A Flight of Angels by Holly Black, Bill Willingham et al, illustrated by Rebecca Guay
Reading A Flight of Angels is like visiting the Vertigo Comics of ages past. Unlike more recent offerings from DC Comics’ mature readers imprint, which tend towards more violent and metafictional tones, this original graphic novel is an unashamedly mythic fantasy, most like Neil Gamain’s Sandman or Mike Carey’s Lucifer. In fact, A Flight of Angels reads so much like the latter, that I checked a number of times to make sure that Carey had nothing to do with it.
A diverse group of faeries witnesses the fall of an injured angel and convenes a tribunal to determine the unconscious stranger’s fate. Each character submits a story about angels as evidence. These tales range from myths about the rebellion in heaven (“Shining Host” by Holly Black) and the fall of man (“Original Sin” by Louise Hawes) to folktales about death (“Chaya Surah and the Angel of Death” by Alisa Kwitney) and love (“The Guardian” by Todd Mitchell).
Even though each section is written by a different author, there is a consistency of tone that flows through the entire graphic novel. The characterization isn’t terribly deep, but everyone has a distinct voice, and most are fun and get at least a small moment to shine. By contrast, Rebecca Guay who is the book’s sole illustrator adopts a different style for each individual story. Throughout her sense of design is strong, and, oddly for a book about angels, her ugly and/or malformed characters are particularly interesting.
All in all, A Flight of Angels is exactly what a Vertigo book was ten to fifteen years ago, which is both its strength and weakness. While it doesn’t supply us with anything particularly new it does provide an excellent example of the type of story this publisher thrived on in the past. Fans of Sandman, Lucifer and possibly Fables (whose writer, Bill Willingham is also represented here) will undoubtedly enjoy it, and likewise, new readers who enjoy this book should check out those older series from which it draws so much influence.