Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Been A Long While... But Here's Angel #7

What Is It?: Angel: After the Fall #7- First Night, part 2 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Brian Lynch and Joss Whedon)

Timing: Betta George's storyline seems to take place during Issue 5. The other two stories take place right after "Not Fade Away." It's worth noting that the "Kate" story takes place directly after "First Night: Connor."

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 story has a different artist, I'll bunch these two categories together.

1. Betta George: Each "First Night" book starts and ends with a page featuring Betta George. Which means, at this point, we've only gotten four pages of story for him, but it's all very, very interesting. The first page picks up on the cliffhanger from Issue #6, where one of Gunn's henchmen was about to get his sushi on. For what I originally thought to be a bonus story has more substance than I could have imagined. The first page does something huge, for me. Betta George makes two explicit references to Spike, one by making the guard have a 'vision' of Spike to confuse him, and another reference when he says he has to "see a British guy about kicking (Gunn's ass)." I don't know about you, but for me, that's confirmation that Spike: Asylum and Spike: Shadow Puppets are canonical. Let that spark whatever debates it will, because I don't think there is much of an argument against it being so. And the second (and last) Betta George page for this issue doesn't disappoint either. We've got another huge cliffhanger, and it deals with something people have been asking about since before Issue #1 even came out. (SPOILER:) If LA is in Hell, were there any slayers in the area when it was sent there?
Rating: 9/10

2. Wesley: One might argue that I'm biased about this story. It's Wesley. He's my favorite character. BUT, let me break it down right now. If I felt Brian didn't get Wesley right--as I did with the scene between Angel and Wes in Issue #4--I would certainly say it. No matter how captivating I find Wesley's character, if the story isn't good, I'll say the story isn't good. Hell, Spike is one of my favorite characters, and I was *very* critical of Lynch's Spike story in Issue #6.
That being said, the Wesley story in this issue is literally perfect. It was given more breathing room than the Spike story, so it doesn't seem rushed at all, and the dialogue flows very nicely. Not only does it make a statement about Wesley as a character, it establishes some major things about the main plot of "After the Fall," leaving me aching for #7. It's tragic, it's beautiful, and it's damn foreboding.
What most people are going to be wondering is this: Did Nick Runge do a good job on the art? He's going to be the series artist for the rest of the run, so everyone's wondering how good he is. Chris Ryall posted a preview page of his art from #9, but it seemed that no one was that impressed. Well, looking at Runge's art here, that page was clearly just a fluke or something, because the art here is nothing short of immaculate. He nails Wesley, capturing all the emotion that the character is going through. Runge does the impossible, by making Wes look *exactly* like Alexis Denisof, but not making it look like a photo. He does a nude scene with Fred, portraying her sexuality but never being gratuitous about it. This is, bar none, the best comic art I've ever seen, and also easily Brian's best writing.
Rating: 10/10 Classic.

3. SPOILER: (Kate-) For those who don't want to know who the mystery lady is, I'll refer to this story as CONNOR PART II, since that's what it really is. Art is still by Stephen Mooney, and Connor is still the main character: Connor's story was my favorite part of #6, but not so much here. It's an okay story, and there's nothing bad about it--except the art, which I'll get to later--but the only thing is, it feels like not that much happens. Kate rescues Connor, she gets weapons, and reiterates what Angel told her in "Epiphany." It's interesting to see how Connor started being a champion, but I think their conversation should have been a bit more in depth. Again, there's nothing wrong with the story, but there's nothing really great about it either. The irony of the fact that these two people are connected through Angel, but don't know it, and are sharing advice that Angel gave one of them is really interesting... but it just feels kinda like "...Okay." Not bad, not great.
Mooney doesn't do as good here as he did in the first part of the story. He struggles noticably with women's faces, and he seems to just like to scrawl lines across everything to convey shading. It makes faces too dark, and very haggard looking. In the panel when Kate first arrives, Connor looks like he was just dipped in orange paint. None of it's really that good. Mooney's consistency is his biggest problem (other than his over-shading), and that's going to be funny, because I'm about to deal major praise to the guy in the next category.
Rating: 7/10

Covers: Rebecca A. Wrigley provides a cover for this one as well. It is the 'second part' of the cover she did for #6, and it fits together to form a full--and really cool--image. I love it, and love her, as she's provided this series with three of it's best covers. Amazing work. Mike Oeming... not so much. I thought that Andrew Robinson's cover for "After the Fall #4" would certainly be the worst of the bunch, but this is just bad. I get it, it's stylized, and it looks like Batman: The Animated Series. However, it doesn't jibe with the feel of Angel. It doesn't even look like a cover, it looks like a regular panel that should have been in the book. Covers are supposed to have more quality, and this doesn't. Plus--and this is odd--Spike isn't even a character in the book. He appears, but it's not even him. Why not have Wes or Connor on this cover? Of course, I bought it, because I gotta catch 'em all, but I wish more thought and work would have been put into this cover. Finally, the BCC/T&S/SlayAlive cover is illustrated by Stephen Mooney, and it's amazing. It's strange that this guy can provide a cover so striking that I race to put it on my desktop, and then can sketch up some interior pencils that make a question mark appear over my head. But, no matter how unever his art is, I love this. Love it. I'll post here what I said in his blog: "The Wesley cover is beautiful. Out of Masks, every Angel cover I've seen from you from "After the Fall" and all of the older ones collected in the TPBs, and also all the art posted on your blogs... this is by far the best. It's one of my favorite covers ever and is currently on my desktop."

Characters We Know: Betta George, Spike (though he isn't *really* there), Fred (SPOILER: well...), Connor, (SPOILER:) Kate.

*NOTE* I usually don't do decimals in my ratings, because that's a cop out, but I have to in this case, as my rating consists of an average of the three stories.

Rating: 8.7/10


Thomas said...

I agreed with most of that review, but here are a few points of disagreement:

In Wrigley's cover, Gunn's head looks like an enormous orange balloon. WTF? Also, Gwen's nose is too big. Pretty good cover, could have been way better if everything werent so murky and orange/brown. Which is also something that annoys me about the Connor/Kate story. Aside from the fact that I hate all of Mooney's art that I've ever seen.

I liked the Wes story quite a bit, and I think Runge nails the characters' likenesses much of the time, but Wes looks all wrong in the panel where he says "It's not this cliche." And neither of them look like themselves in any of the panels on the page with the fig leaf. Wes's regression from stubbly t-shirt-clad guy to clean-shaven and suited-up is rather nicely done, though.

Loki said...

The weirdest thing about this issue is that Lynch has virtually done my fanwanking ideas about how to bring Kate back exactly. Now what in all the heavens were the odds for that? o.o

I really liked the issue, it's a VAST improvement over the previous one. All three stories were very good, with very interesting revelations in all three, though somewhat less so in the Kate-one. So I basically agree with most of what you write.