"No Angel #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Black Mask Studios
Written by Eric Palicki and Adrianne Palicki
Illustrated by Ari Syahrazad
Colored by Jean-Paul Csuka
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on November 30th, 2016
Grief is a helluva thing. We all handle it a little differently, although I'd argue that most of us go through the documented five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Iraq War veteran / FBI agent Hannah Gregory is processing the deaths of her father and brother in a unique way. She's come back to her sleepy hometown of Tucker's Mill, Wisconsin, to search for answers. What she finds is more questions, each opening a Pandora's Box that is more dangerous than the last.
For the bulk of this first issue, No Angel is a dramatic story of family and loss. Hannah struggles with the secrets she uncovers about her father and he's not around to defend himself. The idea that our parents are human beings capable of mistakes is something that everyone has to come to terms with sooner or later. This might be on a whole other level though.
Much of this emotion is conveyed by artist Ari Syahrazad. Hannah is never shown as sad or vulnerable. Instead, she's more determined and frustrated. This comes through in her facial expressions and stance. Syahrazad's style is reminiscent of early Michael Gaydos, and Hannah bears some resemblance to Jessica Jones in Alias, not to mention co-writer Adrianne Palicki.
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This works hand-in-hand with Jean-Paul Csuka's colors. The book features a soft palette with many shadows, as if the entire town is perpetually overcast coinciding with the grief Hannah is going through. There's a nice bonding scene with Hannah and her mother by candlelight. You can feel the warmth in the room as the two women speak to one another.
Where things really heat up for No Angel is in the last few pages. The book takes an unexpected but welcome turn that changes everything. It reframes what the book is about and the direction it's heading. Suddenly, you're staring down a nightmare given flesh, leaving you with your mouth agape in shock. Syahrazad's depiction of this is nothing short of horrifying. Just when you're about to recover, writers Eric and Adrianne Palicki drop the other shoe with a monumental final page reveal that ups the stakes considerably.
No Angel starts as a drama about family and grief, then rips the rug out from under you, throwing you into a horror of immeasurable proportions. Seriously, there is one panel in particular that will haunt you for some time. Once you read the book, you'll know exactly which one I mean. The twists and turns at the end are earned through the top-notch character development throughout the majority of the issue.