Outside of a comic titled No Angel, a generic tattoo of angel wings on a wrist doesn’t earn much conversation. Given an opening panel to itself, Hannah’s tattoo means something but is still easily forgotten. By undercutting its own statement, Black Mask Studio’s No Angel #1 distracts readers, while planting the seeds of religious mythology that break this comic open from crime drama into a tale with broader (or should I say, higher) sights than Tucker’s Mill, Wisconsin.
Written by siblings, Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) and Eric Palicki, with pencils and inks by Ari Syahrazad, Hannah has multiple reasons not to want to be back in Tucker’s Mill, including the reason she is back: the double homicide of her father and brother, Jack.
We meet our protagonist visiting the crime scene for the first time. It was a home invasion and before walking in Hannah flashbacks to when she served in the army—a hail mary save of a friend under gunfire that isn’t possible for her family here. Now working for the FBI in Chicago, this case is personal and the wheels are already turning to keep her involved in the investigation. Deputy Sean, an old friend from high school, is her inside man. Sean stayed in Tucker’s Mill, a choice Hannah has strong opinions about. Their conversations are charged by judgement over the different lives they’ve led.
In comics, when characters are seen from a distance or wearing uniforms they can begin to blend and look the same. Syahrazad has a great handle on faces and makes it so that, no matter how focused their image, each character’s features are recognizable and consistent. Jean-Paul Csuka’s washed-out color schemes, which change from coffee ring browns, to greens during the flashback, provide a sense of place and state of mind, the haze that can come over a person during grief or when it’s too hot outside.
Two character beats don’t entirely land but are far from critically damaging. One involves the issue’s turning point, where Miriam Chapman approaches Hannah after the funeral. She thinks she might know why her father was killed. Packaged with the news that she and Hannah’s father were having an affair, Hannah tells her to leave and never reach out again. Which is exactly the right response, if her father had died. But he was murdered, and Hannah works for the FBI. No matter how terrible the messenger, I don’t see her risking this lead. Give Miriam all the fury in the world but don’t let her go until she tells everything.
The other beat, which might be overly sensitive after one issue, is how little Hannah’s brother, Jack, gets mentioned. More noticeable because of how much their father is talked about, they both died that day. It was sometimes odd to have whole conversations pass on their dad without Jack being brought up once.
No Angel #1 could’ve remained an effective small town whodunit, with the trademark unwilling local’s return. Instead it takes two Biblical twists—one creepy, the other splendidly cheeky at the close—that have me anxious to see where this comic is going.