I have been anticipating this moment since Jonathan Hickman, Jordan White, and Nick Lowe announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 each of the six Dawn of X books, and I couldn’t be happier that Fallen Angels #1 is out in comic shops this week. The first Dawn of X statement has finally been made and it’s finally clear what the first masterstroke from House of X and Powers of X means for all these characters. We have had a taste of Bryan Hill and Szymon Kudranski’s new series in the preview, but what exactly is Psylocke up to?
This issue does two things very well, and the first of which is telling a sometimes poetic and thoughtful story connected deeply to Psylocke’s past. Of all the X-Men Psylocke is possibly the most intriguing due to her reclaiming her identity after Betsy Braddock was given her old identity back. This character lived in Betsy’s head for years, and while Betsy didn’t mean her harm, there is a lot of baggage there. This issue delves a bit into that, or at the very least into Psylocke’s desire to reject confronting that for now. Instead, Hill ties Pylocke to past memories drawn beautifully with wooden and flowery borders by Kudranski, which you can see below. There’s a deeper purpose to Psylocke this series appears to be exploring that instantly invigorates the character and gets you excited for more.
The second thing done very well is how strong of an identity the book has after just one issue. A strong case is made for Psylocke — and by extension, this new team — that she is a character who always fights and can’t really exist in Krakoa without expending energy as a warrior. This connection gives her, the team, and the book itself a strong purpose. Traditionally this is the identity of X-Force, but this book makes a case for Psylocke to go her own route quite strongly. With Cable and Laura aka X-23 by her side, you can start to see some heroes really can’t survive in a peaceful existence. Hill and Kudranski make a good case for this team to exist thanks to the nature of the characters they’ve chosen for it. There is also a darker connection I won’t get into to avoid spoilers, but it’s a genius wrinkle to keep you guessing at ulterior motives surely at work.
The data pages in this issue are quite good and add a sci-fi layer that is quite interesting. Again, no spoilers, but these data pages could have stood alone and still been interesting.
The art by Kudranski with colors by Frank D’Armata is perfect for this title. While there are beautiful pages of flowers with angelic atmosphere matched with poetic captions, there are also dark corners that suit the style of the creators. There’s a horror feel to some of these scenes reminiscent of Clayton Crain’s work on Carnage, as the shadows are used as if they are a character in the story. From a tense scene with Psylocke and a superior earlier on to the darker corners during a bonfire, there’s a coldness that behooves the villains in the story. This issue also balances closeups very well, many of which are extreme closeups that aid in capturing the soul of the character in the moment. My only gripe, which is minor, is how characters can look stiff at times, pulling you out of the narrative a bit.
Interestingly, this issue might do less in revealing secrets of Krakoa and other mutant politics like the other series have. It’s not really a negative, but it does make the book feel strikingly different. This is more about Psylocke and the desire of a few heroes to scratch the proverbial warrior itch than dipping into a mutant or even human politics like so many of the other series have. Then again, this is only the first issue, so we will see.
Fallen Angels is visually and thematically beautiful in its use of darkness inside and outside the characters. The identity of this book is fascinating, especially if you’re a Psylocke fan, and I suspect it will connect with a lot of readers. It’s the rare instance of comic book poetry from a superhero comic.
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