Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Angel: After the Fall // the perfect finale the show never had

Buffy and Angel are brilliant TV shows that you NEED to watch. Season 5 of Angel ended on a cliffhanger before it got cancelled, which resulted in the story continuing in comic book form. The After the Fall series will make very little sense to anyone who hasn't seen Angel, but these reviews will contain no spoilers for the show or the comics themselves, so anyone is welcome to read them. I'll be writing a post on why you should watch Buffy and Angel at a later date, but for now, my focus is on the brilliance that is After the Fall.

Angel: After the Fall, Volume 1 - 5 stars
Acting as a season 6 for Angel's cliffhanger televised finale, After the Fall is something I needed to read. I'm still in denial over some of the shows losses in the final season, and didn't love the setting change or the lack of an overarching plot line, but there is something about the characters in Angel that I couldn't bear to part with.

The transition from screen to page was unsurprisingly difficult for me to accept. Pacing in the world of comics works very differently to that of television, and it took a couple of issues to adjust. Things move a lot faster on the page, and although the show's plot-less episodes frustrated me to no end, I found that I did miss the episodic format balancing out the intensity of other episodes.

Volume 1 is set a few months after that night in the alleyway, which surprisingly worked to its advantage. As open ended as the finale was, there was a sense of closure about it that would have been difficult had the story been directly transitioned. The gap allowed for some new mysteries to arise, as well as some major changes to come into play.

I was not too big a fan of the masses of big nasties present in this continuation. Although it made sense with the apocalypse and all, it did marginally feel like the writers and artists decided to go all out given the lack of restraints of a TV budget (although I have no complaints about the dragon). I also wasn't a fan of the hypersexualised women throughout After the Fall. The show wasn't ultimately too favourable towards it's female characters, but at least they weren't scattered around like sexual objects. They had drive and purpose and even if they weren't all fighters they were still strong, powerful and intelligent. I'm hoping that comes back in the following volumes.

I can't say that After the Fall is the season 6 I precisely wanted, but I'm thoroughly glad it exists. The writers have the voices of the characters nailed down perfectly that I can practically hear them, and they are doing justice to a story I wasn't prepared for to end.

Angel: After the Fall, Volume 2 - 3 stars

Volume 2 of After the Fall fills in some of the gaps between what went down in the months between the Angel TV finale and the first volume of the comics. It answered many of the questions the first volume presented, but I found the execution could have been much better.

There is no Angel in this volume but instead an exploration of multiple perspectives. However, I feel as though we could have gained these viewpoints within actual present day action storylines. Instead this volume was simply 5 pages of backstory dedicated to a character, then another 5 to the next, then so on. Had these stories been embedded into earlier (or later) issues when we came across a character, I think the storytelling would have been far more effective.

Another thing that irked me was that each section had a different art style. And I don't mean each issue. I mean each individual character backstory had a different artist - covering about 8 styles in the space of 104 pages. I imagine this was done to distinguish the stories and the tone of each character, but I was not a fan, especially since some were not even remotely similar and had completely different colour schemes.

I had hoped for better with this volume, but I apprecitate that the reveal of all of this information would have been much better in television format. Regardless, I'm glad I have more to go on now than before, and I'm looking forward to continuing from where Volume 1 left us.

Angel: After the Fall, Volume 3 - 4 stars
With Volume 2 being a detour to fill in some missing links, Volume 3 of After the Fall continues from the dramatic end that Volume 1 left us with.

The voices of the characters continue to be on point, and there were appearances of even more unexpected characters which worked in really nicely. Plus we finally learn the name of the dragon, which I can say wasn't a disappointment!

Ultimately this volume was a little less character focused than the previous two, which was a shame since my main connection is with the characters. However, this wasn't such a bad thing, because it allowed more focus on the plot, which finally starts to take a more solid shape (in typical Wolfram-&-Hart-ambiguous-'you-can-trust-nothing' fashion, of course). Plus there were still some prominent character interactions that completely crushed me.

Volume 3 deals a lot more with the idea that events can be predestined which is a concept at the core of Angel-the-show that I'm glad to see coming through in the comics. It was really interesting to see how the idea of higher powers being in control messed with some characters more than others, and with that ending I imagine there will be a lot more of that to see.

With only one volume left I'm uncertain how things will pan out, but I look forward to find out, even if it ends up being painful.

Angel: After the Fall, Volume 4 - 5 stars
Angel was a slow burn kind of show. That was the case for the romances, the relationships, and the overarching plotline of Wolfram & Hart that existed from the very first episode. All of it built up to this.

It would be a lie if I said I expected to finish After the Fall feeling happy. I expected pain and tragedy and utter heartbreak, and it completely delivered. I kind of guessed how this would all end, but I would've never guessed how badly it hurt to get to that point.

Any past quibbles I had were gone for this volume. If the art style changed at all I didn't notice, because I was so fully invested in the story. It had the perfect balance of character and plot and violence needed to make this a successful finale. There were so many echoes of the past that acted as a haunting presence throughout these final issues that made it more powerful, and I got the feeling that many things had come full circle.

Painful and tragic, this was the perfect season 6 that this show never had.

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