Writer(s): Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch
Artist: Franco Urru
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Plot: Angel presides over a fallen city. ďHell AĒ has never been more literal, as territorial demons now preside over a city in patchwork ruins. All is not lost, however. At least Angel, and some of his crew, survived. So thereís hope. Isnít there?
Comments: This story does what a lot of TV seasons do, actually. It skips over the intervening time since the last episode we saw, and promises to catch us up later. Thatís a built-in way of insuring our interest, because it takes unanswered questions as part of the basic premise.
What do we know? I now spoil all for you: Gunn survived. So did Connor and heís aided and abetted by Gwen (the electric girl) and Nina (the werewolf) from Season 5. Wesley, however (youíll remember) did not. But heís here, too (shades of what became of Lila, literally) and thereís also an intriguing psychic fish called Betta George who is a comic book creation but is now totally Joss-approved. The team who made this issue also made a comic called Spike: Asylum that Joss quite liked.
So this, then, is another comic series in the mold of the Buffy: Season 8 that Dark Horse is putting out. The quality of stories and art there is successful in putting across the notion that weíre reading what would have been a new televised season. But Angel, as always, is kind of the bastard step-child. The title has had a different destiny since it broke off, and didnít shift networks when the parent show did. Originally begun as an attempt at franchising a cult audience (which it succeeded at, Iíd say), it always had the problem that Boreanaz, while charismatic, was really much better at the light comedic stuff than all the dark brooding. His current show, Bones, where heís a tough and only lightly tortured FBI agent who is an eternal straight man to a team of quirky scientists, realizes this.
So did Angel the series, eventually, as it expanded his supporting cast and kept the banter light and witty (when it wasnít bitter and grim). There was even a memorable episode where Wolfram & Hartís dark masters showed him the Hell he was consigned to: LA, just as it was already. So this series has that ironic realization, and keeps us interested in characters both old and new. So far itís not quite there, but the pieces are in place for Angel to do his redemptive thing, and save the city heís come to hate.
Comics have one advantage over TV shows; the budget for FX is unlimited. Neither the Buffy comic nor this one has fully exploited that factor yet. Urruís demonic anatomy loses form, and his inks are so dark itís hard to make out the details of the more interesting creations. His characters are reasonable facsimiles of the actors, but the color palette and shading needs to lighten up considerably. Thereís a way to do that and still not break the bleak mood, Iím sure. I just hope this grim state of affairs doesnít persist forever; Angel was best when it was funny, even if some of the laughs were the equivalent of whistling in the dark.
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