First came ''Buffy: Season 8.'' Now Joss Whedon's literary universe expands further with ''Angel: After the Fall.'' But does the new book deliver? PLUS: A new Dan Dare adventure

By EW Staff
Updated December 05, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, Franco Urru
(Monthly; issue No. 1 is on sale now)
Hot on the heels of Dark Horse’s acclaimed and best-selling Buffy: Season 8 comic book series written and overseen by Joss Whedon, IDW Publishing now comes out with Angel: After the Fall, a funnybook vision of what that show’s season 6 would have been. Only co-plotted and blessed by Whedon, the comic picks up in the aftermath of the canceled show’s famous cliffhanger/not-a-cliffhanger finale, with the vigilante vamp backed into a corner, determined to fight off the demon hordes unleashed by the diabolical Wolfram & Hart, forever and ever and always. Here, we learn that Buffy’s ex-boyfriend survived this onslaught of apocalypse — but Los Angeles has not. In fact, the City of Angels has been turned into a literal hell on earth, divvied up by demons engaged in a brutal turf war. Angel does his best to help the human souls stuck in this hellacious jam, assisted by old allies Connor, Gunn, and one big-ass fire-breathing dragon. Fret not, girls: Spike turns up in issue 2. FOR FANS OF… Nostalgia, winky-shlocky horror, good vamp-on-bad vamp action, and, of course, all things Whedon. DOES IT DELIVER? Just like Angel the TV show was always a good-but-not-great little brother to the superior flagship Buffy show, Angel: After the Fall is an adequate companion piece to the Buffy: Season 8 series. But I have quibbles. Scripter Brian Lynch does an okay job replicating Whedon’s banter, though sometimes it feels forced. The L.A.-gone-to-hell angle is clever, but it’s still same old, same old Angel, defending his city from Wolfram & Hart insanity, and that was already getting old by the end of the show. Fans will surely get a fuzzy thrill out of seeing Angel and company back in action, and in official ”canon” stories, no less. But it would be nice if it tried to be a little more interesting. B- — Jeff Jensen

Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine
(Monthly; issue No. 1 is on sale now)
Once upon a time, one of Earth’s most decorated Space Fleet captains, the inimitable Dan Dare, would save the world from intergalactic thugs more times than the Milky Way has planets. These days, the retired officer — ruggedly handsome, like an English, bomber-jacketed Marlboro Man — spends his days taking strolls, enjoying a pint or two, and of course living on an entirely different planet. (That nuclear war which resulted in America and China destroying each other apparently didn’t sit too well with the dude.) But one never loses one’s ties to home, he learns, when Britain’s embattled prime minister arrives with news that a series of attacks on Fleet ships may be orchestrated by Mr. Dare’s old alien arch-nemesis, The Mekon. FOR FANS OF… Buck Rogers; creator Frank Hampson’s original Dan Dare DOES IT DELIVER? This new title for Virgin Comics is actually a bygone favorite. Still, boldly rebooting a respected English serial could just as easily be a clumsy move by the fledgling imprint, which tends to shill their comics as movie properties… before actually crafting decent stories. (And since you’re asking: Yup, they’re said to be developing a Dare flick.) So far, their gambit is paying off. The characteristically heavy-handed Ennis — famed for his gloriously bloody-and-bawdy supernatural Western Preacher, and for arguably riding that one-trick pony one too many times — shows remarkable restraint, propelling this action-adventure with plot-driven, no-nonsense storytelling. (Erskine’s crisp, bright panels, paired with Bryan Talbot’s Technicolor cover, certainly doesn’t hurt either). Whether the Irish writer can continue to tame himself: That will be Dan Dare’s ultimate challenge. B+ — Nisha Gopalan