Fallen Angel #20


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Fallen Angel #20


  • Words: Peter David
  • Art: David Lopez
  • Inks: Fernando Blanco
  • Colors: Nathan Eyring
  • Story Title: Sacred Cows (Part 2 of 2)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: May 4, 2005

The line between friends and foes dissolves, and an uneasy ally is revealed as Bete Noir’s real mover and shaker in a series finale that seems anything but final.

Dr. Juris and Black Mariah have a mutual problem—Lee, the Fallen Angel. Juris tells Mariah that Lee killed her lover Shadow Boxer, and that he won’t stand in the way of her revenge. In another part of the city, the Fallen Angel squares off against the vigilante team Sachs and Violens, who have come to Bete Noir to shut down a child pornography ring supposedly run by Bumper Ruggs. While the Angel tangles with Violens, Sachs makes her way inside Ruggs’ brothel, ready to take care of business, only to learn that Ruggs isn’t what someone else has set her up to be. Outside, the fight between the Fallen Angel and Violens is interrupted by Juris. From him, after the Angel bolts, Violens learns who is really running the child porn ring. Together, the two head off to deal with the culprit, perhaps forging a business relationship along the way. But by herself, the Angel is confronted by Black Mariah. Their showdown is either exactly what Juris planned, or the last thing he wanted.

For its action, high drama, and story development, the penultimate arc "Hurly Burly" was the high point for a series which itself was one of the consistently better reads in contemporary comics. So, with two issues left and many questions left unanswered, Peter David ends Fallen Angel with a poignant coda that pays homage to a cinema classic, "Casablanca." And instead of answers, he throws readers who have followed the series three more curveballs, leaving enough doors open that one may safely assume that there are more Fallen Angel stories to tell.

Some comics writers may be more technically adept. Some may have more trademark styles. To be sure, many of the writers in either category are more than worthy of the praise they receive. But without their flash and gimmicks, their cutting-edge ideas and distinctive dialogue, David delivers with a preternatural knack for what makes good stories good. Juris may have reached a new level of wickedness, but his machinations may also have given Lee the chance she needed to seek a new path, as well as preserved the stability of Fallen Angel’s most mysterious character, the city of Bete Noir itself. Sachs and Violens fit in nicely with the moral gray of the place, Dolf gives Lee his best advice yet, even Bumper Ruggs shows a glimmer of humanity. And as for Lee, while the Fallen Angel’s story may not be done, this part of her journey is. That her real beginning just might be found in this series’ end makes her an even more compelling character than she was before.

Much like David, the art team of Lopez, Blanco, and Eyring lacks the flash and style of other artists, but they more than get the job done with a style that subverts our expectations of what Fallen Angel’s urban gothic noir should be. Instead of doom and gloom atmospherics, their artwork is lean, economical, and mutely colored. The effect is the sense that nothing in Bete Noir is as it seems, that something truly dark lies beneath the clean, sure lines and surfaces, in view only of an imagination willing to confront what the images only hint at. Consequently, the world Peter David created in his head becomes just as scary in mine. The artists may not be on many top ten lists, but what they’ve produced is exactly what I’ve gladly paid for over twenty issues.

It’s often said of really good comics that they take us back to what we loved about comics when we first started to read them. It’s a powerful sentiment, one not argued with lightly. However, I love Fallen Angel precisely because it does the opposite—it’s the sort of comic I wouldn’t have read and appreciated when I was in my teens. That I do now is a testament to what the medium is capable of.

-Dexter K. Flowers

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