Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Angela Asgards Assassin #1

Beautiful redheaded women in the Marvel universe are like big-breasted blondes to Hugh Hefner. There can never be enough of them. Between Jean Grey, Black Widow, and Mary Jane Watson, I think every heterosexual man with a functioning penis would agree. So when Marvel’s lawyers pulled off a miracle with Todd MacFarlane (which I’m convinced involved someone getting blown more than once) to get the rights to Angela, I was all for it. Since she arrived at the end of Age of Ultron, her character and her whole story is being reimagined. Some have bitched and moaned about it, as they are prone to do about damn near everything.

But Marvel has found a way to incorporate Angela into their world while maintaining everything that makes her awesome. She’s a killer, badass angel of vengeance who likes to show off her washboard stomach and snap necks, often in that order. She also happens to be the sister of Thor from a previously-unknown tenth realm, but that’s beside the point. Angela is now part of the Marvel universe. Deal with it. Now she has her own series to help her find a place in that universe. Angela Asgard’s Assassin #1 is the first step in that process. After Original Sin, it’s probably not going to make her any more comfortable. However, I’m sure plenty of readers will find a reason to bitch and moan about it anyways.

As for Angela herself, she has way more legitimate reasons to complain. She just found out that she’s an Asgardian, who just happen to be the sworn enemies of angels. Now the angels who raised her hate her guts and she did plenty to make Asgardians hate her as well during Original Sin. I’m not going to say she’s completely blameless, but she certainly went out of her way to piss a lot of very powerful beings off. Maybe that’s just how she rolls. Not going to say it’s worthy of a rap video, but she’s definitely taking the hard road.

Now that shoe knows who and what she is, she’s basically off on her own. Heven hates her. Asgard hates her. So what does she do? Go out drinking with Dracula and arm wrestle the Hulk? Maybe that’s on her to-do list, but she still has shit to do. This leads her to some stereotypical mystical land that looks like a lost level in World of Warcraft. She’s carrying what looks like a baby, but it could be baby dragon for all we know. There’s some nice narration to recap what she’s gone through and how rough she’s had it lately. But this doesn’t stop her from walking right into another shit storm.

When she arrives, she’s greeted by an army of orcs that look like leftovers from Lord of the Rings. They welcome her to the Un-Town, which sounds like a bad Disney ride. She makes it clear she’s not interested in rides or waiting in line for the last Hobbit movie. She’s here looking for a friend. After all the bridges she burned and spat on in Original Sin, it’s hard to believe Angela has any friends. But she does. This one’s name is Sera. She’s like her in that she loves wearing badass armor and beating up those who think they’re stronger than her. It’s not entirely clear why Angela wanted to find her. I don’t get the impression they’re planning a spa day or something. But there is a reason for it and it’s usually safe to assume it involves something or someone that needs to be killed.

Low and behold, that’s exactly what happens. Angela reveals that she didn’t stumble across this fucked up version of an old western town on acid by accident. She was actually running from something and it wasn’t child protective services. It was actually scarier, but not as scary as the IRS. It was a horde of horse-riding demonic creatures that must have also been rejects from World of Warcraft. They apparently didn’t like Angela holding that baby and they’re not going to wait until she gets her own episode of Hardcopy to make her pay. There’s still not much in terms of details regarding this baby or why these creatures want to fight Angela. I’m assuming they don’t have a death wish, but I try to be careful with my assumptions. One accidental encounter with a transvestite hooker taught me that lesson.

Whatever their reasons, these creatures also learn the hard way it’s not smart to piss off Angela. They try to fight her and she fights back, albeit much more effectively. It’s brutal, visceral, and nicely detailed. It’s not overly bloody. It’s not overly gratuitous. It’s not even overly sexy, but it’s just sexy enough to put a smile on my face and a boner in my pants. It’s the perfect balance in that it shows the kind of fighter Angela is and what she’s capable of. She’s not the Hulk. She’s not Black Widow. She’s fucking Angela and she kicks ass her way.

As much fun as it is to see her kick ass, there are still plenty of blanks that need to be filled in here. Anybody who skipped Original Sin or is too drunk to remember it might be confused, but would probably be content to just follow one long story of her eviscerating orcs. However, this isn’t how the story unfolds. There actually is an effort to explain why Angela is doing this and it might even explain where that baby came from. For all we know, it’s still a dragon or the last discounted iPad from a Black Friday sale.

This is where Sera starts to narrate, which makes sense because Angela is busy decapitating orcs. She explains that Angela was out troving the galaxy, looking for work. I imagine she was trying to stay busy, as many often do after they’ve had a real shitty couple of days, like finding out she was the daughter of Odin. This led her to a crashed transport on some backwater alien planet that looks nothing like Tattoine. In the wreckage, she found an infant had survived. She saved it, but along the way Sera makes clear that she doesn’t do this out of the goodness of her heart. She still considers herself and angel and angels in the Marvel Universe are less about salvation and more about making the kinds of deals the mafia likes to make. Saving this child puts it in debt to her and like Joe Pesci in Casino, she intends to collect and she’s not afraid to use a baseball bat if necessary. “Nothing is for nothing,” is her motto. I’m pretty sure that’s also the motto for Goldman Sachs too.

To be fair, she demonstrates a lot more ethics than Goldman Sachs or the mafia ever does. She finds the infant a home on this world. She even tells its adopted parents who she is and makes clear that this kid is to know who she is. She just found out how much it sucks keeping secrets about an infant’s heritage. She’s going to spare this kid that torment. Like I said, she isn’t without ethics. She’s not the fucking DEA.

But eventually, a day comes when she returns to collect her debt. Angela returns to this world when she finds out her friend Sera has been taken prisoner. The infant she saved has since grown into a king. He’s not exactly a Game of Thrones caliber king and his throne is really shitty by comparison. But he comes off as fair and reasonable when he argues that Sera is guilty of crimes against his people. So even though Angela offers to forgive his debt by letting her go, he refuses. Angela begs with him. She asks him nicely multiple times. He still refuses. At that point, Angela channels her inner Joe Pesci and collects on the debt and her sword is way more effective than a baseball bat.

It’s cruel and not very heroic. But that’s part of what makes this moment so powerful. It shows that Angela does have a code of honor, but that code isn’t very honorable by some standards. She will kill those she has compassion for. She will be brutal when she has to. She’s not a big believer in altruism either. She’ll either balance out the debts or she’ll spill enough blood until the universe balances it for her. She doesn’t take sadistic pleasure in it though. She actually provided funds and resources to the kingdom to help maintain stability after the king’s death. At this point, they know to accept Angela’s terms. She is not someone they want to piss off.

Sera makes clear that this is the core of who Angela is and why she does what she does. She collects debts. She balances out imbalances. And from time to time, she shows a sense of loyalty to her friends. She’s not going to get emotional about it. She’s only ever going to get pissed when someone or something gets in their way. It’s makes her unique in how she operates. She’s not a villain. She’s not all that heroic either. Then again, the Avengers still have the Hulk on their team. So maybe the standards for heroics should be graded on a curve here.

After Sera is done recounting her history with Angela and why she does what she does, we finally get back to more immediate concerns. At this point, those concerns seem secondary. The whole flashback was like an extended halftime show of sorts. It was fun, but it kind of fucked up the rest of the football game. By now, Angela has finished maiming all the orcs. That really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Then Sera reminds her that if she was followed to the Un-Town, she’s probably being watched and not in the creepy gym-teacher-in-the-girls-locker-room sort of way.

Whoever or whatever was watching her figures out quickly that sending orcs after her ain’t going to get the job done. So instead, she gets a visit from another menacing threat. This time it’s from Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three. That’s like going from Hydra drones to Dr. Doom’s A-team. It promises to make for a much messier and more epic battle. To this point, the story was starting to drag, having spent so much time just establishing Angela as a character. But the arrival of the Asgardians, especially after the shit storm in Original Sin, definitely gets things back on track in a way rivaled only a line of top quality blow.

But that’s not the only thing that gets the story back on track in the most awesome way possible. Remember that baby and/or dragon Angela was carrying? Well it turns out, it was actually a baby. If that sounds like a letdown, take another bong hit. That baby happens to be the new heir to Asgard. When and how this new baby was born is not explained, but that’s really not the main concern here. More than anything else, it gives Thor and all of Asgard another very good reason to battle Angela. It’s the kind of family conflict that would impress Jerry Springer himself. It couldn’t be more awesome without midget strippers being involved.

This issue, more than anything else, establishes the method to Angela’s badassery in the Marvel universe. She’s not exactly an angel. She’s not exactly an Asgardian either. She’s more like a cross between She-Hulk, Jean Grey, and Tony Soprano. She’s strong enough to take on an army of monsters and beat the everloving shit out of them with only her fists and a lousy mood. She’s loyal and compassionate to those she considers friends. But at the end of the day, she’s all about business. Owe her something and she will collect. Deny her and she will kill and she won’t hesitate. She’s not some Catwoman-level femme fatal who thinks latex and stiletto heels function as a combat uniform. She’s not some butch, barely feminine agent of destruction who appeals only to lesbians and feminazis. She does have sex appeal, but it’s not the overly overt kind found in every Victoria’s Secret catalog ever made.

Angela is very much her own character. She’s not quite a hero. She’s not quite a villain. She’s in a category all her own and that makes her both sympathetic, but just enough of a bitch to be badass. It took a while to establish this persona and this comic moved way too damn slowly at times to make readers give a damn. But in the end, it still worked. That’s why I give Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 an 8 out of 10. There will be some Spawn fans are still going to be pissed off. There will be some Marvel fans are going to be pissed off. But short of a gallon of morphine and extensive electro-shock therapy, I doubt these fans would ever be satisfied so fuck them. Nuff said!


  1. I wonder whose baby that is.

    Anyway, great intro to a great character. Looks like a great comic.

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