In Review: Angel: Season 11 #1

If the past is haunting Angel, there's no telling where this story can go, but I'm eager to see where.

The covers: A trio to add to your collection if you’re a fan of Joss Whedon’s iconic vampire. The Regular cover is by Scott Fischer, and it’s a wowser. In the foreground, dressed in period clothing, Angel — or is that Angelus? — raises a glass to the reader. Behind him is an angel holding an hourglass and two images of him are split on either side of the creature’s wings: Angelus and Angel. Which is he to be in this issue? A gorgeous cover with incredibly fine details and beautiful coloring. I like that the flowers circling around the Angel in the foreground aren’t colored, hinting at some type of importance which the story inside teases. This is just flat out fantastic. The Variant cover is by Jeff Dekal showcases just one image of Angel as he walks forward. His eyes are red, showing that he’s not arriving for small talk, his jacket flays open behind him like wings, and the background is eerie in light blue and off-violets that resemble smoke, as if he’s emerging from some portal. Hmm…Perhaps another clue to this issue’s contents? And for the first time, that I’m aware of, there’s an Ultravariant cover by Bilquis Evely. This, too, is a highly detailed cover with Angel, now accompanied by Winifred “Fred” Burkle. She’s handing him a crowbar as he kneels before a rotting coffin that resides in a crypt. They’re surrounded by other coffins in a similar state, with cobwebs covering everything, including the background. This is the most atmospheric of the three, though I’m not keen on this Angel because he doesn’t look close enough to David Boreanaz. Still, there’s much else to like about this cover. Overall grades: Regular A+, Variant A-, and Ultravariant B 

The story: Corinna Bechko, one of the best writers in comics these days, takes over as the scribe of this series and begins with things deliciously dark. “Right now, Angel and Fred are visiting Ireland to perform a small exorcism…” Angel stares out a window from the comfort of a chair to see a large beetle crawling on the window. Fred really has to get his attention so they can get started. She asks if Angel’s a little out of it because they’re in his old stomping grounds and he says that he’s been having “intrusive thoughts” ever since they’ve arrived. As they make their way down some stairs, Angel has a vision: he sees himself as Angelus, a swarm of insects fly from a book he’s reading, while some beetles swarm from an odd looking flower. He sees himself attacking a woman, more insects, and the flower opening its petals to reveal a maw that would challenge a vampire. Back to his senses, the two begin to discuss what it means, only to be interrupted by the specter they’ve been sent to exorcise. Naturally, things don’t go easy, and something happens to have another character appear. I practically jumped up and down to see this individual’s arrival on Page 10, and this can only lead to trouble in the short run. I liked that Bechko let the characters work things out through conversation, rather than needless action. When there is action, it’s essential to the story and moves it forward. I really enjoyed the location on Pages 14 – 18, which was creepy and felt like a setting that would be visited in the television series. Two characters from the Buffy series get a quick cameo and they continue to be fun additions to this series. In classic cliffhanger mode, the issue’s final three pages take Angel and a companion to a place he’s not been to before in the comics and I can’t wait to see what Bechko has him find and do there. Overall grade: A

The art: The artwork by Geraldo Borges is very different from what any Angel comic has had since landing at Dark Horse. It did take several pages for me to get used to it, but Borges has won me over. He expertly moves the point of view around to mimic a television episode, as well as create some perspectives that a camera could never capture. Look at the first page: the beetle is the focus in the first panel, with the second showing it in motion and introducing the reader to Angel; the third panel precisely shows the reader the setting and introduces Fred; look at the slick close up technique done between the penultimate and final panel, allowing the reader to feel Angel’s pensive mode before moving — altering he or she that something is not right with the title character. The lack of an iris in the final panel on Page 3 is a slick way to show that Angel is being overcome by something. The vision on 4 and 5 is wonderfully horrific, with beetles, blood, and hellish flowers providing some nightmarish imagery. The ghost that the protagonists seek is a very interesting design; when I read there was a ghost involved, I thought I knew what it would look like, having read many, many comic book tales of the Slayer and Angel. To his credit, Borges gave me something new to look at and that’s something to be congratulated. The action, when it occurs, is frantic, which it should be, but even the dialogue scenes are fun to look at. If an artist can make exposition scenes interesting to look at, it’s the sign of an outstanding artist. I loved the setting on 14 – 18 and hope that Borges will be able to create more settings like this soon. The final page is the perfect coda for this issue; it’s a full-paged splash showing Angel and a companion about to go somewhere, with their path decorated with several disturbing images. Mr. Borges, I’m more than ready to see what else you can do. Overall grade: A

The colors: Colors can change a book’s tone in an instant and that’s exactly what Michelle Madsen does. Look at how dark the first two panels are, foreshadowing where this tale will go. The scene settings are colored in bright reds to instantly show the reader where the characters are. The interior of the building where Angel and Fred begin the book is colored light yellow, which provides a good neutral color for the heroes to stand out upon. The two paged vision has some great colors, with orange for an alien background, Angelus’s eyes, and veins in the flower, crimson for the flying insects and blood, with black used excellently for the background on 5. The final page’s dramatic action has some spectacular blue-greens to show the reader where the pair of characters is going. This is great work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, the story’s title, scene settings, narration during the vision, sounds, yells, a Skype conversation, and the tease for next issue are created by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. The variety of fonts used by this pair show their expertise in using the correct font for the correct situation. One example of this is the use of unique fonts for certain dialogue scenes, such as the Skype conversation, rather than relying on the shape of the dialogue balloon to show the reader what form of conversation is being used. The sounds are also top notch, with the two at the bottom of Page 7 matching the visuals expertly. Plus, the tease for next issue is a done very classically, hinting at what’s to come in a month. Overall grade: A

The final line: Angel may have lost Faith, but he’s gained Fred! This tale of ghosts has Angel and Fred going where no episode has gone before…but to find what? If the past is haunting Angel, there’s no telling where this story can go, but I’m eager to see where. The story is intriguing and the art top notch. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To purchase a print copy go to http://www.tfaw.com/Comics/Profile/Angel-Season-Eleven-1___527065?utm_source=darkhorse&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=darkhorse_buy&utm_term=buy+Angel+Season+11+%231

To purchase a digital copy go to https://digital.darkhorse.com/books/c63eb16abaa541ceab6d174449dc6818/angel-season-11-1

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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