When the character of Angela first made her appearance in Spawn #9, it was a strange brew of interesting character mixed with...not-so-interesting character design. The actual story itself was written by Neil Gaiman and painted Angela as a tough-as-nails angelic bounty hunter, while Todd McFarlane’s artwork, on the other hand, showed her more like a bad girl pinup, replete with chain-mail bikini and many, many belts (after all, how were the readers to know it was the ‘90s without multiple belts and pouches?). Angela remained a supporting cast member of Spawn throughout the ‘90s, even getting her own three-issue limited series (now out of print).
Until, that is, Todd McFarlane claimed that Gaiman’s creation of her was work-for-hire, breaking their previous agreement that Gaiman was co-owner of the character. This resulted in a legal battle which finally resulted, in 2012, in Neil Gaiman getting the full rights...and then selling them to Marvel Comics. Angela was now going to be a character in the Marvel Universe.
The Marvel version of Angela first appeared in Age of Ultron #10. After many issues of Wolverine and Sue Richards jaunting through the time stream, trying to set things right, the universe finally...broke. The 616 version of Galactus found itself in the Ultimate universe (and that was dealt with the Ultimate crossover Cataclysm), while Angela found herself pulled out of Heaven and into the main Marvel Universe.
Angela now found herself a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy as she tried to figure out how to get back to Heaven. Her costume was slightly redesigned to make it less ‘90s, even if they did still keep the metal bikini and giant belt. It wasn’t until the Original Sin crossover that Angela’s true origin was told, however. When the bomb full of secrets exploded, Thor suddenly came into the knowledge that he had a sister and the truth was quickly revealed:
Freyja and Odin had a daughter named Aldrif, but there was a war between Asgard and the Tenth Realm, Heven, and the Angels that lived there. The leader of the Angels apparently captured baby Aldrif and killed her, so Odin, in a fit of rage, cut off Heven from the entire universe, leaving only nine realms. Aldrif, however, was not dead and was adopted by another Angel and raised as Angela. Once Angela knew the truth, she was not pleased. This, then, led into her first ongoing Marvel series, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin.
Angela: Asgard’s Assassin was written by Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett and illustrated by Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans. Gillen and Jimenez did the main story for each issue, while Bennett and Hans would do a story-within-the-story for each issue, usually taking up about five pages. The book immediately set itself apart by how smart, weird, and subversive it was.
The first thing the book does, in fact, is introduce a new trans character: Sera, one of the Angels of Heven, and formerly Angela’s best friend until Sera died. It’s revealed in the book that Sera was born male and so was forced to live in a monastery, until she was rescued by Angela. And unlike Angela, she doesn’t believe in the materialistic “something-for-something” philosophy of the Angels. Angela, on the other hand, detests being in anyone’s debt and expects that others repay her if they are in her debt. It’s also hinted that Angela and Sera are perhaps closer than just mere best friends.
The other thing that is revealed is the fact that Angels do not have an afterlife. So the central mystery of the book becomes: how did Sera come back to life? In the last issue of the book, it’s then revealed that she didn’t. Sera was actually Malekith in disguise — and Malekith reveals that not only is Sera dead, but she is in Hel, along with all the other dead Angels. When Odin cut off Heven from the universe, that wasn’t enough for Freyja, who made a deal with Hela to put all the dead Angels into the very worst pit in Hel.
So Angela picks up her sword and swears that she will go to Hel.
Then the universe was destroyed and Secret Wars happened, which kind of put a dampener on Angela’s plans. In the meantime, however, we are getting 1602: Witch Hunter Angela which is delightful. This time, the author roles are reversed, with Bennett and Hans taking the main story and Gillen and Marguerite Sauvage doing a story-within-a-story.
It takes place in “King James’ England,” the part of Battleworld that comes from the 1602 universe, and stars Angela and Sera as hunters of Witchbreed. They quickly find that there’s a new enemy, the Faustians, those who have made a deal with the Queen of Faeries, the Enchantress.
Angela and Sera’s relationship in this book continues their “best-friends-but-maybe-more” relationship from Asgard’s Assassin, even including a take-off of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, with Angela as Angelo. (Yes, it’s very silly. Yes, it requires you to know a lot of Shakespeare. I told you it was delightful.)
But what about after Secret Wars?
The story of Angela and Sera continues in Angela: Queen of Hel, written by Marguerite Bennett, with art by Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans. And yes, the title means exactly that: Angela has deposed Hela and replaced her on the throne of Hel. Bennett has a good interview about the book here, where she says, “We’re that weirdo art book, dark fantasy and pop culture riffs.”
The interview also confirms what the solicitations have hinted, with Sera being referred to as Angela’s “beloved.” Bennett says that now Angela is Queen of Hel, Sera is her “royal consort.”
In other words, you’re going to toy with the emotions of Angela and Sera shippers like myself?
[Laughs] I will go down with this ship. There’s grief and joy and anger and forgiveness, but those are the kinds of comics I like to read, so those are the kinds of comics I like to write.
Which is why you should be reading the current 1602: Witch Hunter Angela and the upcoming Angela: Queen of Hel. It introduced a trans person of color (well, trans Angel of color), who rebelled against her own materialistic society. And it took a character who was perhaps the epitome of ‘90s “bad girl” comics and put her in a book that was weird, dark, and definitely subversive.