Fallen Angels #1 is the final installment of the new X-Men franchise titles that are flooding the market. So far, X-Men #1, X-Force #1, and New Mutants #1 have all been hits at the Revolution. Marauders #1 and Excalibur #1 were misses. Will Fallen Angels #1 end up being a hit or a miss? Let’s hit this review and find out!
Words: Bryan Hill
Art: Szymon Kudranski
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a young girl with a butterfly tattoo placing a small metal communicating device on the side of her face. The girl’s eyes turn black and start crying black tears. The girl breaks a metal handrail on the train and takes out several people.
A voice narrates how Kwannon was the Goddess of Mercy. (I am guessing that this voice is Psylocke narrating this scene.) The voice says that “I” have been robbed of “my” own body and identity. The voice says that they still think of “her” and pray that she found love and peace and mercy. The voice tells “her” to never let war find her. The voice says that “she” is better than “me.”
The young girl makes her way to the front of the train and kills the train conductor. The girl then says, “Apoth.” The girl then runs the train off the tracks causing a massive accident.
The voice says that she has never spoken of the child. That the child does not know her. The voice says that she now lives in Krakoa. The voice says that both she and the child have earned their mercy.
We shift to Krakoa with Psylocke meditating. Psylocke thinks how Krakoa is too safe. Psylocke cuts herself to remind herself of pain. (That’s actually a really serious psychological condition.) We see butterflies flying around Psylocke.
Suddenly, Psylocke has a vision. A dark figure descends upon her and says that Psylocke’s enemy is Apoth. The dark figure says that he is the truth and not a dream. The dark figure says that Psylocke will wither here on Krakoa. That Apoth is the new name of God. That Apoth will unite all and destroy many.
The dark figure says that Apoth has already taken something from Psylocke. The dark figure tells Psylocke to go to Tokyo where it began with a train. Psylocke then comes out of her meditative trance.
We zip to Psylocke meeting with Magneto in the House of M. Psylocke tells Magneto about her vision. Psylocke says that it was not a dream. Psylocke says that she needs to leave Krakoa to investigate what is going on in Tokyo.
Magneto says that Krakoa is on lockdown in the aftermath of Charles Xavier’s death. (See X-Force #1.) That nobody may enter or leave Krakoa. Psylocke freaks out that she has to leave. That they are not safe from whatever threat Apoth presents to mutants. Magneto replies that he likes Psylocke this way: Fearless, certain, and a little disturbed. (Umm…okay.)
Magneto says that Psylocke should go see Sinister. That Sinister may find Psylocke’s visions interesting. Magneto says that in his grief over Xavier’s death that he forgets conversations. That he has already forgotten this conversation.
We hop over to Bar Sinister. Psylocke tells Sinister about her vision. Sinister asks Psylocke how it felt when she first killed someone. Psylocke says that it taught her that life only matters when they choose to make it matter.
Sinister asks Psylocke how it felt when Betsy Braddock was controlling her body. Psylocke says that she was burning and screaming and no one could hear her. Sinister says that Psylocke could make Betsy pay. Sinister asks how Psylocke would kill Betsy. Psylocke says that she would do it the same as anyone: Quickly. Psylocke then fires up her psychic sword and strikes a pose. (That was super cheesy.)
Psylocke grows tired of Sinister’s questions and asks him if he will help her leave the island. Sinister agrees to help Psylocke leave the island. Sinister then tells Psylocke that she should not go alone. That she should get others who have the need to destroy something to go with her to Tokyo.
We zip back to Japan “years ago.” A mysterious figure is training Kwannon. The figure says that Kwannon was not meant to stay on the island of Japan. That civilization is a lie built on weakness. Kwannon says that she is a weapon against lies. That balance is achieved through violence. The figure says that Kwannon will be the enemy of peace. The figure says that Kwannon is a caterpillar: soft and ugly. But, that the figure will make Kwannon a butterfly and be beautiful.
We zip to a bonfire party on Krakoa. Cable asks X-23 if she likes to dance. X-23 says that she could show him but it might hurt a little. Cable says don’t make promises you can’t keep. X-23 punches Cable in the face. The two begin sparring. (Is there any chance that Marvel would ever have a male hero beat up a female hero and win a sparring match in 2019? I don’t think so. These scenes are growing pointless.) X-23 wins the fight. (Told ya.) Cable asks if she feels better. X-23 says that she does not feel anything. That Krakoa is too safe and safety sucks. (Actually, what sucks is reading a story where all the characters come across as the same character.)
Psylocke appears on the scene and introduces herself to X-23 and Cable. (Ummmmm…wouldn’t X-23 and Cable already know that her name is Psylocke?) Psylocke says that she needs to speak with them and for them to come to her home in The Reservoir. Psylocke leaves.
Cable says that Psylocke is not safe. X-23 agrees. (Yeah, we get it already.) We then see Betsy Braddock approaching Psylocke before she leaves the party. Psylocke says that they do not need to talk.
We hop over to The Reservoir. Psylocke says that X-23 is a predator and needs to hunt and that Cable is a soldier and needs a war. That none of us have a place in paradise. X-23 tells Psylocke to come outside and talk to her. (Please fight each other. That would be fantastic.)
X-23 says that she will go with Psylocke but that Cable stays. Cable is a soldier and if Psylocke gives him a command he will do it. X-23 says that Cable needs Krakoa and he deserves this place.
Psylocke asks what X-23 deserves. X-23 replies that she needs a life without Logan’s shadow. (Ah, the trials and tribulations of a painfully derivative character.)
We zip to Tokyo. Psylocke and X-23 are meeting with Motoko, a female with underworld connections. Psylocke says that she wants a meeting with Apoth. Motoko says that Apoth is a rumor. That digital narcotics, body modifications, and black market tech need a boogeyman. That is Apoth.
Motoko says that the train accident was the result of a child on Overclock. Overclock bypasses the need for chemicals and boosts the endorphin centers of the brain. This results in making the person want to kill everyone around them. Then Overclock kills the person. Apoth may be the source of Overclock.
Motoko shows Psylocke a video of the train that was derailed. The video shows a closeup of the child’s butterfly tattoo. (Wow. That is some impressive high-quality security camera footage.) Psylocke gets a stunned look on her face.
We shift to Psylocke and her mysterious master. Psylocke is crying as her master takes her child. The master says that love is a weakness. The master says that they will mark Psylocke’s child with a butterfly tattoo. That if the fates are kind perhaps Psylocke will meet her child again. The master says that they are merciful here.
We hop back to Tokyo. Psylocke smashes Motoko’s computer. Psylocke demands to know Apoth’s location. Motoko says that she doe snot know and if she did Apoth would kill her if she spoke. Psylocke then stabs Motoko in the head with her mind sword.
Psylocke then touches X-23 and shows X-23 her memories of her child. Psylocke says that she has a location.
We get a two-page informational insert on Overclock the newest designer drug. It is a dangerous drug that is rapidly gaining popularity.
We shift to outside of Tokyo. Psylocke and X-23 walk up to a barn on a farm. They enter the barn and a bunch of children on Overclock are in there. They all bleed from their eyes and then collapse dead on the ground.
One child remains standing. That child says that he is just a speaker for Apoth. Apoth says that Psylocke has taken an interest in him. Therefore, Apoth has taken an interest in her. Apoth tells Psylocke to go back to Krakoa. That without the mutants this world will finally evolve. Apoth tells Psylocke to leave him to his peace. The child then falls dead to the ground.
We flashback to Psylocke with her mysterious master. Psylocke cuts the wing off of a butterfly with her katana. The master tells Kwannon to spread her wings. That Kwannon is the will of balance. The master asks what Kwannon needs. Kwannon says that she needs someone worth killing.
We slide back to Bar Sinister. Psylocke enters and says that she brought purpose. Sinister says he brought Cable. Psylocke says that she needs a team. That she will recruit them. That Sinister will keep their existence from the Quiet Council. That Psylocke will bring Apoth back to Sinister. That whatever he is. Whatever he can do will be Sinister’s. And then Psylocke will kill Apoth. (Sounds like a fair bargain!)
We then hop to The Reservoir. Psylocke tells Cable and X-23 to go get others that they can trust. (Well, I am guessing that X-23 is not picking Wolverine to be on this team!) X-23 asks if Psylocke is giving them orders. Psylocke replies that she does not have a choice. Psylocke says that they are caterpillars, but she can make them butterflies. End of issue.
The Good: Fallen Angels #1 was a thoroughly average read. There was little in this issue that got me excited about this new title nor was there much in this issue that I found unappealing. Fallen Angels #1 is a C student that does little to generate feelings in either direction.
Despite the overall ordinariness of this issue, there were several positive aspects of Fallen Angels #1. Bryan Hill does a nice job quickly introducing the main villain for the opening story arc of this new title. Hill also manages to convey the purpose of the team, as well. Hill also succeeds in letting the reader get a full sense of the mood that is going to dominate this title. These are all great things to deliver in the debut issue of a new title. It helps to give the reader a sense of what they can expect from Fallen Angels and why they should add this new title to their pull list.
Fallen Angels #1 is plagued with generic character work. However, Hill does do an excellent job with both Magneto and Sinister. These are the only two characters that project well crafted and unique personalities. Hill absolutely nails Magneto’s lordly attitude. Hill also does a masterful job delivering a properly insane and immoral Mr. Sinister. The reader understands that Sinister has no sense of right or wrong. That Sinister merely does whatever Sinister thinks is the best for him and his interests. I also enjoyed the proper amount of sass that Hill gave Sinister’s character.
I love that Hill is using Hickman’s technique of the informational inserts. All of the informational inserts in Fallen Angels #1 are well done. These inserts about Overclock also help to effectively convey quality backstory and more detailed information without getting in the way of the story. These informational inserts also help to make the setting for Fallen Angels more complex, too.
I am not a fan of Szymon Kudranski’s style of art. It simply is not for me. Having said that, I do love that Psylocke still has her classic styled costume. I am honestly stunned that the current Victorian Era sexually repressed Marvel editorial staff allowed this to happen. I was fully expecting Marvel to give Psylocke a new modest and tame costume.
The Bad: Fallen Angels #1 is plagued with a resolutely blah story. The story certainly is not bad. But, it is not good, either. It is the type of story that elicits a mild “meh” from the reader. Upon finishing reading Fallen Angels #1, the reader feels no particularly compelling reason to come back for more. Hill never impresses the reader and makes them feel that Fallen Angels is going to present something unique and exciting that cannot be found in the pages of the myriad of superhero comic books already on the market.
Fallen Angels #1 is poorly constructed. The scene transitions are clunky and jarring. There is no natural flow to this issue. The scenes awkwardly crash into the next one. The plotting and pacing are average at best. The story plods along slowly. Hill clearly has a purpose in mind. But, Hill moves the story with zero sense of urgency. The story meanders about for pages. There are too many slow and dull moments where the story lags and has no purpose. This makes the reader feel like Fallen Angels #1 has too much fluff in it and not enough actual substantive content.
Hill also tries way too hard with the imagery in this story. It is obvious that Hill is forcing the issue and trying to make Fallen Angels #1 seem “artsy” and “intelligent.” However, Hill never handles any of the themes with any artistry or intelligence. Hill awkwardly shoves the imagery into this story and then proceeds to beat the imagery into the ground by repeating it so often throughout the issue. This is seen with how he handles the imagery of mercy, the butterfly, and the caterpillar. Hill tries way too hard to the point where the handling of the imagery becomes painfully forced and begins to come across as sophomoric writing. This keeps the reader from becoming immersed in the story.
Fallen Angels #1 is also a fairly thin read. Hill does not deliver a deep and textured read. This issue presents the reader with a fairly simply plot-line and mostly talking heads scenes that fail to add anything of substantive value to the story. As Fallen Angels #1 progresses, the reader realizes that there is little in terms of actual content.
The character work and dialogue are both disappointing. The dialogue is generic at best. Outside of Magneto and Sinister, none of the characters possess a unique external voice. The rest of the characters have colorless and bland dialogue.
Outside of Magneto and Sinister, there is a lack of any real character work. The various characters are all written as caricatures rather than fully developed characters. There is also a complete and utter lack of chemistry between the characters is Fallen Angels #1.
I love Psylocke. She is a fantastic character. But, Hill makes her generic at best and downright creepy and unlikable at worst. For much of Fallen Angels #1, Psylocke is just a boring vanilla character. Then there are moments where she is dealing with X-23 and Cable where Psylocke veers more to the role of a creepy cult leader. Neither is enjoyable.
Hill’s handling of X-23’s character is not any better. I usually find X-23 to be a boring character. I may view her as painfully derivate, but, I am completely open to a writer getting me interested in X-23’s character. Unfortunately, Hill does not do that with Fallen Angels #1. Hill writes X-23 as nothing more than a caricature. Hill’s X-23 is dull and does little to interest the reader.
Hill’s Teen Cable is just as unimpressive as Psylocke and X-23. Look, I will openly admit that I find Teen Cable to be arguably one of Marvel’s dumbest ideas in the past twenty years. I hate this version of the character so much. Old Man Cable is so superior in literally every possible way.
Having said that, I am open to Hill changing my mind with some quality character work. Unfortunately, Hill did not appear to have any interest in giving Cable anything that resembled an interesting personality. Hill’s Cable is as beige and boring as possible. It also does not help that Hill writes Cable as a little bitch. Hill has X-23 punk Cable out in their sparring match. Then Hill has Cable acting like the mindless little subservient soldier to Psylocke. Hill then has X-23 make decisions for Cable without his consent because X-23 “knows better” than Cable what Cable wants and needs. Cable’s character completely lacks agency. These moves may have helped put over Psylocke and X-23, but it did so at the expense of Cable’s character.
Fallen Angels is a team title. It is incumbent on the writer to get the members of the team over with the readers. On a debut issue of a new team title, the writer should show the reader how each member of the team is cool and has a unique and valuable role on the team. Each member needs to seem special in their own right. What Hill does is show the reader that they should take X-23 and Psylocke seriously and view Cable as a chump.
Hill also fails to unveil the entire roster for Fallen Angels. I am of the belief that it is always a smart move for a writer to unveil the entire roster in the first issue. At this point, we only know that Psylocke, X-23, and Cable are on the roster. Mr. Sinister appears to be playing the role of their benefactor. Hopefully, Hill quickly fills out the rest of the roster with the next issue.
Another problem with Fallen Angels is that there is nobody likable on the team. Hill fails to deliver a character that the reader relates to or connects within a genuine fashion. This can be a problem over the long haul.
Like I said earlier in this review, I am not a fan of Szymon Kudranski’s artwork. The characters’ faces look like doll faces. They look so lifeless. The art also looks incredibly stiff and awkward. Overall, the art has a rather dull look. The inks and the colors also give Fallen Angels #1 a dull and muddy appearance.
Overall: Fallen Angels #1 was a boring debut issue. This issue is completely forgettable the second the reader finishes this issue. Hill does nothing to distinguish Fallen Angels #1 from the numerous superhero titles already on the market. The cost of entry is $5.00 for Fallen Angels #1. That is a price too high for a title that is average at best.
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