Sunday, March 20, 2005

ANGELTOWN #5

I've been very high on this mini and perhaps that's why I'm a little disappointed at the end. Not very disappointed, but the first four issues did raise expectations that were not totally met. On the whole, however, I still recommend the story and still regret that DC has made no plans to collect the series as a trade paperback -- the single-issue sales were rather dreadful.

For those of you who blithely ignored Angeltown and contributed to the lack of sales, a belated pitch: this is a sort of inner-city noir, an LA Confidential in an age of Kobe Bryant and Nicole Brown Simpson, where celebrity is both poison and purpose. Everyone is out to do the dirty on everyone else and Nate Hollis, private detective, considers having survived the trenches as a high point of his job qualifications.

The obvious mystery -- who killed Theophus Burnett's rapacious ex-wife -- gets solved with a little sleight of hand and a whole lot of fuss. Irma Deuce is revealed to be nothing more than a convenient red herring and plot spice -- hey, a black lesbian bounty hunter! (too bad she's a poor copy of The Wire's Det. Greggs) -- and the murder of Hollis's father, introduced at the beginning and brought back at the end, is another. These extraneous plot threads make the ending feel sloppier than it is, especially when Hollis wraps up everything else so neatly. Too neatly, perhaps. As with Fables last week, I'm always disinclined to be content with Hollywood stories where celebrity is considered sufficient as a sole motive for anything.

Overall, Angeltown gets recommended for the ride, if not necessarily for the conclusion. Considering the restraints of miniseries, the characterizations are interesting and well-established -- even if some of them prove irrelevant to the story. Gary Phillips does a pretty good job setting things up over the first four issues, enough to forgive some (not all) of the lack of deftness in sorting things out in the denouement. The story feels like it should have either been much larger or much smaller -- either trimmed of the dangling plot threads or branching out to make something of them. High marks for artistic merit, but lower marks for technical accomplishment -- lack of efficiency cost this puppy a medal.

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