Joss Whedon 101: Angel: After the Fall

The finalé of Joss Whedon’s Angel left half of the fandom in awe at how the lack of resolution was brilliant and fitting and the other half wondering what the hell happened after the screen cut to black. Wesley was dead, a depressed Lorne exited stage right, Connor was told to stay out of the fight, and the rest of our heroes — Angel, Spike, Illyria, and a mortally wounded Gunn — were in an alley, facing an army of thousands of demons that Wolfram & Hart had sent as punishment for Angel’s rebellion. Among those demons? A big damn dragon.

The moment Angel charges, delivering the iconic line “Let’s go to work,” the screen cuts to black in a Sopranos-esque symbolic ending. Joss Whedon said, “…the point of the show is that you’re never done; no matter who goes down, the fight goes on” (Whedon, TV Guide Interview). The theme of Angel as a series is that the fight never ends, so of course the show had to end in the middle of Angel’s biggest brawl yet. Personally, the ending made me glad to be a fan of such a smart and daring show. “Fans want to know if Angel and Co. survived? Pshaw!” I said pretentiously in a faux British accent. “Don’t they know that that’s not the point?”

Despite the apparent finality of the ending, the moment it was announced that Angel would be continued in comic book form by Joss Whedon, creator and all around ginger-haired genius, and Brian Lynch, the writer of the hilarious and spot-on Spike: Asylum (also, very tall), I was among the fans squealing and whooping. Not to mention, the series was to be penciled by a roster of fantastic artists, including Franco Urru, Stephen Mooney, Nick Runge, John Bryne, and many more. All of the academic interest in Angel’’s ending was forgotten, as we would finally know what happened in the alley!

In a move of sheer brilliance, however, Joss and Brian’s story opens after the fight is over. Angel: After the Fall opens in an alley, but there isn’t an insurmountable horde of demons. There are a few demons, though, and just as they’re about to feast on some people, Angel jumps in and does what he does best — saving lives. Only this time, he’s got a little help in the form of a giant, fire-breathing dragon. Angel says, “(The dragon) was part of (Wolfram & Hart). Two minutes into fighting him, I realized he was as misled as I was” (After the Fall #1). Once the demons are sliced, diced, and nice and crispy, Angel gives the civilians directions to a safe house before he hops on the dragon’s back for a ride home.

They fly over L.A., which looks a bit different than the last time we saw it. Fire shoots from the ground, tentacles and mouths sprout from buildings, and the sun and the moon are out at the same time. All in all, not your average Tuesday. Angel says, “My friends stood by me. Wolfram & Hart sent an army. There were losses on both sides. And then Wolfram & Hart sent Los Angeles to Hell” (After the Fall #1). And that’s quite literal. L.A. is in Hell and the city has been divided among demons who saw “the Fall” as an opportunity to come to power. These so-called lords have claimed Compton, Burbank, Century City, Downtown L.A., Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Weho, Westwood, and Beverly Hills as their territories.

Los Angeles isn’t the only thing that has dramatically changed. Wesley has been resurrected by Wolfram & Hart… but with a catch. He’s a ghost, which is bad enough, but he is also being used by W&H as their last official representative of the L.A. Branch, just to hurt Angel. Wes spends most of his time playing the role, secretly doing what he thinks is best for Angel, who is being kept alive by Wolfram & Hart for their own unknown purposes. Wesley wants to know why.

Spike and Illyria are the “co-lords” of Beverly Hills. They put up the front that they’re engaging in the same human-slave-keeping activities as the other lords, but they’ve really been housing up at the Playboy Mansion (in the prequel spin-off Spike: After the Fall, Spike stakes Hugh Hefner…who was clearly a vampire) giving shelter to humans who need it. Spike has been spending as much time as possible keeping these humans safe, but most of his efforts have to go to babysitting Illyria…

Dear reader:

Joss Whedon’s importance in contemporary pop culture can hardly be overstated, but there has never been a book providing a comprehensive survey and analysis of his career as a whole — until now. Published to coincide with Whedon’s blockbuster movie The Avengers, Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters (May 2012) covers every aspect of his work, through insightful essays and in-depth interviews with key figures in the ‘Whedonverse’. This article, along with previously unpublished material, can be read in its entirety in this book.

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