If one were to combine the biopic Party Monster with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, the result would look like Fallen, a Kickstarter-produced comic created and written by Matt Ringel and drawn by Henry Ponciano. Several gods from the pantheons of the Greek, Norse, Shinto, and Aztec mythologies are banished to Earth and cut off from their kin while retaining their power and immortality.
The first issue introduces us to some of the now-earthbound Olympians, including Zeus, Athena, and Apollo, and a contingent from Asgard, such as Loki, Thor, and Odin. For our divine friends, it is on Earth as it was in the heavens, i.e., spending much of their time drinking, womanizing, and collecting wealth. Here, though, it’s 1986 New York City, and they’re celestial mobsters running nightclubs and the like. So, same stuff, different century.
One way the gods keep power is imparting some of their might and immortality to a human ward. This is done as a condition of their exile is, they can no longer directly affect the world of people. The wards can step in and influence the rabble on the gods’ behalf, so the gods can still be, well, gods. This all changes when Zeus is murdered in his penthouse. His right-hand man, Casper Clay, is now on the hunt for the killer.
(Bad news: Zeus is dead. Good news: Hercules isn’t on the hook for a Father’s Day gift.)
As I’ve said here before, I love indie comics, especially ones that have been crowd-funded. Even books not at the level of a Big 2 product are still pieces of art requiring a village to create. It also represents a level of courage, putting your vision out to the public and asking them to fund it. For many creators, it’s their first foray into publishing and placing work in front of an audience is daunting.
Fallen is well-done on several fronts. It looks and reads like a book published traditionally. The storyline of gods on Earth isn’t new; very little under the sun is new. The key is adding enough variables to make it original, and Matt Ringel did that. It’s not a stretch to imagine the gods as mafioso, but turning them into club kids and drug dealers and inserting them in NYC in the mid-80s is a unique premise.
Ringel’s dialogue is excellent. The gods talk like ordinary people. They have normal emotions. It feels like reading about regular folks because the script is well-written and doesn’t go all-in on heavy descriptors and flowery prose. It’s straight-forward. It’s a gritty story with a gritty feel. These beings are doing shady things, and you feel that sensation of being on the outside of the law and the establishment.
The art is stellar. Henry Ponciano not only provides a well-drawn book, but the layout and framing are well done. Too many times in self-published books, creators try to reinvent the wheel and do crazy layouts with a tendency to be more distracting than creative. The pages of Fallen are laid out in a way that provides more detail, allowing the reader to better feel the environment while following most of the basic rules of comic book layout.
The story is dark, and the scenes and colors represent that. Fallen doesn’t feel like a breezy Marvel production or one of DC’s epics. This book has a back-alley feel dripping from every page. The immoral dealings of the gods are represented with noir-infused beauty.
(Tom Hiddleston & Chris Helmsworth they ain’t.)
It’s a quick read because the story moves fast. The plot is lean with no extra fat. It gets where it needs to be with efficiency, but that doesn’t mean it lacks detail or depth. You get a strong vibe from each character as to who they are, what they’re about, and the methods they’re willing to use to achieve their goals. Toben Racicot’s letters fit perfectly. While sticking to the basic all-caps tradition, Racicot adds just a touch of flair, allowing them to shine while not detracting from the art. For me, the best letterers are the ones following the rules while standing out amongst their peers. Racicot’s letters are recognizable the same way a Jim Lee- or Adam Kubert-drawn panel is.
Fallen provides a new spin on an old tale and does it by infusing the story with dirt, grime, and some godly magic. Fallen is a must-read for lovers of mythology, crime dramas, or well-constructed comics.