As we reported yesterday, Angela: Queen of Hel is Marvel’s first and only All-New All-Different title with an LGBTQIA lead. Angela and Sera have been “friends,” “partners,” “companions,” and even “beloveds,” but Queen of Hel #1 makes that official, as the couple shares not one but two triumphant, big-screen-style kisses.
But this isn’t just a story about two otherworldly adventurers who “happen to be” LGBTQIA–Queen of Hel puts their relationship at the center of the story. This is a love story on a (literally) epic scale, with Angela descending into the underworld like Orpheus or Hercules to rescue her girlfriend. (Angela not only gets the girl, but also usurps the throne of Hel while she’s at it, because she’s awesome like that.)
Since this issue is such an important representation landmark for Marvel, I’m delighted to report that it’s a also a great jumping-off point for readers who are new to Angela, Marvel, or even comics. But it also works as a sequel, elegantly bringing together narrative and thematic threads fromSer previous series Angela: Asgard’s Assassin and 1602: Witch Hunter Angela.
Marguerite Bennett frames this story through a series of flashbacks, retelling Angela and Sera’s origin stories: Angela is an Asgardian princess raised by Heven’s warrior Angels; Angela stole Sera from a Hevenly cloister where she was confined as a man. Bennett’s non-linear structure brings new readers up to date while beautifully and explicitly reframing Angela’s history as a queer love story.
Queen of Hel also puts Sera front and center as the story’s narrator–and maybe its protagonist. This book might be called “Angela,” but Sera says right on the first page that “this isn’t Angela’s story”–it’s hers.
While this issue rewinds and fastforwards through Angela and Sera’s greatest hits, Bennett continually highlights and centers Sera’s narration. Sera’s trademark wit, grit, and artistic charm are on full display: as her Asgardian girlfriend slays giant monsters, she improvises rhymes and name-drops wifi, Beyoncé, and Simon and Garfunkel. As they go on amazing adventures and fight fantastic beasts, Sera and Angela’s banter is more about diction and rhyme scheme than swordplay and heroic exploits.
Basically, Bennett makes Sera’s telling of the story the subject of the story. This isn’t a book about Angela that “features” Sera as a trans character–it’s about Sera taking center stage as the author of her own story.
And, actually, while I’m recommending this issue as a jumping-off point for readers who might be new comics readers, I want to emphasize just what a great comic this is. It’s funny and and fantastical and action-packed and really, deeply weird–and it looks freakin’ cool, too. Come for the LGBTQIA milestone, stay because this is gorgeous comics art in every aspect.
Bennett writes dialogue and narration that can’t decide whether it wants to be pretty poetry or cutesy snark. New team member Kim Jacinto’s dynamic, angular art style is a great fit for Angela’s hacking and slashing through Hel–look at those fiery wings and red hair splintering off in all directions, like she’s slicing reality apart.
But, of course, the real show-stopper is Stephanie Hans’ nine-page interlude at the middle of the story. Hans continues to paint some of the most iconic and distinctive pages in the world–the dreamiest, glowiest masterpieces in comics.
It makes me happy that this historic issue is going to inspire new readers to pick up this comic–and it makes me really happy that those readers are going to be rewarded by a creative team making such a beautiful book.
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Drawn by Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans
Letters by Clayton Cowles
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Mad Moll Green writes in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She loves horror movies, comic books, and ironic spandex.