Sunday, 26 January 2014

Revolutionary War: Dark Angel - Some Thoughts & Theories

Hi guys.

Other pursuits have delayed me getting this article out this week. My Bad, but it's finally here. A few days ahead of the third chapter in the story, Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon. I've seen the preview. And that is looking like something rather special. But before it arrives, let's take a moment to catch up on the previous issue. Here are few thoughts and theories on Chapter Two.

Right. So here we are, again. This time courtesy of Kieron Gillen and Dietrich Smith - Revolutionary War: Dark Angel. And I'll be honest, while the last issue set the quality bar pretty high I'm glad to say that this one very neatly matched it. Not just through serving as a continuation of the story, but also as an individual issue in its own right.

Kieron Gillen has built somewhat of a reputation over recent years, for telling some intricate and rather clever stories at Marvel, involving magic, myth and legend, with a strong internal logic and a central message behind them. Firstly on Thor, but in particular in telling Kid Loki's story on Journey into Mystery. Anybody who read the 'Manchester Gods' arc of that story (which featured Captain Britain and focused on the logical application of the mechanics of Otherworld) will know what I mean.

I'm very glad to say that he delivers once again .

I was really impressed by Dietrich Smith's artwork too. I'll be honest, before seeing his name in the solicits and looking him up I knew pretty much nothing about him. I see that he's mostly done bits and bobs of indie work, and worked on the Battlestar Galactica comic for Dynamite, but there wasn't an awful lot to go on. His artwork here fits the tone of both the character, setting and story incredibly well. It reminds me a little of Chris Samnee's art on books like Thor: The Mighty Avenger. The art may initially look rather uncomplicated at a glance, but it actually has an awful lot of detail to it. Ruth Redmond's colours compliment the art work very well. They keep it looking very clean, but give it depth where it matters - such as the outlines of energy pulses and portals.

Really good stuff.

But what does the issue offer in way of story, I hear you ask. Well, here are a few little thoughts and theories...

So Dark Angel survived the last issue, then?

Yes, she did. Whatever electrocuted her (and I'd say Death's Head II is a strong contender for 'culprit' there) appears to have done little more than render her unconscious. She awakes in this issue to find herself on the floor of the same room she was in at the end of Revolutionary War: Alpha.

Who the hell is 'Shevaun Hadley'?!?

You read the primer page, didn't you?

No. Shevaun has not changed her name. Nor has she (at least that we know of) had some kind of off-panel marriage to Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley. It's 'Haldane'. Which is how it correctly appears throughout the rest of the issue. This is thankfully just an editorial slip up. :)

So what about Captain Britain and Death's Head II???

Patience, reader. They are long gone, it seems. But the means of their exiting the scene appears fairly clear.

I'm sure we'll return to them in the Death's Head issue...

Meet Doris - Darkmoor resident, reader of tea leaves and casual magician.

Yes. She's new. It would be best to describe her as a bit of a local busy-body, with a very wry sense of humour and a relaxed attitude.

A magician... 'of sorts'. I mean we don't actually see her doing any magic per se, in this issue. It certainly sounds as if she owns a shop which caters to that, but in the practice of it I don't think we can really say that this counts...

Effective though a shotgun is... :)

Doris is a welcome addition to Dark Angel's supporting cast (which after all, was not huge in number in the first place). She gets to make some snarky comments, sure, but her true strength here is that she gives the story a down to earth perspective. A lot of Shevaun's dialogue is a little complex, a little wordy - as it should be with the concepts she deals with in her world. Doris' no nonsense attitude to everything balances things out nicely. So many scene stealing phrases, too.

I really hope that if we do get to see more Dark Angel material we'll also get to see more of her. 

What's that about a vision?

Ah, yes. Apparently while Shevaun was out cold she had a vision.

A woman made of electronic parts, rising from a grave. 

We'll return to that shortly...

Kieron Gillen pretty much covers everything you need to know about Dark Angel's origins in the course of one page.

Yes. No messing about, here. No long winded pages of exposition and backstory. One page summarising pretty much everything you might need to know. This one, in fact.

Pretty concise. And it means that it doesn't dominate the issue. It's out of the way early.

Wait a second... did they just tweak Dark Angel's origin...?

Well... yeah. Yes, they did. Those of you who can remember back to 1992 may remember how these events unfolded the first time around. But for the rest of you, it all began with Shevaun's father Ranulph Haldane - a member of the Mys-Tech board - who had constructed a process and device which was going to be capable of granting him and his cronies continued immortality, separate from the boon offered to them by that centuries old contract with the demon Mephisto. 

Only Mephisto found out. 

It didn't work out well for Ranulph.

After his death Mephisto claimed Ranulph's soul. Which was a bit awkward when another, more saintly entity, calling itself 'the Darkangel' arrived attempting to do the same. It informed Shevaun of her father's secrets, for the first time.

And while Shevaun initially rejected what it told her, when she met the Darkangel for a second time (planning to extract revenge on her Father's colleagues) the entity took a strong of fibre from the very universe itself, and bonded it to her, body and soul.

Thus becoming the Darkangel's envoy, with the same kind of incredible power Gillen's page describes, above...

But shouldn't we be hacked off about this??

Well, I cannot tell you each how you should personally feel about it. But I'd actually lean towards the side of 'No' on this one. 

Let me explain why.

For one this 'Darkangel' entity has never reappeared or even been referred to in a Marvel comic since. Not in Dark Angel's own series, or in the wider Marvel universe as a whole. It's not like it would be particularly missed. 

But, that aside, there's the name too. When Dark Angel's series was launched in '92 it was actually named "Hell's Angel". As was she after this transformation. The title had its name altered with issue 6 due (as I understand it) to the threat of legal action from members of a certain Biker Chapter of the same name. :)

As 'Hell's Angel', an envoy or agent of the 'Darkangel', that kind of scans okay. But having two virtually identically named characters on the same book is more than a little confusing. The name change was always a bit of an awkward transition, and as it was never really necessary to refer to it again after the first issue it's no real loss.

What Gillen has done is to write around all of that - now telling us that Shevaun's powers were always part of her father's plan for her. That he was in some way instrumental in her gaining them. 

Some might see that as a dramatic change, but it is not as if such an idea wasn't actually foreshadowed in Shevaun's original series. There was more than one occasion where it was stated that Shevaun had been brought into the world as part of a former Mys-Tech science project. A test subject who was intended to be terminated, but whom Ranulph Haldane found ways to keep around.  

It was actually mentioned as early as her very first issue:

So what's Dark Angel been up to since her appearance in Captain Britain & MI13? Where has she been? 

And that's the really interesting part...

One might wonder, what with the kind of power levels Dark Angel has at her disposal, why hasn't she been appearing in Marvel's bigger stories - fighting the good fight, alongside the other heavy hitters. She's a powerhouse. Where has she been?

Well, it seems that Shevaun has been kept busy. By a higher (or should that be lower?) power...

Yes. That would be Mephisto.

And this is the clever part. Because, remember, Shevaun's father signed a contract with Mephisto? A centuries old legal agreement with the Devil himself? Well, with his betrayal and subsequent death, Mehisto has chosen to pass that Debt on from Father to daughter...

Yeah. That's got to suck pretty hard hasn't it?

Shevaun now gets to spend every evening serving Mephisto to repay her father's debt. Doing whatever he should wish. From quelling minor uprisings in Mephisto's domain to making the Demon bleed for His own Sins. Really.

The problem is that in order to do all these things it also means Shevaun has to expel some power. Quite a lot of it to be exact. When Dark Angel gets back to Earth 616 she can't buddy up with the likes of the X-Men or Captain Britain. Because she often has to wait for her powers to recharge.

You know, almost as if that is that was EXACTLY what Mephisto had planned in advance. :)

In the past few years, of course, Mephisto has been appearing in a number of different marvel series. Spider-man, X-Factor, New Mutants, Journey into Mystery... he's becoming a frequently more visited character. So Gillen placing Dark Angel squarely in his control is a great idea for future story options. It's not without foreshadowing, either. Way back in her own series Mephisto was shown taking an interest in Shevaun.

I think you could quite easily construct a case for Mephisto having planned this all along...

Gillen always writes a really strong and interesting Mephisto. Which helps a lot. The fact that he has him insisting on calling Shevaun by her former name of 'Hell's Angel', the banter between the two, is something I truly hope other writers pick up on.

Mephisto talks about Karmic Debt in the Age of Austerity.

There's a sentence I never thought I'd find myself typing...

It's true to say that in times past Mephisto did indeed invest a lot of time and effort in all things British. From Mortigan Goth to the Sect of Chadism he made a good many deals for British souls. But in this age of Austerity, with the hearts and minds of the British people beaten down by governmental cuts and coalition politics... well, as the Devil seems to suggest, British souls apparently just are worth as much as once they were. :)

And who WOULD you sell that karmic debt on to...?

Thes theme of Debt, and the need for the current generation needing to pay for the excesses of a previous one, run throughout this story. They're a nice a nice touch. 

Darkmoor is now a fully fledged Village

And it's being invaded by Psycho-wraiths. But we'll get to that...

We here at this site are big fans of the locality of Darkmoor. Enough to borrow it's name, as I'm sure won't have escaped your notice... ;)

The fictional locale of Darkmoor, in the real world area of the Cheviot Hills, goes right back to very beginnings of Marvel UK. It debuted in the very first issue of Captain Britain and it's popped up, from time to time, ever since.

In its first appearance we saw that (as the name suggests) it comprises of a moor, a Stone Circle (with a entrance to The Siege Perilous), and also a scientific research facility. Later on, in Dark Angel's series we saw the introduction of the Castle, and also a Police Station in the locality. But this is the first time we've actually seen any evidence of a larger settlement.

And weirdly this might be one of the things which I was most stoked about from the entire issue.

Gillen describes Darkmoor as a 'New Age Tourist Trap' - similar, I suppose, to places like Glastonbury. It appears to be a small market town, filled with the kind of stores which sell crystals, herbs and 'white magic' ingredients. A hots spot for spiritualists, clairvoyants and healers. Mysticism is something Marvel's Britain does so very well. Why not make it a Tourist site! I really love this idea, and again I hope this forms a basis for future stories.

And the Psycho-wraiths?

Oh. Yes! 

So, there's more of these. Just like we saw in the Alpha issue. They look a little different, and they arrive via some kind of tunneling vessel, but  they're the same type of creatures.

What is perhaps more interesting is that Gillen highlights just what these creatures actually are. We've seen that their bodies are tank bred, but beyond that what's actually inside of those bodies is a little darker. 

In a word 'Soul's.

Lost human souls.

Conjured by Mys-Tech, given a second chance of life in an engineered body. 

And they claim that they want to to be put out of their misery. Something Shevaun foolishly agrees to.

Foolishly, because it expends almost the entirety of her power. Just in time for an unpleasant surprise...

Meet Psycho-Wraith Prime. 

Yes. Prime. A more advanced, more powerful variant of the Psycho-Wraiths.

And that's one hell of a plan.

The Prime claims that Ranulph Haldane came up with this scheme. And Shevaun is central to it. The void inside her, the portal in her chest, is apparently the key to Mys-Tech's route back into this dimension. Something Daddy Haldane planned for just this kind of eventuality.

One might theorise that this is very reason he had her kept alive all these years.

That would be a bit messed up, no? :)

Is that what the vision was about?

Yes. Kind of.

A woman made of electronic parts, rising from a grave. "Miss Tech - Rising from the Grave". Get it!

Yeah... a bit tenuous. But that was what it was all about! :)

Always read the Small Print!

Yes! Really do.

Wiping out the other Psycho-Wraiths left Shevaun with a big problem. Power almost expended she used the last of it to fly the injured Doris out to a hospital. With her power so low she knew that the Psycho-Wraith Prime was following her, and that she had no way of defeating it when it arrive, without waiting for those powers to recharge. Which would take a degree of time which she simply did not have.

So, what's a girl to do but to call in a favour? 

And that seems logical, right? If Mephisto takes her power away then Mys-Tech can't access the void inside her. And if they cannot access the void then they don't get to come back.

Only this is Mephisto. This is the nearest thing Marvel comics have to the Devil, himself. And entering into a Pay Day loan scenario of the Soul is not something you should ever do lightly.

Because even if the Big Bad has just touched down behind you, reaching for the pen without checking what you're signing...

Can only ever end badly...

And you might get to spend eternity trapped inside the terms of a legal document. In this case quite literally and physically. 

One-Sixth of what they're Looking For?

Oh, yes. 

It seems that Dark Angel is the first of six souls required for whatever Mys-Tech have planned.


Wasn't there Six individuals shown in the vision which the Un-Earth projected last issue?

Why, yes there was!

Just a coincidence?

What do you think? :)

And that is Revolutionary War: Alpha. If we're to follow the Un-Earth vision Mys-Tech's agents on Earth now have Dark Angel, and through Death's Head II they may shortly have Captain Britain. They may of course also require Death's Head II. Wonder how he'll feel about that if it turns out to be true? :)

Wednesday (29th January) brings us Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon to stores. The Pendragon who we saw in the Un-Earth vision was Peter Hunter - the WW1 costumed hero known as Albion. So I'd imagine he'll be playing a significant part in the upcoming story.

Wonder what he's been up to in the intervening years? He was a teacher by trade. Maybe he's working at Braddock Academy or something? That'd be an interesting idea. One with no evidence to support it or anything, but who knows? :)

Until the next time, make sure you order your copy, and I'll be back to chat about the issue a week later.



  1. "Having trouble keeping up with your debts, yes?"

    Mephisto's sounding a lot like someone else there...

    1. Mephisto needs to be running a Pay Day loan company in the Marvel Universe...