Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Angel Zero

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Angel Zero (published in 2000 AD, Rebellion, 2011).

Since I have been known, within the past year, to point a finger and give 35 year-old boys' comic 2000 AD a tut-tutting about its lack of strong female leads, I should have the courtesy to point out that the anthology did feature something new along those lines in the last quarter of 2011. It was a thirteen-week serial called Angel Zero, written by Nigel Long, a fellow who first started offering scripts in the early '90s under his pseudonym "Kek-W" but who has been mostly absent from the comic field for years, and painted by longtime mainstay John Burns.

It's flawed, but a definite step in the right direction. The lead character is Maggie Roth, a woman who's trying to live a simple life as a welder and artisan in a sparsely-populated frontier town on some planet in the future. She's plagued by bad dreams, thanks to having a battle computer that she thought had been removed from her spine still sending out signals. The organization that she left wants her back for testing, as, while the "angel" tech has been upgraded and improved in her absence, something about how Maggie was able to escape demands further study. After a comparatively slow-paced opening episode to set the tone, this quickly becomes a very fast-paced thriller.

I was hoping for something a little less conventional from Long, who often feels like he's reining in some more remarkably wild and outre influences when he's working on material for 2000 AD. As the image above indicates, this does turn out to be a story that pits a superpowered character against a lot of heavily-armed thugs, and I was reminded of the long subplot in TV's Firefly about River Tam and the corporation - slash - government from which she was running. It all gets rushed and frantic towards the end, in part because, curiously, and worryingly, the page count is an unusually low four pages per episode. We certainly hope that doesn't become a regular fact.

There have been exceptions, but the vast majority of 2000 AD's female leads have either been spinoffs from male-led features, or members of an ensemble cast. (Agent Mariah Kiss from last year's Indigo Prime is a noteworthy example of the latter.) It was very agreeable reading something that broke the mold, and did so with panache. The climax never really rises to the promise of an incident about a third of the way through, where Maggie, desperate, goes in for some very risky surgery to make damn sure that every trace of the computer is removed, but as action melodramas go, this was satisfying and engaging, and recommended.

(The series ran in 2000 AD issues 1751-1763 last year. Clicking the image takes you to the digital download site, Clickwheel, where readers may purchase the issues individually. There is, at this time, no capacity to purchase series by-the-story.)


Arion said...

I feel awfully bad for not buying 2000AD regularly. I haven't read this story but it sure sounds interesting (by the way, you didn't mention Alan Moore's Halo Jones as a 2000AD female lead).

Great blog, mine is also about comic books:


G.G. said...

Thanks for the link, but the reason I didn't mention Halo Jones is that she last appeared in 1986. Kind of tough to claim that the comic features strong female lead characters when the best example of such happened a quarter of a century ago!

Anonymous said...

...and on the face of it, it sounds like a reboot of the "Angel" strip from Prog 95 -99: