Angel has survived some serious bumps at IDW, with the strongest blow most likely being the announcement that the license would be returning to Dark Horse after the conclusion of IDW’s run.  Still, the series started with a bang!  Brian Lynch’s Angel: After The Fall was not only outstanding, but it’s now considered canon!  The series has weathered the storms that followed Lynch’s exit, and now IDW has the chance to end its time in the company of champions with the same energy and grace with which they started!  So far, writers David Tischman and Mariah Huehner look to be in good form!


Here’s a quick summary of issue #40:
Wolfram & Hart’s representative, “Darrow,” has just taken our hero to a dingy, uber-industrialized future run by “James” and his demon-farming followers. “Darrow” purposes that “Angel” join forces with “Wolfram & Hart,” and “Angel,” knowing how bad of an idea that is, does the logical thing and jumps off the roof. Meanwhile, back in current day L.A., “Connor” leads the team’s search for “James,” while he and “Gunn” continue to butt heads.
“Angel” spends the rest of the issue getting used to the demon/human melting pot he has been tossed into! Even though humans co-exist with the vampires and other baddies, they are at the lowest rung of society, with demons killing them openly in the streets, even while fully stocked Hema-Cola vending machines stand nearby. Eventually, “Angel” agrees to take out “James,” much to the glee of Wolfram & Hart, but he demands to do it on his own terms. As he exits into a nearby alley, “Angel” catches a familiar scent of jasmine. As he shakes it off and walks away, we see a figure in high heels vowing to make sure that “Angel” remembers that people will always die if he confronts the evil law firm.


The Good: 


– The new Bladerunner-esque future setting! With many similarities to the Fray future, but with enough differences to keep it original, the new setting has breathed new life into the comic series. Many times, the Angel comic book series has become tied up inside the gang’s usual haunts, but the new story by Tischman and Huehner really takes advantage of the medium by crafting events like “Angel” swan-diving off futuristic skyscrapers surrounded by huge, epic statues of “Holland Manners!” The police hovercrafts with the requisite spot lights help, too! “Deckard” is bound to come around the corner at any moment!

– New artist, Jason Armstrong! Given the rumblings that I’ve heard, I may be a lonely Angel  fan in this assertion, but I really enjoy the slightly sketchy, somewhat cartoony art from our new penciller! Apparently, Armstrong is just filling in for a few issues due to unforeseen circumstances at IDW, but I really couldn’t mind less. While Armstrong’s versions of certain characters may take a moment to adjust to and do stray a bit in interpretation, much like the new plot, his art brings new energy to a series that has been dragging for quite a while!


-“Anne” bounces back into things! Sure, she has always been a side character with only slightly interesting plot lines, but given that “Anne’s” appearances have acted as one of the stronger threads that tie the worlds of Buffy and Angel together, I’ve grown fond of her. I can’t imagine that I’m alone in this, especially considering her key final scene with “Gunn” regarding the idea of “what if it never gets better” in the series finale of Angel. “Anne” represents that normal person who struggles against all odds simply because it’s the right thing to do.  I was happy to see her and “Gunn” together again.

The Bad:
-New artist, Jason Armstrong. Again, we encounter an event that is both a positive and a negative. In my opinion, the benefits of Armstrong’s art far outweigh the negatives; however, I would be amiss if I didn’t point out a fair acknowledgment that it’s quite jarring to switch artists in mid-arc.  Many fans want Armstrong off the series altogether, although, I would have preferred if he had started in the last issue, so that the readers were ready for his new style. I’m sure it only added salt to the wound for many already-bruised Angel fans, since the title series has recently lost artists to both the Spike and Illyria miniseries currently running.

-Did “Kate” Dye Her Hair? There was one moment where the art threw me, but I have to rip on colorist Brian Miller for it, not Armstrong. I’m not sure if this was a rush job or not, but Miller should know that “Kate” is a blonde, not a brunette. I don’t mean to be picky, but this is one of the few identifying characteristics that we need, so that we can identify the characters. It is even more important when you realize that this single panel is her only appearance in this issue! Thank god “Connor” calls her by name!


– Some wonky dialogue! Honestly, I think Tischman and Huehner have done an admirable job writing most of the characters, especially given some of the train wrecks we’ve seen by other writers. Still, there are moments where the dialogue is awkward and confusing. The worst of these moments occurs when “Connor” makes an odd-ball comment about “Gunn” needing to avoid LAPD, because he’s bald and black. Apparently, these are the two suspicious characteristics that the LAPD use to arrest people…or something.
The Ugly:
Fan reaction has been mostly negative for this issue, and most of that’s due to the unannounced change of artist.
– The Jason Armstrong Fiasco! This poor guy really took the heat this week! While fans were understandably upset about the lack of art continuity in Angel, some readers just got down right mean, calling the work “crap!” In an excellent show of support, Mariah Huehner took to the IDW boards telling the fan base that they were fine to e
xpress the problems with the comic, but that there’s no excuse for hurling insults! I wholeheartedly agree!

– The Mysterious Figure! There was also some speculation on the web as to who the mysterious figure was at the end of the issue. Given that she smelled of jasmine, most people are assuming that the figure is “Darla,” since she has a fondness for the night-blooming flower. The interesting debate that’s arisen is whether “Darla” is here under the control of Wolfram & Hart, or if she’s a figure of guidance sent by The Powers That Be!

That’s it for now! Next month brings us “Buffy’s” birthday and the final issue of Buffy Season Eight. I feel a pre-birthday spanking coming on…
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer


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