I never watched the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel when they were still on the air. It wouldn’t be until 2010 when I got around to it, when a friend literally refused to talk to me about television until I had watched the seven series of Buffy. Now, said friend was also kind enough to lend me their Netflix account so I could work my way through the 100+ episodes over several months, after which I proceeded to watch all five seasons of Angel.
I liked Buffy. I certainly liked certain seasons more than others, but I viewed the work as a core influence. However, Angel… I loved Angel. I loved all five seasons and devoured those episodes in a fervor. I think it was the neo-noir aesthetic, the flipped script focusing on those who were occult rather than those who hunted the occult. Although, I will say I liked the musical episode of Buffy more than the Puppet episode of Angel. (Both are great.)
That was a decade ago. It’s been more than two decades since the original pilot of Buffy and a decade and a half for Angel, and I don’t remember as much about the character or story line as I thought. Broadstrokes, for sure, but the detail are fuzzy.
Angel: Being Human
Now I typed all of that to emphasize my history with the characters and to make sure that those reading understand that reading Angel, Vol. 1 felt like a homecoming. Things are different, but the core, the essence of Angel is still very much intact with this version, brought to us by Bryan Hill and Gleb Melnikov.
The two big differences that will jump out to long-time fans are the updated setting and the fact that Angel hasn’t met Buffy yet. It changes some of the backstory, yet allows us to spend more time with the principal character. The classic narrative of Angel cursed with a soul is still very much there, and the signature snark remains in spades. There’s just a couple more confounding factors in the day-to-day life of a vampire cursed with a soul in the age of social media.
Hill utilizes the comic book format effectively, giving us several glimpses into Angel’s life, creating a sense of history that helps inform the rest. We see where he started very clearly and manage to get a strong sense of trajectory as modern Angel begins investigating the occult events happening in Los Angeles. The character feels fresh while remaining true to the original concept. It’s one of those rare times where the reboot feels like it has a justification. The age of connectivity provides a much more prominent back drop for Angel attempting to rediscover his own humanity. Sufficient time has passed since the show for the character to not be in the eye of the masses (unlike say… most superhero franchises).
But beyond the written narrative, Melnikov’s art is a perfect adaption of the sleek, stylized version of L.A. The pencils remind us of David Boreanaz likeness, but feel a bit more vamperic than practical effect in the early 2000’s could manage. It takes cues from the original aesthetic, but modernizes and amplifies them. Melnikov is not bound by monetary budgets and is able to get precise framings and fully realize Hill’s story in vivid (un)life.
There is a lot happening within this first collection, given that we have a prologue and a full arc but the story is exciting and reads like what I remember Angel was. I don’t know if the series still holds, but I do know that this comic captures the same set of emotions that I felt when I in college, obsessed with fantasy serials and the look of a trench coat. That’s some magic that only someone who became a vampire for a story could manage.
8.9 “Redemption Arcs” out of 10