As fantastical as they are, fairytales (like comics) can be close-minded. The prince has to save the princess from some terrible monster in order to win both romance and the kingdom. The end. There’s some variance in these stories, but the one thing that almost never, ever changes is the genders of the characters. The rescuer is male, the rescued is female and, after the epic battle, they marry. That’s just how it goes. Unless, of course, your name is Aldrif Odinsdottir.

Even though Aldrif, better known as Angela, is technically a “princess,” she doesn’t fit the stereotypical role. Instead, she partially becomes the “prince.” Wielding sharpened swords and angelic armor, Angela isn’t the kind of woman to stay locked inside a castle waiting for a knight to set her free. A much more likely scenario would be the other way around, with the Asgardian warrior rescuing the damsel in distress. But who needs dapper princes when you can have an exiled Angel from Heven swoop in to save the day?

aldrif odinsdottir
ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #3 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Move Over, Thor

Aldrif Odinsdottir may be relatively new to Marvel comics but her character dates back to 1993 when she first appeared in Image comics’ SPAWN. In 2013, Marvel bought the rights to Angela and she became a reoccurring character in the series GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. A few years later, Angela got her own series, ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN, followed by ANGELA: QUEEN OF HEL. Although Angela has a lot of pre-Marvel history, this article is going to focus more on her characterization during her Marvel solo series. If you haven’t read them, beware the spoilers to come. (But seriously, go read them. I promise you they’re really good.)

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Angela was born with the belief that she was an Angel. Not an “angel” like the kind we typically think of, with dimpled cheeks and dove wings. Marvel’s Angels are the inhabitants of the Nordic Tenth Realm known as Heven. While they do have wings, the similarities between biblical angels and Heven’s Angels stop there. Angels are excessively materialistic and will only complete a task when a reward is promised. Their greedy nature led them to a war with Asgard, which ended in the presumed death of Odin’s infant daughter Angela (as seen in ORIGINAL SIN #5.3). In reality, Angela miraculously survived the Queen of Angels’ attack. A sympathetic angel found the crying baby and raised her as her own in Heven.

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ORIGINAL SIN #5.5 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Watch the Queen Conquer

Thanks to Thor’s meddling in ORIGINAL SIN #5.1-5.5, Angela became aware of her Asgardian roots (and her birth name Aldrif), causing her fellow Angels to force her out of Heven. After briefly joining the Guardians of the Galaxy, Angela went off on her own. During a routine monster-killing (seen in ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #3), Angela meets Sera — a disillusioned trans woman who wants to leave the monk-like lifestyle she was forced into. The few males born into Angel society are treated like enslaved, mute worshippers. It’s not exactly the lifestyle for someone as silver-tongued as Sera.

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In return for saving her life, Angela agrees to save the woman from her captors. From then on, the pair is inseparable until Sera dies in battle. Unwilling to live life without the woman she loves, Angela goes to Hel and usurps Queen Hela in ANGELA: QUEEN OF HEL. While she does briefly wear the crown of Hel, she’s quick to go back to her normal Angel garb once Sera is back safe in her arms.

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ANGELA: QUEEN OF HEL #5 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

No Tears to be Shed

With so many badass female characters in comics, you may be asking yourself: what makes Angela worthy of a second look? She beats up monsters but tons of women do that nowadays, right? Comics have come a long way in the past fifty years, but a few things still make Aldrif Odinsdottir’s story radical by today’s standards. Her nontraditional love story is a part of it, as is her warrior persona. What she does definitely defies expectations, but what she doesn’t do also has similar repercussions. This is where Angela differs: she pretty much never shows emotion.

That might sound like a bad thing and in some cases it is. Women are frequently characterized as over-sensitive, so it’s important to validate women’s emotions. However, I sometimes feel like the emotional stereotype hits female comic characters a little too hard. Excluding Emma Frost, a lot of female characters become characterized by their emotional ups and downs. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with portraying a character like this…but sometimes it feels less than accurate.

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I want to be clear that Aldrif Odinsdottir is not completely unemotional. When Sera dies, Angela is, of course, sad. The difference between Angela and some other female comic characters is in how she’s portrayed by her writers. Although Angela has been through a lot she never cries or refuses to keep fighting. Some critics of Angela don’t like the fact that she rarely has narrating roles in her own comics but I actually think that benefits the character. It shows that in comics, women can be both private and complex at the same time. It also reinforces the idea that the portrayals of female comic characters can vary. If Angela wants to keep her thoughts and emotions to herself, that’s completely understandable.

aldrif odinsdottir
ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #3 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

A Warrior at Heart

Lots of women in comics are amazing fighters who can take down the worst villains any day of the week. I recently wrote an article about She-Hulk so I feel like I know a little bit about strong girls. However, with Aldrif Odinsdottir, it’s less about brute strength and skill and more about her personality. Of course Angela can fight — she isn’t called “Asgard’s Assassin” for no reason. But what really separates Angela in the world of female comic heroes is her love of fighting. Once again, this might sound a little depressing. Angela’s not only emotionless, she’s also obsessed with killing people? Let me explain.

Fighting and being good with a sword isn’t just something Angela does to save the world. For most comic heroes — especially female ones — that’s usually the motivation. If the world wasn’t constantly under attack would the Scarlet Witch still be casting spells? Would the X-Men or the Avengers even exist? Some male heroes, like Deadpool and Wolverine, would probably be fighters regardless of the world’s safety. But, traditionally, violent women who aren’t always trying to save the world (or even help people) aren’t very popular. Women are protectors, nurturers, caregivers — not killers.

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And yet Aldrif Odinsdottir is definitely a killer. By no means am I endorsing the kind of lifestyle Angela leads, but it’s interesting to have a female character in this role. Angela doesn’t have to always be a “good” character. She can do what she wants, and if she wants to collect heads as she collects debts, she can. Just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean she can’t be as violent as any other comic character. At the same time, just because Angela enjoys fighting doesn’t mean she can’t be a hero.

A Love Story Made in Hel

What does it take to be the hero, either in fairytales or in comics? Well, according to the fairytale dynamic I mentioned earlier, you have to be strong, brave, and, in the end, you have to get the girl. Aldrif Odinsdottir fulfills all of those things in one of her solo series. The only problem is that heroes are princes.

In ANGELA: QUEEN OF HEL, Angela saves her girlfriend, Sera, from Hela’s clutches. If you read the series, it feels very similar to a Disney movie, full of dangerous monsters and treacherous tasks. After she takes down Hela, Angela becomes the queen and frees Sera. If Angela was a man, this scene would be in children’s books.

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ANGELA: QUEEN OF HEL #5 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

But she isn’t. Comics don’t always mirror fairytales, but in the case of Angela, they do. Writers Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett are responsible for most of Angela’s current characterization and although they don’t go right out and say it, they seem to be trying to invert the typical fairytale storyline. By having a female character take on the prince role, Gillen and Bennett are rewriting one of the most fundamental fictional expectations. The woman is always supposed to end up with the man…but what happens when the “man” is actually a badass female warrior wearing an aptly coined “space bikini?”

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Undoubtedly, Angela is a hero in ANGELA: QUEEN OF HEL. But, more than that, she is a queer woman who takes on a role that is pretty much never given to female characters. She shows readers that women can be just as heroic as princes and that they too can rescue the princess.

The Future of Aldrif Odinsdottir

Angela is clearly one of Marvel’s most complex female characters. But, unfortunately, she hasn’t had as much of a prominent role in Marvel comics since the end of her last solo series in 2015. As much as I hate to say it, I think this might be because of the MCU film THOR: RAGNAROK. In the film, Hela is Thor’s older, unknown sister but in the comics, that’s Angela. So as not to complicate the film world and the comic world too much, Angela was thrown to the side.

Hela is definitely an interesting character, but I wish Angela had a role in THOR: RAGNAROK. Aside from Hela’s awesome headgear, why did the THOR: RAGNAROK writers decide to use the Queen of Hel as the antagonist? Why not Angela?

Some might point out the fact that Hela has a longer history in Marvel comics than the newly acquired Aldrif. But, I think the reason is a little more complex than that. Movies and comics sometimes ignore Angela because of all the stereotypes she breaks. She’s a lesbian, Angel warrior who fights to save her lover — not the world. She is private, unemotional, and hard to pin down. She isn’t the straight-forward antagonist that Hela is. Portraying Angela on the silver screen would be more than difficult — it would be nearly impossible. But that’s what makes her so unique in the worlds of comics and fairytales. She doesn’t have to be the princess or the prince. She’s Aldrif Odinsdottir and that’s all she has to be.

One Comment

  1. ircnbarnes

    November 19, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    wow!!! this article is incredibly well written and just kept me roped in the whole time. Angela is one of my favorite Marvel characters of all time and I only just finished reading “Angela: Asgard’s Assassin” maybe two hours ago. This is an incredible analysis of her character and I would love to see more about her 🙂

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