Neil Gaiman (author), Greg Capullo (artist), Beau Smith (author),
Angela’s Hunt (Image Comics, 1999)

Angela’s Hunt features a popular side character from Todd McFarlane’s Spawn comic series. Created by Neil Gaiman for Spawn #9, in which she battles Spawn, and loses, Angela proved too popular a character to let slip away, and so there is this collection, which has the three issue mini-series penned by Gaiman, with art by Greg Capullo (Spawn, X Force) and a standalone story by Beau Smith, which had previously been given away to comic retailers. Angela is an angel, literally, but no shy retiring angel who sits around and strums a harp while singing hymns. Instead, she’s a fierce hunter who lives for a challenge and has devoted much of her 100,000+ years to battle, and killing hellspawn. And she’s very good at all of it.

The story opens with Angela’s birthday present to herself: hunting a particularly large and deadly kind of dragon, so she’ll have a new head for her trophy room. Unfortunately for Angela, she’s interrupted before she can go home with her prize. Interrupted by a host of angels ready to drag her back in chains to Elysium, home of the angels. Why? She’s been accused of high treason. Wounded and worn out from her fight with the dragon, even a hunter of Angela’s skills isn’t up to a whole host of angels, so her birthday turns from triumphant to awful in the span of a few minutes.

Once word of Angela’s incarceration reaches her friends’ ears, they go to her, to see what they can do to help defend her. Finding out that’s shes’ been accused of hunting Spawn without a permit, they go to find this particular hellspawn, who happens to be mired deep in angst and self-pity, and is caught quite off guard by the appearance of two angels who want to drag him off. Nonetheless, they convince him of Angela’s need, and he returns with them, in human guise.

Unfortunately for both Spawn and Angela, his body and clothing don’t take too kindly to the presence of such holiness, and at a crucial moment during the trial, he reveals his true nature and chaos ensues. Angela and Spawn escape through his cloak, ending up in hell -- and having somewhat of an implied romantic interlude -- before returning to their respective homes. Taking advantage of her presumed demise, Angela confronts her accuser, discovers the truth and sets about making things right in her own inimitable way, setting the stage for future plot lines with her as an independent contractor of sorts.

Angela’s Hunt is a quick, punchy and fun story. It has plenty of action, humor and pathos (well, okay, Spawn provides all the pathos) and Angela’s a take no prisoners kind of action hero, kicking ass, fighting for justice (her own, admittedly) and looking amazing the whole time. It’s nice to see Spawn get challenged, and pulled out of his gloomy mood, even if just for a brief while (his and Angela’s fight to escape hell is rather droll indeed). Capullo’s art is solid, and his various renditions of Spawn -- as Elysium takes affect -- are quite detailed and distinctive. If there’s a quibble to be had, Spawn himself sums it up when he asks this about the angels, “Why are they all . . .. babes?” It’s not so much that they’re all attractive women, it’s that they’re attractive, statuesque women who are mostly wearing gravity-defying -- and barely there -- clothing. It’s assuredly part of their appeal, but it may not appeal to all readers.

Included with the mini-series is a standalone Angela special story written by Beau Smith (Guy Gardner, Spawn). It features Angela luring Spawn out by playing damsel in distress. He’s surprised to see her, and not necessarily pleased, as he neither cares to fight nor to pick up the pieces of their earlier romantic encounter. Angela, it seems, really just needs someone to talk to, so she tells him a tale of derring do from ages ago, fighting pirate hellspawn, including one particularly hellish spawn, the Cut Throat Captain. Though short, the story gives Angela a chance to show a slightly softer side, and provides a glimpse into her past. Sure, the story is about fighting, but it’s more about nostalgia, for a time and place that’s forever gone.

[April Gutierrez]

Neil Gaiman can be found online here, some of Greg Capullo’s art can be found here and Beau Smith is here.