I think the most amazing thing to me about Barbara Slate‘s Angel Love is that it was more or less contemporary with The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. It clearly does not get talked about nearly as much as those other two (the eight issues and one special were never collected), it feels revolutionary in its own way, and reflective of a time when DC Comics was interested in trying new things.
The story follows the titular character as she tries to make it in the big city of New York as an artist. Instead, she ends up working as a rollerskating waitress. She lives with her ditzy, wannabe actress roommate Wendy and hangs out with dreadlocked musician Everett. Other friends and coworkers come and go from the story as Angel navigates love and life.
There is high soap opera drama (drug use! pregnancy and abortions! cancer! long-lost siblings!) as well as fantastical touches (talking cockroaches! drawings of angels that come to life!) that cause the title to be all over the place in terms of tone. Slate’s boldly colorful and cartoony art sometimes feels out of place against the darker themes of the story.
But once you get into the rhythm of Angel Love, there’s something completely charming and unaffected about it. Angel’s humor and supportive attitude when faced with conflict gives her a sweetness and depth that makes her appealing and likeable. She’s someone to root for.
While the fantasy elements don’t always work quite as well and sometimes feel distracting, they do keep the book light. Sometimes it feels like Slate’s trying too hard to be quirky, but she has a unique voice and personality she brings to this title. It’s driven by her own vision and perspective.
Angel Love is not perfect, but it was a fun attempt to age-up traditional girls’ and women’s comics and introduce them to a new audience. While I know people who read it at the time tend to remember it pretty fondly, it’s a shame that Angel Love may be lost to time. It deserves better than that.