Archangel, Issue One by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith, Illustrated by Butch Guice
I kept my head down as I moved through the crowd. This mission was a total Hail Mary, two agents-in-place improvising because we had to work fast. Fankind risked his cover even talking to HQ, but if the intel was right, if he had what we thought he had… “Archangel, Issue One, by William Gibson,” he had said. “This could change everything.”
Rumors were only rumors, of course, but as I pretended an interest in the Cruisin’ The Main Drag Car Parade I couldn’t help, just for a few seconds, but dream. The first original comic co-written by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith, illustrated by Butch Guice, with a post-apocalyptic present-day earth and a technology like that used in The Peripheral; occupied Germany, time travel and UFOs. With that in our hands the balance of power would, finally, shift.
I was dressed to blend in a poodle skirt and a sweater set, complete with ankle socks and saddle shoes. Studying the restored Studebakers, the Greased Lightnings and newer muscle cars, I strolled down the sidewalk, avoiding the gaze of the deadly Crossing Guards. They’re cloned, raised in a secret compound, and only look like helpful teenage volunteers. At the saw-horses that closed off one square block, I demurely crossed the street and doubled back to the stairs that led to Fankind’s basement-level comic shop.
“Bookworm,” he greeted me, deadpan.
“Is it real?” I said, as soon as we made eye contact. Fankind and I had history. I had saved his life in Berkeley, and he had returned the favor in Cincinnati that time.
He put Archangel on the counter. I looked at the dark pink and green cover, the profiled woman in a 1940s uniform skirt and jacket with the film projector behind her. That was Naomi Givens, one of the three main characters, a British Intelligence officer in Ally-occupied Germany. I paged reverently through the issue and stared at the early panels; the devastated 2016 cities, our introduction to the corrupt US vice-President and his desperate plan. I admired the artwork, how much was conveyed by Naomi’s expressions, the nod to Robert Heinlein and Astounding Magazine. “It’s the real deal,” I breathed.
“Even to the cliffhanger ending and the writer’s notes,” Fankind said. “It sets up the story perfectly. We’ve got Givens, and her ex, the American, and we meet Pilot from 2016. And one of the villains. And look at the landscapes and the lines on those cars. Even the secondary characters, like her driver? Pure Gibson.”
“There’ll be four more issues”—His head jerked. I heard it too… footsteps on the stairs.
We saw them on his security screens – four of them in poodle skirts and petticoats, each ponytail tied with a chiffon scarf in a different sherbet color. Each one held a double-leash and at the ends of each leash–
Fear colonized Fankind’s face and I knew his expression mirrored mine. “The yorkies,” he whispered.
Before I could react he slipped Archangel into a recycled brown paper bag. “Quick, go out the back. I’ll hold them off.” He activated his nanotech action figures, who swarmed the door and assumed defensive positions.
“No, Fankind! I’m not leaving you!”
“You have to, Bookworm. This is bigger than both of us. Go!”
I snatched up the bag and bolted for the back. I heard the terrible yipping of the yorkies, but I couldn’t risk looking. Our tactical advantage depended on delivering the intel. Through the alley I ran, saddle shoes thudding, the yipping growing louder behind me. I burst out onto the sidewalk – and there – a school-bus-yellow 1966 Mustang convertible, top down. I gathered my strength and leaped, landing on the Mustang’s trunk. I swung my feet over into the back seat, stuffed the bag into my waistband, and arranged my skirts. Then I waved to the crowd, as the Cruisin’ The Main Drag Car Parade carried me away from the yorkies, to safety.
Later, in a safe house, I looked through Archangel and grieved for Fankind. Was it worth it? Was an original story by this visionary writer, told in a mix of images and words, worth the risk and the loss? I heard Fankind’s voice in my head. “Oh, hell yes,” I imagined him saying. “Every damn page.”
(Reviewer’s note: The events in this review are true and only names and a few details have been changed. Most of the details, actually. But the parade and the yorkies; totally real.)