Monday, April 11, 2011

Advanced Trade Waiting – Snow Angel

Snow Angel is the original graphic novel coming out this month by Kurtis Wiebe, of recent The Intrepids and Green Wake fame, and Tyler Jenkins through Arcana. It’s about a young girl who is dragged into the legacy of crime and violence in her family. As she grows up, her quest for acceptance takes her down some dark paths. It’s a gritty little tale that delivers as much character as it does blood. This book is available soon so go place your orders now through the link at the bottom of the page. But first, hit the jump to read my review and see a 5 page preview.

Written by Kurtis Wiebe
Art by Tyler Jenkins

This book might open with a chick holding an Uzi spraying the criminals she hopes to kill but firmly in every caption is her motivation. From the outset, this is a tale about a little girl loving her father and not really knowing how to show it. She wants his love, she wants his attention, and you get the feeling she wants to end up just like him even though she knows he’s not perfect in the full view of the world. He’s just perfect to her.

We don’t see the father initially and this makes you wonder. What sort of man is she working to impress? He doesn’t need to be the most impressive man in the world, he just needs to be enough to be the only man in the life of his little girl. We cut to a flashback that not only delivers the man, but it also serves up the defining moment.

Angela is taken by her father to a meeting in 1969 in Colombia. This meeting ends in bloodshed and while the man has always tried to keep this element separate from his home life he takes his daughter this one time because the torch has to be passed eventually. And when that transition occurs, it is going to burn. That means there’s never a ‘good’ time to do it. You just do it. Angela wonders why she is there and the father states, coldly, that it’s because the son died in childbirth. There is no option to forego a legacy for this man, he just chooses the most acceptable option, even if it’s not really that acceptable. It’s all he has.

This legacy of blood is what drives Angela. It becomes her sole reason for being, which is quite sad. It’s not her fault, and it’s not her choice, but she bears this cross anyway. Even if she is the second choice, and always will be. You can’t compete with the dead, they always win. So she does her best, that’s what family means to her. If only she’d been offered an alternative.

This mixed cocktail of family and death is what warps Angela, and evolves her. There’s an understanding that everyone dies, and she will have to kill, and she will most likely be killed. It’s such a sad status quo and one you know, like in all good noir, the lead won’t overcome. You don’t overcome your destiny, and you certainly don’t escape the path your family, your genetics, and your world lay out for you. You just walk the lonely road and keep your eyes open.

Angela becomes her father. Her mother is shunted out of the picture, which is a real shame. The girl’s last chance at feminine survival is lost. Though, would she have ended up like her mother and just married a man like her father anyway? The question of fate is like the ouroboros, it gets you in the end.

Once we see the old Angela, the angel of death, it’s hard to tell if she’s living up to her new prophesy, or if she’s working hard to really please her father, or if she’s simply a pawn of her father’s personal machinations. You’d be confused into thinking her father doesn’t even care about her, except for the final moments he shows up to salvage what’s left of her. If he cared more would he step in earlier, or is he leaving her to build independence because she must learn this lesson as he won’t always be around?

Angela pulls a stunt in a nightclub that she wants to feel ballsy but mostly comes through as dumb. It’s not well thought out but it makes one hell of a sequence. This is an opportunity for the character to lead the actions, instead of the creators omnisciently leading them through the maze to the end. Angela makes a play and it doesn’t work out. It doesn’t work out in a very violent way.

This sequence, coupled with a scene where Angela shows ties to her father that are possibly a little too strong and perhaps delivers a subtext of Elektra-style emotion, leads quickly toward a final conflict that closes out this tale. The pace of the book speeds up considerably and you get a feeling of a true crescendo of blood and bullets at the end.

Tyler Jenkins has a scratchy style that works in some panels but not so much in others. His characters hold emotion in their lines but no depth in their substance. It’s like we’re seeing them through filters, perhaps only at their real levels. His action is usually well paced and his moments of violence resonate with a brutal quality that keeps you glued to the page to find the next depraved step.

It is the use of colour where Jenkins shows his true skills. The textures and shading of each scene brings forth the real underlying feelings of the characters. Jenkins uses the hues of the background to show readers how these people are feeling. There’s a lot of red, understandably, and so when we get a yellow scene, or green, then we feel differently. It’s like we can unclench for a moment, relax, and recharge in preparation for the next moment.

This book might come across as having a female Scarface vibe but it is different. It reminds me heavily of Matt Fraction’s early work The Last of the Independents in tone, theme, and execution. This is a sparse crime story with a young woman’s journey at its heart. Angela is an element of the landscape influenced by everything and everyone around her. She can steer the ship but she can’t control the tide.

Verdict – Buy It. This book is quality crime with a hard edge and a sharper blade hidden behind its back. The characters have such emotional journeys and the plot moves these feelings of inner turmoil and familial intertwined fate toward a death soaked conclusion. If you’ve enjoyed Wiebe’s work from Image on The Intrepids and Green Wake then you’ll be interested to see this OGN, which is an earlier work finally released. You can see the writer forming himself on the page and becoming what we know him as now, a bestselling writer with a great future ahead of him. Pick up this book and prepare to be blown away.

Like this review?  Interested in Snow Angel?  Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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