A new creative team takes the reigns from Bryan Edward Hill for a one-off detective story before Zac Thompson takes over for the next arc of BOOM! Studios' Angel reboot, currently retitled as Angel & Spike. Writer Adam Smith is joined by artist Piotr Kowalski, colorist Mattia Iacono, and letterer Ed Dukeshire for Angel & Spike #13. It reimagines the vampire with a soul as having been inactive Los Angeles for a long, long time rather than heading thereafter becoming a hero in Sunnydale like in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show. Now, with Hill's run wrapping up sooner than expected and Thompson's about to start, does this one-shot work as a palette cleanser?
Adam Smith's script for Angel & Spike #13 would have been decent if it were a genre detective story not tied to any existing characters. However, Angel's voice is so far off from the iconic character that it becomes difficult to invest in the story. Spike's voice is much better, though he, unfortunately, doesn't have much of a role to play in this issue besides one quippy scene and a twist at the end. The writing also often used commas where periods should have been so frequently, often once per bubble, that it made some of the dialogue difficult to follow, but that is a small quibble in comparison to the characterization and voice. Before anything else, a licensed comic should capture the essence of the original story's characters. BOOM! Studios' setting Angel & Spike as a reboot does make that a more difficult goal to achieve, but the other spinoff Willow has rebooted Willow Rosenberg with beautiful results. Not so with this issue of Angel & Spike.
This one-shot, sadly, is a miss not only because of the writing but the artwork as well. Again, Kowalski's art would have made this a fine story if it weren't an established character because the Angel he draws doesn't look like any character from the show. The likeness isn't paramount in licensed comics, but capturing the essence of a character certainly is. In the previous two runs of Angel comics from IDW and Dark Horse, artists Franco Urru and Rebekah Isaacs captured Angel perfectly using their own style without recreating a perfect image of David Boreanaz. While Kowalski's art isn't bad by any stretch, nor is Iacono's colors, this looks nothing like the world of Angel as any fan of the show or previous comics would know it. Dukeshire's letters are the strongest aspect of the issue, with captions that fit the palette of the pages well and a font that adds a slightly indie feel to the issue.
Angel & Spike #13 misses the mark, but will still deliver an entertaining ride to those looking for a detective story… just not one starring Angel and Spike.