Angel: After the Fall
Writers: Joss Whedon / Brian Lynch
Artists: Franco Urru
Distributed By: IDW Publishing
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
Joss Whedon is quite the fanboy’s dream. As the leader of his own cult-classic world, he has done many seemingly impossible things. Out of the three television series he produced (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly), only Buffy ended in the way that he wanted. Still, Joss later decided there was more to the story and decided to add a series of comic books to the lore – Buffy Season 8 was released and I reviewed them as two separate graphic novels, “The Long Way Home” and “No Future For You.” There is more of this still in the works. Firefly was canceled after 12 episodes and Joss managed to convince a studio to make it into a feature film, Serenity. And finally, Angel was canceled after 5 amazing seasons on the air and without much notice. And Joss was left with a killer cliffhanger ending and a couple more seasons planned. What does a writer do with so much story to tell and no hope of getting the band back together? Apparently, he does what he did with Buffy – he writes comics. Joss never lets anything die. But when it came to Buffy’s disastrous final season, that wasn’t exactly a good thing. So, would Angel: After the Fall, the graphic novel that would be Season 6, be another example of kicking a dead dog? One could only read to find out.
When we last left Angel and his gang, he had just made a big decision – he was going to kill the major players that led the charge against good, The Circle of the Black Thorn. During a rousing speech to his group, he explained that each of them would be in charge of taking down one member – and they may die trying, or in the subsequent backlash that the evil law firm, Wolfram & Hart, would send their way. After all, they had taken over Wolfram & Hart, hoping to work out the evil from the inside out, and the Senior Partners of the firm didn’t like the fact that their gamble to corrupt Angel, the vampire with a soul, would end up leading to their Big Kahunas getting killed. By the end of the episode, Wesley was dead, Gunn was seriously wounded, and Angel, Spike and Illyria were left to fight an army of demons accompanied by a dragon!
So, when we pick up, some time has passed and we find Angel, a few months post-battle. We soon learn that the entirety of Los Angeles has been sucked into Hell thanks to the actions of Angel and his gang and has been split up, with several demons being appointed as “Lords” of the sections. Each of them have gone their separate ways, and Angel doesn’t even know where some of them are. What he does know is that he is still being forced to play nice as the head of Wolfram & Hart and that his liaison is Wesley’s ghost. He’s not sure whether or not he can trust Wesley but he has no choice but to trust him with his biggest secret – he is human, and he’s trying to hide it. As Angel tries to clean up the streets and keep all of the innocent people safe from the demons reeking havoc in Hell, he sends the innocents to someone who is off Wolfram & Hart’s radar – he sends them to his son, Connor, who is running an underground hideaway for the humans with series favorites werewolf Nina, and electricity-wielding chica Gwen. The rest of the gang isn’t doing nearly as much good as they are. Illyria, Spike and Lorne are serving as Lords of areas of San Francisco and in the most devastating twist of all, Gunn is a vampire!
The real fun is in watching as Angel struggles to hide his humanity and keep himself healing as a vampire would so nobody catches on, watching as Wesley struggles with his eternal position stuck in limbo helping Angel but serving Wolfram & Hart, watching as Connor finally begins to act like a grown up we, the audience, can get behind, discovering that something is terribly wrong with Illyria and Spike is terrified for her, and, finally, attempting to figure out whether or not Gunn is a good vampire as he claims, or really just one of the usual fangy guys. In the end, the graphic novel brings the crew together as Angel challenges all of the Lords to a battle in an attempt to take over the entirety of LA until he can figure out what to do to get it out of Hell. But will the rest of his gang back him up? Or do they now have their own interests to serve?
So how was my return to Angel-land? Well, I loved it. It had some cheesy moments – like the psychic fish-demon and the fact that the dragon Angel was about to fight at the very end of the series is now his pet- but it also has all of the action, intrigue, mystery, humor, and fun dialog of the Angel I know and love. Right down to the amazing cliffhanger ending this graphic novel was a fast read for me and I found myself wishing there was more of it at the end. There’s also a rather fun art gallery showcasing even more of the brilliantly drawn art demonstrated throughout the rest of the novel, and a step-by-step explanation of Whedon’s first comic book pitch and how and why it changed at the end.
Complete with surprise character appearances and the usual array of exciting storytelling that Whedon always brings to the table, Angel: After the Fall is definitely worth the buy. I can’t wait for the next edition in this ongoing series playing Season 6 to my beloved Angel. I get the feeling the journey will be well worth my attention.