In Review: Angel #1

This is a fantastic first issue that earns my highest possible rating.

The covers: Six covers to collect if you want to see another side of what’s going down in Sunnydale. The Regular cover by Dan Panosian has Angel in the foreground on the right looking down upon Los Angeles, with one of the city’s many illuminated crosses close to him. He’s colored in heart beating red and the bottom of the illustration completes this blood imagery with sticky drips of the life giving fluid streaming down on white. Outstanding! The Connecting cover by Kaiti Infante has a pouty looking Angel wearing a white tee shirt and open black jacket staring forward while a hand on the left, sporting a bracelet with a cross, pulls at his tee shirt. On the right a hand with long fingernails rakes his tee from that side. I don’t like this interpretation of Angel, with him looking more like Luke Perry than David Boranaz. The Preorder cover by Scott Buoncristiano features a horrific faced ghoul with a brown hat and long, unkempt white hair in a bust shot atop several skulls on a rusty red background. This is creepy cool! The Variant cover by Jonathan Case has hunky Angel getting out of pool at night. He is colored a burnt red, while the water he’s exiting looks like blood. Behind him is dark brown and black foliage, with a gorgeous dark blue sky. This is pretty cool looking with the title character doing something I’ve not seen him do before in comics. The One Per Store Variant cover by Boris Pelcer will look familiar to fans who picked up Issue #0 last month. This features Angel before he was turned against the same swirling red sky and 19th century buildings. This is gorgeous and belongs in every fan’s collection. There’s also a SDCC Exclusive Variant cover by Will Sliney with colors by Triona Farrell, but I was unable to find a copy online. So good luck, collectors! Overall grades: Regular A+, Connecting D+, Preorder B+, Variant A-, and One Per Store Variant A+

The story: This is a killer story. The first nine pages deal with a character named Mara who had a run with some vampires led by Angelus. I will not spoil it because it was incredible. I really want to know who the character in red was on Page 4 and what became of the individual on 9. This is obviously writer Bryan Edward Hill planting some seeds that will grow in upcoming issues. The story in the present day teases where it’s going on 10. Looking at what Angel is staring at is brutal commentary on today’s society. I like how he’s interrupted on 11 and how the scene ends. This, too, could be planting seeds. A friend is met on 12 named Francis who’s known Angel for a long time. Their conversation is good, with each wanting to focus on something different, ending with Angel sadder than when he entered. There’s a new location I was happy to see on 15 that’s extremely different than the one shown on the television series, but it works for me and the justification for it is perfect. He’s not alone at home, with a surprise visitor bringing bad news. The last three pages of the book made me want to cry. Seriously, one issue in and I was tearing up. I don’t know whether to congratulate Hill or tell him to slow down. Either way, this is one hell of an opening issue. Overall grade: A+

The art: The visuals on this issue by Gleb Melnikov are a huge improvement over Issue #0. The first panel of the book features a young boy running down a grassy path under a full moon while leaves blow past him. This is a very exciting way to open this issue. The two panels that tease Mara are exciting as well, capturing attention for what she’s doing. Mara looks incredibly powerful and the mask she wears is awesome. The action on 3 is fast, violent, and like something out of the series. The arrival of the red headed character is epic and I need to see more of this individual. The entrance on 5 is terrific and the reveal on 6 will have fans screaming in joy and terror. The action that ends the page is fantastic. Page 8 is composed of nine equal sized panels that cut back and forth between two characters; the close-up in the seventh panel is full of so much foreboding. The full-paged splash on 9 is a spectacular way to end this opening. Everything about this illustration rocks. the nine panel layout returns on 10, but sports a very unique type of illustration that will be familiar to anyone. I love the glance from the side in the fourth panel on 11 — great character visual — and the last panel on the same page. I like how Angel is in the same panel as photographs on a wall on 12, which is something he’ll never have up wherever he chooses to live. The final panel on 13 is screaming a clue at the reader, but I didn’t pick up on it until I started to write this review. The character on 16 that appears made me happy because I enjoyed her so much in the previous issue and she looks great. My heart started to be broken with the second, fifth, and sixth panels on 17. The change on 18 shocked me and then sent a gushing wave of sadness over me, which overwhelmed me by the final panel. This is terrific progression of panels that tell the story beautifully with very little text. The exit on 19 is clever. The final page is a full-paged splash that’s both wonderful and horrible. Mr. Melnikov, you’ve made a fan. Overall grade: A+

The colors: There are two colorists on this issue: Melnikov does his own work (Pages 1 – 9) and Gabriel Cassata (Pages 10 – 20). Both sections look great. I like how the sky on the opening page is supposed to be night but it’s colored a rusty red, foreshadowing what’s about to occur. The gleaming, heroic yellows around Mara make her look every inch the hero. The backgrounds go gray-blue for the actions at the bottom of 3 which suit the foes. The reds and yellows on 9 are awesome, as are the glazed white eyes. The neon pinks on 10 are right out of the real world. I like the yellow background for the CLICK panel on 11, marking it as a major moment. The character on 16 has beautiful skin. The blacks on 18 are killer. The final page is awash in yellows and oranges, but it’s the color of the fingernails that provide the gut punch. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Ed Dukeshire is responsible for creating dialogue, yells, screams, sounds, weakened speech, scene settings, phone text, and the tease for next issue. The first three texts are easy to tell apart based on their size and girth, with the largest and thickest being screams from characters. I like the sounds in the book, but it was missing some, such as on Page 3. This isn’t Dukeshire’s responsibility, as they are up to writer Hill. But based on how well Dukeshire creates the ones he’s given to do, it’s surprising that Hill didn’t ask for more from him. The weakened speech is in a tiny font and is easy to read and creates the quintessential voice for a beaten character. The phone texts are varied, as there are a zillion fonts in use online and they perfectly imitate those found in the real world. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is a fantastic first issue that earns my highest possible rating. I was thrilled and practically moved to tears by the finale. Ye gods, if this is the way the series starts this is going to beat BOOM’s Buffy series quickly! The characters are fantastic, the visuals awesome, and the letters perfection. This is a book to follow for thrills, chills, and tears. Overall grade: A+

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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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