FALLEN ANGELS #1-8, Marvel Comics, April to November 1987

This is a public service review as promised on the Comic Treadmill. Their 15-part Ant-Man vs. Atom smackdown brought out the ridiculous idea that Ant-Man's ants had human-like intelligence and motivations, like loyalty to Ant-Man. Ridiculous, but not unheard of in the Marvel Universe since. There are a number of instances of intelligent animals, including the frogs and rats in those Thor comics where he's been turned into a bullfrog. Another example that came to mind was that of the intelligent lobsters in the Fallen Angels mini-series. So I promised to review the damn thing 1) because I can't let someone else track this down and read it when I know how bad it is, and 2) not realizing JUST HOW BAD it was. Just lost an afternoon (and a number of brain cells) reading it. Hope you appreciate it.

1987 was a different time, when comics were still under a buck and you could afford to read a large majority of what came out without breaking the bank. I can't understand why else I would have stuck with this title for 8 whole issues. Another difference is that while this is a mutant book, they didn't feel the need to put an "X" in the title, but then, the junior X-Men were still called the New Mutants and not X-Farce or Generation X or whatever.

The book is the brainchild of ("created by") writer Jo Duffy and artist Kerry Gammill, and centers around a number of New Mutants (or other junior X-Men) and new characters operating as pickpockets under the Vanisher's control who band together over the course of 8 issues and become heroes. Then they apparently go back to whatever comic they came from or fade from history. It's like an overlong pilot movie for a tv series that was never picked up. Doing a little research, I just found out that Jo Duffy is really Mary Jo Duffy, one of those women writers who took on a more masculine pseudonym so she could write such macho fare as Power Man & Iron Fist and Conan the Barbarian. It's weird because I couldn't remember who wrote Fallen Angels, but with its preponderance of new female characters and low action budget, I was ready to blame an 80s female writer. Like Louise Simonson, say. Sorry Louise! It's just the way that used to roll... like Power Pack, they produced more... domestic... or Degrassi-like... comics. Thankfully, that's not true anymore (give it up for Gail Simone, among others). (And I realize that's not fair to Ann Nocenti, whom I liked a lot... though she is the listed editor for Fallen Angels, so she's not blameless!)

So let's take this one step at a time, shall we?

Fallen Angels #1

Plot: During a soccer game between the New Mutants, Sunspot knocks Cannonball into a tree headfirst, and forgetting that that's his mutant power and that he'll be fine, runs back into the X-Mansion. There, he gets his hands on his file and reads that Professor X thought he might one day become evil like his dad, well, he becomes convinced of it and runs away. Meanwhile, mutant expert Moira MacTaggert is called to the X-Mansion to help sort of some administrative trouble temporary headmaster Magneto is having. She brings the junior version of Banshee, Siryn, and Madrox the Multiple Man along with her. Sunspot then meets a street urchin about to be cut up by some street toughs, and his powers give out. Not a plot-point, but I couldn't help but notice that the word "anomaly" is spelled wrong on page 3 ("anomoly"). That kind of thing really riles me up.

Reveals: According to the cover, "One moment of anger... and their lived are changed forever!" But then Cannonball comes to real quick, and Sunspot and Warlock leave the team for about 8 months, I guess.

Joins: There is no team yet, but Sunspot, whose power is sun-powered super-strength, leaves home and is the central character. You can tell because he gets all the angsty narration. Warlock, the shape-shifting organic circuitry alien whose mutant "power" is that, unlike the rest of his race, he's nice, follows him out of friendship. The street urchin Sunspot meets is Chance, a tomboy who has escaped the Glorification Church, a crooked institution that helps refugees immigrate, then uses them as slave labour.

Action beats: A soccer game that goes a bit too far (but essentially uses no powers). And the powerless Chance gets attacked by a couple of guys and Sunspot comes to her defense. Madrox gets some groceries. Warlock eats a dandelion. Magneto magnetically opens a filing cabinet.

Fallen Angels #2

Plot: Chance's bacon is saved by Ariel (another new character, this one in outrageous clothes which, I think, were meant to be "cool" and "punk" back in '87) who says she has no powers yet seems to pull her friend out of the alley through some kind of portal. Sunspot is then saved by Warlock. When Sunspot complains of hunger, Warlock reasons that if he now wants to be a villain, he should just steal to feed himself. "Of course!" thinks Sunspot, so he rips off the door of a brownstone, but is shocked to find a catholic church in there (me too!). He runs away in shame, but leaves the door open so that a trio of street toughs come in and start stealing all the gold (again, I'm as shocked as anyone). A new character called Gomi makes the scene, beats up the goons with the help of two unseen creatures (see Reveals), then races after Sunspot to ask him to join the Fallen Angels. The teleporting villain called the Vanisher appears to make the same offer, just as Madrox and Siryn catch up with him. Not wanting to hear a single word, he jumps through one of Ariel's portals, but Madrox does follow him in.

There's entirely too much recapping of the previous issue in this thing, and it comes off as extremely wordy. And some of those lines... "get in here, unless you like seeing dead teenager movies without going to the movies." Wow. Jo Duffy is on par with Beaudelaire on that one. Aside from the brownstone church filled with gold, there's the nonsensical idea that the New Mutants wouldn't go looking for their two runaway members, and Madrox saying Siryn doesn't need to go incognito because her outfit isn't as wild as some New Yorkers', and then she STILL wears something over it.

Reveals: The creatures accompanying Gomi are a pair of lobsters!!!

Joins: The fashion faux pas of the decade known as Ariel. Gomi, who just looks like a blond nerd who nonetheless seems to speak with 2 lobsters, Bill and Don. The lobsters seem to be pretty quick on their feet, don't seem to need water, can beat up some guys pretty easily, and seem to be at least smart enough to understand Gomi and perhaps can even read. The Vanisher seems to lead the team, in much the same way as Carol Burnett leads Annie's orphans.

Action beats: The scene in the alley is over as soon as Warlock appears and scares the bejeezus out of the holligans. The lobster fight occurs offscreen so that we never see Bill and Don until they are finally revealed. There's almost a fight with the Vanisher, but he teleports away. And in a very scary moment, Don almost crawls into a seafood restaurant.

Fallen Angels #3

Plot: Everybody is teleported to the Beat Street Club, where the Fallen Angels have a hide-out, and everybody there joins, including Madrox, who's really switching gears. Ariel explains that the Fallen Angels are "misfits who knew we weren't going to make it as heroes", and then it's Gomi's turn to explain himself and the lobsters (again, see Reveals). The Angels then rescue former member Boom-Boom from the clutches of X-Factor (the original X-Men's new team, who, despite the cover, appear in fewer than 4 pages). By clutches, I mean she was a student of theirs. And then Siryn and another copy of Madrox catch up with the rest.

This issue is notable for not being pencilled by Kerry Gammill. Marie Severin fills in as guest penciller here. It's rare to see this in a mini-series. Usually, the project is carried to term by the same team throughout, especially when they get a "created by" credit. So what happened? I remember Gammill on Action Comics later, and I do think he could churn out more than 2 issues in a row. never heard of Severin, but her stiff poses and oversized heads certainly don't help matters. Meanwhile, the script is up to its usual standards with 14-year-old Sunspot throwing out words like "wantonly", "sullied" and "pariahs" in casual conversation.

Reveals: Gomi (whose name means "garbage" in Japanese) is a cyborg with somewhat uncontrolable telekinetic powers. The lobsters are cyborgs too, though Don, the blue one, is a mutant by virtue of his color. A couple of college seniors obsessed with Marvel Girl experimented on them, and there you have it. All three took off before they would be eaten. Sadly, nothing in this paragraph is an exaggeration or joke. Ariel explains that she doesn't have any powers, but was taught by the "folks at home" to juxtapose doors on one another to create portals to anywhere. Sure sounds like a power to me.

Joins: Boom-Boom, a Cindy Lauper wannabe who can throw energy bombs around. And like I said, Madrox. Here's a quick look at his turnaround, which also highlights the problems with the art:
Action beats: Siryn busts up some glasses in a restaurant. Boom-Boom plays a prank on Beast and Iceman, then runs away. They have Iceman freeze up a flight of stairs, but it doesn't slow her down. What can I say.

Fallen Angels #4

Plot: Ariel has brought the team to a planet filled with dinosaurs, "for the fresh air", she says. Boom-Boom falls in love with Madrox, but it's not requited. Madrox fiddles with a portable Cerebro Magneto gave him, and it seems like Chance and Ariel might have latent powers. Sunspot's own powers get more powerful for a moment and he defeats a dinosaur. Later, he's helped by Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy who make an appearance and are declared mutants by Madrox.

On the art side of things, Kerry Gammill is back, but Tom Palmer has left as inker. Val Meyerik's cartoonish style creates more of a visual break than Severin's pencilling last issue.

Reveals: Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy being dubbed mutants is technically true on their world, but did Marvel need to say it just to make these guys palatable to 80s audiences? Short answer: Probably. I mean, it's an ape-boy riding a big red tyranosaurus rex.

Joins: Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy are asked to join in the last panel, despite the fact that none of the characters can understand a word Moon Boy is saying (or some do... or it changes... waiting for a reveal here). And it seems like Siryn is a de facto member as well. We're at the halfway mark and we're still assembling members. WHAT is this story about?

Action beats: Mutliple fights with dinos means this is the most action-oriented issue yet! Plus, the Fallen Angels realize this is a Marvel comic and fight each other (basically Boom-Boom tries to kill Gomi until the lobsters pull her down).

Fallen Angels #5

Plot: Back to Earth and a training session where the Angels' powers seem out of whack, either too powerful or completely drained. The Vanisher splits the team in pairs so they can go out and forage for (i.e. steal) food and money. When Ariel and Chance bring back stuff, Moon Boy takes off with Devil Dinosaur to also find and bring back "tribute" for their new chief. Meanwhile, Boom-Boom meets one of Madrox' selves that's been independent since issue 2 or something and he doesn't recognize her. He's decided to be himself no matter what and then gets hit by a bicycle. And then, as the cover says, an angel DIES!

Gammill is gone again, and is replaced by Joe Staton, who seems to have some fun with the lobsters and Warlock, but it's not some of his strongest stuff, not by a longshot.

Reveals: Ariel says she's from another planet where no one's mutated in a very long time. If not for Boom-Boom's apparel, I would have said that explained the fashion nightmare. The lost Madrox refuses to rejoin with the main Madrox, which explains some dizzy spells he's been having. And an Angel DIES! Which one? Well, here's the last page:

That's right. Don the blue lobster gets crushed by Devil Dinosaur. A simple mistep. That's what happens when a third of your team is made up of stupid animals.

Joins: No one, for once! Unless you count Madrox 2. They do lose a member, however.

Action beats: More Marvel-style infighting to start things off. Chance steals a purse. Warlock gets mistaken for a toy by angry girls at the YWCA.

Fallen Angels #6

Plot: We're told about, but not shown, Don's beautiful funeral. Devil Dinosaur feels bad about what he's done, which teaches Sunspot a lesson: "I ran away... while Devil Dinosaur came back here. He is my superior in more than size, for he will take responsibility for what he has done and face the consequences, as only a truly mature dinosaur could!" Oh my. I hope Duffy is willing to take responsibility for this crime against litterature. Bill tries to take revenge on Devil Dinosaur, then Warlock flips out, losing his mutation to become a killer. When it's all settled, Ariel takes the team to her home planet, the Coconut Grove, where everyone wears glitzy clothes and giant glasses. Oddly, "The Coconut Grove" is the title of the story, despite its appearing in only the last couple pages. I guess "A bunch of mutants fighting over nothing" was taken.

Still Joe Staton on the art. And the only cover not by Gammill. Good news: It's Mike "Hellboy" Mignola.

Reveals: The rogue Madrox doesn't disappear with the other duplicates when Madrox' powers go on the blink, proving he's a "mutation of the mutation". The Coconut Grove is a disturbingly silly revelation, leaving little doubt that this mini-series doesn't have any coherent story to tell.

Action beats: Lots of random fighting between friends. You'd think a lobster attacking a dinosaur would be cool, but it really isn't.

Fallen Angels #7

Plot: Gammill and Palmer finally both return to the book and it's to give all the characters a glitzed-out Coconut Grove look! Sunspot's boytoy outfit is particularly distressing, even before Boom-Boom blows out his derrière. The Coconut boys and girls kidnaap Boom-Boom and then the rest of the Fallen Angels, including their own Ariel, taking advantage of their powers going crazy again.

Reveals: Ariel reveals she can convince anyone of anything, which explains a lot (and was pretty noticeable actually), but that doesn't explain why she doesn't think she has powers. Furthermore, she says she's named after her ancestor who was Shakespeare's inspiration for the Ariel from The Tempest (totally gratuitous referencing). She also explains that without doors, she can't use her portal ability, which flies right in the face of issues 3 and 4 where she brings everyone to Moon Boy's doorless planet. Chance is revealed as responsible for either nullifying or boosting everyone else's mutant abilities, at random (it's fortuitous then that she's already called Chance). And it seems Ariel was on a mission to bring mutants to the Grove, where mutations are precious and rare.

Action beats: Chance gets made up into a glitz queen by force. The Coconut people zap most of the heroes into submission.

Fallen Angels #8

Plot: "His name is Bill... He's a lobster on a mission." Yes, the forgotten Angel is the one that's gonna make everything right. he busts everyone one before they are dissected for their x-factor. He wants to leave Ariel, but is voted down on that one and she uses her persuasion powers to make her people surrender. Then Sunspot, a 14-year-old, has to tell the advanced Coconut people that they DO have mutants (Ariel) so their crimes are pointless (a lot like this mini-series). They see the light, and everyone goes back to New York. Sunspot and Warlock go back to the New Mutants, but everyone else stays with the Angels, who are hardly ever seen again.

Joe Staton and newcomer Tony DeZuniga are on the art, with Gammill bowing out of the finale. I still don't get it.

Reveals: Well, Chance finally realizes what Ariel's powers are, even though she mentioned them earlier. One of 3 Madroxes is killed, but neither is Madrox 2. There is an extended sequence where Sunspot advises the Madrox brothers to merge that hardly follows any kind of logic, but they do anyway.

Action beats: The angry lobster's attack in the Coconut Grove is the best part, but does raise a question - why is Bill invulnerable to the disruptors that downed frickin' Devil Dinosaur last issue? The final battle is pretty boring however.

So all in all? The series can be summed up with one word: Pointless. The best known characters don't stay with the team, nor was their leaving at all warranted. At any time, they could have been told that Cannonball was fine. The duplicate Madrox was an interesting idea, but he's done away with just so he can heal his ribs. Bill never completes his story arc, never exacting revenge on anyone nor coming to terms with it. Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy's only dramatic function was to step on Don the lobster, as they can't communicate with the rest of the team, and never use abilities that no one else have. They seem like a ridiculous plug-in. And none of the new characters are anywhere near memorable except for the lobsters. I find that they're the only redeeming value here. And that's not saying a lot.


Anonymous said...


that series really as pure CRAP.

I was also going to say that the only interesting part, for me, was the creation of Madrox 2 but you beat me to it.

Thanks for making sure I never read those comics...

...not that I ever would of.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I feel like I should send you a Christmas present for saving me the pain of reading that.

Marie Severin worked for EC and Marvel in many roles: colors, pencils, letters--just about everything. I'm not sure exactly when she started with Marvel, but she was there in the early days.

Since she filled in on one of the Fallen Angels issues, I suspect it was a rush job and might not be up to her usual standards. She's one of the industry greats--and the "Nicest Person in Comics."

Thus endeth today's lesson.

Thanks for the review!


Siskoid said...

Thanks Mag, you're right. Checking out her Wikipedia entry and she's won artist awards and everything. And deserved too! Some great Sub-Mariner covers especially.


Definitely a rush job.

Anonymous said...

Fortutiously, most of the cast has since joined Nextwave or X-factor, reedeming themselves.


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