Thousand Faced: FreakAngels

Written by:Warren Ellis
Illustrated by: Paul Duffield
Published by: Avatar Press

I remember a film from the early 60’s called Village of the Damned. It was British and was science fiction short on effects but long on story. Adapted from The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, it tells the story of a group of children born in the same village at the same time and all of them have these weird eyes and can do horrifying unexplainable things with their minds.  Each child is individually scary but as a group they link and tear the world a new asshole. In Freakangels, that is exactly what they do. Some crazy kids with lavender eyes in their adolescent paranoia perceive the rest of the world as a threat to their continued existence.   They wish away the adult world into the cornfield or at least the adult world with it’s armies, policemen and black ops murderers who would surely do for them as soon as they get the chance. Read a newspaper. That’s what is done. Every fucking day and none of us want to really know who went into the sausage. If you do what William Burroughes advises. “Look at what sits there at the end of your fork” it will slow you down in the drive thru lane and impede shopping. We can’t have that now can we? So we wind up with the aftermath of this scary Children’s Crusade in a world full of the young and the remnants of civilization.

Warren Ellis is one of those great writers in this medium due some love in this column. He wrote Red A rollicking tale of intelligence agency betrayal and intrigue that explains why the adult world must go away. FreakAngels is a cross between Midwich Cuckoos and Lord of the Flies with heavy doses of sexuality run wild. KK, she of the steam-powered helicopter and fishnets starts us off by waking up next to a Lambeth sod and wanting to retroactively chew off her arm. She lives in …wait for it…Whitechapel. Yes Jack the Ripper’s old hunting ground is now the new seat of global power and civilization. KK hops in her sexy way into her whirlybird and heads back to where the rest of “the twelve” dwell. Alice is a girl from farms up north that shows up with a shotgun because an outcast of the group (Mark) has murdered her family in a drug deal gone bad. He tells her where he can be found in hopes she will kill some body back in Whitechapel. Like another lost Alice from way back, she has fallen down a weird rabbit hole. She is given a place by Connor who seems to want to rectify what his clan has done to reality. Even with a blade to his throat he remains kind and apologetic for the crimes of Mark. This very dysfunctional family with damn near omnipotent powers still has to carve community and sanity out of what they have left of the world. By now the Thames has flooded a good part of London and creeping nature renders the place organic and depressingly seedy.

Although not in love with Duffields art at first I came to appreciate it for its unique look. It has a sort of well-crafted but low budget appearance. I really dug the half submerged Ferris wheel. It epitomizes the loss of what was good about the lost world. There is no recreation. There is no play. Everything is given over to survival. The best these young adults can do is use sexual partners at an alarming rate in a mimicry of love for something other than themselves. Like Lord of the Flies, the ones who have the conch get to do the talking and telepathy and a group consciousness is something only FreakAngels have. Everybody else is assed out of a say in governance. How many times do we in our frustration say “If I ran the world I would do…..”

The Freakangels did so and now six years later the aftermath is more of a burden than any idle dreamer ever envisioned.

Certain characters are sympathetic and easy to like. Connor seems to bear the burden of conscience of that he’s a part of and tries to have a level of decency to knit the group together in a benevolent communal whole. Kirk is a scrapper that alters his physiology so he can be the sentry and watch for raiders on the tower where he grows fruits sand vegetables. Arkady is a bald girl with enough power to enforce the rules the Freakangels have made for themselves so as not to fall into complete monsterhood. Luke is a right bastard who will “shit in your dreams” as soon as he looks at you. He invades sleep and consciousness and demands entitlement and would have no doubt made a lovely politician or banker in the old world. I’m quite fond of Sirrka with her casual sexual debauchery but an earth mother’s love for the rest of her clan. Ellis has created a fascinating group with great social and family dynamics that do amazing things as easy as thinking about them but have to work their asses off to cadge the next meal. The grayness of the ruins of the world are an adequate backdrop of moral ambiguity.

We are reminded that the barbarians are always at the gate to take back what the Freakangels have claimed for themselves. Raider bands are always lurking and for that there is a steam crossbow that kills in dandy sweeps of lethality. I’m impressed. A shabby doll world ruled by god-children who have all this power and don’t really know what to do with it because I don’t think they planned for what they have. Survival is a reflexive action and these kids have swatted out everything when threatened. As a dystopian steam punk story it works very well and I want to see what happens next.

by Bill Hilburn

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