Sunday, April 13, 2008

Serenity Bounces Back

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Serenity: Better Days #2 (written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews)

Timing: Follows "Serenity: Better Days #1"

REVIEW: I didn't really expect much. The first Serenity miniseries, Those Left Behind, was a bit boring, and the first issue of "Better Days" was actually pretty bad. But this issue, the second of the series, really pulled a rabbit out of the hat. For the first time since Serenity, the movie, I felt as if I were truly experiencing these characters again.

Though this issue really seems to act as a bridge between #1 and what will happen in #3, there is a very strong story line here. All of the characters go to a vacation resort, eager to spend their new wealth. Seeing what each of these characters envisions doing with their money (especially Book, River, and Jayne) makes for hilarious--and sometimes touching, in Kaylee's case--character moments. Unlike the first issue, writers Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews begin to tread new water with these characters by having people interacting that we didn't often get to see interact during the show.

Overall, this is a surprisingly huge improvement over the first issue. If Joss, Brett, and Will are able to keep up the momentum for the third and final issue, this series will surpass "Those Left Behind."

Art: The art is good, for the most part. Will Conrad excels at capturing the character's likenesses as well as drawing beautiful settings, but he is quite awful at drawing action. Much like in the first issue, I was baffled by what was going on during the 'main action scene' of the comic. After pouring over the page for a moment or so, it clicked, but Conrad should truly work at how he portrays action and even movement. The cover is every bit as ugly as the first one, making all of the characters look half-realistic and half-cartoony, making the end result look rather disturbing.

Rating: 7/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

Please Vote

Hello all,

This has nothing to do with Buffy, Angel, Serenity, Joss, Brian, or Everybody's Dead... but I'd still like to ask for everyone to participate. It's quick, probably painless, and fun! Well, not fun per say, but definitely not not fun.

See, for the past three and 1/2 years, I've been working on a YA book series. It's been going under the name "The Prophecy of Enoch," but that name is no longer relevant to the series, due to a change in the base mythology that happened pretty early on. But I've still been calling it TPoE, because it's pretty hard to change how you think of your own creation after working at it for so long. But, it's really necessary that I do change it, especially now that I am soliciting literary agents.

So please, take a teensy, finger-nail-sized amount of time out and vote on the title that you like best, or find the most intriguing. The poll is in the corner. You need not know what the series is about, just pick whatever sounds the best, because I really can't choose. Thanks ahead for your time.

I'm really in love with this series, as it's pretty much transformed my life. It's made me serious about writing, and working on the first novel in the series is what made me really put my all into my craft for the first time ever. Plotting out all the character arcs and the twists in the story has been so fun, and... I'm also thankful to the series because--as it's about vampires--I sought out other vampire stories in order to ensure that my story would be unique. If I hadn't begun writing TPoE, I would have never re-discovered Buffy (which I only saw the first two seasons of about eleven years ago, as a child). So yeah, it means a-like-woah-lot to me, so anyone who votes in the poll is forever awesome in my Book O' Awesome People. You can select as many options as you want in the poll, I kinda just want an idea of what titles suck and which don't.

Thanks ahead of time.

PS: I will post my review to "Serenity: Better Days #2" later on tonight. I wrote it a while ago, but I've been busy writing TPo---I mean, my "Untitled Series." (lol) And, something interesting about Serenity #2? Know how I, yannow, didn't like #1? Well I loved #2, so prepare for a favorable review!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Everybody's Dead #2

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Everybody's Dead #2 (Written by Brian Lynch, part two of a five issue mini-series)

Timing: The morning after "Everybody's Dead #1"

REVIEW: You can really tell that this is Brian Lynch's baby. It oozes (good sweet/creamy ooze, not like the radioactive stuff that makes turtles both teenage and mutant) with snappy dialogue and plays on words. And seeing as how a zombie-'pocalypse happened in the end of the last issue, this issue pretty much just shows the shit hitting the fan. Which is always interesting.

Comedy is clearly going to be the major part of this series. There are character moments and some crazy zombie stuff (which is awesome), but comedy is boss here. So the first topic of this review will pretty much cover the funny factor, which is pretty high. I've seen funnier from Lynch, but this is still pretty great. Didn't make me laugh out loud as much as the first issue, but--as I said before--this is pretty much just the characters reacting to the enormity of the situation. And the way that they all react pretty much gives the major shits and giggles in this issue. I loved that this all happened the day after a Halloween party, so everyone who was zombified hasn't changed out of their costumes. That makes for confusion and some of the funniest moments here when a zombie in a cat costume in the first to attack. I'll say no more, because the scene is funny enough without explanation.

There is a moment that I'm not sure if I like or not. It's interesting, and it made me go "hmmmmmmm" and as I writing this I'm thinking that I like it, but I'm still not positive. Doug is running from zombies in one scene, and he pictures his own death (well, his gravestone) and then the next panel is him saying "Like Hell I was/am." Now, this is either a nod to "Spike: Shadow Puppets" where pretty much the same thing happens to Spike, or it was just a moment being re-used. If it's a nod, great. It was one of the most interesting scenes here.

It's hard to comment on the rest of the issue without being spoilery, but there was something that I just can't help but talk about. I'll try to keep it vague. People who are zombified tend to retain some of their personality in some cases, and the issue ends with a hilarious moment. Really shows that stupid people are still stupid when they're dead. Great moment.

Art: Still on the fence about Dave Crosland's pencils The quality in this is more consistent than it was in Issue #1, though there are still a few places where I had to guess at what was going on. There was a lot more action in this book than the first, and I felt that it was well done in places and not-so-much in others. You can kinda sense the artist struggling to depict the action in the scene where Jack slams the zombie in the car door. However, the scene where Aurora sprays the zombies with mase is pretty badass, and I thought carried out very well. The characters all look good, but you can pretty much copy and paste what I said about it last time into this ("As for the style, I don't love it but I'm liking it more than I thought it would. It's more Ren and Stimpy (the newer version, from SPIKE!TV) than realistic, which--coming from someone who tuned into Ren and Stimpy--isn't bad at all. The paneling just takes a little getting used to.") However, Leonard O'Grady offers up some of the best coloring work I've seen. I don't usually notice colorists as much as pencillers, but his work here (especially on the zombies) is phenomenal. And--sorry to be non-linear--but back to Dave Crossland. The is a page where he draws a zombie's jaw falling off over the course of three panels, and all I can say about that is holy... crap... awesome. I mentioned before that I didn't really laugh out loud as much in this issue, but those panels had me rolling. Comic gold.

Rating: 7/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

First Look Into First Night

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #6- First Night, part I (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch.)

Timing: This is difficult. The book-end of each issue (featuring a captured Betta George) seem to take place during Issue 5. They feature Betta George wondering about how others spent their fight nights in Hell, which leads to the flashbacks. So, technically, this story takes place at the same time as After the Fall #5, but the flashbacks take place right after the end of "Not Fade Away."

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 (and art): Since each separate story has a different artist, I'll bunch these two categories together.

1. Betta George: This character, Lynch's own invention, has one of the strongest voices I've read in comics. He's snarky, funny, and pretty much your average dude... only thing is, he's a telepathic fish. He's quickly become a fan favorite, and we haven't seen him since he was captured by Gunn and put in a demony trap in Issue #2, so it was quite appropriate to have his story starting and ending this issue. This gives a nice context to the flashbacks, and the art is phenominal. Tim Kane's pages here are very stylized, extremely moody, and just very Angel.
Score- Hard to rate, as it is only two pages, so I'll just rate it when I see the rest in #7 and 8.

2. Spike: I was very excited for this story, but the writing seemed kind of awkward, which was very surprising, considering how much 'time' Lynch has 'spent' with Spike over the past two years. He got the character on point in Asylum, Shadow Puppets, and in most of "After the Fall" (Spike seemed oddly off in #4, though he was back on point for #5)... but here, there are some pretty big huh? moments. That is in part because of the writing, but also because David Messina (who pencilled this short) was never really good with drawing action or movement. However, there are some parts that I loved. I loved the page where Spike looks out at hell and begins to laugh. That is one of my favorite pages of a comic ever. Though after that page, the art seriously takes a plunge and the writing seems to follow. I don't get a sense of what Spike really means when he's talking. He's gloating--which is awesome and in character and I LOVE the Dawn pun--but it all seems really stitled from a storytelling point. Spike is talking about how he's triumphed, survived, and now he's looking at the sun and not burning up, and he talks about how he'll never have to fight again... but he doesn't seem to realize that Hell is brewing with demons. Then, he sees (SPOILER) Fred and assumes that Wolfram and Hart spared them and decided to punish Angel, Gunn, and Wesley... But that doesn't make sense. W&H wanted to spare them, so they sent them to Hell together? Romantic, yes, but not quite sensible, and I can't really imagine Spike coming to this conclusion. The scene where (SPOILER:) Fred shifts into Illyria is better, and it seems to flow smoothly from a writing perspective. As far as the art goes in the latter half of this story, Messina has improved with Spike's face since we last saw him in IDW's old run of the ANGEL comics, but still the best of what we saw is on the "Spike looks at Hell and laughs" page. Also, the man just can't draw Illyria. Overall, it was an okay story, but it actually made me feel more like I was reading one of the old IDW tales than the A+ stuff Lynch has delivered so far. I know this will pick up with "Spike: After the Fall" in July, which I couldn't be more excited for, but--as this is the story in the issue I was most looking forward to--I was a bit let down.
Score- 4/10

3. Connor: To my huge surprise, this was my favorite of the three main stories featured here. Lynch, who is becoming known for making awesome characters out of people the fans hated (Loan Shark anyone?) continues to turn Connor into a readable, likable character. This story, writted by Lynch and pencilled by Stephen Mooney, picks up right after Angel tells Connor to leave the shaking Wolfram and Hart building. Connor runs, crazy thoughts flying through his mind, but pauses for a nanosecond to admire a passing hot chick. As funny as that was, it was a great character moment as well. The whole environment of LA--pre and post Hell--is perfectly executed by Mooney, who nailed this story. I've always held that Mooney sucks at interiors and rocks at covers, but he really did a great job for this one. Overall a great story. My only complaint here would be one panel--a flashback back to Connor's infant years--where Cordy and Angel are looking over him, and Cordy looks kinda like a zombie wearing a wet t-shirt, but I digress. Amazing story. It's going to be continued in the next issue, so it's also very cool to have a continuing story to look forward to for next month.
Score- 9/10

4. Lorne: This was okay, but I'm glad it was short. It's illustrated by Byrne, whose depictions of Lorne and LA are very, very cartoony, and it's written entirely in verse. This makes sense for Lorne's character, and it also enables Lynch to tell a pretty long story in four pages, but it really seemed a bit *too* cheesy. I'd chalk it up to being an interesting experiment, but the Buffyverse always has to be consisten. "Once More With Feeling" was a musical, but it was also consistent in the 'verse because the characters were singing because of a spell from a demon. "Lorne's First Night" was just told in verse for the sake of being told in verse. There were a few funny bits (the taxi thing was hilarious, and that whole page was actually really good), but I didn't really enjoy the story as much as I'd hoped.
Score- 5/10

Covers: Rebecca A. Wrigley, who did the Illyria/Wesley cover for #5, is back for this one. Her covers for this issue and the next one connect, forming a pretty cool picture of some of the featured characters. This half of the cover shows Spike, Lorne, Angel, and Betta George's tail, with Hellish LA in the background. It's cool, probably one of my favorites, but I would have liked it better if there weren't tracage from promotional images. The other cover (unlike in BtVS, two different Angel covers ship at a 1:1 ratio) is by Joe and Rob Sharp with colors by Art Lyons, and it features a sort of framed image of Spike, Wesley, Connor, Gunn, Lorne, the Dragon, and Gwen. The way its set up is really awesome, and the colors are great, giving off an almost pastel look. The retailer incentive cover this time around is a photo of Lorne in a fancy looking place. As far as photo covers go, its the best I've seen.

Characters We Know: Spike, (SPOILER:) Fred, Illyria, Connor, Angel (flashbacks), Darla (flashbacks), Cordelia (flashbacks), and Lindsey's corpse.

Lynchverse Characters We Know: Betta George

Rating: 6/10

Funniest Issue Yet

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #13: Wolves at the Gate Part II (written by Drew Goddard)
Timing: BTVS, Season Eight. Directly after "Wolves at the Gate Part I."

REVIEW: Pretty much awesome on all counts. This, as I suspected, it clearly going to be a very comedic arc, though the villainous vamps we're dealing with here seem to pose a huge threat. As far as "monsters of the week," they're easily the most threatening we've seen, and that's really saying a lot. Amy and Warren messed Willow's mug up pretty bad (for a minute, at least) and the Gigi/Roden team nearly ended Faith. But these guys? This new team of vamps (Toru, Raidon, and Kumiko) not only duped Dracula, they also have a pretty effective plan to put any Slayeriffic enemies out of commission.

This issue is basically set up for things to come, but it does its job very well. We've pretty much got three things going on at once:

+ Xander and Renee try to enlist Dracula's help. Not only do we get some insight into why "Antique" happened (as well as confirmation that it is canonical, we also get great Xander/Dracula banter, hilariously pretentious angry Dracula moments, and even a scene where Andrew explains (with a chalk board and all!) what's the dealio with Dracula and Xander. Loved this.
+ We've also got stuff going on back at Slayer Central, though admittedly not much. Satsu is dealing with the night she spent with Buffy, but Buffy is pretty much not dealing at all. We get some emotional and hilarious stuff from Willow, and the characterization for all the leads in this section of the story is spot-on. Willow's voice has been very weak this season, but this is the issue where I felt it getting stronger.
+ Finally, a few pieces of the story deal with Toru and his vamps. Not going to reveal much, because the scheme they have cooked up is spoileriffic, but it's a really inventive idea.

This issue of Buffy has me once again waiting with bated breath for the next part of the story, because each of these twenty-two pages burst with laughs and shocks. If you don't laugh at loud at a few moments in this issue, you might want to check your pulse, friend.

Art: Art is consistently good, at this point. Jeanty seemed to struggle with Toru in Issue #12 (as I mentioned) but here things are much better. And really... this man draws Dracula perfectly. I'd almost go as far as to say that his depiction of Dracula is his best likeness so far. As far as the characters he's been drawing, I'd say he's improved most with Andrew's likeness. I mean, compare his Andrew in this issue to the almost unrecognizable Andrew from #12. Hell, compare any of this to his work in the earlier issues. Jeanty keeps getting better and better.

Covers (New Cateogory!): Oh God, I miss Jo Chen. Thank everything Holy and Good that she is back for #16. Jon Foster's cover for this one shows someone who is supposed to be Xander sitting on... I don't even know, maybe a mushroom? A cliff with pimples. In the background, we see castle and Buffy (whose feet are apparently a size 26) and Willow, who is attending the goth prom. Come on. What is with this cover? Jeanty offers up a variant that is a big improvement over his cover for #12. His covers for this arc (well, at least 12-14) has a very colorful and bright look, which is cool. I don't *love* it, but I don't mind it at all. The Xander/Dracula riding thing is cool, as are the marching vamps.

Characters We Know: Xander, Dracula, Andrew, Buffy, Willow

Season Eight Recurring Characters We Know: Renee, Satsu, Toru, Raidon, Kumiko

Rating: 9/10 *

*In retrospect, I should have rated #12 as a 8/10. I was a bit excited after reading, and it's always best to wait a while before giving it a rating. This issue was considerably better than #12, but it also wasn't as good as #11, #10, or the other issues I've given 10/10s. #12 is now rated 8/10. This sort of 'retcon' of ratings will not happen again, but I think it was important in this case.