Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Questions Are Answered, Decisions Are Made

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #14 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch.)

Timing: Directly follows Angel #13.

REVIEW: While it didn't give me the I-can-barely-speak-this-is-perfect reaction that #12 and #13 did, this was still a damn good addition to the series. A lot of stuff is revealed and a lot of the conversations we've been waiting for take place, most with extreme pay-off. The issue starts with Groosalugg battling the jetliner-dragons outside of Gunn's place, spouting off hilarious lines as always. It's a perfectly funny introduction to a pretty serious issue, and it works because it still has a dark undercurrent.

That leads right into what might be the best scene of the issue (it's tied with the final scene). Spike finally finds out that Angel is human, and his reaction is priceless. It's funny, subtly done, and full of nuance, which just another example of the deep understanding Brian Lynch has of the Spike character... and the tone of the larger Buffyverse, actually. I also love that the two most obvious ways to heal Angel were totally written off, leading to a plot twist that pays off a question we've been asking since the first issue- (spoiler:) What is that demony mess that Gunn built? I love the way that was done.

One thing, though. I'm confused as to why the jetliner-dragons didn't try to take out Gunn. Weren't they initially called into action because Gunn tried to kill Angel? I know that the army of demons--the ones that stood in as conduits for the Senior Partners, anyway--were there to (SPOILERS:) heal Angel with the demony mess that Gunn built, but didn't Wesley also say that the reason that W&H called their army was because Gunn tried to hurt Angel? I thought that statement was specific to the dragons, which is why I figured they were killing everyone around the place that Angel was harmed at. It's a small moment in an otherwise great comic that felt off, but I do hope there's an explanation to make that moment read a bit smoother.

I liked the scene with Wesley and Illyria. I would have liked to see a bit more of it, so the big moment in the issue got a bit more build-up, but it was still good. The last scene (the one that tied with the Spike scene) was just fantastic, though. In the final five pages, everything is laid on the table and, in that short scene, it seemed like everything was about to happen. It seemed like Gunn might be staked. It seemed like they might all be sent home. It seemed like a LOT of things were going to happen, because it's such a tense, well-written moment. And the end leaves a nice twist. For me, it wasn't really that surprising because of what came before it, but Gunn's reaction to Illyria's "plan" is what really made it a great ending for me.

Art: For the past few issues, I've pretty much felt the same about Mooney. His work in #12 and #13 were good. I didn't like that he often had the characters in poses from promotional images, and that his shading was a bit too dark, giving some faces a blotchy look. HOWEVER... that changes here. There is a marked improvement in the majority of his art. All of his Gunn likenesses completely and utterly rock, and I love the way he drew the scene where Spike first learns that Angel is human. Also, the scene where Spike vamps out is perfect--it's detailed, and looks nothing like any promo shot we've ever seen. His Connor likenesses have also improved. Mooney has definitely outdone himself with our beloved characters. On the other hand, I didn't really like the demons he drew. This issue pops with demons--including Illyria's true form--and they don't really look that scary or detailed. There is only one real page with demonic Illyria, so it's not at all a big deal, but I just wish that image had been a bit more realistic looking, seeing how realistic Mooney's human likenesses look like. Overall, though, the art is a major improvement from Mooney's work in the previous two issues, which was already quite good. Art Lyon provides colors for this issues, but I feel like there's nothing more to say about his coloring, really. His style, how he bathes entire pages in red and grey, just doesn't do it for me. The scene with Wesley and Fred was, at least, nicely colored. He's definitely cut down on the brownness of previous issues, so I'm glad he's taking fan reaction into account when coloring these pages. Still, though. These pages would look much better with a different colorist.

Covers: Two fantastic covers this time around. Alex Garner provides a truly terrifying rendition of Illyria's true form squeezing the life out of a human Angel. The other cover is sort of a collage of Angel's life so far--maybe chosen due to the timeslips Illyria is doing--done by Nick Runge, who is a great cover artist. It's not as strong as his last cover, but it's still a fantastic, poignant image.

Characters We Know: Groosalugg, Dragon, Angel, Spike, Connor, Wesley, Illyria, Gunn, Betta George.

Rating: 9/10


Loki said...

If every issue had been like this one and 13, After The Fall would've been such a stellar read it would baffle the mind. Sadly, I am by now unable to free myself from the memory of the silly and unnecessary stuff like butchering Lorne's character-arc from s5 to have him perform a much-less-than-vital function in the story, the oftentimes much less than desirable artwork, and so forth. Typos and errors like the "you're aren't" in this issue still popping up doesn't help with the feeling that this is still an excellent story that hasn't been polished enough before publishing.

That said, issues like this one and the one before can only do one thing - improve upon the whole. And the more they improve upon it as the ending nears, the better my overall impression will end up being. I'm just sad that I cannot make myself enjoy this awesome issue to its fullest because the quality hasn't been consistent enough in earlier ones. But it proves that After the Fall is brilliant indeed when it is done properly - I loved this issue. (Except the frightful typo)

Drew said...

In the last few pages of the issue, in the lower right corner there is a panel with a blue sky and a weird pseudo-childlike person, with a ? and an ! over his head.

Who is that?!?

PatShand said...

DREW: It was Angel as a baby. Illyria was time slipping.