The first print volume collecting the FreakAngels webcomic by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield is very good indeed. The FreakAngels are a group of young mutants with psychic powers, who believe themselves to have been responsible for the collapse of modern civilization. They serve as warrior sentinels to a somewhat utopian community of a few hundred people assembled in Whitechapel in the midst of a flooded future London. The story was inspired by John Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos, although the comics medium makes it hard not to read it in light of the X-men and other mutant superhero bands.
The characters are strongly drawn, with the central corps of the dozen FreakAngels complemented by a few key ordinary people. Dialog is often telepathic, and Ellis and Duffield manage to convey that with a number of seemingly effortless narrative and pictorial devices. As is typical of Ellis, there is some violence, the more brutal for being set in the midst of stretches of calmer, more reflective storytelling.
Paul Duffield’s art is very beautiful. There’s no garish four-color palette here: the future is gray and green and ivory, and the FreakAngels are pale and purple. The ruined and flooded cityscape is lovingly and credibly rendered.
The physical production of the Avatar Press softbound volume is quite satisfactory. The book’s webcomic origins have two interesting effects. First, the page/panel design is quite inflexible, accommodating only quarter-, full-, and half-page rectangular panels. Second, the narrative pacing doesn’t “chunk” into roughly 20-page “issue” components, as one can routinely expect from trade volumes that collect individual print comic books. Nor does it fully resolve at the end of this book. Having been frustrated by Ellis’s apparently stalled Doktor Sleepless after reading its first trade collection, I’m relieved and gratified to see that there are already six FreakAngels volumes in print.