Writer: William Gibson
Artist: Butch Guice
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Review by Gregory Brothers
Known to many as the father of the “cyber-punk” novel and era, Archangel is a limited series that marks William Gibson’s first work in the comic book genre. Not much has been said about what to expect with the series other than the IDW preview which describes the book as: “The U.S. political leaders of 2016 abandon the radioactive planet they’ve destroyed and harness the power of humanity’s last hope: The Splitter, a colossal machine designed to manufacture a bright new reality for them to infiltrate and corrupt.”
The book, set in an alternative reality, starts in February of 2016 as we get a view of the remains of several cities including Tokyo, Moscow, and London. We find out that a group of government leaders is being sent back to 1945 in order to try to change parts of the past to avoid the tragedies that are the present. At the same time there is a group within the task force who questions their motivations and sends a rival group to stop the manipulation of the past. While the initial group of government leaders sent seem to be right on track with their plans, things do not start out on the right foot for the rogue group as miscalculation puts them in the wrong place at the exact wrong time leading to people living in 1945 being alerted to their arrival.
Here is where we met our female protagonist Dr. Naomi Givens, who is a lieutenant with the British Royal Air Force and seems to have a knack for investigating the unusual and unbelievable. As she is beginning to move forward with her investigation of the mysterious plane and its crew that has arrived in their time, the initial group of government leaders show up to begin asking questions of their own. Throughout the book we meet several other characters who will more than likely play a major role as the story unfolds including Major Guadalupe Torres, who is the wheelchair bound leader of the rouge splinter group, and Captain Vince Mathews, who is the former love interest of Naomi Givens, and is in charge of the facility where Dr. Givens starts her investigation.
The art within the book also very realistic with distinct characteristics between the different faces and bodies. The first issue takes place mainly during the World War II era and the dress, accessories, and settings are drawn spot on, so it will be interesting to see how the dystopian future is imagined and drawn as the series continues. The style has a bit of a Noir vibe to it but not nearly as dark and gritty as many Noir pieces. The traditional panel to panel read in the book fits with the series as this first issue is not about big explosions and over the top action. Instead it is the a mystery that is set to unfold for the reader, as it unfolds for the main characters in the book. The colors are muted throughout, which again tend to fit both the period and overall feel of the book. An added bonus to the book is the artist notebook in the back where Gibson has written an essay about what the inspiration and ideas were behind the book. In addition we see notes and sketches From Gibson and Butch Guice about the characters’ looks and, in some cases, see a whole page go from sketch to finished product.
Buy it! Gibson is considered one of the leaders in the science fiction genre and the opening issue of Archangel makes it seem as if the move into comics will be a successful one. Gibson does not hold back in the story telling and instead jumps right into the action with the reader expected to catch up. It is a nice change from many #1 issues that take the entire first issue to just introduce the characters without much advancement. Gibson lays the groundwork for several characters to grow throughout the series while not tipping his hand as to the true motivations of any of them. Guice’s art is inviting, realistic, and grounded while not being boring or bland. The end of the book gives the reader just enough answers to feel satisfied while leaving us wanting more for the next issue. If you are a fan of historical dramas with a twist of sci-fi built in, make sure you grab this issue quick as it will be one that people are talking about soon.