Friday, October 24, 2008

ARCHANGEL #1 – February 1996


Phantom Wings

Credits: Peter Milligan (writer), Leonardo Manco (artist), Jonathan Babcock (letterer)

Summary

While having dinner with Archangel, Psylocke tries to convince him to talk about his injured wings. Archangel refuses to talk about it, which angers Psylocke. He flies away and is soon attacked by a woman with an energy lance and a hi-tech suit of armor. She chains him up, telling him that she has to protect herself from the birds. Archangel spends the next day chained up, resenting his metal wings as he grows closer to his captor. He sends out a psychic message to Psylocke, who works with Phoenix to pick up the clues “Tuesday”, “birds”, and “airplane”. Cross-referencing all three words in the X-Men’s database reveals that there was a woman named Tuesday, married to an abusive husband named Donald Bird who died in an airplane crash. Archangel convinces his captor, Tuesday, to let him help her fight the throng of approaching birds. After he chases them away, Tuesday reveals that during her plane crash, their plane was attacked by savage birds as it plummeted to the ground. Archangel deduces that she killed Donald while he was piloting the plane, hoping that she would also die, and that the birds represent her guilt. Somehow, she’s able to create manifestations of her shame. He convinces Tuesday to let go of her guilt and they fly off together. Archangel realizes that they were actually in the city all along, outside of her late husband’s office building. He looks over to Tuesday, but she’s gone. Later, Archangel tells Psylocke the story, explaining that Tuesday helped him to let go of his anger over losing his original wings. Psylocke walks away, hurt that a ghost touched him more than she could.

Production Note

This is a black and white special with no ads.

Continuity Note

Archangel’s wings were badly damaged by Sabretooth during the Sabretooth one-shot. Psylocke doesn’t have her Crimson Dawn facial tattoo yet, even though this story explicitly takes place after Uncanny X-Men #330. I wonder when it will actually show up.

Review

This is a strange one, a one-shot black and white special starring one of the less popular X-Men. Marvel very rarely published anything in black and white during this time (I think even the B&W Marvel magazines were dead by now), so I’m not quite sure what the inspiration for this one was. Perhaps someone just thought that black and white suited Leonardo Manco’s art better. The story has no bearing on any ongoing storylines, but it at least tries to say something about Archangel’s character, so I wouldn’t dismiss it as just filler.

Archangel’s angst over his transformation under Apocalypse had mostly been ignored during this era, so it’s a legitimate area for Milligan to explore. He writes a lot of poetic narrative captions, a style that was already disappearing at the time, but he’s able to use them to make Archangel more sympathetic and to effectively build up Tuesday’s mystery. The idea of Archangel being abducted by a girl with an irrational hatred of birds sounds needlessly quirky, but Milligan is able to pull the idea off, mainly because he provides a decent conclusion at the end. We’re never told if Tuesday is a mutant or some sort of supernatural figure, but we’re given enough information for the story to come across as more than just weird for weirdness’ sake. The character arc of letting go of your past and facing the future is an old cliché, but Milligan’s writing is sharp enough to make it work. Manco’s art is also notable, taking advantage of the black and white format to play around with the shadows in a cool way. This is more sophisticated than a lot of the other material coming out of Marvel at this time, and I’d say it’s still worth checking out (even if I’ve already spoiled the mystery).

4 comments:

wwk5d said...

I don't even remember this...interesting that it get's a good review. Might have to try and track it down.

Fnord Serious said...

I've always liked Milligan and I remember thinking this issue was decent. I've completely forgotten that it was in black & white, though. Between this and all the 19 page issues you've been reviewing, do you think Marvel was starting to make budget cutbacks? The bankruptcy is only a few years off at this point, right?

G. Kendall said...

Marvel's first round of layoffs happened in Christmas 1996, so I'm not sure what shape they were in early 1996. The shortened comics probably had something to do with deadline issues, I would guess.

Mike Loughlin said...

I loved this comic, mostly for Manco's art. After Hellstorm & Druid, he became a favorite. I'm glad he toned down some of his extremes in later years, but can keep the creepiness factor high enough for a title like Hellblazer.

If you've never read Blaze of Glory and Apache Sky, Westerns he did for Marvel with John Ostrander, seek them out. The art is gorgeous.

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