Fallen Angel #1: To Serve in Heaven
by Peter David, J.K. Woodward (IDW, 2006)

OK, so she's not Supergirl. So who is this mysterious Lee who prowls the streets of Bete Noire doing good (sometimes) and striking fear into the hearts of criminals (and other folks who get on her bad side)?

With the shift of Peter David's Fallen Angel from DC Comics, where she was quite possibly a new incarnation of former Supergirl Linda Lee Danvers, to IDW, a new origin story was required. (I say "new" even though there wasn't an "old" origin story to compare it to, just lots of speculations and the occasional broad hint.) So, to lay all rumors to rest once and for all, David provides a great many answers in To Serve in Heaven, the first collection from the IDW side of the fence.

Lee, we learn, was once Liandra, an actual guardian angel and, perhaps, God's personal favorite. But she crossed the line when she took her own form of justice against the man who murdered one of her charges, and so Liandra fell from grace and landed on Earth with a fraction of her powers and some serious attitude.

But the lushly painted pages of To Serve (provided with a deft and steady hand by J.K. Woodward) provide much more. Years have passed since the events of Lee's DC adventures, and she now has a 20-year-old son, courtesy of ruthless city magistrate Dr. Juris. Juris, once Lee's primary nemesis and lover, is ready to retire, an act that requires a mystic ceremony with his firstborn son (because his link to Bete Noire is much more involved than your normal city official's) -- only Juris doesn't know he and Lee had a child. So he tries the ritual with the wrong son, a bad attitude named Jubal who's two years too young for the job.

Enter Jude, a newly ordained priest who only now learns who his parents are. And believe me, Mom and Dad have very different reactions to Jude's unexpected homecoming.

To Serve in Heaven is less action-packed than the DC collections, but this is a vital transition book that defines the central character once and for all and sets up a new foundation for the ongoing series. Some characters, like Black Mariah and the bartender Dolf, are back to provide continuity beside the book's new cast.

This is a new style for Peter David, whose work on titles like Hulk and Supergirl, though exceptional, has never been as deep and broody as this. Coupled with Woodward's atmospheric painting, this first volume of Fallen Angel is a must-read for anyone who's looking for something a little different in the comics field.

review by
Tom Knapp

22 September 2007

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