Warren Ellis is a wonderful writer, and I have loved everything I have ever read by him, including FreakAngels. But much like Stephen King, he has a little trouble ending story (when he actually finishes a series). And if you disagree with that statement as an across-the-board truth, at least know this: he didn’t know how to end FreakAngels.
Told over six volumes, FreakAngels is a great snapshot of a moment in fictional time. The backstory given on the opening pages (and back cover of Vol. 1) is this: “23 years ago, twelve strange children were born at exactly the same moment. 6 years ago, the world ended. This is the story of what happened next.”
The story then follows the story of these “twelve strange children” as they are living in a seemingly post-apocalyptic Whitechapel (London). Vol. 1 is probably the most banal of the volumes story-wise. It introduces you to the characters, their somewhat soap-opera-like relationships with one another, the lives they lead. They call themselves the FreakAngels and have taken it upon themselves to keep Whitechapel running. After some time you will understand why they both call themselves that and why they feel so responsible to care for Whitechapel. And it’s not just because they’re good kids.
In fact, the 12 kids, though at 23 years old kids might be a debatable term, at least physically, are far from the saint-like figures you might think of angels or of the tasks they have chosen to undertake. In true Warren Ellis form, we open the entire story with KK waking up in a random stranger’s bed. Sirkka runs a brothel, Jack runs away from love, Karl is a cranky hippie, and Conor is a recluse poet, just to name a few of their less offensive traits. And remember, that was only four of the twelve. Yet despite, or maybe because of, their faults, you begin to love them. You want them to stay safe, and their cause to succeed.
But for a series that spends the majority of the time in a fairly low- to medium-tension atmosphere, the high-tension revelations and quick wrap up of the final two volumes seems a bit out of place. You spend so long unraveling the mystery (which doesn’t really need that much unraveling as the answer is given to you pretty early on if you’re looking) only to have the story spin off in another direction entirely in the last few chapters and end in a certainly logical, but unsatisfying place.
In a discussion post later this week I will discuss why I was so unsatisfied with the ending, and for those of you who have read it, it’s not for the reason you think.
It’s no secret I am a HUGE fan of the art in this book. I have a print that was drawn for NYCC last year hanging right near my bed. But if you read FreakAngels, I don’t think you will find my love unjustified. The art of FreakAngels, drawn by Paul Duffield, is beautiful. He had a pretty large cast of characters to design and he never let us down. All the characters have a certain ethereal beauty to them, reminiscent of their names, but their emotions and expressions are uniquely human, and Duffield makes it possible to read these in every move they make. Even through the last pages.
Overall, despite my personal qualms over the ending, I did enjoy FreakAngels immensely and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good speculative work. In it’s own way, FreakAngels is a work of “what-if,” albeit in a contained atmosphere. It asks some great questions both in the realm of sci-fi and in the realm of human experience, but don’t expect it to follow through answering them all. If you’re like me, it won’t be the fact that there are questions remaining that will bother you, so much as it is which questions remain.
TL;DR FreakAngels is a great tale of semi-speculative fiction in a post-apocalyptic London. Told over six volumes, now complete, it is a story that is part sci-fi, part human experience. With beautiful art and a mostly compelling story, I would highly recommend it, but be prepared to be possibly disappointed at it’s ending.
FreakAngels is written by Warren Ellis with art by Paul Duffield from Avatar Press. You can find the whole story in chapters online at FreakAngels.com, but we would recommend buying the volumes. All except the final volume (coming soon) are now available now from your local comic book shop. If all else fails, you can always try the FreakAngels store (direct from Avatar) or, Amazon.