Funnybook Babylon

March 1, 2008

FreakAngels: Smartly Designed for Your Scrollwheel

Filed under: Reviews — Joseph Mastantuono @ 8:42 am

As someone who really digs a considerable amount of Warren Ellis’ published work (see Fell & Transmetropolitan) I was somewhat surprised to see that he was releasing a web comic called FreakAngels. I haven’t heard of any comic author going from the glitz and glamour of the publishing world to the wild west of online web comics.

The first three issues are out and while it may be early for a definitive review, I think there’s enough there to weigh in on. The premise, a post apocalyptic world with gifted twenty-somethings seemed like it could be a bit much, and I was waiting to see whether this was something that I would follow. Ellis is doing a fair amount of world building and character introduction, but what is very interesting about the book is the design.

Avatar Press is ‘publishing’ this as a web-comic, and I assume the web-comic is serving as a test-bed or to build an audience for the eventual trade. The economics of that move are interesting in their own right, but FreakAngels is designed for your scroll wheel AND the printed page.

freakangels.jpg

The book uses a consistent style of splitting the page into top and bottom so that your reading experience isn’t hurt by your web browser only showing you the top of the page, or forcing you to squint at tiny text. This a format that Ellis and Dunfield are already using to great effect in creating their world, using each frame with almost a photographer’s compositional sensibility.

The episodes are weekly releases of about 6 pages, which frankly leaves me a bit unsatisfied, but it’s not nearly as bad as trying to follow some thing like Mark Trail in your daily paper. Paul Duffield’s line work is perfect for the slightly-off Victorian yet minimalist future empty London presented. The character designs have some Manga influence, but Duffield eschews the clean lines for staccato, giving characters a substance that the sparse plotting could leave empty. However it’s the beautifully textured color work that brings the locale to life, and make it a place worth visiting.

I was (and still have some doubts) that this might be a lots of style, little substance book due to the sparse plotting. The ambiguously super-powered twenty-somethings could get trite real quick if there wasn’t something more substantial to hold on to, and in this last issue the introduction of a older man growing strawberries atop a building has intrigued me enough to keep following along for a good long while.

This is book worth following, even more so as it attempts a Radiohead style publishing/marketing alternative to a monthly as a way to sell a trade. Paul Dunfield is a talent, and I hope Warren Ellis gives this one title his all because it’s got a hell of lot of potential.

But don’t take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself.

P.S. Warren, you had me at the tinfoil hat…

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