Friday, March 7, 2008

Angel Kicks It Old School

What Is It?: Angel- Long Night's Journey TPB (Script by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, from Dark Horse's Angel run)

Timing: Season Two of Angel. Between "First Impressions" and "Untouched."

Canon?: Joss had a hand in it, so those who consider it to be canonical have a solid point. However, one must also take into account that Joss came onto the project to revamp Dark Horse's take on ANGEL, to make it more action oriented. This was to be the first four issues of a larger Angel series. The final page of the comic sets up something that never happens, so those who consider it canon will have to deal with that. Also, huge, huge things happen. Lava monsters half the size of Cloverfield walking through LA, a hole being blown through Hyperion, the entire "Angel's soul" mythology being tinkered with... I'm on the fence about canon status, but both positions (canonical, non-canonical) have great points of argument. Oh, new category, by the way. Like?

REVIEW: Joss Whedon helped plot the script, so it's a given that it can't be bad. It's just essential that, before you read, you know what you're getting into. It's an obvious attempt at making Angel a more traditional superhero by including epic fights, big two-page action spreads, and action oriented plots. It was risky, seeing how Angel is character--not action--driven, but I do think it worked well.

The dialogue is the best you'll get out of an Angel comic (other than "After the Fall," which is in a whole different league), so Whedonites will be glad to know that Cordy's snappy sarcasm and Angel's stoic-yet-badass banter is alive and well in this book. The pace is too fast and they could have easily stretched the story to five issues, but I'm confident that fans of Angel--especially the early years--will love this comic. That's if they can get their hands on it, as it is very difficult to come across these days.

I liked that the themes of the series remains in tact, but I didn't like how much tinkering was done with the mythology. The whole concept of how Angel got cursed with his soul was changed, and that would be fine--if it was elaborated on. It's kind of introduced and then dropped before Angel--or readers--can even give it another thought. Another few minor things that bothered me was that (1) I didn't buy the idea that Gunn would carjack someone just because they were honking at him, (2) the "snake lady" twist at the end was really contrived and not built up to at all, and (3) this isn't the fault of the story at all, but the last page gives the idea that there's going to be a continuation, but... the comic was cancelled by Dark Horse after this series.

Thank God IDW picked it up.

Art: Eh. There was some stuff I loved, some I liked, some I didn't like, some I hated. Hated the inconsistency of Cordy's face. The "extras" section says that Brett and Joss told penciller Mel Rubi to ease up on the likeness (why?), and it makes for a very inconsistent looking Cordy, as she has a different face from issue to issue. Wes looks about fifty, which is really strange. Also, the colorist really messed up in the last issue. The Big Bad of the comic, an ancient vampire named Perfect Zheng, had a fang knocked out by Angel in the 1920s. In the first issues, he's depicted as wearing a really cool metal fang. Then, in the final issue, both fangs are colored white again as if the whole "metal fang" thing never happened. Onto the positives. The whole "make it more action oriented?" It works. The art is really dynamic, and makes it feel like I'm literally watching Angel: The Animated Series. That's also because it reminds me of the Batman Animated Series art, but I digress. Loved the way the demons look, like the way most everything else looks. One thing I really noticed was how penciller Mel Rubi draws female. If people are complaining about Franco Urru drawing busty women, they should see this guy. It's a bit distracting from the story, but the saving grace is that with Charisma Carpenter, he's really not exaggerating that much. Only thing is, Cordy wouldn't wear those skimpy ass clothes. She dresses sexy, not Rubi-skanky.

Characters We Know: Angel, Wesley, Cordelia, Gunn

Rating: 7/10


Anonymous said...

I just re-read this before I read your review, and I have to say, I'd give it an eight of ten. I remembered liking this a little, but not as much as I did this time around.

The art was great with the action. The characters were mostly good. Wes was basically the only character that I had objections to the drawings of. Cordelia's clothes didn't strike me as particularily more skanky than anything she used to wear on the show, but then again, what the hell do I know of what's skanky and what's not. Also, not the kind of thing I notice, really. I did notice the metal tooth-drop though. That was too bad, spending that much time on it and then forgetting about it, I'd almost penalize it half a point for that.

I loved Angel in vamp-mode. Never, ever seen that drawn better.

The dialogue was pretty much spot-on, too, and lots of it was funny. I don't mind the tinkering with the mythology - they don't do anything that needs a follow-up with it, they just toss a question out there that I personally had missed in the show. I always found it curious how Angel could lose and regain souls all the time and there was never a question where they came from and if they were the same one - this puts an interesting spin on it, and Zheng is an interesting villain who works well with the story.

One thing, by the way - what the heck do you mean about "snake lady twist at the end" feeling contrived? What twist? What didn't make sense with the build-up? I felt everything with her worked perfectly. Spending a lot of time showing her as poorly treated by Zheng, spending a lot of time and energy on the story flaunting the symbols he use and how odd they are, damaging the symbol for perfection and thus breaking his tie on her, everything seemed completely logical and well done to me.

As for the ending, maybe the guy is the dude who started the Church of Jasmine? ;D (I don't really see how a random guy starting up his own religious movement is a loose end worth being bothered by, people do that all the time without Angel being bothered by it)

I certainly consider this canon until Joss states otherwise - especially considering he apparently has enough faith in Matthews after it to have him co-write both his (indisputably canon) Serenity-comics as well.

Loki said...

Speaking of the snake-lady - you think she might be in any way connected to Saga Vasuki in Season 8? I mean, Joss WAS involved in writing this... (I hope against odds that she is, so that we'll get the canonical status of this book confirmed once and for all..)

PatShand said...

I highly doubt it, but only because this is one of--if not THE--Joss Whedon's most obscure works, in that almost no one has it. I'd be delighted if he dared to connect them, but until then I'm guessing he won't.

For me, though, the canonical status isn't in question. Joss wrote it, and that's all I need. Which is kind of a burden, because the end is really kind of a cliff-hangery set-up, isn't it?