In Review: Angel #0

This story is a hit, but the visuals are a major misfire. Angel deserves better.

The covers: A pair of covers to pick up that shouldn’t require magick to find. Both are by Boris Pelcer and have only slight differences between them. The Regular cover features Angel from the waist up, wearing his traditional tight tee with a black jacket over it. He’s three-quarters turned to the left, with him gazing at the reader. His look is passive, though behind him is a tumult of crimson with the clouds swirling about ominously against a church and buildings from a colonial time. This is a good cover. However, if you can track down the Variant cover you’re in for a treat. It’s the same layout with Angel in the same pose, though now he’s in vampire mode, with his eyes illuminated and his fangs showing from a smile. I prefer this cover slightly more. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+ 

The story: The first page of the book states, “If you haven’t read Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4 there are spoilers ahead, otherwise, welcome to the beginning of something new…” This is not a false warning, as the first three pages are the final three pages in Buffy. I’ll skip those pages and consider the fourth page as Page 1 of this series. This first page opens with a colonial city raging in an inferno. A child stands among the burning buildings and a vampire is shown raging. The girl is cast into the creature’s shadow as it stands, revealing it to be Angelus. A spellcaster is then shown creating the lightning bolt that struck the vampire, forcing a soul back into it. ‘I deserve this pain,’ Angel narrates. Bryan Edward Hill then has this tale jump to Los Angeles, before the events of Buffy #4. On a hill overlooking the iconic city, Angel is sparring with Helen, training her to fight. He easily counters every attempt she makes to hit him, with them ending their scene discussing her father. Back at his home, Angel feeds and reveals that he deserves pain. The story then moves to the title character meeting up with Fee-Fee, a woman who has a particular relic for him. They obviously know each other well, but any explicit history is only teased. Angel and Helen team up that night to track something down and that’s when the action happens. This was a great introduction to Angel and his crew. He’s definitely the somber hero, wallowing in guilt like no one else can. Helen and Fee-Fee are great characters and I hope to see more of them. The battle with the supernatural character is quick, but let’s not forget that Angel is quite the butt kicker. The final page is brutal with its dialogue and provides a smooth transition for him to go into Buffy #4. I really enjoyed this. Overall grade: A

The art: The first two pages by Gleb Melnikov show an extreme fire with a poor waif of a child in the middle of it. The second page is a full-paged splash revealing Angelus and it’s a good scare. If one was expecting him to look friendly, this image will definitely change the reader’s opinion. I like the third panel on Page 3 where Angelus rages as the lightning hits him — very cool! The art changes dramatically when the story shifts to the present, and I didn’t like it. It’s very minimal. It’s very stylized, especially on Angel’s face. His first modern appearance is in the fourth panel and his face and hair don’t look good. When he crouches down in the first and third panel on Page 5 he doesn’t look right. The profile of him in the fifth panel has his chin rivaling that of Bruce Campbell. His home looks great on 6, but Angel is really sketchy in the next panel. I’m not liking the Tin Tin cowlick on him. Fee-Fee looks spectacular in every panel she appears: glamorous, sultry, and a little sad. She is a much more realized character than Angel, which is painfully obvious in the third panel on 9, with the lines that create the lead unconnected and in varying degrees of thickness, while hers are more unified in every possible way. The next page shows Helen getting ready for work and she too is more defined. All the backgrounds on this page are good, with them strong throughout the issue. The supernatural character is odd looking due to the coloring. Too much of Angel’s face is the shadows in this climatic moment, which robs the reader of seeing the emotion clearly on his face. The creature’s look in the first and last panel on Page 14 are just a mess, with a swirl of lines used to create textures that do not work. The speed effect in the second panel on 15 is also a mess. I do like the third panel on this page which clearly communicates to the reader what’s occurring. Angel’s face on 16 is just awful. It’s too minimal and, again, is hidden by shadow. I loved the look of this story, except for when Angel appeared. This was disappointing. Overall grade: D 

The colors: The book seems as though the colors have been filtered, leaching them of any power. This works on the first three pages with the fire raging and the lightning striking. In the present, Gabriel Cassata creates a beautiful sunset and uses violets for the night sky, allowing the characters to stand out against them. I really like the work done by Cassata on Page 6 with a sensational sunrise and terrific yellows and oranges used for something occurring within the house. The colors are doing a lot of lifting on providing depth for the characters. Take a look at Page 8 when Fee-Fee and Angel have a lot of work done on their faces. It’s good work, but it was a constant reminder to me in how simplistically the characters are drawn. The brightest reds of the book are in the second and third panels on 11 and I wish they would have been a little brighter to emphasize the power of the action. The supernatural creature is a mess with it primarily pink containing streaks of white to show tendons — ? I don’t know. Due to the colors or the art, Page 14 has the beast as just a sloppy construction. I appreciate what Cassata does, but I have concerns when it comes to the Big Bad. Overall grade: C+

The letters: I like the lettering on this book more so than what’s in the current issue of Buffy. Ed Dukeshire is the letterer of both books, but this book looks so much better. The dialogue is a much stronger font than in the parent book; take a look at the letter u in that book, then in this one to see the difference. When someone speaks or yells in this book, I believe it. The spellcaster’s incantation is in a unique font that perfectly suits the speaker. The scene setting for Los Angeles is surprisingly uneven, looking rushed. The sounds are good when they appear and the creature’s speech is as primitive as it is. I wish the letters on this book were also used on Buffy. Overall grade: A-

The final line: This story is a hit, but the visuals are a major misfire. I love the character’s brooding nature, which is part of his charm, and his supporting cast is terrific. Unfortunately the title character is either illustrated roughly, like a hurried sketch, or shown half covered in shadow. This is a major detriment to the book. I’m on board to see where the story is going, but if the art remains the same, I won’t be sticking around for long. Angel deserves better. Overall grade: C+

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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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