Saturday, October 2, 2010

VINTAGE - Earthly Possessions, Angel

GOLDEN, Christopher & Various Auth. Angel: Earthly Possessions. 80p. DARK HORSE COMICS, June 2001. ISBN: 1569715335

In the olden Dust Waltz days of Buffy Comics, Dark Horse also acquired the rights to publish comics for Buffy's spinoff series Angel. The original Angel series was entirely written by Christopher Golden. Chris is from Boston and did book signings in New Hampshire on a pretty regular basis, so I got to meet him a number of times. He wrote a Spike & Dru novel, as well as many other books and even video games for the extended Buffy universe. He got Buffy, and often found the characters' voices when he was writing them. The Angel series didn't end up lasting more than a year and a half. This is ultimately sad, since the Angel stores I'm going to review here are pretty much the best examples of how Buffy/Angel stories can work in comics. Also, I have this graphic novel autographed by him. That's pretty neat. If you don't know, Angel is Buffy's ex-boyfriend who had a bicentennial. Cursed by gypsies over a hundred years ago, he is a vampire with a human soul. After he and Buffy break up, he moves to L.A. and starts up a detective agency. He helps the helpless.

"Earthly Possessions" is actually three issues of the Angel comic proper, collecting issues #5-7. The bound graphic novel, now out-of-print, doesn't even tell us that. Luckily, Wikipedia has a handy dandy list of Angel comics published. It's always nice when someone does the work already, hmm? This story falls very specifically at a point in the Angel universe; right before the episode "Hero" and then continues about a week after it took place. This means that Doyle, one of the early stars of the show, appears at the beginning. As Angel and Cordelia attempt to wrap the case up they are also dealing with their sense of loss from Doyle's death Angel is also hesitant about putting anyone else in harm's way. This largely is in keeping with his character. He blamed himself for Doyle's sense. It would make sense that he was most messed up directly after it happened. There's also some cameos from police lady Kate and Doyle's ex-wife towards the beginning and end of the book. At that point, there wasn't a lot of Angel supporting characters for Golden to draw from. He creates a few of his own, including a book store owner Angel is friendly with and Doyle's informant buddy named Ezekiel. I kind of wish these were actual characters in the show proper.

As one could infer from the title, the main plot involves demonic possession. Doyle's latest vision alerts Angel to a woman being terrorized by her husband. A defense attorney, he seems to have grown more "evil" of late. Angel reasons he might be demonically possessed. That will certainly put anyone in a bad mood. Angel turns out to be right. When he confronts the demons, things don't initially go well. The demon is capable of immersing itself a sort of blue fire which makes physical contact (i.e. beating the crap out of it) pretty much a big no-no. Just as Angel is about to get his ass handed to him, a mysterious man dressed as a priest shows up. Angel works with the man, Father Noe, and they are able to cast the demon out of the lawyer. They even get paid by the lawyer's wife. Angel notes that Father Noe seems to make his living this way. He gets suspicious and starts digging into his past. Cordelia is of the opinion that they should be grateful; it's not like anyone on Team Angel knows a lot about casting demons out, and Noe did save Angel's skin.

One week passes, and "Hero" has taken place. Doyle is dead. A movie executive wants to hire the team to stop another possession case. Cordelia is reluctant, but Angel figures it's just what he needs to take his mind of Doyle. Noe is on the scene when Angel gets there. They do their thing and save the day again. Angel starts to suspect that maybe Noe isn't just taking demons out of people, maybe he's putting them in people, too. Then he can name his own price. Angel's instincts prove correct. Noe is really only interested in turning a profit, or "earthly possessions" (hey! that's the title!). While Angel makes short work of some of Noe's demonic footsoldiers, he releases some "vapor" demons into some of L.A.'s homeless. Angel knocks them out, but Noe manages to get away. Cordelia contacts Harry, Doyle's ex-wife, who helps return the homeless people back to normal. The last few panels show that Noe has gone across the pond to England where he continues his demonic possession scam on members of Parliament.

I like that Noe gets away in the end; it makes the ending a little bit more dynamic. Angel saves the day, but doesn't get the bad guy. Christian Zanier's art is also pretty cool. Angel is always in shadowed positions, and he uses just enough sharp jagged lines to really draw readers into the visual style of the comic. He also draws Angel, Doyle, and Cordelia all pretty well. Kate and Harry look nothing like their real-life counterparts, but I easily forgive that. Definitely a story worth the read.

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