Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What We've Been Waitin For

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #11 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch.)

Timing: Directly follows Angel: After the Fall #10.

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: For an issue that is basically a conversation between two men, this is one of the meatiest comics we've gotten so far. It's full of revelations, emotions, conflict, character moments, and complexities that make this clearly, undeniably the best issue since #5. Not only is this one of the best Angel issues we've seen so far, it's such a climax and such a tense, captivating read that I read that I stopped in the middle and started over because I was enjoying it too much for it to end. This is how I used to feel while reading every issue of After the Fall and Brian Lynch has recaptured that in such a beautiful way here.

Angel vs. Gunn is everything I wanted and nothing that I expected. There are so many paths this story could have taken, but Brian knows these characters so well that he chose the only one that rings true. When Angel saw Gunn with the vampires, he didn't assume that Gunn was their leader. He assumed that Gunn was in trouble and needed to be saved. So very Angel, and watching him discover the truth of the situation is such a creeping, horrible feeling that just adds to the overall darkness of this series. Also, Gunn's reaction to seeing Angel is so much more complex that it really shows you how unpredictable and explosive this character has become, because upon seeing the man that he blames for his current situation, (SPOILER:) he no longer wants to kill him--he just wants to show Angel how heroic he is, and furthermore, he wants Angel's help. For a while, at least. Those looking for an all out Angel vs. Gunn fight will not be let down. Lynch delivers, and then some.

Through all this, even as things get oh so serious, the witty one-liners stay afloat. The best has to be Gunn saying that he thinks "the bald head makes (the vampire-lemon face) work." The dialogue throughout is pitch perfect, and it's great to see how differently Angel and Gunn react to the same thing, but how Gunn is also so rigid and panicky under the calm and cool surface he's putting on. There was a Spike line, also, that made me laugh out loud. I won't ruin it, because it's all in the context, but the line is "Might learn something, but at what price?" Hilarious. Overall, the writing bursts with ideas and you can tell how much effort was making this climax worth all of the build-up. Maybe I'm partial because one of Gunn's fried (R.I.P) henchmen was named after me, but--eh, nah, this is seriously the best issue in quite a while. And that's not to put down the other issues, which are great in their own way, but this is at a whole different level. The overall package is the best since #5 (placing it in the Top Four), but the writing itself is the best we've seen so far, no question. This is what we've been working up to folks, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Art: Runge, for the most part, outdid himself in this comic. There are so many beautiful panels that make me forget why I was a bit turned off my some of his work in the last two issues. While Runge's Gwen is consistently lacking, he completely nails the two stars of this issue, Angel and Gunn. In fact, some of Gunn's facial expressions are some of the best art we've seen thus far. Runge has such high potential and, given the time, he would be able to craft some beautiful, epic comics. I mean take, for example, the page that ends with Gunn saying (SPOILER) "Help me save Los Angeles." That entire page, especially the last panel, is literally perfect. Nick Runge is a wonderful artist. His only problem is consistency. It really confuses me, after all those great pages and beautiful panels, when we get art like Panel 4 and 5 on Page 21. From Gwen, to Spike, to Connor. I mean... huh? Overall, the artwork is beautiful, and this issue is so close to the perfect 10/10 score, but I just wish it were more consistent. On the plus side, it looks like Jason Jensen is back as the colorist. I mean, that's what the credits say. There is way less Art-Lyon-Brown, and the Gunn/Angel conversation near the end looks like classic Jensen (early After the Fall) coloring, but some scenes early in the issue still look like Lyon colored them. But overall, I couldn't be happier that Jensen is back, because he brought really nice color to the table in the early issues. Nick Runge did a wonderful job, and I'll definitely miss him because given the time, he gave us the best art we've seen, period (the Angel/Gunn conversation and the WESLEY) story. If only the panel-to-panel consistency were better, he'd be an unstoppable force. While I'll miss Runge, I'm excited to see what Stephen Mooney will do with the next two issues.

Covers: Both main covers are wonderful this time around. Alex Garner's depiction of Gunn fighting Angel flows with intensity and violence, and is definitely one of the top five cover we've seen so far. It's iconic, and really pays off after ten issues of waiting for Angel and Gunn to meet up. Also, currently my desktop, so there's that. Stephen Mooney delivers an extra cover, aside from his already very awesome Angel Interaction cover (which features the Angel characters as chess pieces). This cover features Angel jumping from the Dragon as said Dragon burps out major flames, which is a scene taken right out of the issue. The art is great and the coloring is beautiful, and I for one can't wait to see how Mooney will totally rock the interior art in issues twelve and thirteen. Also, good choice in not using the Brian Miller cover that look like Gunn and Inexplicable Vampire Angel are Eskimo kissing. This is the first time since Issue #5 that I truly loved both main covers.

Characters We Know: Angel, Gunn, Betta George, Nina, Fred, Dragon, Spike, Connor, Gwen, Wesley

Rating: 9.5/10


Thomas said...

Pat, I think you're being incredibly generous in your assessment of Nick Runge's art. You wrote, "Nick Runge is a wonderful artist. His only problem is consistency." My way of putting that would be to say, "Nick Runge has shown the ability to produce great art. Too bad half the stuff he draws is total crap."

I don't deny that much of the Angel/Gunn confrontation was depicted well. But when Nick Runge is bad, he's really bad. He makes characters look ugly and deformed or like caricatures of themselves, backgrounds blank and sloppy, action hard to follow. And he has done this in each of the three issues he's drawn. My guess is he's a good artist who's really slow, and who just can't draw a monthly comic book in an acceptable time frame without making a bunch of pages look rushed and terrible. That's why the Wes story was so nice -- it was short and Runge had time to do it right.

When Franco Urru and Georges Jeanty and Karl Moline aren't at their best, sometimes people look a little bland, or someone's nose is too big, or an action sequence is hard to follow. When Nick Runge isn't at his best, he turns characters into ugly deformed creatures. Off the top of my head, without even looking back through the issues he's drawn, I can remember him butchering Wesley, Spike, Nina, and Gwen. I am so tired of Nick Runge.

Loki said...

I'd have to agree with Thomas. Even 60-70% of what Runge draws in this issue is crap, but yes, the remaining 30% are pretty awesome. That doesn't really make up for it, though.

Could someone explain to me what happened with Gwen on the last page, by the way? Neither me nor my girlfriend can figure it out.

PatShand said...

Gunn "got to her first." Gwen was working for his side, and shocked the dragon so it couldn't intervene in the Angel/Gunn situation. It will be elaborated on next issue, no doubt.