Friday, February 29, 2008

Much, Much Better than "Smile Time"

What Is It?: Spike- Shadow Puppets TPB

Timing: Four/Five months after "Asylum." Directly after "Smile Time."

REVIEW: There aren't many reasons why you shouldn't own "Shadow Puppets." The majority of IDW's previous work on the ANGEL and SPIKE series has been underwhelming, but this is a top notch comic adventure. It's by the same team that delivered Spike- Asylum, which was so good that Joss Whedon, after reading it, recruited writer Brian Lynch and penciller Franco Urru to write the long awaited canonical continuation to "Angel the Series." Even if you didn't like "Smile Time," the Angel episode that this miniseries was a sequel to, you will absolutely love this book. Me? I hated "Smile Time." It was one of the worst episode of the series. But "Shadow Puppets" is one of my favorite comics, mostly because some stuff just works better in comics. But that isn't the only reason why.

Brian Lynch's comics are some of the most layered that I've read. The panels erupt with pop culture references, character moments, and in jokes aplenty. The commentary in the back will help you catch each of these little tidbits, which makes this series even more enjoyable. Another great thing about this is that it's very, very focused, nailing home a central theme with every page, giving Spike some very essential character development. Speaking of our leather-clad ensouled vampire, Lynch continues to perfect Spike's voice, especially with the internal narration that drives this book along. Both Spike and Lorne are more in-character than anything we've seen from IDW before (expect Asylum, which also captures them great), though I would have liked to see Spike say "wee little puppet man" about five less times. That Trots was brutally beat to death.

I did enjoy Asylum more, but that's only because Asylum was more consistent. The first three issues of "Shadow Puppets" are perfect, but then issue four feels WAY overstuffed. The jokes from the scene where Spike fights puppet versions of his friends all--oddly--seemed to fall flat, and the whole scene feels distinctly crammed. After the fight is over, things slow down and Brian brings the series to a close with a great final few pages, which ties the theme up nicely and almost makes up for the first half of the issue. As far as other negatives, there really aren't any, except a continuity error. A flashback shows a post-Asylum scene with Beck and says that it happened five months ago. Then, Lorne references the events of Asylum as happening four months ago. It had been pointed out by numerous fans and should have really been fixed for this TPB version, but as far as errors go, it's easily forgivable.

It's not as dark or consistent as Lynch's "Asylum," but I don't think it was meant to be. What it is is funny, light, and really kind of poignant in a few spots. Overall, it is a must-have for any Buffyverse fan.

Art: Franco is such a badass. I was so impressed by his art in "Asylum" that I was a bit iffy about his stuff in "Shadow Puppets." But then I compared both of them and saw that Franco's art from Shadow Puppets is even BETTER. It was just that I was so surprised to get such perfecty quality art in "Asylum" (the previous Buffyverse art had been not-so-much), that I expected each page to be like a fresh orgasm. Well, now that I'm taking a closer look, it's orgasmy enough for me. Franco's covers are all frame-worthy and his panels carry Brian's meaty story with slick skill.
Special Features: Lynch is the master of comic special features. The commentary is hilarious and damn generous. We get comments on almost every page, which rocks. A lot of in-jokes are revealed, and it gives a nice context to some of the dialogue some may have missed. Also, we get some info on scenes that could have happened but didn't. Add that to a full cover gallery (the regs, the variants, the one super variant, and crabnabbit! even a few sketch covers!) and you've got one happy Buffyverse fan. Everyone. Beg Brian to write the "Spike- After the Fall" series he mentioned. Please. It must be done. With Beck and Tok!

Characters We Know: Spike, Lorne, Ratio Hornblower, The Gentlemen. We also get dream versions of some characters and puppet versions of others, and those include: Angel, Wesley, Illyria, Angelus, Fred, Connor, Cordy, Gunn. We also get hilarious call backs to Andrew and Buffy.

Lynchverse Characters We Know: Betta George, Beck, assorted Mosaic patients

Rating: 8/10

Other Shat Pand Reviews, and... (as you all know by now) A Huge Crossover Event

A few bits o' news.

1. By request, here is a review I did of "The Origin" a while ago. Click meh!

2. Again, by request.... here are some other reviews I've done that do and don't fit in with the topic of this site. If you shop on Amazon, you might have (but probably not) seen some of these. But here is my Amazon review profile: Click meh (as helpful!)

3. Yeah, it's a few days old. Yeah, I knew about it a few days ago. Yeah, I posted about it on Facebook and debated elsewhere before posting it here. Yeah, I'm lazy and all that. Yeah, yeah yeah. Click the cover on the right. Remember how much Jon Foster sucked at covers (with the sole exception of #12)? Well... Jo Chen still does the opposite of suck. Well... actually the opposite of suck is literally blow if you think about it, but she doesn't blow. She rocks. She is the opposite of... things not rock-like. But yeah, that's the cover for #16 and its her triumphant return to the making of Buffy covers.

....and yeah, that's Buffy fighting Fray. The description of the issue, provided by SlayAlive, is as follows:

July trumpets the return of Jo Chen, but also heralds the return of both Karl Moline and Fray to the Buffyverse! The Buffster squares off against her futuristic descendant in this four-part arc by Joss Whedon and Karl Moline, who first collaborated in 2003's Fray mini-series.

Hoah yeah! So we've got Moline doing the arc, Joss writing, and both Buffy and Fray starring. I couldn't be happier we've got Moline for this, but how cool would it be if the "back in the present" scenes are pencilled by Georges. Very cool, methinks.

So lets look at what we've got coming up.


March 5th: Buffy #12 (Big surprise!)

Mid/Late March: Angel- After the Fall #5 (Two days are up, Angel)

April 2nd: Buffy #13 (Drac's back)

Mid/Late April: Angel- After the Fall #6, First Night 1 (We see how Connor, Lorne, and Spike's spent their first night in Hell)

May 7th- Buffy #14 (Hypno Dawn stomps shit)

Mid May- Angel- After the Fall #7, First Night 2 (Wes gets ghosty)


Angel- After the Fall #8, First Night 3 (Conclusion)

Angel- After the Fall #9 (back to the main story)

Buffy #15 (Peace, Drew)


Buffy #16 (Hey, Fray)

(probably) Angel- After the Fall #10


Friday, February 22, 2008

Sla, sla, sla, sla, slayin' alive, slayin' alive...

SlayAlive is quickly becoming the most interesting site on the web, other than Whedonesque, which is pretty much THE Buffyverse site. But yeah, you can't get much more interesting than the SlayAlive/BCC cover competition for "After the Fall." Two covers--in their full color--were released today; the cover for the last minute #6 contest and the cover for the #7 contest.

Click the link to check it out.

Verdict: Cool stuff, of course. Gotta be the funnest contest ever. Thing is, you can kinda tell that #6 was done in a rush. What's up with Lorne, Spike, and (to a lesser extent) Connor's faces? They look schfifty-five years old. But, considering the last-minuteness of the contest, it's good.

And that Wesley cover makes up for the ehhness of the #6 cover. Gadzooks, that's awesome. Though the colorist could have made Wes's jacket the actual color it was supposed to be. But other than that, it's by FAR the best SlayAlive cover so far. Click the link maddafakaz.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

SPECULATION for After the Fall #4

This will be extremely spoilery, so HIGHLIGHT the text to read:

Wesley ain't gone. It seems as if he is somehow tied to Wolfram and Hart so, now that it's all sorts of blown to bits, he's disappeared. Thing is, though... what would be the reason of having him back and introducing the whole interesting "Should we trust Wes" plot line, just to have him *bloop* disappear after four issues. Wouldn't happen. My speculation is that when he does come back, he'll be corporeal. Wolfram and Hart learns from their mistakes, and keeping him linked so closely to the building--a finite thing, both Gunn and the Beast would testify to that--was a huge mistake.

It looks like those demons Lorne showed Angel are the champions that the Lords of LA chose. That means Angel is going to have to fight She-Skip (He-Skip was a badass, holy crap), a T-Rex, and some demon so strong that the Lord keeps it handcuffed.

Brian confirmed on the Dark Horse boards that Spike's weapon is NOT Fray's scythe. Could be that Spike fashioned a lookalike for himself. Thing does work damn well. About Spike time-slipping because of being all close to Illyria... I can't really comment, as I simply have no idea where that's going. Brian also said Illyria is going to be in #5, so maybe her time-slipping will help with the fight.

Spike will absolutely be the champion Illyria picks to "fight" Angel. It'll be the reason why they're fighting on the cover of #5. BUT... methinks Spike will--as he does--turn at the last moment, showing he was on Angel's side all along (sort of like Cartman in the Wal-Mart episode). So I'm guessing the fight will be Angel, Groosalug, Spike, and MAYBE GUNN (who wants to kill Angel himself) facing off against the LA Lord's champions. Big blowout, much?

Ah, speculation, I barely knew thee...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yes... It IS Out

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #4 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch).

Timing: Directly follows "After the Fall #3"

Warning: The bigger spoilers will be written in black text. Simply highlight to read. As this is a review, there will be some minor "spoilers" sprinkled throughout the text that don't warrant being hidden. If you have not read the issue and don't want to know anything about the plot, don't read this. Spoilers for previous issues will obviously not be covered.

REVIEW: With the way the third issue ended, the month we had to wait until this was released was torture. As soon as you crack open the first page of this comic, you'll get two things you've been waiting for. We get a glimpse at the actual alley fight, see what happened to Angel the moment he was sent to hell, the moment he discovered that he was human, and directly after that, we get an explanation as to why Angel is what he is and who made him that way. Helluva lotta answers for the first few pages, right?

Something I noticed about the second scene of the book (another Wesley/Angel healing scene) was that there was almost a bit too much comedy. There is a scene where some mystical women (the angel-like creatures from Robinson's #4 cover) appear to Angel and Wesley, and Wesley assumes that they are there to take him to the afterlife. His voice is quite surprisingly out of character at the moment--not because Wes can't be funny, because he can ("TV priviledges") but simply because the voice is off. It's the first moment in the entire series that I've noticed a voice other than Gwen's being out-of-character, so it's really just a minor quibble, but it was enough to notice.

The story is progressingly nicely as Lynch both adds new elements and continues on the plot established in #3 when Angel issued a challenge to the lords. Now, as all of you have seen the cover to Issue #5, it's not a surprise that Lorne was re-introduced in this issue. While I'm not keen on his wardrobe, his voice couldn't have been more perfect if Andy Hallet was next to me, reciting the lines in my ear in full Lorne make-up. The issue, up until that point, had a strong start (the alley scene), a mediocre middle (the Wes/Angel scene, and then the Spike/Spider scene), but a strong, strong middle-end. The Lorne pages were a joy to read. There was a lot of insight into the character and where his head is at in this post-NFA world, and I also "laughed out loud" quite a few times. Towards the end of the Lorne scene, the Mystery Man from Urru's #5 cover is revealed to be (SPOILER:) Groosalug. Don't say I didn't tell you. Groo's dialogue is also perfect, especially with his opening lines, "I assure you, my glimmering hope is so large, it eclipses the sun and the moon! Angel! Wesley! Oh, this is the day of days!"

Another thing I was estatic to see was more Gunn. Our new favorite soulless vampire was absent from Issue #3, which was a bit of a downer since his scenes from #2 were so damn intriguing. But yeah, he's back in an explosive way this issue, as you might have noticed from him, you know, being on the cover and all. We're getting great villain!Gunn stuff, but there's also glimmers of the old Gunn in there, quite similar--but even more tragic--than what we saw in Issue #2. There should have been a little tissue insert on one of the pages, because woah. Sad factor is HIGH there.

Good end. I can't see why it was advertised as having a bigger, more shocking ending than #3, because... no. It was big and shocking, but it wasn't "We've known Angel as an ensouled vamp for ten years, but now he's a human." But it's big. And it's cliff-hangery. And it isn't completely 'verse altering, which is good. It was very appropriate for the story.

Art: Inside stuff is good. I feel like Franco isn't detailing the panels as much as he used to, and the "wide-shots" are still a rather large problem. There's some really, really good stuff, but some not-so-good too. So for Franco, overall I'd say good but not perfect. His cover, however, couldn't have been better. Great stuff. I want that Gunn image as a friggin' over-sized poster. But, on the other hand, we've got Andrew Robinson's cover. I don't know if he MEANT to show us Ricky Martin with size 46 shoes being taken away by blue female gargoyles, but that's really, really how it came out. I can't see how this cover is at all passable. While I can't say I was estatic for his #3 cover, it is a masterpiece compared to this cover. I DO like the way the colors look, with the deep blues, light blues, and golden bottom, but the actual characters? Come on, Robinson. Or rather, come on somebody else. Please. Please bring on a different cover artist. When you compare Franco's stunning Gunn image to this Robinson piece... Scratch that, you don't compare. You just glance and are automatically won over by Franco's.

Characters We Know: Angel, Wesley, Gunn, Lorne, Spike, Groosalug, Loan Shark, Dragon

Lynchverse Characters We Know: Spider

Speculation: Eeek! Gotta go to work. I'll make a separate entry for this. Try to ignore my spelling, as I have no time to check it! Away! Fly, you fools!

Rating: 9/10

Friday, February 15, 2008

It would be nice... know when ANGEL #4 is coming out.

In other news, a lot of new stuff has been released recently. I'll link you to all the sites for the various covers and images.

Cover to Buffy #14 by Jon Foster [AWESOME RATING: 0/5. We don't even get a freaking face. There is nothing that separates this from any other comic cover. I was pleased with Foster's #12, but he's been turning out garbage ever since. Can't wait until Jo Chen comes back for #16.]

Variant Cover to Buffy #14 by Georges Jeanty [AWESOME RATING: 2/5. Why the same exact concept? Well, at least it isn't ugly. And we even get a face!]

A Page from Spike's "First Night" Story by David Messina [AWESOME RATING: 5/5. Messina's best work ever. I'm the first to point out how not-so-good his work on the earlier Angel comics has been, but this is a perfect page. One of the best I've seen from AFTER THE FALL, which is saying quite a lot. And the award for most improved goes tooooooo.... MR. MESSINA!!!!]

A Page from Wesley's "First Night" Story by Nick Runge [AWESOME RATING: 5Million/5. Okay, I'm biased. It's Wesley. It's Wesley and Fred. But damn that's a good page. DAMN that's a good page.]

A Page from Lorne's "First Night" Story by Jon Byrne (now in color, though the text is gone) [AWESOME RATING: 1/5. Byrne is famous and all, but I'm just not liking this page. The style is very cartoony, and though it is about Lorne...who is a singing green guy with horns... the style just doesn't fit ANGEL.)

The Cover to Angel #6 (the first part of "First Night") [AWESOME RATING: 4/5. When it's pared with the cover for #7, which is the other half of it, this is probably the best painted cover we've gotten from AFTER THE FALL so far.]

ALSO, big thing about "First Night." It's no longer just two issues. It will consist of THREE issues. That's right, "Angel: After the Fall 6-8" will be the First Night arc. For all those worrying that too much time will be spent AWAY from the main "After the Fall" story (left off in Issue #5), I wouldn't worry. Chris Ryall has stated that "After the Fall #9," the one picking up on the main story will likely be released TWO WEEKS (not a month) after #8, which will conclude the "First Night" arc.

For anyone interested in the SLAYALIVE Angel Interaction contest, keep checking out the site. The cover for #6 will be revealed soon, according to CowboyGuy, the site moderator.

Some stuff coming soon on this site will be:

+ A review of the "Shadow Puppets" TPB.
+ A huge list of videos of Buffyverse related people and other comic reviews.
+ A review of TFAW's "Nick and Dent" program
+ *crosses fingers* The review for After the Fall #4.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Master is Back

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #11: A Beautiful Sunset (written by Joss Whedon)

Timing: BtVS Season Eight, short while after "Anywhere But Here"

REVIEW: He's back. He's really back.

Joss, that is.

There was a mixed response to his work on "The Long Way Home," which was understandable because it was a season premiere. Joss never did well with season premieres. I rated the overall arc a 9/10 because, when put against the first episodes of Season One-Seven, there was no comparison. "The Long Way Home" was probably the best season-opener in BtVS. However, there were some things that weren't so shiny about that arc. Issue #4 wasn't as good as I would have hoped, and the "Warren never died" blunder was really egrh. Then, Joss put out the first one-shot, "The Chain." People either loved it or really disliked it and, in retrospect, I'm in the latter category. It was, in my opinion, a badly executed non-linear story. Then, we got some more Joss Whedon work through his little Sugar Shock mini-series, which is by far the worst thing he's ever written. Well, "least great" is a better term, because nothing Joss touches is bad, but... yeah, actually, Sugar Shock was pretty bad.

People were getting worried. Some weren't, but hey, I was a little iffy, especially when Brian K. Vaughan came on board and blew Joss's arc out of the water with "No Future For You." Then, Joss came back and finally hit a home run with "Anywhere But Here." Was it a fluke?

Nah. Joss scores another 100 points for this one-shot comic, "A Beautiful Sunset," which has a lot of stuff we've been waiting a long time for. Buffy fights the Big Bad of the season for the first time, we get a lot of development on the "Satsu Loves Buffy" storyline, and a lot of cool character moments in the beginning and the end (the eye-weller of a scene where the injured Buffy and Satsu lean against a grave after the climactic fight). Also, there's some vamp slayage, something the series has been sorely missing.

Overall, this is what you've come to expect from Joss, the man who brought us episodes like "Becoming," "The Gift," "Chosen," etc. While the issue may not be as BIG as those ones I just mentioned, it succeeds brilliantly in what it is trying to be. It's big on character development, plot-set up, drama, and humor, all of which Joss is the master of. If this is only the fifth episode of the season (figure it out), this is looking to be by far the strongest since Season Five.

Art: Great stuff. Jeanty nails every character, as usual. I've noticed that he is better than many, many comic artists in 'long-shots,' to use a television term. He--unlike any Buffyverse artist we've seen so far--keeps the details and proportions of faces and bodies perfectly in tact, even when we are seeing them from a distance. I couldn't be happier with him as the series artist, because after Cliff Richard's average work in "Anywhere But Here," I found myself genuinely missing Jeanty's wonderful art.

Characters We Know: Buffy, Xander, Dawn, a few unnamed slayers seen during "Chosen" (such as softball girl!), Rona, Caleb

Season Eight Recurring Characters We Know: Satsu, Twilight, Simone, Leah, Renee, Lieutenant Molter

Speculation (highlight to read): I so thought Twilight was about to be revealed, unmasked. Tricksy, sneaky, Whedonses! But yeah, this pretty much tells us that Twilight is someone I know. The most popular choice seems to be Riley, who would make sense, considering the whole government thing. Other people have said Caleb, based on the fact that Twilight recognized the move Buffy tried to make with the scythe, which was the same move that killed Caleb in "Chosen." Other people are throwing down the idea that it is Angel, but that theory doesn't even deserve to be mentioned, so forget I said it. We will speak of it no more! Spit! Who do I think Twilight is? Could be Ethan Rayne, carrying out an elaborate scheme, but it wouldn't make sense for his character. Could be Riley, but I don't know if I'd like that. Joss would have to sell the story HARD. I hope it's not any of the previous Big Bads, because villains should only get one chance at being a Big Bad. It's not something you get to do twice. Another alright idea is that it is Graham, but that would sorta be anti-climatic.... Well, we'll see. ALSO, looks like Buffy/Xander as a couple is down the tubes. *Mouths: yesssss*

Rating: 10/10

Friday, February 1, 2008

Let's take a minute...

Let's take a minute to reflect on what's coming up this year, because... a whole lotta stuff is on the way.

+ Buffy Omnibus, Volume Three... it's out already. It wasn't advertised that well, since Dark Horse is STILL saying it came out two days ago. Well, seeing as I got it a week ago, that is false. Also, I got it in a major book store chain, and those always get trade paperbacks delivered AFTER comic shops do. So, I'd wager the omnibus came out January 17th in comic shops and the following Friday in bookstores. Thanks, Dark Horse. They're on top of their game with comic release dates, but they've been horrible with trade paperback dates. They gave us an ever-changing and ultimately WRONG release date for the "The Long Way Home" TPB and now this? Come on, guys... If I hadn't stopped to put the Buffy TPBs in order (OCD?) at the bookstore, I would have NEVER noticed the "Volume 3" on the bottom of the book.

NOTE: TFAW says it was released the 10th... but they're hardly ever right. They've been consistently saying that the "After the Fall" comics come out a week later than they have been.

That being said, let's get into upcoming dates you'll want to remember.

Feb 6th: Buffy, Season Eight #11: A Beautiful Sunset
*Feb 20th: Angel, After the Fall #4
Mar 5th: Buffy, Season Eight #12: Wolves at the Gate, part I
*Mar 19th: Angel, After the Fall #5
Apr 2nd: Buffy, Season Eight #13: Wolves at the Gate, part II
Apr 16th: Angel, After the Fall #6: First Night, Part I
May 5th: Buffy Omnibus: Volume Four
June 4th: BtVS Season Eight, Volume Two: No Future For You TPB

*tentative, based on how they have been released thus far

Other small tidbits of news...

1. It looks like the After the Fall story arc-within-a-series "First Night" is going to be expanded. On his blog, Chris Ryall said that it started as a standalone, expanded into a two-issue story arc, and now looks like it is going to be three issues. The comic details what happened to the characters on their first night in Hell. Ryall said that "After the Fall #9" will go back to the main plot we've been reading about in Issues 1-5. He also went on to say that, so we won't be away from the main plot for that long, the 9th issue will likely be released TWO WEEKS after the 8th issue (which will conclude the First Night arc), instead of one month.

2. Pre-order Brian Lynch's new comic miniseries "Everybody's Dead" here.

3. Dark Horse has advised comic shops to order more copies of Buffy #12 because something huge will happen in that issue. Anyone who wants to discuss what they think this is can do so in the COMMENTS section. Except don't say things like "Buffy will be sired!" Intelligent theories only. Truly, why would Joss vamp Buffy when he and Brian just vamped Gunn! It would be the same story. Other than that, discuss away!