Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Beautifully Epic A Flight of Angels

This was another one of those books I had a bit of a rough time getting a hold of but when I finally did I put it off and didn't read it for awhile.

If you're at all inclined toward graphic novels and stories about angels I recommend picking it up.

A Flight of Angels is a stunning graphic novel illustrated by Rebecca Guay with stories by Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Louise Hawes, Todd Mitchell, and Alisa Kwitney. The stories are lush the art is absolutely breathtaking. I mean, just look at that cover art:

Image borrowed from

I'll rank the stories and then talk a little about each:

1. Shining Ones (Black) / Original Sin (Hawes)
2. The Guardian (Mitchell)
3. The Story Within the Story Within (Willingham)
5. Chaya Surah and the Angel of Death (Kwitney)

The order the appear in the book is as follows:
1. Original Sin
2. The Story Within the Story Within
Chaya Surah and the Angel of Death
4. The Guardian
5. Shining Ones

Holly Black's Shining Ones and Louise Hawes' Original Sin are easily tied for my favorite. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I was heavily influenced by the art in these stories. But the Adam and Eve story with the twist is wonderful and Shining Ones turns the tide on the whole frame story leading to that amazing ending. They're both classic stories and the art reflects that.

The feminism in Original Sin could have been really heavy handed but managed to avoid it. It's not made light of, and would be hard pressed to be with the setting of the subject matter, but isn't like being clubbed with a brick.

A close second/third is Todd Mitchell's The Guardian. Its art is dreamlike and sad, perfectly matched for the story. The story looks at love and how it changes people and how much one is willing to let the other change. But is it really right to set them free? It comes as a brilliant follow up to Chaya Surah and the Angel of Death.

I was intrigued by Bill Willingham's story before I'd even read it. I'm a huge fan of both Fables and House of Mystery. The Story Within the Story Within is so very him. The extraordinary in the modern ordinary setting. The angel bar. The story explores loyalty and duty and its limits. It asks what happens when one loses their place? The female angel has an air of ruthless danger that is great. It also tosses in the first real hints at angel and human romance.

Chaya Surah and the Angel of Death by Alisa Kwitney was my least favorite. It wasn't bad but I wanted more...well...angels. I know that sounds ridiculous. I loved the art paired with the fairy tale of old style of the story and even how it changes when the setting does. It's inspired. I love the balance between one soul needing to die to allow another to be born.  But something about the story just didn't really do it for me. The mob felt like it came out of nowhere. I think its greatest triumph is setting up the angel and human love for the next story (The Guardian).

The progression in the angel and human relations is wonderfully constructed. It builds from a mention to a twisted sort of love and then the undying but spurned love. It makes the effect of the last story on the frame that much more shocking.

The frame story, also by Black, is brilliant. Setting the tales of angels into a story of faeries is inspired. In many myths faeries are fallen angels and Black uses this to twist the frame story with her Shining Ones. Despite the other stories it is that story and its revelation that impacts one particular character in amazing and terrifying ways. This story packs one Hell of a punch.

If I really have anything bad to say it's that the art is too beautiful. It's absolutely heart aching to look at. That's not really a problem but there was a time or two where it was a tad distracting. And that's not really a real problem. The book is stunning. Absolutely beautiful. That alone is worth picking it up. Add the amazing story telling and this is definitely a book worth picking up.

Overall Rating: Massively Epic.

Two more things: Is there anything Holly Black can't do? Also, apparently in one picture the long haired female fairy looks just like me (that tidbit thanks to the mother).

Now, I'm off to start Jennifer E. Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.


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