Sunday, December 27, 2009

After the Fall Volume 1 and First Night - Part 3 - Angel

(This is an ongoing series of posts where I discuss Angel: After the Fall Volume 1 and First Night Volume 2. My first post is here, and my second post is here.)

Here are the posts I've been waiting for, where I get to go into greater detail about what's going on with the characters of Angel in After the Fall.

Angel - Angel was able to get through the First Night (after his grand battle against the 40,000 monsters and demons unleashed by Wolfram & Hart) by befriending the huge flying dragon that he wanted to kill at the end of the TV series finale. Angel even flew around the city on the back of the dragon throughout Volume 1. The medium being used shapes the plot and narration of a story, and Angel flying around on a dragon fits right in with a comic book series. The sight of a green-screened David Boreanaz flying around on a fake dragon would have been way too silly for a TV show.

The Senior Partners, understandably pissed off that Angel decided to declare war on them, somehow turned Angel into human form in a way that had nothing to do with the Shanshu prophecy. (As you remember, Angel signed away his chance of turning into a "real boy" at the end of Season 5.) He suffered serious injuries, and the Senior Partners wanted to make sure he felt considerable pain while he slowly healed. At this point I'm not sure if Angel's really human or if he's in some sort of humanoid form that only higher powers can conjure up. Regardless, Angel was completely out of commission for a "few" months after the series finale battle, which serves the function of explaining why Volume 1 started a "few months" after the series finale.

On the night of the "First Night" battle, The Senior Partners also somehow teleported Angel back to the ruined offices of Wolfram & Hart (the building that collapsed around him and Hamilton in the series finale). Their intentions were to keep him there as long as possible, where they could keep an eye on him and keep him out of trouble. (Although Angel seemed to be able to leave the offices at will when he put his mind to it.) As it turned out, Angel's "final stand" against the Senior Partners did nothing to free him from their sphere of influence. The Senior Partners still considered Angel to be a part of their Wolfram & Hart family, and from that point on they were treating him like a wayward employee.

Wesley, as the Senior Partners' incorporeal ghostly messenger, cared for Angel the best he could using all sorts of bizarre Wolfram & Hart devices, treatments and concoctions that he was able to scrounge up from within the ruins. The comics also hint at how there was some sort of device that put on some sort of glamour spell so Angel could still have the overall appearance of being a vampire (presumably with all of his vampire strength) at the appropriate times.

Angel and Wesley seemed to derive a considerable amount of comfort from each other's presence, even though they were technically on opposite sides. Angel had to naturally distrust Wesley somewhat (even pointedly leaving Wesley behind in one scene while he made his rounds), but didn't seem to hold the fact that Wesley was a Wolfram & Hart lackey against him. Indeed, Wesley stepped in and helped diffuse potentially deadly situations between Angel and the various creepy "lords" of Los Angeles. Wesley's duties were still being defined and evolving, so Angel had to learn about Wesley's role practically at the same time Wesley did. It was quite telling that we never saw Angel grill Wesley about his motivations and what he was up to. It's possible Angel understood that Wesley, and even Angel, didn't have any real choice in the matter, and was tolerating Wesley's presence because it was better to have the lines of communication open with Wolfram & Hart than to be operating totally in the dark.

After Angel had sufficiently healed from his wounds, he emerged from the rubble to find that Los Angeles had been divided up into different districts, each controlled by (mostly) heinous demons. The human population that hadn't been devoured was enslaved, except for small groups that were lucky enough to live in safehouses or isolated benevolent enclaves. Conditions were brutal, and even the Senior Partners were supposedly upset with what they were seeing. The Senior Partners had set the events in motion, but were not firmly in control of all of the forces that had been unleashed.

Angel, being Angel, killed the son of one of the obnoxious lords. Naturally, the lord got pretty upset and he, along with most of the other ruling lords, decided to take revenge on Angel. Each lord designated a champion to fight in his place, and ordered Angel to do at a specific place and time. Angel, always the good guy, was feeling sufficiently angsty and guilt-ridden for being responsible for turning Los Angeles into a living hell. As such, Angel was determined to fight these champions all by himself, even if it meant certain death. At the end of Volume I, at the last minute, all of the characters whom we were busily catching up with throughout the two volumes converged on the battlefield to help out their friend Angel.

Similar to how his character was used in the TV series, the title character of Angel himself seemed to be overshadowed by others in the first two volumes of After the Fall. It's not that Angel wasn't getting enough face time or not being put to good use. It's just that there are so many other strong characters and interesting sidestories, sometimes the main event can pale in comparison. In one of the commentaries to the Angel DVD collection, one person mentioned how David Boreanaz was incredibly generous and unselfish to allow other characters to get so much airtime on the TV series. That sense of a strong ensemble allowed Angel to be a great TV series, and allowed After the Fall to become what appears to be a pretty good continuation series.

In my next post I'll talk about Wesley.

Closing Thoughts. As everyone knows, nothing is really what it appears to be in the Whedonverse. Anyone who writes a review or tries to analyze plotlines runs the risk of looking like a complete idiot unless the person has seen an entire series or read an entire line of comic books. That didn't used to bother me too much, because I used to be able to live in the moment and enjoy taking the time to really think about what was being presented to me in the abstract rather than in terms of how everything fit in with the rest of the events. Now I'm just irritated with the feeling that what is being presented to me in Volumes 1 & 2 is just a smokescreen for what will probably really be happening in Volumes 3 & 4. My feeling is, why bother being caught up in the events if everything's just going to be pulled out from underneath me later on?

I've really enjoyed After the Fall Volumes 1 & 2, but I don't have a special feeling that these comics are a faithful continuation of the TV series. Although I'm tremendously influenced by what is happening in the comics, I don't think a true fan of Angel would have to feel obligated to accept After the Fall as being what "really" happened. By all means, use your imagination to resurrect Wesley and Fred, and let them start raising their family on a nice little farm in Iowa.

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