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"Angel : After The Fall" Comic Book - Issue 1-4 - Comicsnexus.insidepulse.com Review

Wednesday 27 February 2008, by Webmaster

Those of you who read my previous Buffy review won’t be at all surprised to learn that it is my favourite-ever TV show. Right up alongside it, however, was its spin-off series, Angel. It has different strengths, though still clearly of the same genre and with a variety of overlapping characters – both were superbly written and brilliantly acted, but where Buffy was innovative, constantly trying to push the boundaries, Angel was… well, Angel was high action and adventure all the way, albeit often as dark and broody as the central character himself, the vampire with a soul.

On a personal note, one other key difference was my reaction to the ending of these series in one medium, and their eventual continuation in comic book form: I always felt that the ending to ‘Buffy’, while appropriate, opened the doors to many new stories, and so I was delighted when Joss and Dark Horse brought us Season 8; I did think, however, that the final episodes of ‘Angel’ were so absolutely perfect, so true to everything that had come before, such a natural evolution of the characters… that, well, I almost didn’t want it to continue. It really did seem like the end – most of the team were dead or mortally wounded, and Angel was ready to take the final stand, fully accepting this as his fate for all the decisions –rightly or wrongly – that he has made in his very long life. Because of this, I decided against buying the new Angel series from IDW.

However, being the solid (though sadly unpaid) professional that I am, when I was asked to review the first 4 issues of Angel Season 6, I thought I’d have a look and see what I could have won…

So, where does Angel Investigations (aka Wolfram & Hart’s worst lawyers) go from that apocalyptic final scene of Season 5, battered and beaten, facing down the demon hordes of hell? Uh, well… the apocalypse, that’s where. So W&H’s punishment for disobedience has been to send LA to hell (obviously no one told them the writers strike has now ended!) But somehow, Angel is still fighting. And he has tamed a dragon.

#1 starts pretty much as you’d expect it to – Angel is saving humans from a demon attack. It is only when he returns to the Wolfram offices that twists start to turn. Now, it was pretty darn obvious that most of Angel’s supporting cast was going to put in an appearance one way or another, despite their near-death status; the real questions of interest for the first few chapters was always going to be how. The first reveal is great – Wesley (one of Whedon’s best developed characters) is back, but he’s still dead, and apparently working-almost-in-the-service-of the devil’s law firm. This poses all sorts of questions and potential future issues. But wait, we’re not done there. By the time we reach the end of #4… well, of course Connor is still there in the mix, and he’s continuing to fight the good fight with Season 4 and 5 alums Nina and Gwen; Spike was too popular not to be at least close to sharing centre-stage with Angel, though his team-up with Illyria poses yet more questions. But perhaps the most interesting survivor of all was Charles Gunn, who appeared to be out for the count in the alleyway facing off against the demons of Wolfram &Hart. Gunn’s character seemed to fare the worst under Angel’s tutelage, making all the wrong choices despite having the heart of a hero. Now, it appears that he is back to his demon-hunting-gang roots, but with an unexpected edge of aggression and simmering discontent. All is clearly not as it seems… and by the end of #3, we know why.

But Gunn and Wesley aren’t the only members of Team Angel to undergo changes; Angel wouldn’t be Angel without having to face the hordes of hell without at least one more handicap. And this one’s a doozy.

By the end of #4, yet more of the supporting cast are thrown into the mix. Lorne is apparently now Lord of Silver Lake, which appears to be some kind of fantastical haven for all sorts of creatures. And he has a secret weapon for Angel – yet another of the returning team, whose rather surprising appearance is summed up so nicely by Wesley: “Must admit. Didn’t see this coming.”

So, the stage is set – we know the basics of why and how the central characters are still in play, but there is plenty of mystery there that leaves much to be explained – not only in terms of back-story, but also with regards to the way in which this new dynamic will play out, when the inevitable time comes for the team to re-unite – or fight to the death. Angel is, true to form, fed up with the current situation, and decides now is the time to end this, one way or another – by challenging all the ‘Lords’ of hell to a fight to the death for the future of Los Angeles.

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