Coming out soon after the previous installment, this issue debuts the new regular artist for the series as previous regular Franco Urru moves onto a "Spike" spin-off. The good? The characters are far more recognizably rendered, finally evoking the acting you remember from the TV series. The bad? The storytelling takes a bit of a hit as a result, with some sequences descending into outright confusion. At some points, it's unclear who's talking to whom and what they're reacting to. Oh well, you can't have it all, I suppose.
It's taken the better part of a year, but after 8 issues, "Angel: After the Fall" is actually looking up. Lynch's dialogue gets sharper with every issue (though he seems to be under the impression that Groo speaks Thor-esque King James English which... he doesn't) and by this point, the characters are largely sounding like their old selves. Likewise, the core (and extended) cast of the TV show has finally reunited, except for the now-vampiric Gunn, who looks on bitterly. The question on everyone's lips is surely "why didn't all this happen sooner?"
While this issue is, technically, wrapping up the previous storyline after the fairly ill-advised three-issue hiatus of the "First Night" arc, it's also the beginning of a new story, and sets plenty of new mysteries to think about while establishing a fresh direction. Particularly, placing the cast back in the Hyperion hotel will only serve to bring back some of the familiarity that the series has lacked up until this point. It's a problem endemic with licensed comics that as soon as you remove the restriction of a budget, the reality adhered to by the source material will begin to crumble under the weight of the writer and artist's imagination. With the old locale back, though, "Angel: After the Fall #9" is clawing back some of that ground.
The partial return of Fred, which has been hanging over readers for weeks as the cliffhanger from #5, is handled satisfyingly, even if it's hard to fully appreciate at this stage what it means in the long-term. Certainly, it should give Gunn's behavior in future issues an extra dimension. He appears to be well-positioned to become the main villain, which will certainly be a welcome break from the utterly unengaging "Demon Lords" who have so far played that role. Throw in some oblique references to Cordelia that'll hopefully have some pay-off in the future, and there's actually a lot here to look forward to. The only shame is that it too so long to get here.
With the new story beginning, this issue acts as a good jumping on point for new readers. At the same time, any lapsed readers might want to give it another shot. Things are definitely looking up.