In the lead up to the Buffy/Angel crossover event Hellmouth, an historic meeting is about to take place. In this week’s pages of Angel from BOOM! Studios writer Bryan Edward Hill retells the entrance of Charles Gunn into the Buffyverse, and it’s a violent as his screen introduction.
Introducing A Hero
Charles Gunn is an instrumental part of Angel’s group in the television series. Introduced in the first series and quickly becoming a series regular, the street fighting Gunn brings conflict to the team; conflict within himself and conflict between him and Angel. The creators developed an interesting relationship between the two characters that was based on respect but lacked trust. Gunn was there to question what the team were doing and challenge Angel’s mission.
Bryan Edward Hill clearly understands this aspect of the characters and Gunn’s introduction into the comic draws many parallels with the television series. Gunn is a hero on the streets; he has a strong internet following; and he protects those who can’t protect themselves. Hill sets up the character by showing the reader his strengths, his popularity but also shows his weaknesses. This issue of Angel centres on Gunn and concentrates 90% on building his character. By the end of this issue Gunn’s life has been laid out.
Hill makes sure that Gunn is shown interacting with a number of characters in a number of situations so that the reader can get to see the many sides of the complex character. This is not just another Vampire hunter, he has a mission fuelled by a traumatic incident in his past. He also understands diversity and contradictions. This is shown through his first conversation with Angel where he does not judge based on appearances and accepts that a Vampire can be more than just a demon.
Drawing a Gunn
This issue allows Gleb Melnikov to show off his vast range of character acting. The attention to detail in the facial expressions not only give the cast some character but also adds context to the narrative. The subtleties of Gunn’s character, insinuated in the script, are visually portrayed on the page through the panel transitions and compositions. Gleb portrays Gunn as heroic as well as vulnerable. The scared face of a child explains as much about Gunn’s mission as a series of fight scenes and voice overs.
There is an overriding sense of battling against darkness in this issue of Angel, and the concentration on Gunn as a character requires this. The atmosphere is upheld by the gloomy darks of the night streets and the distance flashes of city lights. Despite his internet presence, Gunn fights off the grid, a concept illustrated perfectly by Roman Tutov’s colors.
The darkness of night and prevailing cloud enveloping Gunn’s character is present on every page, bleeding into the black gutters of the panels. There are very few moments where a sense of hope is expressed through the coloring. Even when the greys and dark blues are replaced it is often by colors invoking worse imagery.
The most notable is the flashback sequence of Gunn’s first meeting with Lukas, the vampire that has plagued his life. The panels become soaked in a blood red that represents the fear, horror, and violence of the encounter. It has a profound , lasting effect on Gunn and the reader.
It is also in this moment where the lettering really stands out. A maniacal laugh is etched into the night, becoming the background, just like the incident becomes the birth of Gunn’s fight against the vampires.
Ed Dukeshire has to use a number of different fonts throughout this issue, marking the difference between texting, speech, and sound effects. One of the simplest, and most effective, weapons in Dukshire’s arsenal is the different balloon styles for the heroes and the villains. The vampires, except Angel, have uneven, wavy borders on their speech balloons whereas the heroes have smooth borders. This difference is especially effective during a scene where a saviour becomes a threat. The style of balloon changes to hammer home the moment ,giving the narrative and the images a third signifier to help the storytelling.
This issue of Angel builds the world around the central character beautifully. It introduces a character who has changed very little from his T.V. counterpart but who feels brand new. The interactions between the cast member’s are moving and humorous and tell a full, rounded story. With the exception of the ending, issue 5 of Angel is a magnificent, stand alone story.
With exceptional art, engaging narrative, and a cast of diversely interesting characters, Angel is a joy to read. This is a great issue to start with if you want to get to know the characters and the tone of the series, even if you are not interested in the upcoming crossover event.