These days the average audience is used to different dimensions or alternate timelines, because these narrative devices have hit the big screen in some of the most popular movies of the last 10 years. However, this type of storytelling has been a part of niche culture for a long time. Philip K. Dick wrote The Man In The High Castle in 1962, Star Trek introduced it’s Mirror Universe to television in 1967, and every superhero comic fan knows of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths from 1985.
The television series Buffy reveled in it’s version of an alternate universe, with evil versions of the central characters and a high level of kink. It went one step further in 2019 when BOOM! Studios released a completely rebooted Buffy comic, with an Angel series to follow, which essentially set up a whole new comic universe for each series. In the latest release from the publisher, the Angel comic has once again shifted dimensions and the new writer, Christopher Cantwell, gets to re-imagine the characters all over again.
In a world where something evil is coming (when isn’t it?), can this new iteration of Angel, Cordielia, and friends, stand together and face the inevitable end of days?
Whether you are brand new to Angel or have been following the characters since the early days of the Buffy television series, this first issue for 2022 immediately lets you know that the characters you are about to meet are different from any other version you may have met before. Cantwell’s plot starts with a mysterious figure emerging into the world like Kyle Reese in The Terminator, and uses the man’s inner monologue to set the scene:
“I am the only one left. In the Universe…dimension…whatever I came from.”
This introduction prepares the readers to meet the cast and lays the groundwork for the endless possibilities that this new version of the world can divulge. This settles the reader at the beginning of the comic so that they can enjoy rediscovering the characters. As the clever interpretations slowly appear across the pages, fans get to be excited and surprised by how different our heroes are.
Cantwell uses this first issue to introduce a number of familiar faces and places but gives them enough twists to make the reveals interesting and often funny. There are surprises, shocks, and clever manipulation of Angel lore throughout, but none of it is at the cost of the central story. The narrative is as friendly for a new reader as it is a hardened fan, which is a pleasant change for comics. Cantwell gives every reader something to enjoy.
Daniel Bayliss’ artwork is a joy to read. It is slick and punchy, mimicking the unrealistic sheen of the Hollywood aesthetic. However, when the story moves away from the lights and sets of the T.V. studio and onto the streets of L.A., a darkness begins to prevail and the off kilter angles in the panels create a sense of foreboding. Bayliss produces a stark contrast between the two worlds inhabited by the characters which is instantly visible on the page.
The colorists, Patricio Delpeche with assists from Maria Agustina Vallejo, play a large part in this scene setting because they create the dynamic visuals across the full page. Certain elements on a page are highlighted by the contrasting color choices so that a page made up mostly of dark purples and blues can be used to draw the reader’s attention to one element of one panel, which has been colored with a luminous green. The opening few pages of this comic demonstrate the brilliant storytelling that the art and colors can achieve and are only the beginning of the brilliance to follow in the rest of the comic
Angel #1 is a story about different worlds, in the sense of alternate dimensions but also of social and cultural environments. Delpeche’s colors help to illustrate the difference between the various hemispheres and so does Becca Carey’s lettering. Choices made by Carey about the design of caption boxes and overlay fonts make it easy for the reader to differentiate between one world and another. A surprising amount of the humor is brought out through Carey’s design work. The television theme tune that runs through one scene is a prime example. The text itself is the joke but the lettering makes it land and draws out the laugh.
When BOOM! Studios released its first Angel comic in 2019, the creators produced an exciting, horror based take that was perfect for the character and his entourage. It is a difficult act to follow, however Cantwell and Co. have done a masterful job. They have focused on the humor elements that made the Angel television series so enjoyable, and centered the plot around Angel’s family of characters. Conflict and intrigue comes from the demonic elements in the story but also from the central characters’ interactions with each other. Cantwell has presented a dysfunctional family with obvious secrets bubbling under the surface, waiting to burst out to complicate relationships.
From the opening mystery to the overpowering demonic conclusion, Angel #1 is a joy to read. It has engaging characters, who are both familiar and brand new at the same time, a structured plot that moves at a steady pace, and artwork that fits the tone of this new version of Angel’s world. It leaves you gasping for more: more action, more demons, but most importantly of all, more wonderful interpretations of characters that have been around for over 22 years now.