Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One of the Most Emotional Things I've Ever Read

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #15 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch.)

Timing: Directly follows Angel #14.

REVIEW: So, as the title says, this is probably one of the most emotional things I've ever read. I can't really talk about everything I want to without uber spoiling, so what I'm going to do is write my regular review, and then whip up a spoilery paragraph or two that you'll have to highlight to read.

The comic starts where #14 left off. Illyria is in her true form, putting the smack down on LA. She's preparing to end the world--and my one complaint about this comic is that three different characters, in the span of five pages, remind us of this. Other than that tiny quibble, though... there's nothing here but chocolatey, tragic goodness. Any questions I might have had of this series being the best comic I've ever read is gone, because this, Angel #15, has beat out #1, #12, and #13 as my favorite comic in the series. That makes "Angel: After the Fall" as a whole have six "10/10 Classic" issues. I never could have expected the series to be so emotional and so damn daring, but... ahhk, I'll get to that in el paragraph de spoilers.

But yeah. The issue is packed with best-scene-of-the-series after best-scene-of-the-series. Let me give you a bit of a taste of what happens. Illyria uses a timeslip to show Angel the extent of the destruction he will cause when the Shanshu Prophecy comes true. Angel rallies up his friends to make a stand against Illyria. A major character dies, and has a death scene almost as great as the Wesley death scene from Not Fade Away. Illyria is faced with a barrage of memories of Fred. All of these major, major scenes come one after the other, playing off of each other, building up in a climax of action and emotions that is rarely accomplished. This stuff is "Becoming Part II," "The Gift," and "Not Fade Away" level stuff, people, and there are still two issues to go.

Brian Lynch manages to keep the dialogue light and very Whedonesque even in the most dire of situations. Spike's line--"What, just because you're not there doesn't mean it didn't happen. I'm mates with a telepathic fish. You practically dated a dragon, let's move on"--made me laugh through the blubbery tears the previous scene caused. All of the character arcs, both from this and the Spike spin-off come to a head, and all the development of Gunn, Wesley, Spike, Illyria, Angel, and Connor this season climaxes on the fateful battlefield. Most importantly, Angel comes to a realization about Illyria, Gunn, and himself and takes control of his actions, and--like the hero we've all come to love--comes up with an effective plan to tip the battle back in his favor.

What a tragic, epic, hilarious, scary, poignant issue. So true to the series.

Now... spoilers. If you haven't read the issue, please don't read this. Why would you? If you do you'll stink forever. If you're already a stinky person, you'll be unable to control the flow of your drool. If you like being stinky and drooling a lot, you might as well read it anyway, because you won't be allowed into the comic shop if you stink up the place and drool everywhere. SPOILERS: So. Two characters bite the dust. Groo is disposed of by Illyria in a very cavalier way, which really serves to condemn Illyria for me. She's through with trying to live with humans, and that, for me anyway, was her last straw. It was tragic, because really, it's Groosalugg, and I love the guy... but it served its purpose. But on the even more heartbreaking side... the worst thing that could ever happen to Angel happens here. His son, Connor, dies in his arms. After being stabbed by Gunn with the very flaming sword Angel fought with in the battle with the LA Lords. I wouldn't even mention this in the review, but the simple fact is that the death and the way it's handled is one of the reasons why the issue is so good. It's insanely risky, but the pay off is enormous. Because when Connor is stabbed, it feels like everything goes quiet. As Angel says, the "World has just ended." Seeing Angel holding a dying Connor is one of the saddest things I've ever seen, and the final, hopeful words that Connor gives his father will leave Angel with the will he needs to fight. And to win. Major kudos to Brian Lynch, Chris Ryall, Joss Whedon, and the entire IDW team for going there. You made me cry like a little baby, and I'm grateful.

Art: Franco Urru is back! Needless to say, the dude nails all of the power shots. This comic is filled to the brim with iconic images, From the group shot of the slayers, Wesley, Connor, and Spike with Angel leading them that is "Let's go to work" caliber stuff, to the tragic last page, to the more subtle panels like Spike's wordless, emotional frown when he realizes what has to happen to Illyria. The art is crazy good, to say the least. Also, to compliment his awesome pencils, colorist Fabio Mantovani comes on board. His colors give a lot of presence and texture to Franco's arc, giving the stylized images a sort of realistic look, which plays nicely off the weird atmostphere of Hell-A. The best example of his work is on page 19, when Betta George floods Illyria's head with Wesley and Spike's memories of Fred. From the cold, dead atmosphere behind Illyria, Mantovani manages to make this Lovecraftian horror look heartbroken. Franco has finally been paired with a colorist who can keep up with him, and I hope to see them finish out the series together.

Covers: Two doozies. Franco's cover isn't his best work, but it's still really dynamic. Angel, Spike, Wesley, and Connor are hopping (literally, for Connor) into action as the hellish glow of Los Angeles casts creepy shadows over them. The action of the shot is great, but the facial expressions and details of the characters are a bit lacking. Alex Garner delivers a great image of a horrified Angel getting a glimpse of what he will become when the Shanshu Prophecy comes true. And pretty much, you can put a frame on any Garner cover because the man is a master of covers. His best Angel cover will come down the line, with the nearly perfect #16 image, but this is still a great work.

Characters We Know: Angel, Wesley, Illyria, Fred (sorta), Connor, Groosalugg, Spike, Spider, Betta George, Gunn, Nina, Lorne.

Rating: 10/10 Classic.


Kenictionary said...

Crazy insanely good issue!

No Buffy review this time?

PatShand said...

Oh, Buffy's coming. Don't you worry.

That's what she said. She, being Satsu. Ahaha ;)

My day was a bit tight today, and I was just barely able to squeeze in the Angel review between work and meeting with the artist of a comic I'm doing. I just had to get the Angel stuff out of my system, because it's been going through my head all day.

wyndam said...

Great review Pat! I agree, very emotional and heartbreaking issue (and I was crying the man tears as well). Best issue of the series so far (and I'll go ahead and say best Buffyverse issue as well).

hawkedup said...

Best issue of Buffy or Angel so far.