Comics Way back in the distant past (2007) when IDW Comics launched their canonical line based on Joss Whedon's Angel, I gave it a cautious welcome, applauding the ideas and Bryan Lynch's scripting but losing my temper over Franco Urru’s artwork which was frankly a mess. Though I bought each and everyone of the ensuing issues (though none of the spin-off), the messy plotting and blury artwork eventually tried my patience and my last actual read issue will have been somewhere in the low twenties.
That being the case, my reaction to the character suddenly reappearing in the Buffy line at Dark Horse was slightly less unhappy than some fans who thought IDW had been shafted. They had been shafted of course, not least because the person scripting the series learnt about the character being revealed as the big bad Twilight at the same time as the fans and then found himself filling in a gap rather than writing an ongoing series. I see now from the Wikipedia that he left before the final IDW story arc.
Now all that's been settled, IDW have ceased their publication and Angel's been teamed with Faith in Dark Horses's Angel & Faith which will run in a fortnightly waltz with the new Buffy series, assuming that the publication schedule is followed for a change. It's also handily designed as a jumping on point for people who only read the "season eight" comics but with respectful references back the IDW range which retains its canonicity and suggests I still have some reading to do.
It's good. Opening unexpectedly in a way that few writers would have the confidence to before making precisely no grand gestures towards any kind of weekly format, Whedon (who's listed as executive producer which seems like a unique job title in regards to comics) and scripter Christos Gage offer a natural continuation from the end of Buffy: Season Eight with Angel trying to atone for the sins he wrought as Twiglet, sorry Twilight, with Faith as his babysitter.
Cleverly the issue's told from her point of view which helps to emphasise that this is an equal partnership and this isn't just another Angel spin-off comic with the once rogue slayer as a hanger-on. Gage gauges Faith well; since she gave up the evil life, she's been particularly difficult to pattern out for some writers unable to square her original antonyming for Buffy's righteousness when she's also essentially good. There's been a certain element of merging over the years, and it's to Gage's credit that he keeps her distinctive.
That said, it is odd seeing Angel back within an ensemble (albeit an ensemble of two) rather than leading it for the first time in years. Even in the television series it was always clear who's boss but the vampire with a soul here is more akin the version who strode through the shadows of the first three seasons of Buffy and that's underscored by some surprising and thoughtful back references. He's not out of character, just out of sorts but the closing few pages do suggest that he'll become more active in the coming months.
Rebekah Isaacs's artwork is lucid and action packed. She captures the likenesses of the regulars well but continuing the approach of the Buffy comics of making the purely comic based creatures entirely unlike anything that might have occured on screen. Even the frames are well thought through too, showing the kind of narrative and thematic attention to detail inherent in the direction and editing of the television series especially in a Whedon directed episode. An exiting, confident opening.