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posted February 4, 2005
Steve Parkhouse, Chris Blythe
Publishing Info: Shattered Frames
, 100 pages (I think)
The first thing you notice with Angel Fire is how gorgeous it is. It's an enormously handsome-looking, full-color stand-alone comics story all done on slick paper. They used to dream about comics that looked like this 20 years ago; it has a kind of big-magazine feel to it. Some of the better moments, including the late climax, make use of the production quality to produce an unsettling artistic effect that would not come through on cheaper paper or in black and white. It feel hefty, complete, and kind of glitzy; it seems like a nice package with which to communicate a serious intent to have the work put into other media, if that makes any sense
The work on the whole is strong if if not quite consistently excellent. The story of a small-time maybe-criminal that escapes his struggle with an addictive drug to explore his late wife's family manor, the book provides a nice showpiece for veteran artist Steve Parkhouse. Parkhouse provides well-designed, solid but not overly idealized figures. He uses a tight grid to drive the reader through the duller parts of his tale, and breaks the page to great effect during the bigger moment. The most interesting visul effect on display is that Parkhouse uses the degree with which he renders faces to bring the reader's attention in and out. This not only allows him to ratchet up certain moments and downplay others, but it fits in with both the general spooky mood and the story's attention to the fate of its protagonist.
The down side in Angel Fire
can be attributed to the writing. The plotting to my taste feels much too cluttered for a comics narrative of this size. I never got the sense that all of these different plot lines cohered at the end in a way that paid off my earlier attention to them -- in fact, I felt like some were deliberately misleading or superfluous. With an artist like Parkhouse, there's such an opportunity to revel in certain effects that I'm not sure why more time wasn't spent lingering on those effect rather than the fussier moments of the story.