What would you do if every day was spent in a struggle for survival against the very people who should be keeping you safe? What would be going through your mind if your own government was relentlessly pursuing you simply because of what you were, of what you might do. And what would you do if the government had every right to logically be hunting you, especially when you consider that you’re not alone, and that all of you together have the ability to knock some people down for good?
Freakangels, by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, has a pretty simple concept and plot, but has a tendency to present at least three sides to any argument to you and then leave the difficult choice of which answer is right to you. The premise of Freakangels is simple, and Duffield and Ellis remind us exactly how simple it is at the beginning of every chapter: “23 years ago, twelve strange children were born in England at the exact same moment. Six years ago, the world ended. This is the story of what happens next.”
There are two things you need to know about Freakangels right off the bat. First, this comic is what the authors themselves call “terribly british.” Second, this comic review is a bit more timely than the other comic reviews I’ve posted on Faceplant!, saying as how in just a few weeks the series is coming to a close, forever. I’m having a hard time picturing this myself, but then again I’m not the guy who is writing it. Because time is a factor, I’ll get this out-of-the-way early: you should be reading Freakangels. Just do it. I’ll wait.
Okay, no I won’t. That’d be a terrible way to run a website. Anyway, Freakangels updates weekly with about five or six pages at a time, so check it at your leisure.
Six years ago, something happened. What exactly it is left incredibly vague to us for quite some time, though we see plenty of the results. London is flooded. Buildings are in ruins. It’s the end of the world, and what remains of humanity is clinging to small settlements in an ever-present battle of survival. Food, medicine, cholera, and desperate men and women just trying to survive another day are quickly depleting that number. Of the surviving settlements, Whitechapel is perhaps the best off. That’s because for the past six years, eleven of those twelve strange children have been living there, helping the survivors and protecting the innocent in their own way.
But who are the Freakangels? I could list all 12 of them here, but you’ll never remember each of them, their quirks, and their talents. Ellis and Duffield do that much better than I ever could. While early on, you’ll find yourself straining to keep track of them all, you quickly grow to love each of them in their own quirky way. Well… except for one or two special cases. Some of the Freakangels have spent the past six years with very different thoughts about their life before the “big crash,” and may or may not be a little more cynical and insane than what might be healthy for someone who can do all the stuff they can do.
Freakangels were born with something they call “the package,” which gives them each some similar physical and mental attributes. Each Freakangel is pale skinned with purple eyes, regardless or race or parentage. They can all communicate telepathically, skim memories and hold “static lines” to communicate long discussions in a heartbeat. They each have photographic memories, and the package also helps to nudge them along toward their individual interests. As a result, after reading a few books, watching a few cop shows, gleaning information off of doctors, and tinkering in their back yards, each Freakangel can essentially become an expert in whatever they choose. There are some other side effects… like the freaky glowing purple eyes, the ability to control minds, and blow up buildings with a thought. They can alter memories, heal people physically, and probably do a lot more that they never ever considered.
But the one thing they have trouble with is agreeing on anything. Each character has a different way of looking at each situation, which raises a lot of tricky ethical questions. The Freakangels have seen a lot of horrors since the world ended, but the amount they let themselves interact with the survivors is a matter of some debate. For example, is it ethical to erase the memory of a young woman who was being held in a rape ring for weeks? What if you could physically heal her as well so that it never happened? And if that’s okay, is it okay to erase their memories of theft? Of family members dying? Of you, if you decide to steal everything they have left in this shattered world? And what if there were eleven others living with you whose minds you can’t erase, who will remember what you say and what you do, even if you think you’re completely validated in being a prick?
But there are bigger problems on the horizon. There is, after all, a twelfth Freakangel, who didn’t part on good terms when he left. And when a young woman from Manchester strolls into town, mentally compelled to murder as many Freakangels as she can, well that kind of thing sends a message.
The story is compelling and the characters are interesting, though sometimes the dialogue doesn’t match. There’s actually an “all your base” reference in here, which seemed a little… weird at the time. And also, this isn’t a comic to read if you have an aversion to graphic nature. The end of the world is pretty brutal, you know. dead bodies everywhere. Definitely not something you want to be caught looking at too closely at work.
Only a few more weeks left in Freakangels, so now’s as good of a time to meet the characters as any.