An angel has fallen. Led by their insatiable curiosity, the hosts of fae have followed the descent of the white-winged creature and now gather around his still-breathing body to decide what to do with him. They decide to hold a trial, and present evidence in the form of stories about the deeds of angels to decide whether or not to let him live.
I am fairly new to reading graphic novels, so I do not know how original the conceit is of having multiple authors work on the same novel, but here it works splendidly. Each author is responsible for a different angel story, told by a different fae, which accounts for differences in tone. Holly Black is excellent as usual in creating the frame for the story, and each additional story adds to the mystique that surrounds these winged creatures, pulling from multiple traditions to round out the picture of creatures that can be perfection or demonic, or both in turns, or at the same time.
While the stories are well done, especially “Original Sin” by Louise Hawes, where this book excels is in the lush, detailed illustrations of Rebecca Guay. The cover art has echoes of Klimt’s The Kiss, and the interior work changes styles to match the stories, from overwhelming sensuality in the Garden of Eden, to the harsher lines of the Russian mountains, to the sketched-in mysteriousness of the fae council. Expertly designed marginalia separate out the stories from the tellers, and artwork that bleeds through the gutter gives a sense of time and history to the panels.
While not everyone enjoys graphic novels, if you are a fan of faery tales and angels, A Flight of Angels is a book that will delight you. The art and the story work expertly together to tell a story of heart-wrenching beauty that also causes the reader to question what it is that they know about angels, and leaves the reader with a sense of deeper truths that will be reflected on time and again.
There’s truly nothing I love more than the melding of Biblical lore with dark fairy tales, and so A Flight of Angels (2011) came to me like a personalized gift. There are contributions by authors Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Louise Hawes and Todd Mitchell, but it’s illustrator Rebecca Guay who really brings the whole project to beautiful life.
A graphic novel that contains several stories involving angels and the fair folk, it begins with a framing device in which a motley group of fairies (an old hag, a noble courtier, a beautiful nymph, a fox-headed intellectual, a tiny gnome, and a goat-legged slave) discover an unconscious angel on the forest floor. They hold a tribunal in order to figure out what to do with him, and each gets the chance to tell a story that will decide the angel’s fate.
There’s one about an angel who can’t seem to do anything right, another about an angel that falls in love with a mortal woman, a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, an explanation as to where fairies came from, and a folktale about the angel of death and his agreement with the oldest woman alive.
Rebecca Guay changes her style for each tale: watercolours for the love story, woodcuts for the tale of a woman who defies the angel of death — it’s all beautifully done, and you could pore over each page for hours, admiring the colours and images. The stories too are thought-provoking and intriguing; like I said, I’m a sucker for melding folklore with Bible stories, and this delivers in abundance.
I checked out A Flight of Angels from my local library, but I just may have to purchase it so I have a copy all my own.