Warning: This post contains minor plot spoilers.
We’re in an exciting time for new comics right now, and I’m not talking about the reveal of Captain America as a Hydra agent. No, throw those superheroes away. Authors such as Greg Rucka (with Michael Lark and Eric Trautmann) and Brian K. Vaughan (with Fiona Staples) have made the sci-fi park with Lazarus and Saga, respectively. Now we can add one of Ars’ favorite authors to that roll of honor: William Gibson has made the leap from prose to picture books, teaming up with Michael St. John Smith and artist Butch Guice to bring us this week the first issue of the new IDW series Archangel.
“It’s a story of alternate history and worlds,” Gibson writes in the background. “And I wouldn’t want to spoil too much of the frame because that’s an inherent part of our story. But I will say one of the first verbal tags we had for the material was ‘Band Of Brothers vs. Blackwater.’ “
Archangel starts in February 2016, but it’s a very different 2016 than the year we know. The world is in ruins. The White House moved to the ominous-sounding National Emergency Federal District in Montana. They have technology that far exceeds ours.
A father and son occupy the new White House as president and vice president. We never meet Dad, but his son – a mean son of a bitch named Junior Henderson – has been surgically altered to resemble his grandfather, as Junior is about to travel to an alternate Earth in 1945 to take Grandpa’s place, with intend to recreate it. world more to its liking (and, presumably, to avoid whatever it was that wrecked the one we start in).
However, not all is lost. A pair of tattooed Marines go back in time to stop him, but things begin to fall apart when their stealth plane materializes in a formation of B-17s in the skies over Berlin. It’s here that ArchangelThe genesis – a failed pitch for a German TV company with foo fighters and ghost missiles – becomes clear.
The rest of the first issue takes place in 1945, in which British intelligence officer Naomi Givens must find out what just fell from the skies of Berlin. The Russians salvage the wreckage while the Americans capture the two marines from the future. Even though the three nations were wartime allies, no one wants to share more than necessary in the aftermath of Germany’s defeat.
Givens is a quintessential Gibsonian protagonist. Don’t read Archangel expect boring, anatomically impossible ladies in revealing outfits. As with Rucka, his female characters depend on strong willpower and personalities, not looks. “I have a certain kind of over-the-top female character who just never gets killed off,” Gibson writes. “They may not be realistic, but I love them, and apparently a lot of people do.”
Along with Forever Carlyle (Lazarus) and Velvet Templeton (Velvet), I have a feeling that Givens is going to pack a big punch in the upcoming issues, although the first issue doesn’t really give much more away. We know Junior is up to something, but we’ll have to wait for future issues to find out what his nefarious plan is – and if anyone in 1945 or 2016 is capable of stopping him.
Now comes the frustrating part. Waiting at least a month for the next 20 pages will seem like an eternity. Archangel apparently hit a nerve. Publisher IDW sold out the first print run within a few days before announcing that a second run would be printed. But as we live in our non-dystopian 2016, Archangel is also available in PDF and ePub format, which do not have such limitations. If you’re a fan of thought-provoking sci-fi, Gibson’s body of work, or even World War II spy thrillers, you should check it out.
List image by IDW Publishing