IDW produced three “Angel” one-shots in the final three years of its run. All of these double-length issues are finales of sorts, and there’s a touch of comedy or lightness to them – “Last Angel in Hell” puts a bow on the “After the Fall” era, “Lorne: Music of the Spheres” is the final Lorne story and “Yearbook” is the last publication in IDW’s Angelverse.
Throughout my reread of IDW’s Angelverse work, it’s become increasingly clear that the “Spike” titles tend to be better than the “Angel” titles. There are some exceptions: “Spike: The Devil You Know” is not very good, and some “Angel” yarns are outstanding. But generally, your odds of getting a great tale are better with “Spike,” and it’s because Brian Lynch – with whom Joss Whedon co-wrote the canonical “Angel: After the Fall” — writes most of them, and Franco Urru does the art for most of Lynch’s work.
Starting with three transitional issues (36-38) where they share plotting and scripting duties with Bill Willingham, the duo of David Tischman and Mariah Huehner takes IDW’s “Angel” series to the finish line in Issues 36-44 (August 2010-April 2011). It’s a notch below Willingham’s run on Issues 28-35 that breathed new life into the title: not terrible, but there’s also a reason why these issues didn’t stick in my head as well as “Buffy” Season 8, which was published by Dark Horse at the same time.
When IDW first picked up the “Angel” license, it delivered hesitant stories – with the exception of the “Spike” titles – up until the canonical Joss Whedon-plotted “After the Fall” (Issues 1-17 of the ongoing series). Embarking on the remainder of the “Angel” ongoing series (which will go up to Issue 44), IDW is back to being unsure of how it wants to proceed. The opener, “Aftermath,” is the worst “Angel” comic arc up to this point, and while it gets better after that, there’s little forward momentum for the main title in 2009.
After the “First Night” interlude (Issues 6-8), IDW’s “Angel” returns to the main storyline of “After the Fall” having lost its momentum. Although still plotted by Joss Whedon and scripted by Brian Lynch, the arc feels like it is treading water, with a lot of talking. It also doesn’t help that Franco Urru is mostly absent from Issues 9-14, as he was working on “Spike: After the Fall.” Before his return for the grand finale, there’s a shortage of dynamism in the panels.
Seeing the success of “Buffy” Season 8 and learning that Brian Lynch’s pitch for an “Angel” “Season 6” lined up closely with his plans before the TV show was canceled, Joss Whedon launched “Angel: After the Fall” in 2007. Although it makes some of IDW’s previous work hard to fit into the continuity, it goes without saying that it’s great to get Whedon’s canonical story of what happens to Angel and company after the cliffhanger of “Not Fade Away” (5.22).
Following the “Spotlight” series, IDW’s “Angel” comics line unveiled more stories focused on individual characters in the loosely Halloween-themed “Masks” (October 2006). The double-length one-shot includes stories about Puppet Angel, Illyria, Cordelia and Lindsey McDonald, all themed around the figurative masks people wear.