Angel: The Curse #1 Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: N/A

Written by: Jeff Mariotte
Art by: David Messina
Lettered by: Tom B. Long
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: IDW Publishing

It bears repeating that translating a work of art from one medium to another is incredibly difficult. There are successful books that make bad movies. There are good movies that become hackneyed television shows, or even vice-versa in today’s remake happy Hollywood. The biggest hurdle isn’t always getting the characters or their setting right either; sometimes things that are common in one medium cannot be done at all in another medium. Finding ways around the limitations of the new mode can be tough, and using the conventions of the new medium can even make the work feel off. A successful and popular sidestep into another format is about as simple as juggling three chainsaws blindfolded.

Angel almost makes the transition though. Almost. Things fans remember fondly from the series are visible enough: the show’s history, cast, and visual style are all well maintained. The action, bleak humor, and edgy drama found in the weekly series certainly continue in this issue. Nothing that is wrong with this issue is a result of deviations from the root canon. There is some stuff lost in the translation though.

For starters, Angel is awfully chatty in this book. Understandably, most of it is internal monologue, but it still feels off. One of the main catalysts of the television series was that Angel was afraid to share himself emotionally, and the other cast regulars would periodically have to break through his moody loner vibe. Here there is no friendly cohort to speak to (or refrain from speaking to) and so Angel considers his taciturn nature in an extended internal monologue. For no apparent reason. The technique might help the reader get to know Angel (if they had been living in the forest without television for a decade or two) but it won’t resonate for anyone even remotely familiar with him.

Second, the issue ends without much insight into Angel’s motivation. If, as the flashback implies, Angel is doing a favor for folks who will then do a favor for a female friend, shouldn’t the readers actually meet the new girl in Angel’s un-life? Considering how tough it usually is for Angel to “warm up” to people, it seems like a major omission. It might be a staple of serial print fiction to let the protagonist’s motivations slowly spool out over time, thusly creating drama, the technique works far less well when that hero is both popular and familiar. The seemingly arbitrary nature of the mission lessens an otherwise entertaining and action-packed chapter in this story.

The art in this installment meets or exceeds expectations. Our hero seems just as viewers left him, his style somewhere between blue-collar and left-coast tough. The battle choreography lifted from the first episode of his series in a nice touch, whether it’s intended ironically or as simple visual shorthand. The forest geography seems a bit too lifeless to be credible, but that eventually figures into the plot. The evil vampires look a bit too self-similar, but there’s a legitimate reason for that as well. While the color palette seems overly drab, it suits the nocturnal setting and flashback filled narrative well enough. Many translated properties get stuck with second-class “budget-friendly” art teams, and that is certainly not the case here.