Twelve children born at the same moment. Twelve children with violent eyes, pale skin, and telepathic powers. Twelve children who, somehow, have caused the end of the world. In London. *cue review*
Freakangels (2008, Avatar Press) is a comic with a punk/goth aesthetic and takes place post-apocalypse. In volume one we meet about half of these children—now adults, maybe in their early 20s from the looks of them—and the part of London they are trying to protect to make up for the fact that they kinda sorta oops brought on the apocalypse. The dynamic between characters is authentic and interesting—particularly as they can communicate telepathically with each other without being present, something that could easily have become confusing, but didn’t.
Each page is made up of three or four large panels, a format which allowed for more detail. The visual ruin porn wasn’t prominent though (which loses it points with me), and I often had to look twice before I noticed what was wrong with the buildings. Seeing the London Ferris Wheel underwater was an easy one to spot. It did make me think that the remains of a ruined city, one that is still teeming with survivors getting on with their lives, are going to be a lot more colorful than I might imagine. There were also some pretty badass steam-run vehicles.
Still, Freakangels does the thing that has kept me away from comics for most of my adult life: it is drawn for the male gaze. Though several of the male characters dress in revealing clothing themselves (net shirts, no shirts), the ladies to ladies with massive, visible cleavage ratio errs on the side of the cleavage. When we see a naked man, it is in a situation designed to paint him as crude and disgusting, not sexualized in any way. But when we see a woman scantily clad it is almost always in a sexual situation. The comic opens with a woman waking up from a one night stand she doesn’t remember, naked. Another character has a constant orgy going on in her rooms where she is, of course, always in her underwear. Even a woman shown sleeping off a hangover gives us a peek at her underwear.
When a gang attacks the city of course orgy lady doesn’t have time to get dressed and operates the house-sized machine gun in a bra and yoga pants. Of course. Why oh fucking why do comics consistently insist on drawing women this way? When will comic creators notice how much money they are losing to ladies who roll their eyes and buy Saga instead of their hetero-sexualized realities?
Worse is the portrayal of volume one’s only black character, a female engineer named Caz (who of course wears no shirt beneath her overalls). Except, she’s white? Because becoming a freakangel makes you white? One character new to the group asks Caz about this, and she replies: “The Freakangels package makes you pale and purple-eyed no matter who your parents were.” Huh. And maybe if we knew more about “the Freankangel package,” then maybe this would somehow make sense and not sound like a statement about the incompatibility of blackness and superpowers. Thing is we don’t know more, and this was a choice the writer did not have to make. What the fuck?
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Freakangels is that it began its life as a webcomic that ran from 2008 to 2011, and you can still read it all for free online. Of course you can buy them on paper now too, though I wouldn’t recommend it.
A few drops out of twelve canisters of purified water.
Where I got it: Book Depository