Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: 'Angel: After the Fall' (slipcase edition)

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” receives the vast majority of geek love, but I personally preferred its spin-off. “Angel” was more adult, less cutesy pie (no talk of “smoochies” or “scoobies” to offend the ear). Although the title character—Buffy’s brooding, befanged ex-beau—was a bit of a drip, the supporting players were almost uniformly fab. And while “Buffy” certainly declined in quality over time, “Angel” hit its stride in season five when he and his gang took over an evil law firm (I know, I know, they’re all evil. Hardy har).

Sad then that season five was “Angel”’s last. Creator Joss Whedon was well aware his show was reaching its end, so the cliff hanger-flavored finale that found the Angel crew facing demonically insurmountable odds in a rainy alley was not really supposed to be resolved. At least not on TV. Three years after the WB gave “Angel” the corporate boot to make room for more episodes of “One Tree Hill” or whatever, it was back in comic book form.

Instead of picking up right where the TV series left off, Angel: After the Fall pulled a classic Whedon trick by not giving the readers what they think they want. We’ve jumped ahead several months to find some of our old friends are ghosts, others are vampires, and others were vampires and are now human. Our old friend Los Angeles has been transformed into hell. There’s also a telekinetic fish. Seriously.

As the comic series continues, we start returning to the rainy alley in patches, and the story starts to make sense. Reading this story in brief monthly installments must have been infuriating. Fortunately, now that it’s all over, IDW has compiled the whole series into a four-volume slip cased collection. Reading Angel: After the Fall in one swoop as gathered in this edition is much less frustrating. Rather, the tale is quite satisfying, and that’s coming from someone who didn’t feel cheated by the TV series’ open-ended finale. The one major flaw of the comic series is the inconsistency of its art. Whedon and writer Brian Lynch (who does a boffo job) are aided and abetted by nine different illustrators. Much of the artwork is really quite awful. There’s a likeness of Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia in volume three in which she looks like one of the alien doctors in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode of “The Twilight Zone”, and she isn’t even supposed to be a monster. Some of the art is pretty good, but it rarely strikes the right balance of photorealism and creative artistry necessary to make us forget we’re not watching this thing on TV, which of course, is what we’d rather be doing than reading comic books.

Get Angel: After the Fall (slipcase edition) on here.

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