"Angel Omnibus" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski, David Fury, Scott Allie, Brett Matthews, and Joss Whedon
Illustrated by Christian Zanier, Eric Powell, Brian Horton, Paul Lee, Ryan Sook, and Mel Rubi
1999, 480 Pages
Trade Paperback released on July 12th, 2011
Take a trip with me through time; back to an era where foil variant covers and giant muscled super-heroes with tons of pouches on their costumes filled comic stands. It is towards the end of this saga that Angel first made his funny book debut. The year was 1999 and amidst the widespread terror of Y2K, a spinoff comic of a spinoff TV show was just coming out right after the series began airing.
What followed over the course of the next couple years was a slew of one-shots and mini-series featuring the Dark Avenger along with Doyle, Cordelia, Kate Lockley, Wesley, and Gunn. Although all of the characters were there, the Angel comics were missing something. They didn't have the same tone that Buffy and Angel creator Joss Whedon filled each episode of the TV series with. Yes, Angel was a bit darker and it certainly didn't have the love and attention that Whedon showed to Buffy, but it still had that flare. That witty dialogue. That smart writing. A lot of that is missing here and what's left is a generic supernatural detective story with characters that could be interchangeable with almost anyone.
This isn't to say that the stories collected here are bad. They're quite the opposite. They just don't feel like Angel stories. I will give them this though: the writers and artists really go for it when it comes to the villains in the comics. Unconstrained by strict budget guidelines that tie the hands of TV producers, the creators were able to dream up demons of all shapes and sizes for Angel to do battle with that would have taken months of CGI work or hours upon hours of makeup to even come close to showing on the small screen.
As with the writing, the art doesn't quite fit with the Angel TV series. It's very tough to draw a book based on another property because there is a set way that everyone is supposed to look. You can't give a character your own style as there's a real person tied to it. Unfortunately, this hurts most of the issues collected here as the characters share only a fleeting resemblance to their TV counterparts. Doyle is the most affected by this, but I can understand to an extent as production was started on the comic long before the TV show so the artist had to work with something. Doyle's look changes as the books go on.
The first few issues are almost like extra episodes of the TV series. They follow the same formula where Doyle gets a vision of some evil going down and Angel goes in to investigate while Cordelia complains about how she's not a successful actress. These include Angel checking out a bizarre fertility clinic where the doctor is secretly raising demons (think Rosemary's Baby but on a larger scale), an abusive husband who turns out to have a changling replace his wife to drive him mad, and a brothel filled with vampire prostitutes. As I mentioned above, the stories are good, but they just don't flow as well as the Angel TV series.
This collection saves the best for last, bringing in the mini-series Long Night's Journey to wrap up the book. It's no surprise that this story hits closest to the Buffyverse in tone as it's co-written by Whedon himself. This is a four issue story which has Angel and his gang going up against some huge demons and a vampire from our hero's past. The art by Mel Rubi is off in terms of resembling the actors, but that's quickly forgotten by how great the pencils are. Rubi is clearly at home in the medium, using the page to showcase the action in huge flowing battles.
As this is an omnibus, I was a little disappointed that Dark Horse didn't include the covers for all of these stories. There's a cover at the beginning of each arc, but there had to have been a bunch that just didn't make it into the book for whatever reason. I would have loved to see them either included with each issue or at least tacked on at the end as a gallery. The introduction by editor Scott Allie is a great background for the collection and gives you an idea of the challenges they faced as they started these comics.
The Angel Omnibus isn't for everyone, but it's definitely for die-hard Angel fans. While I don't think the book works as a comic on its own, it works well as a companion to the TV series. There are numerous events that happen in the show that either aren't addressed or are only mentioned in conversation — such as the death of Doyle — that were elaborated in far greater detail on air. The issues collected here fit in between Season 1 and 2 so if you read a few stories as you work your way through the DVDs, you'll enjoy the Omnibus a lot more.