Shelter of Wings #1

Shelter of Wings #1 (2005)
by Brethren Entertainment
200 Pages - Black and White
[ Spiritual / Action / Comedy ]

Creator - Lisa Hitchinson

Publisher summary: War is brewing in the heavens and at the center is an unsuspecting girl, named Jenna, who abandons her faith after a tragic accident that leaves her mother dead and her leg badly injured. Still emotionally scarred, she retreats to her grandparent’s home in rural Montana. Angry and alone, she questions how a good and loving God could exist that would allow her mother to die? To her surprise, however, she learns that God does care through a guardian angel who reveals the great destiny God has in store for her. But the path will be riddled with obstacles and enemies bent on defeating her. Will Jenna be able to overcome these powerful adversaries with the help of her guardian angel? Read the first volume of Shelter of Wings to find out!

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 31 December 2007

Shelter of Wings is a lesser known title, which is a shame because it has the makings of a good series. It is also one of the few titles with a decent page count. Whereas most other graphic novels of this genre are from people mostly unrelated to manga, this one has solid art obviously by a fan of Japanese styles.

For the most part the art and composition are good, on par with a lot of commercial manga. There are some pages that are burdened by text, even to the point of some panels without art. The biggest problem, however, is with the action. Many professional manga-ka cannot convey action well (coughCLAMPcough) and Shelter of Wings reflects this. The events do not flow smoothly and most action panels are overwhelmed with special effects and random lines. One must hope that the series will not contain many battles in the future.

The opening sequence takes an odd turn when the angels resort to... using a giant magical girl staff? Summoning a sentai-inspired weapon was not what I expected. Combined with the forehead markings of many angels, reminiscent of so many other series, this aspect feels less original than it should. Certain angelic elements (such as essence or warriors locks) are fine but explained in a heavy-handed fashion by asterisked explanations.

Art aside, the first volume suffers from structural problems. There are too many different events put together and less development on all of them than would be ideal. Many of the scenes feel somewhat disconnected from all the others and readers are given relatively little time to follow individual characters.

Speaking of characters... there are a lot of them. Too many. One suspects the author had numerous pre-developed characters and wanted to use them all, but they make the volume a rather crowded place. Therefore the characterization is hit and miss; the human interactions generally feel genuine, but some angels are barely archetypes and some demons bluntly presented (in the "Look at how evil we are!" vein).

Like most series, the plot is tempered by humor. Here again we have varying degrees of effectiveness. Ramvis, otherwise a serious and well-designed character, has probably the volume's funniest moment ("I am smiling…") and other elements succeed in being humorous ("Yeah, Forkth!"). The demons' antics? Not so much. To be fair, they were no less funny than a great deal of Japanese manga. Then there is one scene which has use of a Japanese word for no apparent reason, leaving one to suspect it is gratuitous.

Though the volume begins with a well-written note about theology and places the book firmly within the fantasy genre, there are still a few concerns. One is the common mockery of demons, making them out to be little cause for concern. If the demons are all so stupefied/weakened by their fall and utterly unable to keep from fighting each other, how are they any threat at all? Furthermore, they seem too human (such as one wanting some Aspirin), which is less a theological problem and more out of place.

Again, these elements are stronger on the human side of things. Jenna deals with very real issues of grief and to the volume's credit it doesn't rush to provide the answers to her difficult questions. Unfortunately, it does provide very explicit cause and effect mechanics concerning prayer and angelic battles. Your mother died because demons did it, angels saved you, etc. While this could be accepted as a fantasy mechanic, I think this type of thinking is a major cause for concern in real life. Things are far from that simple and those kinds of explanations can all too easily become a cheap way out. Some of this is inevitable because the series addresses things we cannot know, but I would think a more ambiguous approach would be better.

In any case, this is an interesting opening to the series and I'm not entirely certain where it will go from here. The negative comments listed here were mostly interferences with a generally enjoyable experience, so if these were smoothed out the series would be greatly improved.

Reviewer: NOT Ann

UC here again, pointing out that there will not be a review from Ann on this title, as our policy is to remain silent about any material related to us. For the moment let me just say that wow, that cover is really well colored. Whoever did that is certainly a super special awesome person. People who co-administer sites with this unknown individual should probably be given money.

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