The first collection of the comics continuing the story of the vampire with a soul after the Angel TV show ended.

Written by Bryan Lynch
Art: Franco Urru
Publication date: 2008
Publisher: Dark Horse
Collects the first five issues of the on-going Angel: After the Fall comic

A lot has changed after the series ended. Because of that it’s not absolutely necessary to watch the show before reading the comic although I highly recommend it. While the main characters and their relationships are mostly introduced, the secondary characters aren’t, so you get a lot more out of it if you watch at least Angel season 5 beforehand. I’ve seen seasons 4 and 5 years ago when they were shown in Finnish TV and started to watch season 1 on DVD recently.

The story picks up a couple of month after the final episodes with a new status quo. Most of the characters survived the end of the show and Angel is still the hero who does his best to rescue humans. However, that’s a bit harder now because the evil incarnate (otherwise known as Wolfram & Hart) have yanked Los Angeles to Hell. Literally. Demons are killing and enslaving the humans, and the more powerful Demon Lords have divided Los Angeles amongst themselves.

Angel made Wolfram & Hart’s former headquarters his own. He and and an incorporeal Wesley Wyndham-Pryce are somewhat uneasy allies and are holding their own against the Downtown LA’s Demon Lord who isn’t too thrilled about Angel’s activities. Oh, and Wesley is still Wolfram & Hart’s LA representative and this apparently gives him more clout among the demons than Angel has, despite the fact that Angel has now a dragon. The dragon who attacked our heroes at the end of the last episode was apparently a misguided dupe and Angel was able to persuade it join his side.

Angel sends the humans he rescues to a building where his son Connor and some other people are protecting them as well as they can. Apparently, they can’t leave LA so smuggling them out isn’t possible. To make matters worse, Angel manages to annoy the Downtown Demon Lord by killing the Lord’s son.

Meanwhile, a human looking team is battling one of the Demon Lords in Westwood. The Lord has a horde of human slaves and a telepathic fish. The group manages to defeat the Lord and his minions but instead of rescuing the humans, they start to feed on the poor former slaves. Their leader is the former vampire hunter and current vampire: Charles Gunn!

In the next issue, Angel heads out to warn Connor about the enraged Demon Lord. However, Connor is investigating Westwood where several demons are trying to claim the title of Lord of Westwood. After the battle, Angel and Connor find writing is an ancient tongue, and Angel heads out to find the person he thinks is responsible for the kill and the writing: Illyria.

Spike and Illyria are living in an paradise-like state with several semi-nude young women. Illyria is one of the Demon Lords and they don’t seem eager to annoy her. However, Illyria isn’t happy about Angel dropping in and things escalate. Meanwhile, Gunn has kidnapped the telepathic fish and has big plans for it, and for himself. He think he should be the one to save LA and he isn’t going to let Angel stand in the way of his heroism.

I liked this collection a lot, mostly, although not as much as the first Buffy collection. The circumstances are very much changed from the show but the characters seem to be themselves, mostly. I wasn’t thrilled about Spike’s treatment, though; it seems to me that Spike has now taken the role of a comic sidekick instead of bad ass vampire. However, he was later shown to… sorry, I’m not going to spoil that! 😉 It made me feel a bit better about him. There’s also disappointing level of sexism here: the women slaves are all almost nude (not to mention young and thin), and all women wear skin tight clothing and have apparently been given boob jobs. Bleargh, to quote Buffy.

I have a hate/love relationship with Illyria. I really liked Fred and I really didn’t like it at all when Illyria replaced her, and of course when she replaced her. (I should have known better by then because Whedon seems to have something against happy couples.) However, I really like Illyria as a character and I’m hoping that we’ll get to see a lot more of her.

Mostly, I was very happy with the LA in Hell thing, which brought on new problems and villains and twists to the characters. Near the end of the collection we get to see some characters from the show who aren’t introduced at all and might cause confusion to people who aren’t familiar with the show. I was happy to see them again.

Urro’s style is very different from Jeanty’s who draws the Buffy comics. Urro doesn’t even try to emulate the actors’ features but instead makes the characters his own. And of course, a comic doesn’t have to conform to a show’s special effects budget or actor availability.

Oh and it ends in a cliffhanger. Which isn’t resolved in the next collection!