Bill Willingham is a name that may be familiar to readers of fantasy graphic novels due to his multi award-winning series for Vertigo, Fables. So upon seeing his name attached to a new title I immediately jumped at the chance to review Angel: Immortality for Dummies. Needless to say there was a wry chuckle when my copy came in the mail I and found out that this is the latest entry in the graphic novels based on the popular TV show, Angel, which is a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both created by Joss Whedon. So I have to apologize up front: I was a casual fan of both shows, but I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Buffyverse, and definitely would not be considered a ‘Scooby’. Take that for what you will, and I’ll do my best.
Luckily this title is a good starting point for new readers. There is a short synopsis of what went before, chief of which is that the good vampire Angel has been reunited with his son named Connor, Los Angeles has recently been returned from Hell, and Angel’s nature is not only known to the general public but he is now famous. But it’s Connor who takes the lead in the story, with Angel curiously absent. In fact, it doesn’t take too long before Connor and the rest of Angel’s friends at Angel Investigations realize he is genuinely missing, including the real angel James, Angel’s partner Charles Gunn, the demon Illyria, and everyone’s favorite anti-hero Spike.
Also at this time Hollywood is trying to capitalize on Angel’s fame and thereby gives the group their first clue: a Hollywood starlet has an interview where she says she has been turned by Angel and now her fans will never have to worry that she will grow old. The interview ends as comically horrific as one would expect. In fact Willingham is a good fit for writing in the Angel setting, equally adept at creating scenarios with lots of demon-slaying action as well as the witty dialog that Buffy and Angel fans have come to expect. Spike especially (as usual) steals the show. Also the story does a good job of conveying another theme common to both this setting as well as Willingham’s own series Fables, putting flawed characters who are trying to be good in difficult situations where hard choices have to be made. The back up story features a devil working on the side of good named Eddie Hope, who is working through his own list of devils that need punishment from the time while L.A. was a part of Hell.
The artwork by Brian Denham for the Angel story arc and David Messina (with inks by Gaetano Carlucci) for Eddie Hope’s tale has a slick, polished style. They are able to show a chaotic fight scene as well as the quiet conversational interludes. While there are no panels that make you stop with awe there is also nothing that detracts from the story. One thing I always think is important on titles adapted from television and movies is that the characters are recognizable, but still within the artist’s style. No, Angel does not look exactly like David Boreanaz and he shouldn’t. Still he is immediately identifiable as the character of Angel.
Like most other books in this series, Angel: Immortality for Dummies will find a home on the Young Adult shelves and appeal to older teen readers. Fans of the television series will find that their franchise is in capable hands. Now would someone please explain to me where the George the psychic fish came from?