REVIEW: ‘Angel,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Written by Bryan Edward Hill, with art by Gleb Melnikov, colors from Melnikov and Gabriel Cassata, and letters by Ed Dukeshire, Angel #1 is a reimagining of the broody vampire of Joss Whedon’s Buffy universe played by David Boreanaz in the 2000s show of the same name and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

This new series follows Angel and his life in from the present and his past. Similar to the current comic series Buffy The Vampire Slayer Angel, also published by BOOM! Studios, the character and story of Angel were first told by his creator Joss Whedon in a spin-off of Buffy that premiered on the WB Network in 1999. As a  die-hard fan of the Buffy-verse, I watched all five seasons as they originally aired from 1999-2004 and have watched each episode countless times more.

For existing fans, Angel is the tortured vampire destined to walk the earth with a soul, haunted by his brutal and bloody past who moved to LA to set up shop as a supernatural private investigator. While this series may not have as much weight in pop culture like other Whedon shows, the world of Angel quickly moved from being about the broody Angel dealing with his demons by himself and instead focused on the Angel Investigations team and how his business soon became home to other lost souls searching for redemption.

In Angel #1 we see lore that we have never seen before as Buffy-verse fans and it’s clear that this retelling is expanding on the world and on Angel, or as he is called at the time of the opening pages: Angelus. The leader of an army of brutal vampire warriors terrorizing the land they are hungry for power and thirsty for blood as he invades villages and takes innocent people. The issue opens with one woman who is aiming to stop them, what we can assume is a Slayer. Her armor is fierce and it isn’t until she meets Angelus directly that she struggles in a fight.

The issue then jumps to centuries later, where the Angel we see is solitary and in plain sight in the human world, not set apart from it. It’s clear that this story will follow Angel as he attempts to take on the monsters that lurk in the dark and protect Sunnydale, the city that we are told he was called to, even if we don’t know why just yet.

As with almost all first issues, Angel #1 is all about setting up the world we’re about to jump into. When Angel meets up with an old friend we get a chance to see into his personality. Having saved him as a kid, his friend is now old enough to have kids himself. While his friend wants to introduce Angel to his daughter, Angel is filled a self-loathing that existing fans of the character know all too well. He isn’t a man and because of his soul, he will always weight his dark deeds more than his good ones.

Angel #1 also leaves breadcrumbs for the monster that Angel has come to Sunnydale to face. In the opening panels of the modern part of the story, when we shift away from the historical Angelus, we are given an explanation for social media that I personally had never thought of before. Kids these days, teens, people, use social media and the gratification from it to be eternal. But as we see this through Angel’s perspective, forever is a damning notion and one that torments him, leaving him disconnected from the current ebb and flow of the world around him.

This is an element that we don’t see in the original Whedon television series, for obvious reasons, and something that adds narrative depth to the character. In jumping Angel to 2018, we see the continued growth of a Buffy-verse character that is made better by a comic reboot, similarly to the work that Jeordie Bellaire did in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer #1The character of Angel can easily be one-dimensional, playing into the dark and mysterious trope can leave him feeling dull and has been an issue with the character for a long while now.

That being said, Hill takes him beyond the trope and contextualizes him in the past, the present, and shows us what others think of him all in one debut issue. Not only does Hill’s writing artfully explain the way that social media impacts our lives, but he also does so in a haunting way, setting up for later issues. In addition to Hill’s great story, Melnikov’s art is phenomenal.

Illustrating characters that have been shown in another medium is a tall task. Meeting a balance that is both unique to the new media representation while also being recognized as the actor who used to embody the role is what can really take new additions to universe canon stick with both old fans and new. In addition to illustrating an Angel that is handsome, dark, broody, and has the signature Boreanaz hair, Melnikov creates dynamic fight scenes that breathe horror and fantasy and would fit into any grim fairytale. There is a weight to his illustrations that interpret the script in a way that makes Angel #1 come to life in a way I have never seen the character before.

Overall, Angel #1 is a strong debut for a reimagining of an old character that has me ready for the rest of the series. Both the script and art have created a dark world that not only fits well with the existing character but improves on it in ways I never thought possible. Angel #1 is a must-read for those who watched Angel and for those who don’t know who he is.

Angel #1 is out now.

Rating: 5/5