Angel’s comic-book revival pits the vampire against a social media monster

It’s been 20 years since Buffy’s vampire boyfriend got his own spin-off show, Angel, expanding the scope of Joss Whedon’s TV universe while cementing David Boreanaz as a TV leading man. With Boom! Studios’ acquisition of the Whedon licenses, it was only a matter of time before Angel showed his chiseled face, and the publisher introduced the character with a daring decision, surprise-releasing Angel #0 on the same day he debuted in the pages of Buffy The Vampire Slayer #4. That prologue issue set the stage for a new ongoing series by writer Bryan Edward Hill, artist Gleb Melnikov, colorist Gabriel Cassata, and letterer Ed Dukeshire, exploring how the vampire with a soul fits into the new landscape built by Jordie Bellaire, Dan Mora, and company in the phenomenal Buffy comic.

Because the cast and concept of the Angel TV shows emerged from three seasons of Buffy, the creative team of the comic has a very different status quo to work with as it looks at Angel’s first days in Sunnydale. A beloved cast member appears at the end of Angel #2 (Boom! Studios), but before that point, the creative team spends time with new players like Lilith, the ancient mother of demons who directs Angel with threats to serve her own mysterious ends. Flashbacks set centuries earlier show the evil Angelus siring a new vampire to add to his ranks, establishing the despicable deeds that leave the present-day Angel plagued with guilt.

One of the easiest ways to modernize an older property is to see how current technology fits into its established framework, and Angel does that by pitting the hero against a monster who spreads its influence through social media. Angel is horrified by social media and the way this new generation chronicles every moment when he would do anything to forget the sins he committed in his immortal life. Hill uses social media to explore the vanity that drives technology, setting Angel and other vampires apart from the rest of the world because they don’t have a reflection. There’s a lot of complex material for Hill to dissect here in regards to the relationship between technology, memory, and identity, and he uses Angel’s default state of brooding to examine those themes.

Hill’s script nails the mixture of crime and horror elements that shaped Angel’s TV adventures, and, like Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Mora, Melnikov captures actor likenesses while keeping his characters animated and expressive. The first issue opens with a flashback that delivers dramatic fantasy-horror visuals, and then shifts into a moodier, crime-influenced atmosphere for the present-day sequences. A nine-panel page in the second issue highlights the art team’s versatility as the rendering style changes for every panel of Lilith’s speech about mankind’s relationship with symbols, and her words gain extra significance because they are paired with such strong visual choices.

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