Until yesterday I had never read a graphic novel. I've sold a gazillion of them. I've rolled my eyes as I listened to geeks--uh, I mean customers, employees, and yes, friends, debate DC vs. Marvel, extol the genius of Kirby and R. Crumb and Harvey Pekar, and leave the damn things lying all over my store. But I had never read one.
I am a deeply committed fan of Joss Whedon and his Buffyverse. I've watched all 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer through, start to finish, a half dozen times. Ditto for the mere 5 seasons of Angel. I own--and have read--several books on the philosophy and literary merit of BTV. I also own an episode by episode guide to the show, which I dip into when I'm between watchings. I even bought The Long Way Home, the first installment of season 8 of BTV, when it came out in a one volume comic book earlier this year. ..but I didn't read it, because when I tried I was confused by the format. Yeah, I've read Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow, I've read Barth and Robbe-Grillet and Borges and Camus. I've read realists and surrealists and minimalists and existentialists and nihilists, Victorians, Moderns, and post-Moderns. I've read literature with a big L. I've read in pretty much all the fiction genres. And yet I couldn't figure out how to read a comic book.
But a few days ago my friend Cameron lent me After the Fall, and the book was so very pretty, and I love Angel so very much, that I decided to give it a shot.
It was awkward at first, hard to develop a rhythm, to know which way my eyes should move across the page. But the story was good, and the pictures were really cool, so I kept at it. After a little while I discovered that I actually am smart enough to read a comic book. Good for me! I discovered that if you can watch TV you can read a comic book.
The action picks up some time after the all-too-soon end of the series on TV. We quickly learn that Wolfram and Hart has sent the entire city of Los Angeles to hell, where it is now divided into fiefdoms of enslaved humans, ruled by demon lords. Almost all of the old players are back, resurrected from the dead in some cases--but that's old hat for seasoned slayerettes like us. Joss Whedon's genius is evident throughout After the Fall--he's credited as having "plotted" it, while Brian Lynch--new to the Buffyverse as a player, but a fan of long-standing--is the writer. Everything we expect from a Whedon venture--snappy dialogue, outrageous plot twists that somehow work, over-the-top characters who yet have depth and life--is here.
As I would after the cliffhanger episode that comes before a break, I eagerly await the next installment of season 6 of Angel. Don't get me wrong; I'm not going to start haunting the Graphic Novel section in the store. In fact, I may never read a graphic novel outside of the Buffyverse again. But I sure as hell will read The Long Way Home now, and I'll read any new Buffy/Angel stories that come out.