In the wake of Dark Horse’s announcement that a canonical follow-up to Buffy would be released in comic form, IDW immediately tried to take some similar steps to reinvigorate their slightly floundering Angel license. The result was Angel: After the Fall, a maxi-series designed to offer a semi-canonical “Season 6” of Angel. The story was devised by series creator Joss Whedon, who also hand-picked writer Bryan Lynch for the task, and this hardback collection (soon to be made available as a trade paperback) contains the opening 5 issues, comprising the first “act” of the story.
The story sees Angel transported to Hell following the events of Angel Season 5
‘s TV finale – along with all of Los Angeles. The story picks up after an unexplained period of inactivity for Angel, and finds him playing catch-up trying to establish himself on the scene again – and that includes reconnecting with the members of his now-dispersed crew. The slow-burn plot, built on a succession of deliberate, gradual reveals made for a frustrating, often downright confusing read the first time around. A second examination in light of later issues makes comprehending the plot slightly easier, but regrettably no more entertaining. The spine of the story – a demon lord seeking revenge after the newly active Angel kills his son – is painfully dull, while the more interesting arc surrounding Angel’s friends finishes this volume on a cliffhanger. A satisfying read, it is not.
Complementing the feeling of dissatisfaction is the way that Lynch’s writing and Urru’s pencils never quite hit the mark for me. The weakness of both is compounded by the sheer disconnect felt between the Angel TV series, which was based on a core group of familiar characters fighting street-level demonic activity, and the comic version, a sprawling epic with a huge, unfamiliar cast overrun by demonic activity on a massive scale. Where Buffy: Season 8 managed to expand its scope without violating its consistency, this feels like the same characters have simply been placed in a different show altogether.
The package itself is very nicely put together, but then IDW’s releases are always of high quality (and, it should be noted, priced accordingly.) The cover is printed with a combination glossy/matte finish and mercifully comes without a dust jacket, the images being printed right onto the book itself. Early issues of the series were criticised for being muddy and dark, but some combination of remastering, recolouring and improved paper stock has made it look substantially less so in this collection. Extras include a comprehensive cover gallery, pin-up art, sketches, the proposal and an annotated script for issue one. It’s a shame the lead story lets the product as a whole down, because trades in general could learn a lot from the extra care taken with this release.
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