"Let's go to work." -- Angel, 'Angel: Not Fade Away'

Comics After the successful release of a Buffy continuation comic, it was somewhat inevitable that an Angel: Season Six spin-off would follow. After The Fall picks up the story of the vampire with a soul some time after the cliffhanger that wasn’t and [begin spoilers] Los Angeles has literally been sent to hell and become a demon playground in which humans have become irrelevant, the exact opposite in fact of the status quo whilst the show was on-screen. As with Buffy: Season Eight, the story is bewildering, deliberately placing the reader in the position of catch up, trying to piece together from fragments what they’ve missed, as though somewhere out there, a whole series of other comic exists filling in the gap. Angel is still apparently in the employ of devlish law firm Wolfram and Hart as is Wesley, all ghostly, still starchy. He’s aided and abetted by a dragon and has allies throughout what’s left of the rest of the city.

IDW have had the rights to publish original Angel stories for just over two and a half years and their work and in particular the writing of Brian Lynch impressed creator Joss Whedon enough that he should simply provide plotting duties, much as he did later into the television series. Lynch does a fine job capturing the regulars who appear here, Angel’s black humour in particular is particularly well done. It is only first issue so you can’t really criticise it for the nebulous plotting, and the concept is a good one; it's somewhat similar to the 'one year later' effect from Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who in which the status quo changes abruptly and we're left to pick up the narrative pieces. There are some quite wonderful revelations and the cliffhanger ending is a shock, once you’ve worked out what it is.

The problem, and it’s a big problem in relation to comic books is Franco Urru’s artwork. It’s a very dark tale and quite rightly muted colours are used throughout – the city is in the grip of a permanent night and so much of the action is going to occur in shadow. Except that most of the pages are picked out in blacks with Urru’s inking often haphazard and in place very difficult to look at. Often the faces have a mask-like quality, the eyes lacking expression, the bodies framed by rather thick lines to the point that on a couple of occasions the re-emergence of a semi-regular from the series isn’t clear simply because they’re unrecognisable. In addition, just sometimes the framing of the artwork renders the story hard to follow, the cuts between scenes not always clear. Which meant that when that cliffhanger arrived, it took a little while to realise what had happened and to whom.

None of which really ruins the entertainment value and it’s good that everyone has decided to be deliberately ambiguous. This is a limited series and so will be tell its tale over twelve issues, so as is the way these days, it’ll be a few months before the full narrative thrust becomes apparent. Angel was always the misanthropic cousin and it seems right that everything should go to shit quite so magnificently. Except that in the television series, there was always a thread of hope, that the city would and could never fall and here it is, all broken. Perhaps that will return as the story continues and it’ll be worth keeping with the series for that. Oh and Spike’s back next issue. And I want to know what happened Illyria...

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