Archangel

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William Gibson's graphic novel Archangel, originally developed as a screenplay, begins in an alternate present in which America won World War II a little too well. In addition to dropping atomic bombs on Japan, the U.S. also nuked Russia, taking out Stalin and paving a way for a world under uncontested American rule. That set the stage for an American president to declare himself ruler for life, succeeded by his son, Junior Henderson, a sneering totalitarian who brooks no dissent.

After much of the planet becomes irradiated in a nuclear disaster, the young Henderson decides to send himself and a few goons back to 1945 in order to take over and ruin another timeline. That's where the story begins. Saving the past turns out to have troublesome effects on the present.

Archangel, then, is a tale of political power and corruption in which self-interested political elites effectively attempt to strip-mine a parallel timeline for their own gain. Although it lacks the depth of cyberpunk founding father Gibson's best work, it provides many of the same essential pleasures, blending high-tech, high-concept storytelling with the tropes of hard-boiled noir. In the process, it raises more than a few questions about the politics of our own timeline.

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  1. I was disappointed by Archangel. Ive been a Gibson fan for decades – the neuromancer trilogy had a lot to do w the early interest in comouters that would lead to my current career. The man is The Voice of a Generation (X). His novels have managed to simulataneously predict & subtly manipulate massive sea changes in global culture.
    Gibsons prose, although at times stark, is never austere in his use of words. Great attention is given to the interior life of characters & the environment in which they manuever – both historically, politically, technologically & literally.
    This approach is suited to novels, but comics are a different beast entirely. Words – whether dialogue or narration – must be kept to an absolute minimum. Tge narrative is established, like film, from the collision of words & pictures. Unlike film, comic readers use their imagination to determine the relationship between sequential images. The magic of comics is the bulk of the action takes place in between the panels.

    1. Gibson is a writer & not an artist. For Archangel, J Guice provided the pretty pictures. Guices career has consisted just about entirely of work-for-hire pieces within established superhero titles. Guices background, in addition to Archangels history as a screenplay, leads me to suspect that the comic was not the product of collaboration between the two from the outset; rather Gibsons screenplay was written, the re-edited for comic format, & then Guice provided art for it.

      1. Ideally, the writer & artist collaborate from the beginning; or where collaboration is not possible, writing a script that clearly envisions a comic book as the end goal while both taking advantage & accepting the limits of the medium.
        The end result of archangel is a story that – were his name notnon the cover – I would never have guessed William Gibson had anything to do with. None of Gibson’s characteristic ultra-realist style made it into this book; the plot itself had more in common with a hokey gold or silver age throwaway.
        Guice’s background in superhero booksnis evident. Panels lack anything that a reader of the most banal Marvel/DC trash hasnt seen hundreds of times before. You will not find any compelling or original use of color, framing, structure or linework here. While most Image titles these days include cover & interior art that could find its way to a museum, Archangel presents scenes in the most literal way possible.
        There is one truly remarkable thing about Archangel. It suceeded in producing something I never thought possible: a work of fiction from Wipliam Gibson that sucks.

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