“Angelic” is just your average coming-of-age story set on an Earth where humanity disappeared a few hundred years back and left the world to their genetically-engineered creations. Chief among them are a race of winged monkeys who are watching over what their makers have left behind though equal parts devotion and religious dogma. Most of these monkeys are content to go through the motions and wait for the makers to come back, but not Qora. She wants to know why they do the things they do. Specifically: why is it that when female monkeys come of age they go into a certain metal room with their mate and emerge pregnant and without their wings?
Qora’s time is coming up soon and while she’s ruminating on that one day by the shore, she has an encounter with her people’s most hated enemy: the mans -- little walruses in hoverpods who serve a being they call Ay. The mans figure that a rebel like Qora may be able to help them find the part they need to fix Ay, so they set her up with the Complainer -- one of their own who also asks a lot of annoying questions -- and send them off into the city ruins to find it. The only things standing between them and success are a teleporting cat, the “angels” humanity left behind to guard the skies, and the awful truth behind their whole existences.
Sometimes writer Si Spurrier’s work can come off as too clever for its own good. Either it’s too concerned with examining genre conventions than telling an interesting story (lookin’ in your direction “X-Force”) or conjuring up a weird new world and not quite getting it to work (lookin’ in your direction “Godshaper”). When Spurrier does manage to make these things work, the results can be downright magical, as seen in his “X-Men: Legacy” run, “The Spire,” and now “Angelic.”
This volume admittedly starts off asking the reader to accept a whole lot of stuff. From its post-apocalyptic setting, to its inhuman protagonist, and the weird speech patterns the characters have. Tossing all this stuff at the reader right out of the gate is, if I’m being charitable, ill-advised. The stranger the world you’ve created, the better it is to ease the reader into it rather than throw them in at the deep end.
Assuming you get past the initial shock of strangeness, “Angelic” starts making a lot more sense. The factions and their conflicting ideologies become easy to grasp, which in turn makes it easier to sympathize with Qora and Complainer’s quest. They both make great protagonists as Qora’s curiosity helps drive the narrative while Complainer works to challenge his companion’s less grounded ideas. Seeing the two of them start out as initially distrustful of the other only to work together to overcome their differences and become friends may sound like something as predictable as it is sentimental. Yet Spurrier throws enough interesting, and weird, challenges their way that Qora and Complainer’s friendship ultimately feels like it was hard-earned.
The setting of the series is also something that becomes a lot more interesting once you get past the beginning. Winged monkeys following a religious dogma, small walruses in hoverpods, flying dolphins and squid, biologically-engineered help desks. I’ve read enough of his work to get the impression that things like these come naturally to Spurrier. What’s great about all this is that this weirdness has a point to it. There’s actually a logical reason for these things to exist in this world and uncovering it turns out to be a source of genuine heartbreak for Qora and Complainer.
Spurrier also feels the need to have his characters speak in strange dialects that essentially involves the writer tossing out large portions of the rulebook for proper grammar. This is something else that normally strikes me as ill-advised as otherwise good series like “Spaceman” and “Crossed +100,” the latter of which Spurrier took over after Alan Moore’s initial arc, were sunk by their writer’s decision to have their cast speak in what they imagine English of the future to sound like. Fortunately Spurrier seems to have learned a thing or two from his time on “Crossed +100” and the dialects his characters speak in are strange enough to complement the setting, but don’t get in the way of conveying the actual story.
While I’ve been talking a lot about the strangeness of “Angelic” it’s lucky to have an artist who can present it all in a genuinely appealing way. Caspar Wijngaard displays an impressive design sense in coming up with all of this weird future tech, and even tells us about how he did it in the supplementary material at the back of the volume. While he convincingly brings this run-down future to life, Wijngaard also gives us some lively characters to look at as well. His Qora is wonderfully emotive, which is a good thing since she has to respond to a lot of surprising developments over the course of the volume and her reactions to them are always convincing. The rest of the cast is similarly endearing from the amusing cynicism/mopiness of Complainer, to the Fazecat’s feral nature, and the figuratively towering menace of Alfer.
What I’m saying here is that if you can get past its beginning, there is so much to appreciate in regards to “Angelic.” From it’s wonderful art, to the smart worldbuilding, and likeable characters this volume was a thoroughly entertaining read for me. The only catch you’ll find at the end is that “Heirs and Graces” is a fully self-contained story. Normally this wouldn’t be a bad thing, but this is labeled as a “vol. 1.” I’m not sure how well it sold in single-issue form to gauge its chances of actually getting a “vol. 2” though I’ve been waiting for the second volume of Spurrier’s other Image series that was labeled as “vol. 1,” “Cry Havoc,” for a few years now. If this is all we get of “Angelic’s” world then I’d say we were very lucky to have it.