Everyone likes free stuff. High quality free stuff is even better. Over at Freakangels.com, that’s exactly what Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield are providing to the internet every Friday. Freakangels has been going strong for two years now with six pages of comic available each Friday around 12 noon Warren’s time. Even when one of the dynamic duo is ill or out of town or experiencing technical difficulties, there’s a thoroughly amusing placeholder note that deals with the situation delaying the comic or new merchandise that’s become available. It’s regular as clockwork, and in the land of webcomics, regularity can be pretty important to readership.
The Freakangels storyline revolves around a post-cataclysm London that is mostly flooded. It has steampunk tendencies in artwork and design but mostly reads like an apocalyptic tale: survival after the Great Big Bad. The titular characters, the Freakangels, are a group of people born at the same time twenty-three years before the cataclysm—and they have some serious capabilities with what they call the “Freakangel package.” It’s something like telepathy, something like telekinesis, and something else entirely that has begun developing in the newest chapters.
Eleven of the twelve have stabilized the Whitechapel sector for people to live in with power, water, food and shelter. It has developed into a nice community. Unfortunately, everyone who’s surviving out on the desolate waters wants a piece of the nice community that appears to be living in what might approximate luxury by comparison. The later story pulls in the missing twelfth Freakangel, the man who pushed the first volume into motion by assaulting a girl named Alice.
The best part of Freakangels is obviously that it’s free, but there’s so much more to appreciate. Warren Ellis’s writing is great. Each character feels deep and well-rounded. They possess noticeably different personalities, problems and abilities. A large cast is often hard to manage but Ellis does a fine job at keeping the various stories straight and intriguing, as well as building a larger narrative about the Freakangel package and past betrayals. There’s a big story lurking close to the surface right now that I can’t wait to find out about. Duffield’s art is also worth taking some time to look at. He has a talent for action scenes, capturing in each panel the perfect ranges of motion to feel at once whip-crack sharp and a bit languid, like a slow-motion martial arts fight. It flows. The art starts out pleasant but most definitely improves as the story goes on: in many of the current chapters I spend inordinate amounts of time studying the way character’s hair looks, or the coloring of their stained clothing, or a shotgun wound. The coloring is light, often nearly pastel, but it works to bring Whitechapel and the Freakangels to vibrant life.
So far, there are three trade volumes released for purchase in a few formats, including signed special editions. While you can read the comic free every week and certainly should, it’s also nice to have the glossy bigger prints of all Duffield’s gorgeous pages to carry around and show off. The fact that the previous issues which have been collected are still available to read for free is a thumbs-up move on the part of the creators. It makes sure that readers can easily jump in to try Freakangels out at any time and still be able to start at the beginning.
For the collector-geek in you, there’s merch outside the trade volumes, too. It is unbelievably cool and also cheap enough that it won’t break the bank. Avatar Press, the company that publishes Freakangels, offers a wide variety of related goodies from t-shirts to throw blankets to the occasional messenger bag (but watch out for those; they sell out almost immediately whenever they’re available). Paul Duffield’s art is on the shirts, most of which are available in men’s and women’s sizes. I personally own the KK silhouette shirt and a plain grey Freakangels model and can attest that the images don’t peel after washing. Great conversation starter when someone else who reads the comic runs into you.
And, if that wasn’t enough, the Whitechapel message board that runs through the Freakangels site is a small but active community of comic and writer nerds who are always eager to share news about music, books, comics and movies. "Weird science” is a qualifying thread starter. It’s eclectic but fun. Members can also talk about the new chapters of Freakangels each week.
So, really, Freakangels is more than just a top-notch free comic. It’s a community and a sharing experience that’ll let you geek out to your heart’s content.