Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ain't None Better

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #5 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch.)

Timing: Directly after "After the Fall #4"

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: Wow... That was... That was... Wow. Yeah... "That was wow" pretty much covers it.

And since I didn't just have sex with Satsu, you can assume I'm talking about the fifth issue of "Angel: After the Fall," which just blew away expectations (along with the entire Wolfram and Hart building, mind). The story is fast-paced but well balanced, and the fights--oh there are fights--are action-packed, banter-heavy, and also "internal-dialogue" heavy. As far as the internal dialogue, Brian handles it much, much better in this issue than he did in #3. Every single character except Betta George on Franco's awesome cover (which I'll get into later) is featured in this issue and takes part in the overall awesome spread out over these twenty-two pages.

What makes this issue so awesome? I'll get into that. If you remember, I gave Issues #1 and #2 the "10/10 Classic" rating, which is pretty much the highest I'll give. But then, when #3 and #4 came out, I gave each of those one point lower than the first two issues of the series. They were still awesome and highly deserving of the damn-good 9/10 mark, but when you compared them to the way the series started, they were a bit lacking. #3 was mostly a fight and had way too much internal dialogue (especially in the time-slip scenes, which had PRESENT-Angel thinking, TIMESLIP-Angel thinking, and also Illyria talking) and #4 had some awkwardly written dialogue from Wesley and the Spike/Spider scene read strange the first time around. Everything else in both issues were great, but for an issue to score a 10/10, everything--especially the writing--has to be perfect. And, in short, #5 is a perfect comic.

The pacing is like that of an Angel episode. Quick cuts, all the important stuff happening off screen, all the non-important stuff happening off-screen. If you read Brian's blog, you can see how much thought he put into just that. He talks about how Spike was originally supposed to be wearing a white outfit (as shown on Andrew Robinson's retailer incentive cover), but it was cut for time. Great choice. This issue is packed as it is, and something extra like that would disrupt the balance. Also, Groosalug was originally intended to cut his hair so that people would mistake him for Angel (as shown on Urru's #5 cover), but that was also cut for time. Again, great choice. Really shows the intricacy of the writing process, and how many great ideas may pop up when you're writing something, but--in order to keep something tight--the writer has to only choose what makes sense for the story. I was thrilled to see that Brian had done just that, because I felt his Spike comic "Shadow Puppets #4" suffered from the fact that there were so many good ideas, but they were all there, so everything was kinda a huge onslaught of waytoomuch. But this, this epic story (Angel and co. vs. the champions of the Lords in Hell) is tightly written, the dialogue is fantastic (Gwen and Wesley are once again in character), and the plot developments look to be promising.

My only problem with the comic was that it ended. I wish I was still reading!

Art: Interiors are great. Franco pays much more attention to facial details than he had been doing of late, and his action panels continue to be the best in the biz. The likenesses have improved and he manages to make a panel burst with action without being cluttered. Knowing this is his last Angel issue makes me very, very sad. I've loved what I've seen of Nick Runge (his replacement, starting with #9), but I'm a bit weary. Runge's interior work on Angel #7 (the Wesley panels we've seen) are great, but his cover to #9 is just a reproduction of a picture of David Boreanaz standing in front of the Hell-A landscape. I hope--and trust--that the interiors won't be traced from promotion images. But back to this issue. Franco's interiors are great, though I think the problem with the cover should have been fixed. Andrew Robinson's cover is only a retailer incentive, so it doesn't really matter that Spike is wearing white on it. Plus, it could be taken to the symbolic place easily (and Robinson's cover reflects NOTHING in the issue, so if anything about it would be changed, it wouldn't be Spike's clothing; it would be everything else... I mean, it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue). However, Franco's cover, while it is great, poster/desktop worthy, and all that... should have been edited to reflect Groo's actual appearance. But speaking of covers... I was so glad that Brian didn't reveal that actual B Cover to us. Wrigley's Illyria/Wesley cover is beautiful, and perfectly captures everything I love about Wesley/Illyria, Wesley/Fred. My favorite cover by far and away.

Characters We Know: Wesley, Lorne, Angel, Illyria, Spike, Connor, Gwen, Nina, Gunn, Dragon, Groosalug, and (HUGE, HUGE SPOILER:) Fred

Lynchverse Characters We Know: Lorne's Messengers, Spider, DemonJay & DemonSilent Bob, Timothy, Burge, Loan Shark, all the other LA Lords,

Speculation: Will post in a separate entry

Rating: 10/10 Classic


Anonymous said...

Great issue.So do you think the last page reveal of - - - - is our answer to who the mystery person in issue 7 is?

PatShand said...

Ummmmm perhaps. However, I don't know, because the person drawn on the #7 cover looks nothing like Fred and everything like Cordy.

Loki said...

Loved the issue. But two minor points really bothering me - Lorne who thinks Fred is in Heaven being the smaller of the two. He was never told her soul was destroyed on-screen so I guess it might be no problem at all, but... Makes me worried it's a sympthom of Lynch misremembering "Shells" more than a planned disruptancy in the different characters' depths of knowledge of Fred's death.

The other thing is the shaving-gag. My gods, that was unnecessary, and it bugged me throughout the entire issue and generally damaged my reading experience by rolling around in my head the entire way through. As if there isn't enough vampiric paradoxes in the 'verse, he's going to go add a new one about hair and facial hair for one half-funny line?! That's amateurism totally out of synch with what Lynch has done with the story so far, and it seems so incredibly unnecessary and stupid.

This REALLY bugged me. If it hadn't been there, I'd have utterly loved the issue. Best since #1, without a doubt.

Loki said...

Also, they've by now clearly given up the splashy "Chapter [X]"-pages a short way into each issue for good, which is a darn shame.

PatShand said...

Great posts, Loki.

Shaving thing didn't bother me at all. I do remember one instance where Angelus had a moo-stache, but I'm willing to fanwank that with a "it was a fake" (lol). Thing is, vampires in the Buffyverse shaving isn't logical. They have no reflection, so they should either be perpetually beardy or perpetually bleeding due to shaving accidents. I get what you're saying and it does contradict the "Angelus had a moo-stache" thang, but for me... Eh. I thought it was a cool little preparation scene, and though technically it is kinda strange, eh...

The Fred thing... May be the hopeful Fred-lover in me, but I never believed that a soul could be destroyed. They don't call 'em "immortal souls" for nothing. Souls can't be burned up. Villains (Dr. Sparrow) can SAY anything, but I just don't buy it, and obviously neither Lynch or Lorne do either. I can't see how so many fans (at least 50%) refuse to believe that a Prophecy can be signed away, but so easily accept that a *soul* is (poof) gone.

Take, for example, Angel's soul. Liam was killed, his body taken over by a demon. However, his soul was still out there and was called back to Angel when he was ensouled. Well, Fred was killed, her body taken over by a demon. I totally reject the idea that her soul no longer exists.

Not to mention, I'm not sure that--in the Buffyverse--souls are a person's 'essence.' The term is kinda shifty, because when the writers need a soul to mean "conscience," it means "conscience." When they need it to mean "essence" in the case of "Shells," it means "essence." The whole matter is very foggy, but I'm sure there will be elaboration on it.

What did bother me a little was something I didn't see anyone mention. Angel breaks the fourth-wall. And that just can't happen. He addresses the reader, saying "I was as surprised as you." That either means Angel is acknowledging that he is a fictional character or that the entire "After the Fall" story is being told BY Angel TO someone, both of which I think aren't viable options. If there is *anything* that should have been left out, it should have been that. Thing is, the issue is still more than deserving of 10/10. That's saying a LOT about how awesome the rest of the issue is, because the fourth-wall breakage is the worst mistake we've seen in the comics, so far.

Loki said...

Thanks. ^^

10/10... I usually feel you're a little on the overly rewarding side on your gradings, you're way more frequent on the 9 than I would be, for instance, but I'd probably give this 9,5/10 myself, it was so good. However, it's more of a 9 or 8,5 due to these annoying things.

Angel breaking the fourth wall is annoying, agreed. Not as annoying as the shaving-thing, but bad enough. (If beard doesn't grow, hair doesn't either, which makes Spike and Angelus' different hairstyles through the years quite... unlikely. And do you really think the Prince of Lies died with nails that lenght?)

The soul-issue - Lorne could very well ignore the soul-being-gone-issue. But then he should state so. Angel, Wesley and Gunn all bought into it, as well as (probably) Spike, as he was in on Angel's initial plan to bring it back and at some point must have given this up. If Lorne's opinion differs from theirs, it should be stated. He mentions Fred's heavenly location as a matter of fact. Whether or not a soul CAN be destroyed - and whether or not Fred's soul WAS - is really irrelevant to why Lorne's remark bother me.

That being said, to me it seems a matter of course that a soul could be destroyed by something as powerful as Illyria. I don't see how that's in any way related to a prophecy not being able to being signed away. Prophecies might very well be defied (though they never have been on Buffy or Angel) or proven wrong. But they're descriptions of what will happen. If a block of stone will hit me in the head tomorrow, or someone will sneak into my apartment and leave a million dollars in cash, and this is prophecised, then it will happen (or not happen) completely independent of whether or not I write my name on the piece of paper. I don't see how Angel's signature is related to whether or not the prophecy'll happen. He can probably sign away his reward so that W&H can take it away when it comes. But he can't keep it from coming just by writing his name on the paper. The prophecy isn't a magical contract between him and the universe that he can sign away. He isn't even the only person involved in it.

PatShand said...

Eh. I see where you're coming from with the 9.5 thing, but I don't give .5 marks. One-ten is enough, IMO. The things that you listed--the shaving, for example--didn't bother me in the least. The only thing that did was the fourth wall breakage, but not enough to deduct a point.

As far as the soul/prophecy thing, I disagree fully. Souls are immortal. Can't be destroyed in any way, ever, period. For me, there is no changing that. It's the entire point and idea behind a soul. It's what makes it different from a spirit or a ghost. It's the 'spark,' what gives you life, what IS life. Death has no part in it, so it cannot be destroyed.

However, do I believe that the very power behind the *actual* apocalypse are capable of stopping a prophecy if the one said prophecy concerns signs in blood. No question. Prophecies are often loose descriptions of what will happen, and can be misleading. They, unlike souls, are not forever. They can certainly be signed away, IMO, if there is enough power behind it.

Loki said...

Ah, well, rather 9 than 10 if I'm limited to whole numbers.

"Immortality" isn't a straight-cut concept. It isn't the same as "indestructible", however. It might mean you're impervious to harm, it might mean you don't age, it might mean you can't be killed period, it might mean a score of things. Vampires are frequently described as "immortal". They can quite clearly be ended. There is no immanent reason why souls should be so fundamentally different from other things so described. They MIGHT be, yes. It's not really an a priori assumption, though, I don't really see where you get that from.