Pullbox Reviews: Angel #1 – That chiseled chin. That brooding brow. The Hair!

BOOM! Studios, along with visionary writer and director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel’s The Avengers), presents the shocking reimagining of the pop culture phenomenon ANGEL!

Angel walks the line between two worlds; a vampire cursed with a soul, he’s spent centuries battling back the forces that would destroy humanity, in an attempt to redeem himself for the crimes committed by the monster he was when he was first turned.

Written by Bryan Edward Hill (Detective Comics, Killmonger) with art from Gleb Melnikov (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), discover a brand new, modern take on one of the most iconic vampires in pop culture, perfect for fans and new readers alike! 

Arriving in Sunnydale on the latest leg of his road to redemption (and really great hair), the Vampire Formerly Known as Angelus is in a contemplative mood. Unsure of what direction his mission from the Powers That Be will take, he visits Francis, an old friend whom he’d saved from death and damnation as a child. Now fully grown, Francis is one of the few people alive who knows about Angel’s true nature, and not only accepts but also seems to understand it. Later, Angel receives a visit from Lilith, mother of demons. She gives Angel a bit of direction, and the cryptic reminder that he can’t save everyone.

If being a vampire with a soul were easy, everyone would be doing it…

I’ve been a fan of all things Whedon since very early on. I didn’t catch on to Buffy the Vampire Slayer until about halfway through its second season (but in all honesty, after seeing the movie who did?), and Dollhouse was kinda rough going, but everything else has been dialed in without fail. I’ve read most of the continuing story as told by Dark Horse, and I was very happy to hear that Boom! was going to be taking the reins, and leading it in a slightly different direction. Where Dark Horse had been adding on to the story of Buffy, Angel, and company left off by Joss Whedon, Boom! would be giving it a soft reboot.

Whoa, where you going? Come back here a second…

Look, I get it. I’m not any happier with trendy (and to be honest, somewhat lazy) reboot train that’s been seeing beloved classics beaten into new and nearly unrecognizable shapes (just stay the hell away from The Princess Bride, Hollywood!). It was with cautious optimism, fueled in no small part by the work they’ve put into their Power Rangers titles, that I took the news of a Boomified reimagining of the Buffyverse. When I got my first look at the Buffy title I found the unaccustomed feelings of positivity rewarded.

In the opening issue of Angel, we’re given a flashback to the days of Angelus, and they are bleak as he leads a pack of vampires against medieval Slayer, Mara (Spoiler warning: things don’t go Mara’s way). From there, it’s on to present day Sunnydale where the brooding soul-begotten Angel ponders the imponderable: social media. Here we start to get a new insight into Angel. While he’s determined to protect the innocent wherever he can, to make up for the sins of his past, he’s surprisingly awed and confounded by the innocence of youth (remember, Angel’s got a few centuries behind him, so “youth” is pretty relative).

Bryan Edward Hill could write entries for the dictionary, and I think I’d read them. He’s got a talent for digging into characters who are either played out or painfully two dimensional, and making them interesting (the man made Hong Kong Phooey a legitimate badass in a Black Lightning team up). Now, Hill takes a character who has been around since David Boreanaz took to the screen in 1997 and hits him with the harsh reality of our online presence-obsessed culture.

One thing that wasn’t really played up on in the incarnations I’ve seen was Angel’s status as an outsider, and this is what Hill taps into with the character. While Angel accepts his dark fate as something he’s earned, he doesn’t seem quite at home with concepts of mortality. One of the issue highlights is a conversation between Angel and middle-aged friend Francis… Angel had rescued Francis from certain death and damnation when he was 10, and the two have grown to be friends in the following years. For all of his wisdom and experience, Angel has trouble separating 10 year old Francis from the middle-aged father of a teenage daughter. It’s the dialogue in this scene that Hill handles with great skill, giving both friends a solid voice as their characters are unwrapped for the reader. There’s obvious history between the two, and Francis shows both amusement at Angel’s confusion over the passage of time, and concern with his self-imposed exile from the human race. Another great scene is between Angel and Lilith, but that’s getting a little farther into spoiler territory than I’m comfortable with so I’m just gonna leave it at that.

The visual aspect of the book, handled by the team of Gleb Melnikov, and Gabriel Cassata, is spot on for the story. Melnikov doesn’t get overly wrapped up in making Angel look like his TV show self, but gets just enough right to make him unmistakable (also, he nails the aforementioned hair… how a guy who can’t see his own reflection manages that artfully mussed coif is an eternal mystery). Melnikov also handles the action with an eye for the dynamic fight choreography that was a highlight of the Buffy and Angel television shows. The duties of coloring, shared in this issue by Melnikov and Cassata complete the look of the art and style of the story. Angel’s world is one of stark shadows and harsh artificial lighting, and that’s represented very well throughout.

In this issue, Ed Dukeshire isn’t really given a lot of room to move with his lettering, but that doesn’t equate to boring. Dukeshire’s work never pulls attention away from the story, doesn’t get too stylistically cute (i.e. hard to read), and adds emphasis in Hill’s script to bring the dialogue to life. If he’s taking it slow in Angel’s first issue, I’m not worried. Ed Dukeshire is a name I can point to and say, “I dig this guy’s work!” which is no small feat among the unsung heroes of comicbook letterers.

Angel, the character, started out as more of a romantic foil to Slayer Buffy Summers. Over time, he’s been developed as more of the dark hero… not quite anti, but definitely no white knight. I’m looking forward to seeing where this new concept takes him. By the end of this issue, it’s pretty plain to see that wherever he winds up, it isn’t going to be a fun or light-hearted romp for the poor guy.

Based on some outstanding writing, eye-catching visuals, and (yes) a jaw-dropping cover- Survey says: 12

(it’s a math thing…)

Hey! Pictures!

Cover ‘B’
Cover ‘C’, (Preorders)
Cover ‘D’ (Variant)
Cover ‘E’ (Only 1 per store!)
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