What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #1 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch)
Timing: A few months since "Not Fade Away." There seems to be general agreement among fans that it takes place sometime before or during the eighth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," though we've gotten no solid information from Joss on where to place this series next to BtVS:S8. This series is the official canonical continuation of "Angel the Series," so it is not necessary to place it at a certain time with the other, non-canonical, Angel comics. This fits into the timeline of the television series, not the old comics.
WARNING: If you have read the comic, read on. If you haven't read the comic but don't care about getting some things spoiled for you, then read on. If you haven't read the comic and you don't want anything spoiled, get the (SPOILER:) LA (/SPOILER) out of here! I don't usually include major spoilers in reviews, but there are so many big twists here that if I didn't include some, the review would solely consists of "I loved it!" What I will do is, for those who don't want the BIG spoilers, take said Big Spoilers and put them in black text over the black background. That way, if you want to read them, just highlight them. If you don't, then ignore the black space.
REVIEW: Let me just start by saying how wonderful the eighth season of BtVS is. It's something that we fans have wanted for a long time, and it's coming along better than I could have dreamed of. However, in this fandom, there is something more powerful than want. And that's need. Since the first airing of "Not Fade Away" so long ago, the Buffyverse fandom has had a seemingly insatiable need to find out--despite how good an ending NFA was--what happened to our beloved characters. Now, three men--Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, and Franco Urru--are giving us that opportunity. Today, the twenty-first of November, the first issue of Angel: After the Fall came out and, with a copy of the comic in my hand, I am beyond ecstatic to give you my review of this story that we've needed for so long.
The story starts off with Angel doing what he's always done best; helping the helpless. Lynch gives us the first monumental plot twist on the second page of the comic. Remember that Dragon? You know, the one Angel kinda wanted to slay? Well, turns out our fanged hero had a much better idea, after finding out that he and the Dragon had a lot more in common than sharp teeth. Angel teaming up with the Dragon could have been silly if done by another writer, but Lynch pulls it off with ease and keeps the story going. Angel's dialogue and inner monologue are precisely on point, capturing that dry wit (and don't forget that bitter undercurrent, of course) that other writers--comic, novel, and fanfic alike--have rarely been able to capture. The biggest thing that has been missing from the previous IDW Angel comics was an in-character Angel, but it's clear from the first page of this comic that we won't be having that problem here. Joss Whedon sure as hell picked the right dude to carry on this tale.
After Angel sends the people he saved off to a safe-house run by some familiar faces (that looks like it's going to be a great arc for those characters at the safe-house), he hops onto his Dragon's neck and flees the scene, giving us an aerial view of Los Angeles, which looks a bit different that we last saw it. In what looks like will be the major conflict of "After the Fall," Wolfram and Hart has literally (SPOILER:) sent LA to Hell (/SPOILER) after Angel's rebellious actions in "Not Fade Away." We already see how horrible Angel feels about this. But, even with the world on his shoulders, our favorite vampire (well, one of our two favorites) keeps on fighting. Only thing is, he's kinda stuck. Wolfram and Hart still has him on lock, and he seems to be operating out of the ruins of the old law firm, simultaneously trying to save people from the W&H friendly demons and holding back his passion to kill said demons, fearing that if he were to act out again, (SPOILER:) LA would be sent to an even worse Hell dimension (/SPOILER). It makes for a very, very interesting inner conflict, but anyone who thinks Angel would ever be able to stop himself from helping the helpless just doesn't know the man. In the end of this comic, Angel (SPOILER:) kills the offspring of Burge, the Lord of Downtown LA, officially starting a war. (/SPOILER) Looks like things are going to get sticky in here real quick.
A few of the other main AtS characters get character arcs that start here. (SPOILER:) Wesley, who is very much in the comic, has become the last official representative of the LA Branch of Wolfram and Hart. We don't know much right now, but we know that he is (a) incorporeal, (b) heartbroken that he hasn't 'moved on,' (c) making the demons believe that he has Wolfram and Hart's best interest in mind, (d) making Angel believe that he is still on his side, (e) giving us a lot to debate about. I'll get more into Wesley in the speculation section. (/SPOILER) Gunn's arc also looks interesting, (SPOILER:) and it may be a lead-up to him being the Big Bad of the series. That would add such a personal touch to Angel's battle in Hell, which is just what this incredibly epic story needs. You may be asking why I think Gunn would be the Big Bad. (/SPOILER) That, I won't give away. Read it for your own. It's one of those few moments that can at once make you cry and say "holy crap, that's awesome."
This is the strongest "season premiere" that Angel has ever had, by far and away. I am happy to give this issue top marks in every category.
Art: Franco Urru is the right man for this. His demons are bad-ass, his vampires even bad-assier, and his interpretation of all the main characters that we see in this comic is very satisfying. I admit having a little trepidation at the fact that Urru doesn't always add great detail to the faces of the characters, but the work he has turned out in this issue is beyond what I could have hoped for. The splash page with Angel flying on the Dragon over the (SPOILER: Hellish LA (/SPOILER) is a beautiful piece of art that has been my desktop for God knows how long. The reveal at the end is so shockingly violent, so gritty... Angel's facial expressions are perfect... Everything in here just adds so much to Brian's already awesome story, that I truly couldn't imagine any other artist doing this book.
RATING: 10/10 Classic
Beyond this point, there be UNCOVERED spoilers. The following sections are the "Characters We Know" and "Speculation" sections, all of which are VERY spoilery. If you don't want spoilers, then don't read past here.
Characters We Know (in order of appearance): Angel, the Dragon (from NFA), Wesley, Gwen, Nina, Connor, Gunn
Lynchverse Characters We Know (from the "Spike" series): Betta George
Speculation: I don't know where Wesley's arc is going to take him, but I'm excited about it. I just have so many questions upon reading this. Is it really Wesley? Is Wesley simply incorporeal like early Season Five Spike, or is it Wesley's ghost? Is he confined to a certain area? How/why was he chosen to do this job? Could he have been convinced to go against Angel (doubtful)? And what of Gunn? It seems, as I mentioned before, that he may end up being either the Big Bad of the series or at least a major, major villain. He's collecting shinies (judging from the one he took from the awesome baddie Kr'ph) and planning on taking their spots as LA Lords. My questions are these: Was Gunn sired during that NFA battle? If so how and by whom? Is that stake that Angel was carrying meant for Gunn, if their paths were to cross? Was it Angel who, under from "Why We Fight"-like circumstances who had to sire Gunn? Who else knows of Gunn's condition? And, speaking or Kr'ph (well, I did speak of him a while ago), those girls he was hanging out with seem to be wearing (or not wearing) the same clothes that the girls on the cover of Issue #2 have on. My speculation is that Spike has somehow become one of the LA Lords, and he's both living the high life and fighting the good fight. Don't ask me how, but that's the impression I'm getting. As for Angel, I feel he's going to have the best character arc he's gotten since his grey phase in Season Two. Don't get me wrong, he's had plenty strong character arcs since then, but never has so much been riding on his every action. He has truly become a pivotal player in the apocalypse, and he's feeling pretty bad about it. I truly can't wait to see how Spike, Illyria, and the others (if there are any others) come into the picture.
Now, I reiterate...
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Rating: 10/10 Classic.