At the end of the fifth and final season of Joss Whedon’s “Angel,” a nigh endless army of hell’s denizens were bearing down on the titular character and what remained of his companions. Angel had infiltrated and destroyed the Circle of the Black Thorn, evil law firm Wolfram & Hart’s seat of power in the material realm, and in so doing, brought the wrath of hell upon himself, his people and the city of Los Angeles. Lorne had washed his hands of the affair, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce had already bit the dust, Charles Gunn was mortally wounded, and it looked as though the numbers did not favor Angel, Spike and Illyria. In IDW’s “Angel: After the Fall,” (co-plotted by Whedon himself and penned by Brian Lynch), we learn what became of our heroes. Los Angeles was plunged into the depths of Hell. Gunn was turned, and became a soulless vampire. Back to their old tricks, Wolfram & Hart refused to let Wesley out of his contract, even in death. Spike and Connor joined forces, Illyria began periodically reverting to Fred, and Lorne turned Silverlake into an oasis in a sea of red. And Angel regained the one thing he’d always wanted: his humanity. And as the 17-issue epic winds to a close, Illyria has reverted to her primal, god-like form, and a very human Angel has been mortally wounded himself. Will there be life (or something like it) after “After the Fall” for Angel and company? Novelist Kelley Armstrong, who’s picking up the writing duties after Lynch departs, says the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Will she tell us how “After the Fall” winds up? Hell, no!
“Angel survives” was about all the author was willing to let slip about her upcoming “Angel” arc “Aftermath.” “Does that help? Not so much, huh?” Armstrong said. “I could say that I introduce a couple of new characters, but that might make people think there's a wholesale slaughter in issue #17, so I needed to add characters, which is not the case. Let's just say that, after their experience, the survivors aren't all that keen to hang out together right away. Everyone will be dealing with issues, some outside my story arc.” Armstrong may have been understandably tight-lipped about the plot of the new arc, but from the now-published cover to “Angel” #19, we can garner that Angel has once again joined the ranks of the undead.
Armstrong’s first exposure to “Buffy” was the original feature film starring Kristy Swanson and Donald Sutherland. “Which then made me wait a year-and-a-half before starting the TV series,” Armstrong added. The author has always written paranormal fiction, so the genre drew her in, but the film did not exactly leave her begging for more. “My husband caught a couple of episodes [of the “Buffy” TV series] and kept telling me I'd enjoy it. I rolled my eyes, until I finally gave in and watched one in the middle of the second season. And I was hooked. I watched ‘Buffy’ and started ‘Angel’ when it began.”
The character's fan base had mixed reactions to the end of the “Angel” TV series. Some were disappointed that the series seemingly ended on a cliffhanger, but others fervently believed that Angel rushing headlong into certain doom was the perfect end for the series, and the character. Armstrong, for her part, had both reactions. “When it ended, my first reaction was, ‘What? No, that can't be the last episode,’” Armstrong told CBR News. Though the ending gradually grew on her, Armstrong was just as happy to learn that IDW would be telling the continuing adventures of Angel in the comics medium.
After bonding with another author over their mutual love of “Buffy” at a comic convention, when IDW started their search for an author to take the “Angel” reins from Brian Lynch, the author in question put in a good work for Armstrong. But Joss Whedon, Armstrong said, would not be co-plotting her five-issue “Angel” arc. “I'd love to say my arc is co-plotted, because then I'd be able to share the blame if fans hate it,” Armstrong lamented. “But, no, it's all mine. Sadly.”
Armstrong is proud of the yarn she spun in “Angel,” but realizes that it’s difficult to please all of the fans all of the time. “That's something I learned with my novel series, but I know it'll be on a much bigger scale with this,” Armstrong said. She went on to say that capturing the characters’ voices was one of the most difficult parts of writing in the Angel-verse, but she re-watched the entire “Angel” TV series and re-read all of the comics in preparation. “The important thing is to be true to the characters, and I think I've done that.”
It was IDW editor Chris Ryall who recruited artist Dave Ross for the project, and Armstrong couldn’t be happier with Ryall’s choice. “The art is just starting, so there hasn't been much collaboration, but I love what I've seen so far!” Armstrong said.
The upcoming arc on “Angel” will be Armstrong’s first published foray into comics writing. “I've done a script for a still-in-progress online graphic novella on my website,” Armstrong said. “And I've done one for a European company -- an original story set in my Otherworld.” Armstrong said that comic writing has a lot more in common with screenwriting than it does with novel writing: show, not tell, is the order of the day. “I'd been taught to avoid captions at all costs. Not so with ‘Angel.’ So I had to go back and add captions of Angel's thoughts for the first couple of issues!”
2009 promises to be a busy year for Armstrong, who’s scheduled to write four novels and countless short stories for as many prose anthology series, and she’s also hoping to have the opportunity to do more comics work as well. It has yet to be finalized who will be writing the “Angel” arc subsequent to “Aftermath,” but Armstrong teased that there was a good chance that “After the Fall” scribe Brian Lynch would return to the series sooner or later. “Angel” #18 hits stands this February.