Angel City: Town Without Pity

Angel City: Town Without Pity
Angel City Town Without Pity review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Oni Press - 978-1-62010-426-2
  • Release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781620104262
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Crime, Period drama

Even in the 1930s Hollywood was a place of impossible glamour, luring young women from across the USA in the hopes of film stardom. Dotti Dunkel and Faye Hallmeyer came into town on the same bus, attended the same auditions and looked out for each other. However, they drifted apart, and several years later Dolores Dare is doing well for herself as the enforcer for a club owner when Faye is found dead in a garbage container.

Janet Harvey and Megan Levens set up Angel City very sympathetically, concentrating on Dolores having her conscience pricked. They show her as having an impenetrable front affording a luxurious life while an internal lack of satisfaction manifests. Given her resources and contacts, she’s ideally placed to investigate what happened to Faye when the police show no interest. Readers are taken on a tour of Hollywood’s seedy side, one that’s never really been eradicated, as Dolores gradually pieces together what happened to Faye, and the more the curtain is pulled back, the seedier events become.

Levens delivers a clear cartoon world with expressive characters, all brightly coloured by Nick Filardi, and that look completely subverts the expectations of a noir crime story. Yet it works anyway, with the cast strong and sympathetic, the consideration working its way down to some of the thugs also.

Harvey uses real life gangster Bugsy Siegel, and it’s not too great a stretch to consider Dolores to be modelled on his girlfriend Virginia Hill. The racial tensions of the times also have a place, as does police corruption, with the only weak spot the person with whom Angel City begins. Japanese-American photographer Joe Mashimoto’s connections to Faye and Dolores are never explained when the past is otherwise so thoroughly investigated. Ordinarily it wouldn’t matter too much, but because of the way Harvey develops the story, it does.

By the end everything ties together neatly and the air of tragedy hanging over the entire proceedings makes for a very satisfying experience.