“Angela: Asgard’s Assassin” #2 clears up quite a few things from the first issue – why Asgard has a new heir, how Angela travels to Limbo, where things stand with the Angels – but still leaves plenty of questions for the coming issues. Angela’s character remains something of a cipher and it’s not always clear why or how she makes her choices, but the reader is starting to get to know her. Unfortunately, the interplay between the main story and the subplot is clumsy, which detracts from the gorgeous artwork, funny dialogue and character work. I’m still excited by this series, but issue #2 did make me wonder if its structure is sustainable.
In theory, I quite like the structure. The issue jumps time and location again and again, complicating what is otherwise a standard steal-and-run storyline. For the reader, there’s a lot of fun in puzzling out what’s happened and, given that Angela was basically dumped into the Asgardian universe, there’s a meta appeal in suddenly dumping the audience into the plot, too. However, the transitions are needlessly clunky in this issue. Even the most linear jumps feel as though they lack motive, and the exposition is blatant and poorly transitioned. Every jump made me stop and frown. The integration of the subplot is particularly obvious and jerky; it felt very out-of-place in scene.
The page-level elements of the script are beautiful. Gillen and Bennett’s dialogue can be funny or epic as the scene needs, and neither writer overemphasizes. A particularly fine example of this is when Angela says, “Are you here to talk? Or are you here to lose, Odinson?” and Thor just answers, “I’m going to enjoy this.” They’ve also clearly put some thought into who Angela is. Loki teases that her sulking and magic mark her as his “side of the family,” but she often acts more like Thor – not too thoughtful, headstrong and loyal. In short, she feels like the other Asgardians, but not so much that she isn’t her own distinct person. That said, her rigidity can be puzzling. I understand how the discovery of her origins could create an ethical dilemma, but I don’t know enough about the other elements of her character for it to be particularly compelling.
As far as the artwork, there is little I can say about Stephanie Hans’ impeccable style and colors that hasn’t already been said. Her work on the Angela subplot is sweeping and gorgeous, particularly in the spiraling layout that opens it. The conciseness and handsomeness of this layout almost excuses the clunkiness of its introduction into the narrative.
In the main storyline, Phil Jimenez and inkers Le Beau Underwood and Tom Palmer create Asgardians who are both epic and ugly. The figures are full of swagger and motion but with a medieval roughness to them. In his fury, Thor is impressive, but his face is also all scrunched crow’s feet and neck tendons. In Jimenez’ rendering, I could see some of their monstrousness – almost as if seeing them through Angela’s eyes. Colorist Romulo Fajardo also makes them ruddier and shiny-nosed against paler backgrounds, creating quite a contrast with Hans’ lush palette from the past. The result is a host of great, boisterous scenes.
All told, “Angela: Asgard’s Assassin” clearly has a lot of story to tell, but it’s not sure how to use its subplot structure. In issue #1, I saw how the subplot could be welcome and interesting; in issue #2, I saw how it could be limiting. Going forward, I’m hoping it will work for the creators more often than it does against them – because aside from that, there are so many things going for this book.