Freakangels by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield

Published On July 14, 2008 | By Joe Gordon | Comics, Reviews

Matthew Badham pointed me in the direction of a great little Warren Ellis interview over at the ComicMix website with Warren Ellis talking about Freakangels and webcomics in general. It’s made me head over to the Freakangels site hosted by the good folks at Avatar Press.

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I’d been reading Freakangels since the first episode but by episode five I was increasingly frustrated by the episodic nature of the weekly 6 page delivery. I put it to one side and decided to come back at some arbitrary point when I had something more substantial to get into.

Slightly later than I meant to, I went back tonight and read the lot. And I’ve realised that reading it in larger chunks is definitely the way to approach this serial comic. It’s very fractured and slow moving perhaps, but that’s partly down to the episodic nature of the beast. When read in one go the whole thing gels together very well indeed. It’s obviously Warren Ellis doing his version of the great British sci-fi story, all insular and slow moving. He’s already said in interviews that it’s a riff on John Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos story where he’s let the children grow up into the Freakangels. So there are 12 Freakangels, all pale skinned and purple eyed, with strange, miraculous powers.

They’ve settled into Whitechapel, making the best of the remaining bits of a completely flooded London. They’ve brought a peace to Whitechapel and run a thriving community from here. The 12th Freakangel is the bad one, lost to the rest, supposedly killed by two of the others, but it seems that he didn’t die and is connected to the latest immigrant to come to Whitechapel. Over the next how ever many episodes we’ll see the importance of this girl and her connection to the lost Freakangel. There will be some sort of reckoning no doubt.

In many ways, reading Freakangels reminded me of reading Manga. It has the expansiveness that I see in what little manga I have read, both in the story and the art. The pace of the story is slow, but knowingly so, and much better for it. The first 15 episodes (which takes up 90 pages or 4 issues of regular american comics or nearly 4 months of 2000AD) really consisted of introducing the characters and the environment. We have a clear idea of Whitechapel community and how the individual Freakangels fit into it. There are isolated moments of action amongst the slow build of character development but this is one of Ellis’ slower stories, building up gradually and doing it very well.

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(Art by Paul Duffield from Freakangels episode 6, (c) Warren Ellis)

Freakangels is six pages, in full colour, every week. A punishing schedule. But it’s one that Ellis and Duffield have pretty much kept to, with 20 episodes appearing in 22 weeks. In this world of missed deadlines and major titles failing miserably to keep to a 22 pages in a month schedule, that’s not bad at all. And through it all the artwork by Paul Duffield has been consistently wonderful. Freakangels is wonderfully large in scale artwise and Duffield’s colours are just beautifully vibrant and alive.

Freakangels is published every Friday. Episode 1 is here. Point your rss reader at it and wait for a few weeks so you have something substantial to read.

I’ve not heard any rumours of a printed version but I’m guessing that we’ll see it at some stage in the future. Warren’s said that he’s writing it in 144 page blocks and that much Warren Ellis material is bound to see print eventually.

(Update: 18 July 2008. The first collection has just been announced.)
Richard Bruton is very much a fan of Warren Ellis and has been for a long time. And thanks to Freakangels interlude 2 he no longer wonders where Ellis gets his ideas from.

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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