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

22 comments:

Ken said...

I'd love to join the conversation over at whedonesque, but alas I'm not a member. Is it merely a coincidence that virtually at the same moment Angel loses his vampire mojo, Gunn becomes one? When the demon was removed from Angel, did it go for the first dead (or dying) body it found? Gunn?

PatShand said...

I don't think so. Remember, Spike said that Gunn was vamp food in the second issue. That means that Angel and Spike know he was bitten, but they just think he's dead.

Matt said...

I also don't think it works that way, as far as "the demon" jumping from Angel and moving to someone else. We've seen Angel become human a couple times (once?) and the vampire just sort of vanishes.

Personally, and I know that this is completely contradicted by Angel's dialogue in this issue, but I like to think that Angel IS human because of the prophecy. The thing I hated most from Not Fade Away was that Angel signed away his redemption; even I though I know the significance as far as the story goes, I always thought it would have been rather easy to explain ("Haha, the Black Circle was just TESTING you, Angel. You didn't REALLY think that signing a piece of paper would do anything, did you?") I kinda think it makes things even more ironic if Angel's humanity isn't Wolfram and Hart punishing Angel, but rather the Powers finally rewarding him at the exact worst time possible. So, in my mind, until a character more well-informed than Angel (who seems to just be speculating) says that it was indeed Wolfram and Hart that restored his humanity, I choose to fan-wank that it he "shanshu'd."

-M

loki-of-aesir said...

Ah, good issue indeed. I'm really missing the nice Chapter [Number]-pages a little bit into each issue that we got in the first two, though. It wasn't in 3, and now not in this one either. Without them, I don't get the "teaser's over, episode's really starting now!"-feeling of adrenaline early on in the issue, which is a shame.

As for Wes - I thought that was a little out of character voice-wise too, but then I looked at it, trying to imagine Denishof blabbering on like that half-way to himself, and... it kinda worked. Not hand-in-glove-fit, but, it didn't jar as much as I thought it did on first impression.

Looking forward to reading your speculations, whenever they might arrive!

loki-of-aesir said...

Matt: I hope he's Shanshu'ed too, and just doesn't know. I think that'd add a lot of interesting depth to what's going on with him. But if he isn't, I'll live and deal and trust Mr. Lynch to get it good anyway. He's not let me down at all so far.

PatShand said...

Matt said: "Personally, and I know that this is completely contradicted by Angel's dialogue in this issue, but I like to think that Angel IS human because of the prophecy. The thing I hated most from Not Fade Away was that Angel signed away his redemption; even I though I know the significance as far as the story goes, I always thought it would have been rather easy to explain ("Haha, the Black Circle was just TESTING you, Angel. You didn't REALLY think that signing a piece of paper would do anything, did you?")

Well... that would kinda be a cop-out. He sacrificed his humanity to kill the Black Thorn, and that just shows how HEROIC he is. Plus, he didn't sacrifice his redemption. His redemption is what he's still doing. Every day he fights, and that in itself is his redemption. The Shanshu was just a light at the end, but it was never synonomous with his redemption.

Matt said: "So, in my mind, until a character more well-informed than Angel (who seems to just be speculating) says that it was indeed Wolfram and Hart that restored his humanity, I choose to fan-wank that it he shanshu'd."

Well... a character more well-informed than Angel DOES agree with Angel. Wesley. Wesley--smart as he is and in the position he's now in--couldn't be MORE well-informed.

As for him being Shanshued... it's not possible. He hasn't Shanshued because (most importantly) of the his explanation AND because the situation doesn't match what's described in the Shanshu Prophecy.

Wesley reads the prophecy and says this: "He has to survive the coming darkness, the apocalyptic battles, a few plagues, and some - uh, several, - not that many - fiends that will be unleashed."

A few of those have happened. But... where are the plagues? Haven't happened.

loki-of-aesir said...

I think you could call the Jasmine-effect a plague of sorts - close enough for an extinct-prophecy-language-translation to warrant the word, anyway.

Still, the plural form does suggest a definite lack of shanshu-potential as of yet.

But I never got how you can sign away a prophecy. A prophecy is something that's supposedly destined to happen. It should be completely independent on whether or not Angel wants it to.

PatShand said...

Loki said: "But I never got how you can sign away a prophecy. A prophecy is something that's supposedly destined to happen. It should be completely independent on whether or not Angel wants it to."

I disagree. If the Black Thorn was as powerful as we were shown in the canon--the power elite behind the TRUE apocalypse, each of them being worthy of Big Bad status on their own--then who is to say that they, as a collective, don't have the power to destroy a prophecy? If one has the power to destroy the world, they most certainly can put an end to a prophecy.

We wouldn't have been shown that scene if it was just going to be a "Whoops! Just a trick!"

Matt said...

"Well... that would kinda be a cop-out. He sacrificed his humanity to kill the Black Thorn, and that just shows how HEROIC he is."

I think that the heroism still stands either way, personally. As far as Angel is concerned, he has given away the thing he was fighting for for the sake of the fight itself. If it turns out that the prophecy was indeed annulled, then it doesn't matter and we can take the scene as face value. But if it wasn't annulled, it doesn't make Angel any less heroic, because he believed that it was annulled, so it's not as though he was calling their bluff.

"Plus, he didn't sacrifice his redemption. His redemption is what he's still doing. Every day he fights, and that in itself is his redemption. The Shanshu was just a light at the end, but it was never synonomous with his redemption."

Okay, I'll cop to that one.

"Well... a character more well-informed than Angel DOES agree with Angel. Wesley. Wesley--smart as he is and in the position he's now in--couldn't be MORE well-informed."

I agree that Wesley is infinitely more-informed than Angel, but I don't think he knows everything.

-M

PatShand said...

Wes doesn't know everything, but now he knows some of what W & H is up to. Take the scene where he walks over to Angel in #4 when Angel first realizes he is a human. Wes is not all surprised to see Angel broken, breathing. He knows what has happened, because W&H did it; and he knows that because now he has to "work" for them, even if he's not working FOR them.

loki-of-aesir said...

I have to agree with Matt - the scene is just as powerful (in some ways maybe actually even more so) even if it did nothing to destroy the prophecy. Angel believed it did, which is all that matters.


As for destroying a prophecy - this would depend on the rules of the 'verse, which have (purposefully) never been very well mapped out. But as a reader of a lot of fantasy-literature, prophecies are kind of segmented in my mind as the one thing that cannot be thwarted, even by the gods themselves. The entire point of a prophecy is that it says what will happen, but does so in a way that's so vague or misleading it means anything can happen anyway. It's a beautiful balance between total free will and total determinism. Destroying the world is just one action within the scope of time. There is nothing inherently different in destroying, say, a vase and destroying a world, it's just a matter of size. A prophecy, on the other hand, is a description of future events IN the scope of time, and as such can't really be destroyed, logically. Destroying the scrolls of the prophecy should do nothing to destroy the event they describe.

As mentioned, the Slayerverse _might_ have different rules on this - but if they do, they would, to me, be rather counter-intuitive. And nothing we've seen so far (with the obvious exception of the Shanshu-signing) of Slayerverse prophecies indicate it does.

PatShand said...

So do you guys think that this IS the Shanshu in action? Because if so, I'll bet you the shiniest nickle that's ever made a gleam in your eye that it's noooooot. Whadday say, fellas?

loki-of-aesir said...

I think it might be - there are som few subtleties in the comics so far as well as in NFA that may be interpreted like this - but probably isn't. I'd say that a handful of vaguely ambigious remarks I might read too much into isn't enough to believe that this is the Shanshu on. So I don't think it is. I won't bet on it, but I'd say there's a 70% chance it is not the Shanshu.

However, I think it'll very likely be somehow connected to the Shanshu. I think it's likely not to be something W&H did out of nowhere, but rather some form of twist, small writing or hidden clause built on or from the Shanshu.


But all that aside, do I *hope* it's the Shanshu? Yes, though if it is, they'd BETTER explain the plagues-thing. Do I *think* this is the Shanshu? No.

Then again, I spent three issues thinking Angel was a vampire.

PatShand said...

Yeah, Brian and Franco are verrrry tricky. There was a theory that someone posted on LiveJournal after the first issue that Angel had become human. Brian told Franco, who immediately drew a fake panel that showed Angel as a vamp. Brian put it out, and the theory was proven wrong...

...except not REALLY. lol So sneaky. I'm glad they did it, because the end of Issue #3 shocked me soooo much. Loved it.

loki-of-aesir said...

Yup, ditto. I'd actually read the speculation that Angel was a human (I tend not to read up on message board-discussions these days, too time-consuming, so that was blind luck (or bad luck, seeing as it was spoily)) and thought it made perfect sense - but that very same picture threw me off again, too. :)

Thomas said...

Love the Ricky Martin joke re: the cover.

I think my favorite little thing about this issue is all the little random demons hanging out in Silverlake and doing suburban things. The fat grey guy mowing the lawn... the short guy in the beret smoking a cigar... the six-limbed green creature who drops her groceries when Wes suddenly fades out of existence... the friggin' Elvis impersonator behind Lorne when he first appears. And what about the cute little black fuzzballs on the sidewalk when the light blue Acura rolls into Silverlake? So cute!

I'm less pleased by the two random ladies who are sent to summon Angel to Lorne's place. Firstly, they seem a bit gratuitous. Secondly, they talk weird: "We came for you." "For you, Angel. For you." Do they just like repeating themselves? And the whole "walk into the light... blue Acura" joke was just awkward and pointless.

Last, a thing I've been wondering about: What is Angel's meaning when he says to Wes, "It's not hell because of where we are," and then talks about the fact that he's alive? Is he really saying that he finds it hellish to have regained his humanity? And right after that, when he says that the "only way to get out of hell [is to] act like nothing's changed"? What is he talking about? How will that get him out of hell? And which hell will it get him out of -- the hell of being alive, or the hell of being, um, in hell?

Speculations, comments, analysis, anyone?

loki-of-aesir said...

I'm a little puzzled by those comments of Angel's myself, but I assume it's related to his feeling responsible for the general situation and then being additionally saddled with the inability to do anything big to improve upon it.


As for the two girls - they reminded me of/I assumed they were supposed to be like the (whatever they were called) female magicians that among other things cast Lorne's non-violence spell back in the day. Both in appearance, manner and way of talking, they seemed similar. And I did not mind the light-gag, I thought it felt natural to "Angel", though not quite an easy fit in the comic book medium. Still, well enough pulled off.

PatShand said...

Yeah, the "light blue Acura" gag didn't rub me well the first time. On subsequent reads--knowing who sent these girls--I find it hilarious.

Thomas, you comments about them being gratuitous puzzled me a bit. What about them, exactly, is gratuitous?

Thomas said...

What I was thinking of when I wrote "gratuitous" was some feminist readers' reactions to the displays of feminine pulchritude in previous issues, especially in issue 2 where we first see Spike doing his Hugh Hefner thing. I was okay with all that, because those ladies (especially Spider) seem to have a real role in the story and not to just be eye candy. But I do tend to feel a little skeptical and impatient when I think that a scantily clad female character is just there to look pretty and not to have any meaningful role.

The two women in this issue didn't really contribute anything, except for a gag which I wasn't amused by; thus, I found them a bit gratuitous.

loki-of-aesir said...

Honestly, I find it far closer to gratuitous when the story is constructed so that Spike's "cover" forces him to hang out with a lot of pretty women, and that they happen to have a pool-party when Angel comes over. That's shaping the story so that you have an excuse to put lots of pretty women in swimsuits there. It's not necessary to the plot - they could communicate similar situations for Spike to be in a ton of ways that did not include spending several pages in two issues showing girls in swimsuits from a gazillion angles. The same goes for Spike in his casually open robes, really.

Meanwhile, two oracle-like women acting all surreal and bonkers being used as a plot-device to move a character from spot A to B while throwing in a few jokes? That's a nice, okay way of doing something that could easily be a little boring. The concept of pretty, weird, half-clothed females with psychich powers is more or less a mythic archetype. Is it gratuitous? Probably. But it's just there, sprinkled on top. It doesn't make the story jump through its hoops to be there.

I don't find either offensive. I don't know, maybe I'm shallow, maybe I'm just too much of a short-sighted male to realize the enormity of it or something, but I don't find either offensive. If I would, I'd be more offended by the Spike-thing than by this, though.

Still, it tires me. Yes, gratuitous use of pretty women (and men, too) and having them half-dressed for having them half-dressed sake, etc, etc, yes, it's demeaning and quite frankly not that interesting when overdone. The problem is, there's also gratuitous use of violence. Gratuitous use of personal tragedy. Gratuitous use of disfunctional relationships, of betrayals, of friendships, of just about anything. The very essence of telling a story is putting all these things together to make it interesting. Is the semi-nakedness vital to the plot? No. But neither is 90% of the fight-scenes. And do the plot of Angel season 5 really need Wesley to spend so much screen-time dwelling on losing Fred when the plot only needs us to be told he does? Etc, etc, etc, etc.

Everything can be overdone. Including pretty people and unnecessary nudity. I feel that making the plot so that Spike can surround himself with half-naked women for ages and ages is more gratuitous than spicing up a boring transition-scene by putting two wacky pretty women in there for three pages. Both can easily be overdone, but I feel that the latter is something done once in four issues to spice up a boring plot-device, the other is in its very essence something big, something that lasts, something they can spend panels after panels on and put on covers. Is it really less gratuitous because they've sewn it into a sidearm of the plot? I don't really think so. I'm not annoyed with it though, 'cause I still feel they're well within their margins for when it becomes exploitive, speculative and overdone, just as they are with a lot of other things. Of course, everybody's tolerance-levels differ, and I get that some people could be annoyed by something I feel is completely normal. But I have to say, if you're GOING to be upset or even annoyed by this, Spike's team of supermodels and constantly bared torso should be more annoying than some minor characters wearing some waving white cloths.

I think I've gone on and on about this. Sorry. I always end up yapping on when I'm unsure if I'm being clear.

Thomas said...

Very good points, Loki -- far clearer than my own muddled reaction, and I think you're largely right.

loki-of-aesir said...

Yay, then! I re-read my own comment now, I totally should've said this without so many wordy thingies, but I'm glad it still managed to make sense. ^^