Gabriel is a story set in an alternate Scotland, where the Catholic Church can exercise martial law and Jesus Christ wanders around in a Stone Roses shirt. The comic establishes a vivid world with gripping art. In fact, the biggest issue I had with Gabriel is that it wasn’t longer. The comic needs more time to tell its story, develop characters, and immerse us in this intriguing alternate universe.
Stewart Gabriel has been having vicious nightmares of murder and biblical past events. Maybe they’re caused by his breakup with Donna. However, more likely, they’re caused by his lineage—he’s the descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Meanwhile, a wolf-like demon with the ability to turn into anyone starts committing atrocious murders across Glasgow.
The concept is intriguing—the characters live in an almost theocratic state, where the church has its own public SWAT team, The Knights Templar, that has borderline martial law over the people. One of the first scenes, done very well, is an older couple’s murder by the shape-shifting werewolf-esque antagonist. Gabriel’s black and white art is filled with vivid character descriptions, which run the gamut from happiness to horror. Expressions are the standout in this comic, and its many single-panel close-ups lend to the comic’s emotional depth. The cover art is a vivid red cross with the statue of Mary Magdalene and the Pope’s SWAT team glaring out at the reader.
However, Gabriel could do with being another 60 pages longer or more. It feels like, just as soon as we’re getting our footing in this story and the world, the climax arrives, and we’re presented with the denouement. I didn’t quite get a feeling for Gabriel’s new life as a descendant of Christ or much beyond that. The denouement, featuring a Christ-like character who goes about preaching “Good will, good vibes…” doesn’t feel like he’s of any consequence to the overall narrative at all. Gabriel, ultimately, just doesn’t give you enough time in this world to feel for the characters or the overall effects of their life. I wanted to understand more about what’s at stake with Gabriel, Donna, and this werewolf demon shapeshifting creature, but we don’t get enough time with any of them to establish serious drama.
Meanwhile, the biggest issue with the art is its jarring transitions. On one page, we’re in a church; in the next, we’re in a house. The comic could use a few more establishing shots to slow down the pace, establish the setting, and create a calmer rhythm to the scene transitions. This is especially important in the early dream sequences, where we swap rapidly from locale to locale, and the transitions are so jarring they make the events borderline unintelligible, particularly in the opening sequence. Regardless, the artwork is still done very well and deserves recognition. Right from the first page, we know exactly what we’re getting into just by glancing at the imagery.
Gabriel is a quick, fun read with a fascinating world and a lot of potential, but ultimately, it needs more time to fully develop this idea. Hopefully, this won’t be the end of Stewart Gabriel’s adventures.
What did you think of Gabriel? Would Jesus Christ be a Stone Roses fan? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!