Why IDW's Angel Comic Still Matters

Coming back from Midtown Comics today, wind whipping around the buildings of New York City and biting at my face, I was thoughtful of the books buried beneath my coat and wrapped in brown paper. It's seems very appropriate, considering all the hoopla surrounding the recent revelations, that we'd be getting new issues of both Buffy and Angel today. As excited as I was (and am) for both, it was Angel # 29 that was weighing heavy on my mind. Indeed, not just the issue itself, but the new series that had only just begun last month.

By now, most of you have seen the comments made by writers Bill Willingham and Bill Williams regarding the promise of creating a common thread between the IDW and Dark Horse universes. You've also, no doubt, seen Joss's responses to those, er, responses. It's a big 'verse out there, people talk, and the words they are saying sound an awful lot like "I'm not going to read that Angel comic anymore". While I'm tempted to, coyly, ask "Why?" I think we're a little beyond that. Instead, I want to talk to you about why I am still reading IDW's Angel and why you should be, too.

Let's begin with the elephant in the room. Bill Willingham's comments turned some people off. Looking over the responses that followed his addressing of the situation, it became clear that what he said hadn't won IDW many favors. In fact, some people who had previously been picking up the Angel comics were now saying they would no longer touch them. That, as a knee jerk reaction is, I think, understandable. Strongs words were used about some pretty well respected folks and I think a lot of fans were confused as to why Bill felt so heated about the entire affair. I think, first of all, that Bill's response in and of itself was a little bit knee-jerk. He'd just found out, by means of a website, that some people he doesn't work with were potentially deciding the ending of a comic he had just started writing. Put yourself in his shoes for a second and tell me that wouldn't make you uneasy at best. You could argue that his words were too hasty, too negative, too potentially ego driven but, in the end, his frustrations and his concerns were, and many ways still are, understandable and valid.

But this article isn't called "Why You Should Forgive Bill Willingham" and he's certainly not the only person who makes it so there's an Angel comic that appears in the stacks every month. One of the things I was most impressed by wasn't all the voices we did hear from during Twilight-gate, but those that we didn't, the people who had the professional restraint to focus on the work that mattered. It's not a secret that I hold IDW's editor, Mariah Huehner, in high regard but the grace with which she handled this debacle still impresses me. It's not like she has no ego to bruise nor that she doesn't have a right to share her feelings with all that's going on. She didn't, though. Instead she opted to keep working on ensuring we'd get good stories and, in the end, isn't that what matters the most? The spectacle of a bunch of comic book types falling over their own feet as they try to clean up this collosal mess can only entertain for so long.

Right before the new chapter in IDW's Angel story began, Mariah and I talked a lot about what the new story would be about but, more important than the story itself, was the risk that needed taking. We'd seen what Joss had in mind for the unrealized sixth season of Angel with After the Fall but what we hadn't seen was what was really going to come next. In the hands of a lesser team, we would be getting something derivative, just more of the same. Mariah and Bill dreamed of something bigger though for Angel & co. Immortality for Dummies is that story and it's already easily one of the most ambitious stories I've seen about any of these characters.

Making Angel a Hollywood icon, giving Connor a chance to play leader, questioning the nature of immortality, potentially throwing a match on an oil soaked Shanshu prophecy and watching it burn... these are just the things we've seen in the first two issues and we're just now skimming the surface. With the promise of seeing Connor's decisions lead to devastating consequences, big Illyria reckonings, and more floating, psychic fishes than you can shake a stick at (actually, there's just the one) the IDW books are taking Angel to places he's never gone before.

Canon? I could talk all day but, if you want to hear the sage words from the man himself, take a peak at what Chris Ryall had to say on Whedonesque. The point is, no matter what happens in a Dark Horse galaxy far, far away, right here, right now, IDW is putting out compelling stories that are worth reading. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read Angel #29 again.

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