Once upon a time, 12 children where born at the same time to different families.  They all had pale skin, lavender eyes, and mental powers above and beyond those of the normal man.  As they grew up, they learned that they could do all sorts of interesting things with their powers, and they began to see the world differently.

One day, they decided to change the world, and in the process, nearly destroyed it.  This is what happened next.

That is about the best introduction that I can think of for FREAKANGELS, the popular webcomic from Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield.

Every Friday, with exceptions for short breaks,  a new episode is publiced in the FreakAngel saga.  As I am writing this, there 62 Episodes, consisting of 6 pages for each episode, which comes out to (mumble, mumble, hate math, mumble, carry the two…) 372 pages of story. Let me repeat that, 372 pages of STORY.  That number does not include the real world interludes and filler.  The art itself is great and the color effects are stunning, but the real standouts are the characters. And best of al, it is free.

Essentially, the basic back story starts out about like I stated in the intro, but you don’t know that when you start reading this.  You are introduced to first a shot of a flooded London, and then of a beautiful young woman in bed staring up at the ceiling.  She seems to have had some regrettable anonymous sex with a guy from Lambeth Road.  Getting up to gather herself, she looks out the window at a flooded London.  As she gazes out over the city, we see a face which is very similar to but not hers in the reflection. The girl is known as KK, and the reflection is named Conner.

After a few quick pleasantries Connor tells KK that she needs to come home they have a situation, to which KK replies, “Oh, just use the big steam gun and pepper whoeverthe**** it is from above…” when Conner interrupts her with more detailed information. There is a girl walking down the street with a big pistol (Cultural misunderstanding? It is later show to be a shotgun) yelling that Mark Fox killed her family and she is looking to kill his.  This news apparently is not good, because KK says sadly, “He’s killing people now. Well at least we know the stupid bastard’s alive.” This sets up one of the more important plot points of the series, remember that.  KK then gets dressed and leaves via the roof, on her steam powered gyrocopter/motorcycle thing-a-ma-gig.  As she leaves you get a view of the city again, this time reiterating that London has flooded.  That ends the first episode and introduces you to their world.

Things move along very nicely after that. In the next episode we are introduced to the girl with the big gun, Alice, and we meet the FreakAngel Connor in the flesh.  It seems that the mysterious Mark killed Alice’s brothers, and then told her that he and his family live in the Whitechapel district.  Conner peaceably confronts her on the streets, and uses his telepathy to read her mind.  It seems that Alice’s brothers where not exactly good guys; they where gun runners that possibly crossed Mark on a deal and where killed for their effort. Conner tells Alice that they have not seen Mark in years, which she does not believe; how else could he have known about her and her brothers?  Her eyes go purple (a visual to let you know that they are having powers used against them) and you see her memories, visualized by scraps of newspaper and photos in the wind.  As she shakes herself out of it, she aims the shotgun at Conner and prepares to shoot, when a water canteen drops on her head out of the sky.  KK is home, and accessing the situation, decided to end it.  Connor is not happy about the way she did it, but KK asks if he would rather have the shotgun in his face.  They quickly surmise that Mark is out in the world and pissing people off, then sending them to the FreakAngels home in Whitechapel to kill them, sort of assassins by proxy. End of Episode 2.

Things progress rather nicely. In the next Episode, we are introduced to another FreakAngel, Karl.  Karl lives above the Ten Bells Pub and has converted the roof into a garden where he grows fruits and vegetable for the people of the community. He also gives us a little informational tidbit; a tinfoil hat CAN block telepathic brain waves!  Karl seems to do this quite often, and seems rather miffed at having awoken to KK’s little overnight adventure with the Lambeth guy. This apparently happens quite a bit, and Karl does not seem to enjoy this aspect of his FreakAngel package as much as the others do.  KK angrily tells him to take off the hat and listen to her, they have a situation.  When he refuses, after spraying her with the water, he returns to tending his strawberries. End of Episode 3.

This is pretty much the pattern for the first bit of the story.  You get a nice series of episodes that introduce the FreakAngels and their world while moving along the storyline at the same time.  You meet KK, the “face” of the FreakAngels in the real world promotional material. She’s a wild child who seems to like anonymous sex with guys from the wrong side of the river. Connor is the quite one and the chronicler, recording each day down on paper.   Karl is the horticulturist.  He grows his plants for the community and essentially wants to be left alone.  The most disturbing of the present FreakAngels is Luke; think your creepy homeless uncle you would never want to leave your girlfriend alone with. Sirkka is teaching peace and free love, but it is costing her the love of Jack. Jack is the scavenger, travelling the city in his steamboat gathering anything that can be use by the community. He loves Sirkka, but cannot come to terms with her free love teachings.

Kirk is the community watchmen, serving a self imposed penance for their actions years ago.  Arkday is the victim of a drug overdose who seems simple and pure, but could be more powerful than them all. Caroline (Caz) is the engineer who builds their steam machines. She too has fair skin and lavender eyes, despite being a young black woman.  Miki is the community doctor; she takes care of the medical needs of the community and is a pacifist.  Kait is the law. Not like she enforces the law, but that she has an attitude like Judge Dredd, AND she enforces the law. She, like Kirk, tends to stay away from the others, and can muffle her presence to them. Mark is the enigma. He is never seen on screen, but his presence hangs over them all. He advocated forming an army of mind-controlled people and took actions which lead to him being exiled and seemingly killed.  Karl says he “heard his brain die.”  No body was recovered. The only non-powered FreakAngel is Alice, the young lady looking for revenge. She is a FreakAngel in name only and is taken after earning her stripes alerting the community to an attack from the outside.

Through the course of the first “book”, we see how all these characters interact and live together. The community they have built in the Whitechapel district is essentially a small band of refugees currently at the limit of their resources.  It is evident though that many people are aligned with other “gangs” through out the city, and that they do occasionally strike against the FreakAngel turf. But think Mad Max; think more of everyday people pushed to extraordinary limits to survive.  When Alice sets of the alarms to warn of an attack by a rival faction, you see people in t-shirts and jeans, people that could be your next door neighbor or even yourself.  The FreakAngels all react to the various situations differently and often realistically.  There is a scene where Connor takes Alice to their “freak cave” and Karl offers her some fresh strawberries.  Alice’s reaction is amazing, and the emotion that Ellis and Duffield get to come off the page is startling.  Ellis manages to evoke emotions from the humorous, to sadness to revulsion on a whim.  You can “hear” how grateful the community is to them for having taken them in and that is what sets the series apart.

The second book/act gets deeper into character interaction and leaves some additional bread crumbs from the past. It is heart breaking when the full realization of what happened after the disaster, and we again get some of the emotion I was mentioning. During the second book, the FreakAngels realize that people depend on them, and they need to stop acting like they could leave tomorrow and begin building a community.

In the third book/act, we discover that one of the recent refugees may be a Jack the Ripper style murderer, and Kait seems to relish the fact that she has an adversary to investigate.  We also see what ends the group has to contemplate to deal with one of their own who crosses the line.  This week was a San Diego Comic Con break, so you have to wait an extra week to see what happened.  ARGH!

Reading this review, I realize that the cast may seem a bit ungainly, but it really isn’t.  The character development and background information flows very naturally, and you have a nice balance between revelations and new plot threads.   This series very easily could have gone the way of “X-Men after a Nuclear Apocalypse”, but it instead goes in a different refreshing direction.  The mystery of Mark, what the group did to the world, why they did it, why they are like they are and if anyone has survived outside of London makes you want to read more.  Add to that a Ripper style murder and bad intentions from within, and you have a series that makes you begging for more. And best of all, it’s free!

But, if reading comics on your screen is not for you, you can always pick up one of the first two print volumes of the series, published by Avatar.  Even having read them, I plan on getting them ordered so I can have them on hand to read and study.

So, all that said, go check out the website at  www.freakangels.com. On the right column, you can chose to jump to an episode or start from the beginning. I recommend start from the beginning and if the first handful of episodes catches you, prepare for one hell of a ride.

I give FreakAngels 4 out of 5 stars.


The Author

Stacy Baugher

Stacy Baugher

Back in February of 2008, Stacy Baugher wrote his first article for Major Spoilers and started a solid run of work that would last for over two years. He wrote the first series of Comic Casting Couch articles as well as multiple Golden Age Hero Histories, reviews and commentaries. After taking a hiatus from all things fandom he has returned to the Major Spoilers fold.

He can currently be found on his blog, www.stacybaugher.com , were he post progress on his fiction work as well as his photography and life in general, and on Twitter under the handle @stacybaugher . If you're of a mind, he also takes on all comers with the under the Xbox Live Gamertag, Lost Hours.

He currently lives in Clinton, Mississippi with his understanding wife, and two kids.

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  1. July 24, 2009 at 5:46 pm — Reply

    this has been brilliant and I’ve been loving this for ages.

  2. July 25, 2009 at 9:28 am — Reply

    I really was not expecting much from this. I have not every been a real fan of Warren Ellis, I like some stuff, disliked others, but this was really different.

    It is now a Friday addiction!

  3. Kevin
    July 26, 2009 at 9:07 am — Reply

    I hadn’t heard of Freakangels until this posting. Now I’m dying to see what happens next!

    Thanks for exposing this hidden gem!

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