #1 balances its deep philosophy with a beautiful and gripping visual landscape. Most stories that deal with such rich literary themes take on dark, somber tones, which are wholly necessary to express the true inequity of the issues discussed. ANGELIC #1 is deeply refreshing in that it brings light and hope to the subject matter, especially in such a unique and interesting world.

CLICK: Like comics that explore social issues? Marvel’s America Chavez highlights new opportunities for representing queer women of color.

A World of Its Own

Angelic #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

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If nothing else, ANGELIC #1 is a master class in world-building. While the middle section does get a bit bogged down in finer details, the story keeps an even pace that slowly teaches the rules for this future world. Human society crumbled apparently hundreds of years before. The lives of the Monks have fallen into an easy rhythm. Seeing the Tox Cloud is a daily experience, as are Dolt attacks. For the Monks, this is daily life, and it feels natural. While we as readers marvel at the bright colors, we experience this world alongside Qora, not apart from her. This creates a close and interesting hero to pull us through ANGELIC’s world.

One world-building aspect that stands out is language. The distinct way each tribe uses language gripped me from the start. The Monks limit themselves to childish sayings, reverting to “poop,” “sulkybutts,” and “nobedient” in daily conversation. On the other hand, the Dolts use very posh and proper language. “Indeed, I too have prayed for prey! But–good sirs!–look there! My eyes behold satisfaction!” After the cat pounces from the Tox Cloud, it slurs out statements of its own loneliness and hunger. The final group, the Mans, speak in the honey-dew dialect of the Southern United States. This use of language helps to distinguish and reinforce the characters of these different groups. More importantly, it grew on me as a reader as another means to balance the sadness of Qora’s story.

Final Thoughts: ANGELIC #1

To start, ANGELIC #1 is a damn good comic book. The story, while losing some speed in the heavily detailed middle section, builds a deep bond between Qora and the reader. Her plight, her lack of true free will, becomes a personal tragedy as you root for Qora to fight back against Alfer’s Monks. The sugar-sweet art helps to balance this tragic story, making it easily accessible for new readers.

READ: Looking for more sweet to balance the dark? Check out RUNAWAYS, which was never afraid to use fun to explore deep themes!

ANGELIC #1 will not appeal to every reader. If you prefer literary stories heavily grounded in reality, you may not like this comic. However, ANGELIC #1 succeeds in so many different and unique ways that it truly deserves your attention.

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