Tuesday, March 19, 2013

365 Comics...78: Freakangels Volume One (2008)

I was thinking recently about how many entertainment distractions there are out there: television, music, theatre, movies, comics, radio, stand-up and sketch comedy, books, magazines, podcasts, games, and how the internet has upended almost all of it.  I originally wrote "usurped" but that's not quite accurate.  The internet has changed the game of making, promoting and selling almost all entertainment, and it's doing its damnedest to replace all the traditional means of accessing your entertainment, which probably isn't completely a bad thing... afterall, if we're receiving all our entertainment digitally, it just means a lot less packaging winds up in landfills, and a lot less environmental impact in producing and distributing physical copies.  I don't know what the trade-off is in the impact of the increase in digital resources required (servers, physical and wireless bandwidth, power consumption), but I have to think it's dramatic.
But at the same time, the internet has made entertainment almost all-consuming, especially if you're like me and love to be entertained.  With the internet and digital media, very little entertainment history is lost, and more and more and more is being created.  It's to the point that even if you stuck to only one format, be it movies, podcasts or web-series, there's just not enough time to consume all of the one's you might have a passing interest in.  Since the birth of my daughter, I've given up on keeping active in the music community, I've had less ability to see films in the theatre and less motivation to watch them at home (when I only have around three hours in any given evening it's hard to fit keeping current on the shows I currently watch (ignoring those I want to watch, for now), sports, reading comics, blogging, socializing, entertaining, gaming, and anything else that needs to be done into any given week), and don't ask me what the last book I read was.  Where my consumption has grown is in comedy (stand up and podcasts have become my commuting savior), and comic books.  Comics are so much faster to consume than almost anything, particularly because you control the pace, which is harder to do with any visual or audio medium.  But even with my sharp increase in monthly reading, I still am no where near caught up on everything I would like to read.

I have a long, long list of titles I would like to read, and probably just as long a list of titles I would like to re-read.  I have so many comics that I liked or loved that I would like to give more time, but there's also so many new, or new-to-me comics that I think I should read that I would literally need to have nothing else to do with my life for me to feel like I was even remotely close to catching up on it all.  I love stories and storytelling, and comics are my most preferred medium to receive them, that I want to be engaged with them as much as anything else.  Yet, in spite of reading so many websites with news and reviews (and writing them myself) I still miss A LOT of things, even from prominent creators like Warren Ellis.

I must have heard about Freakangels at some point over the past 5 years, and yet reading this first trade I had no familiarity except the nagging feeling that this was possibly a web-series.  A quick plunge of the google machine and indeed, Freakangels ran for 144 6-page Episodes at freakangels.com.  I know for certain I've been terrible at keeping up on web series so it's no wonder I missed this... but still, to be so oblivious to it.   I'm glad I found this (steeply discounted) first volume (so steeply discounted that it competes quite handily with reading it for free on the website), though it means I'm entering the rabbit hole of Freakangles and may not emerge for a while if I'm not careful.

The first volume runs up to the end of Episode 24, and it's a typically smart and engaging Ellis product, with a very genial pace that welcomes you to the characters and the world with much ease.  Perhaps too much ease to start...  I was getting a little concerned, as 2/3 of the way through this volume, there had been much set-up but only very minor conflict and I was wondering if anything would actually escalate in this trade (but oh, when it escalates... it gets serious).  It's a wonderful read that obviously is just the start of a very long-form story, all of it available on-line, for free.  

I'm still quite stuck with reading physical comics, but my attitude has been changing of late (especially with a device for reading digital works that doesn't make my brain hurt or scream in frustration), so I welcome the challenge of reading the rest of the series, at no cost but my time, especially when the quality is so high.  Ellis genuinely is one of the medium's premiere writers, and I think we know that, but his penchant for creator-owned work and his apparent disinterest in playing with the favored toys of the big two with any ongoing zeal keeps him out of the big spotlight with any regularity.  But looking at his output, from Transmetropolitan, to Global Frequency, to Planetary, to NextWave, to The Authority, to Iron Man, to his Ultimate Galactus trilogy, to Ocean and Orbiter, to Thunderbolts and newUniversal, that's all really, really, really good  (much of it great, some of it classic) stuff.  I think I've avoided his Avatar stuff largely because Avatar has a "house style" to its art I really don't care for (the Juan Jose Ryp effect), and I'm detracted from reading it almost immediately.  

But Freakangels has a bit of a different thing going, almost a manga-style (a little in Paul Duffield's character design, but mostly in the almost cel-animation-like coloring) that is richly detailed but not oppressively so, and very quickly tunes in with Ellis' scripting.  I can tell from this first volume that the remaining six are going to see a writer and artist in sync.  

After I'm done with this series, anyone have any other "must read" web series I should be taking a peek at?  'Cause, you know, I don't have enough to read as is.

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