Angel City #1
Writer: Janet Harvey
Artist: Megan Levens
Colors: Nick Filardi
Reviewed by David Hildebrand
I am a huge fan of noir, so when I first caught a preview of Angel City, I knew that I was going to have to get my hands on it. I love period pieces set with a 1930’s backdrop focusing on private detectives, cops on the take, sultry dames, and the ruthless mob. There are a lot of noir stories that come across as generic with the same tropes as other books or movies of the same genre. I will say that some of the basic elements of the usual noir are here but Janet Harvey creates her own twist to a common story with Angel City and takes us to the dark and seedy side of Hollywood.
Angel City starts out with a story we are all familiar with, two girls, Francis Faye and Dolores Dare leave for Hollywood with hopes and dreams of making it big. Things don’t go as planned for the pair and Dolores discovers that Faye was murdered and left in a dumpster behind Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Meanwhile Dolores’ is now a hard ass enforcer for a mob boss. She goes to collect money owed and isn’t hesitant to do what she needs to accomplish her task. She earns the respect. It is refreshing to see a female character in this period with her role. Dolores learns the fate of her friend from a newspaper reporter, Joe. It is also clear that Dolores and Joe have a past but we don’t get much of that here. Dolores blows off the death of Faye to Joe, but in reality she is crushed and starts to conduct her own investigation.
I like what Harvey has done with Dolores. In most stories, you have the lady as the fatale that seduces the detective. But in this story, the female is the lead, she is tough and not one to be messed with. The rest of the story plays out in normal noir fashion but Harvey makes it work without the story feeling like it is dragging or struggling to establish it’s points. The dialogue doesn’t come across as cliche either and that is a big plus in telling a familiar story like Angel City. The artwork done by Levens is brilliant. It captures the feel of the 30’s, the backdrops, the characters dressed in the typical trench coat, eye-catching swimsuit, it compliments the story. One surprise I wasn’t expecting was the colors! Usually with a gritty, dark story, you expect gritty, dark colors. This isn’t the case with Angel City. Filardi does include the normal black and white colors but also includes the brighter colors of the Hollywood sky. The bright images stand out but Filardi manages to keep the mood and tone of the book intact. It’s a beautiful book to view.
Buy it! If you are a noir fan as I am, then this is a no-brainer. Harvey’s story starts out strong, it isn’t your typical first issue. We start right out with the death of Faye and enough backstory to fill us in as much as we need as Dolores springs into action to find out who murdered Faye. I like Harvey’s character, Dolores. She is a strong female lead in what is usually a male dominated genre. She doesn’t come across as weak at all and is a breath of fresh air. I wouldn’t want to be the one that she is after. Check this book out, it very much worth a read!