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


kalibrasseur said...

I agree with most of your review, although I don't think I liked the Connor bit as much as you did. For me, it's definitely the weakest Angel: AtF issue so far.

Loki said...

Mostly in agreement with you. Might have nudged the Lorne-one a step up (maybe it's in rhyme because it's told by one of the resident silly demons of Silverlake or something?) and the Connor-one a step down - I loved it, but it was hardly a near-perfect 9/10. Strong 8 though.

I really loved the art on the Spike-thing, that's one thing we seemed to disagree on, but the writing seemed odd, I agree. Still, to speculate, he'd be happy about being in Hell because to him, "Hell" is just "any hell-dimension" which means he won't be burned to death by the sun. One second he's overwhelmed in deadly battle with a billion demons, the next he's alone on a sunny rooftop. Hell or no Hell, that's a change for the better. I'm unsure about how to grade it, as the beginning and end were pretty good, but with an odd middle-part. 4 might be a little harsh, but I don't rightly know what to give it.

LOVED the Betta George-bits.

Matt said...

I didn't really like the issue much at all. The Lorne bit was cute, but the Connor and Spike portions seemed to be completely unnecessary filler. Spike's didn't make a whole lot of sense and Connor's was really just boring, honestly.

Easily the weakest issue of After the Fall yet. Unfortunately, we still have two more issues of this.