Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Of all the love for the underdog vigils that I maintain (did that even make sense?), there’s probably no line of fiction that I support more devoutly than Joss Whedon’s Angel.

Everyone loves Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. What’s not to love? The show is funny, exciting, heartwarming and challenges all sorts of gender stereotypes. It’s a fantastic show. When I originally heard there was going to be a spin-off show and that the cast would consist of Angel, Cordelia and Wesley, my first thought was: “Who are the three characters on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer that I care least about?”

Oh have I changed my tune. I’d have to say that these are now my three favorite characters in the Buffy-verse.

You’ll find that Angel fans are as staunchly devoted as Firefly fans. Admittedly, Angel might not always have gotten the same love and support that Buffy got as a character and as a series. Whedon admitted that it was tough for him to write someone who was the polar opposite of Buffy: masculine, brooding, dark and tortured.

But over time, I think they kind of got the essence of what Angel and his story is really about.

I’d like to think that whatever challenge Buffy faces--whether it’s fighting a big monster, growing up and taking on additional responsibilities or just figuring out how to be in a relationship with someone--she’s going to overcome it. That’s life and that’s what Buffy does. She grows, she changes and she faces whatever comes along.

Angel? I wouldn’t say anything really triumphant comes along for the guy.

There's no big climactic, overcoming-of-the-evil, no big reward that Angel gets when the dust has settled and it’s all over. Angel doesn’t end up finding some great way to reconcile the difficult challenges in his life with his personal issues. Buffy capitalizes on all of her strengths by the end of the show. Angel? Life sort of happens to Angel and he’s just got to keep coping as best he can.

If Buffy's task is near impossible, Angel’s task is impossible. Like I said, there’s no reward waiting for him; only the faint glimmer of a hope that maybe, somehow, someway, he could be forgiven for all the bad he’s done by the good he’s trying to do.

Many people were upset with the sudden end of the show and I think the fact that it wasn’t given that one final season Whedon asked for was tragic. I would have loved to see what he did with it. I admit, I wasn’t thrilled with the final episode either. At first. In time, the final scene in Angel--while perfectly ambiguous--has come to represent to me the essence of what the show is about. Angel and his allies face overwhelming and insurmountable odds with practically no hope of surviving. In fact, everything they’ve done hasn’t been to defeat evil. They CAN’T defeat evil. All they can do is show evil that they won’t stop fighting no matter what.

See, that's the point of the show. It’s better to fight than to fade away. Even if it's an impossible task, somehow, Angel finds the strength and the willpower to keep going. His life might be an endless riddle that he can’t solve, but even in that life he can find meaning and purpose. Even in the worst circumstances, where so many others would give in to despair, Angel chooses to hope and keep fighting, even if it is hopeless to do so. It’s better to believe in good at all costs even if it doesn’t exist.

I’d like to think every hardcore Angel fanboy out there caught a glimpse of this in the show and that's what they latched on to. That's what made it a little something different than Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, what distinguished him as a character and the premise of the show as separate from the other. I was of course stoked when Angel season six (AKA Angel: After the Fall) started getting published. It’s a pretty whacked out story arc, but I think it’s a fitting finale for the Angel tale.

Introducing Angel as ‘twilight’ in Buffy Season 8 was somewhat more controversial. In fact, everything that’s happened in that comic has seemingly solidified most Buffy fans hatred of Angel. I find this deliciously perfect for the character, however. I sort of love that that’s what it’s always like: if you’re watching or reading Buffy, Angel’s actions seem deplorable. Or at the very least, questionable. He’s more of a liability than an asset most of the time.

If you’re watching or reading Angel (or Angel & Faith) however, you get the other side of the story. Angel’s going through hell, sometimes even literally, trying to make up for all the mistakes that he’s made. I think Whedon sort of keeps things this way on purpose sometimes. It just adds to how alienated and ‘outgunned’ Angel is most of the time. And in a way, the fans kind of become immersed in the Buffyverse by getting different takes on Angel. Hardcore Buffy fans who only read about her and her allies are likely to despise him, while the hardcore Angel fans who read After the Fall are going to stick by him and keep hoping that Angel finds a way through his very difficult path in life.

It’s kind of like breaking the fourth wall a bit; making some of the readers feel like Buffy and the Scoobies and some feeling like Angel and the staff of Angel Investigations. So anyone have an opinion on the guy?