Thursday, August 28, 2008

Do a reviewer a favor

Hey guys,

The first episode of my webseries WHATZ GOOD STUDIOS has finally been released! You can find it HERE:

Watch it in HIGH QUALITY, so you can see all the detail! It's a great feature, and as close to how the actual product looks that YouTube can get, methinks.

So comment, rate, and subscribe! Hope you like it.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Terry Moore Takes Over "Runaways"

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Runaways: Season Three #1. (You can call it Volume Three, but that's kinda wrong for two reasons. While this is, by the numbers, the first issue of the third volume, the second half of Season/Volume Two was referred to as Volume Three when it was released in hardcover. Also, creator Brian K. Vaughan has referred to the volumes as "seasons," so I'm rocking with it.)

Timing: Directly after Runaways: Season Two #30

REVIEW: New series writer Terry Moore sure had some huge shoes to fill. Let me give you a little history on Runaways and me. Runaways is like the comics version of Buffy for me. It's a really human story about superpowered teenagers that have spitfire, quirky dialogue. They're constantly in really dangerous situations that have crazy shocking and emotional twists, and every beat of the story was so intelligently written that if never felt as if you were reading a comic consciously directed at teens. I love this story so hard, and when I heard that Brian K. Vaughan would leave in, I was a wee bit heartbroken. The only thing that could have possibly made it better is if my favorite writer were to take the series on... and he did. Joss Whedon took the reigns for the last few issues, closing out the second season. Even with the man who I consider the best writer of our time on writing duties, I was scared that even he wouldn't be able to write these characters as exceptionally as Brian K. Vaughan, the man who created them. I didn't need to worry, though, because Joss--as he usually does--did a wonderful job, and let these characters once again capture my heart. Now, with the knowledge that these characters and this story is strong enough to survive without their creator scripting new issues, I welcomed Terry Moore's take on the series with open arms.

And I couldn't be more let down.

I hate to give this a bad review, because I love the Runaways. I also realize that this is now the team that is going to dictate their story, and that this will effect everything that comes after it. But I just can't help but notice how absolutely awful literally everything about this comic is. I wanted to love this, because as I said before, it's like the Buffy of comics (which is sort of ironic to say, now) to me, and it would be as if a new team of writers and directors made a new televised season of Buffy. But I really just have to be honest. This is a bad comic.

Terry Moore couldn't have captured these characters' personalities less if he made a conscious effort to write them out-of-character. Molly is suddenly five, and she has the complexity and humor of a bad Saturday morning cartoon. Xavin's speech paterns and his actions are nothing at all like the character we've come to know for many issues, and Chase has lost the thick shell and inner pain the character had picked up of late, and is--to be blunt--an idiot. It's as if Terry Moore asked someone what the most basic aspects of these characters were, forgot most of them, and then scripted this.

The basic plot is that Karolina's planet has been destroyed, and the survivors of her race seem to think its her fault, and have come to Earth to capture her. Meanwhile, Chase wants to get a job as a radio personality so he can pay for gas money. It's not the worst idea for a plot, but its the execution that absolutely ruins this book. The panel to panel movement is non-existent, and you feel like you're simply being shown glimpses of what is going on. You would think an experienced author like Terry Moore would know how to script a comic so readers will know what's happening, but apparently not, because during the scene where the Runaways went into the Malibu house, were attacked by security daemons, defeated them, and then took over the house... I literally had to hold my hands back from ripping the comic in two. What... the hell... did I just read?

Here's a bit of positive to mix things up a little. The comic wasn't all bad. In fact, I'm going to give it a 1/10, because one line saved it from being the worst comic I've ever read (which would make it tie with the retched Anita Blake comic). And that line is one from Molly. "Television. It's like YouTube for old people." But alas, Brian K. Vaughan and Whedon used to fill up entire issues with that kind of stuff. With Moore, this is a one shot deal.

If that wasn't enough, all of the romantic and dramatic tension between the characters are gone. They've poofed. From the one-liners, to the depiction of the characters, to the choice of artist, it has never been more apparent that this is aimed toward a younger audience and only a younger audience. Brian K. Vaughan and Joss Whedon managed to make the stories accessible to all ages and, while they may have been directed primarily towards teens, they were universal stories that all ages can enjoy. This feels like Spongebob Squarepants. I am beyond upset with the choices made with this series, and as much as it pains me to say, I am beginning to wonder if it wouldn't have been better to just finish off the series with Whedon's run.

Art: Do you really need to ask? Here. Check it out here. Sure, it would be stunning art if it were made for a REN & STIMPY/RECESS cross-over, but for Runaways? Where is the integrity? Why does Victor, a Latino man, look like a fusion between Sayid and Jin from Lost? Why does Nico wear a shirt that says "Witch"? Why is Molly suddenly four? Why does Old Lace's snout look like a droopy old leather shoe? Why do they all have button noses? Why are the freaking ads the part of this comic I look forward to?

Rating: 1/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

Thursday, August 21, 2008

EVERYBODY'S DEAD #5 (the conclusion)

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Everybody's Dead #5

Timing: Directly after Everybody's Dead #4

Note from Me: I've been kind of a spaz when it comes to reviewing comics and reporting news lately. This comic came out last Wednesday and I've already read it twice before even going to review it, and also we've got some cool new art I've yet to link. Sorry all! I've had a lot of stuff going on, both good and bad. My bird Dickie died last night, which is bad and sad. I took the cast and crew of Whatz Good Studios out to dinner last night also, which is good for fun but bad for my wallet, but still overall good shit. Annnnd, for the good stuff, we're almost 100% ready to launch Whatz Good Studios, my webcomic Epitaph (which you can see art for over at my other blog) is coming along nicely, and pretty much I spend way too much time in the day writing, so that is why I've been a ghost around here lately. I'll try to review things--whether they be Joss books, Brian books, BKV books, whatever--faster, in the future.

REVIEW: It's silly, it's hilarious, it's oddly moving, and it's pretty much what you'd expect if one of comics' best writers wrote a stoner/zombie/frat/action comic. There is no shortage of badass moments (mostly thanks to the ever awesome Jack and the SPOILER: zombified Mosby), nor are there many lines that aren't quotable. I mean, check this out:

"Im gonna leap down on them with the paddle of truth and I'm planning on saying 'the truth hurts.'"

"And you can keep each other company in my poop."

"You're like Benedict Arnold mixed with the wheelchair dude from Oz when he was on Lost, with a dash of boobs--"

"I have beer-goggled so you may live!"

"Oh. Snap."

"We're not going to Canada, Doug. They're primitive and their beers and weird."

"I defy the assholes on the world to do their worst."

And that's just me flipping through the pages and picking random funny lines. Like any Brian Lynch comic, this is filled with them. Also, at it's most simple, it's a story about your average college dude triumphing over asshole college dudes... erm, as zombies. It's sort of hard to write this review, because it's not like the last Angel book where I can kind of give a summary about what happened without really spoilering, because pretty much everything that happens in this book is a climax, a twist, or a BAMF moment.

I'll say this much. There are major fights, zomb on zomb violence, s'plosions, betrayals, atonement, more long tongues, and a great ending that both works as an ending and leaves room for more. And it's all so well-plotted that you can see that Brian Lynch was meticulous in getting this book done right. There's no doubt that Everybody's Dead is his baby, and he definitely took great care of it and produced a wonderful series with these past five issues. I am very, very much on board if more of it comes out.

Art: Dave Crosland's art is pretty much perfect for this series. At first I was wary, and thought it might have looked sort of Nickelodeony, but in reading the entire series over and seeing how the art really compliments the story, I take it back. It's not traditionally beautiful, but it's quirky, stylized, and has a nice movement to it, which this book definitely needed for all of the action scenes.

Rating: 8/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

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

Monday, August 11, 2008

ANGEL news, BUFFY news, ANGEL cover, BUFFY cover, ANGEL extended, BUFFY delay, ANGEL arist change, BUFFY soliciation


It's been a while since I've dished the news, so sorry for the lag. I'm working real hard on my own webseries at the moment, so blogging has kinda shifted to the backburner. But I'm going to be going real hard to keep up with the news, and point you in the direction of new covers whenever they're released.

And speaking of which... Brian Lynch has the full color version of Stephen Mooney's ANGEL #11 cover over at his blog.

If you go to that link, you'll notice that we've got two great comics coming out this Wednesday. We've got EVERYBODY'S DEAD #5, which concludes that series, so everyone that's been following this epic/funny/weed-smokey tale better put in the order for this book. And, of course, ANGEL #11 comes out tomorrow, and it has a certain former-human-current-vampire's climatic meeting with a former-human-former-evil-vampire-former-ensouled-vampire-current-human.

So it's getting closer to that time. Here's a few bits of news you may or not know concerning the end of "Angel: After the Fall" and the future of the ANGEL franchise.

1. "Angel: After the Fall" was set to end at #16. Now, it looks like IDW may extend the series by one issue to give it a beefier ending.

2. After #11, we say goodbye to Nick Runge and welcome Stephen Mooney, who takes over art duties for #12 and #13. You can see a preview page from #12 right here. You may know his art from the "CONNOR" and "KATE" stories from Issues #6 and #7, and also the SLAY ALIVE covers from #1-#12. Check out Brian's report on that right here, and also dig some of Mooney's really awesome takes on Wesley, Spike, and Gunn. Looks like the eye of ramras is back.

3. It seems that, after Mooney finishes up #13, FRANCO URRU is joining the team to finish out "After the Fall."

And here... here is the big news... if you haven't see this yet a) you're a n00b and b) get ready to soil yourself.

4. After "Angel: After the Fall," we're getting some more of our favorite broodster. KELLEY ARMSTRONG, supernatural novelist, takes on writing duties for ANGEL: AFTERMATH, which picks up on what Angel and the gang are doing after the conclusion of AFTER THE FALL. Kelley talked about the series on her forum, and gave out a few great bits of information.

+ "It'll be a 5-6 volume single story arc."
+ "The story will be approved by (Joss Whedon)."
+ "It will follow from the events of Angel: After the Fall, it will continue that storyline and subsequent storylines will follow from it. So, yes, it's considered canon."
+ Brian Lynch will also write a continuation, later down the road. Kelley says, "I should clarify this. Brian is writing a separate story arc. Both will continue the series from the TV show (and After the Fall), but they are separate stories, so if readers do decide my contribution is a "best-forgotten alternate reality blip", the blame will fall solely on me, unfortunately..."

5. John Byrne, comic book legend, is going to be writing/pencilling an upcoming ANGEL flashback book titles ANGEL: BLOOD AND TRENCHES.

Ah, Buffy. A lot of great stuff is going on over at Dark Horse concerning the Buffy comic, so I'll give yall the sitch.

1. We've got the entire map out for SEASON EIGHT, it seems. I'll give you the list after I post various bits of other news.

2. Season Nine is definitely a go, and Joss Whedon will be involved. Scott Allie says that Joss will definitely Executive Produce it, but he's not sure how much Joss will be able to write, due to his involvement in DOLLHOUSE and CABIN IN THE WOODS (a film he wrote with Drew Goddard) which has been given the FREAKING GREEN LIGHT. Great news all around.

3. Solicit for Buffy #20 is out today. The blurb reads, "Written by Jeph Loeb, penciled by Eric Wight and Georges Jeanty. Comic-book writer Jeph Loeb was set to executive produce, alongside Joss Whedon and animator Eric Wight, the proposed Buffy animated TV series. While Buffy fans won't be viewing that show anytime soon, Loeb, Wight, and Whedon offer the next best thing -- a comic inspired by the animated series!" (Speaking of which, you can check out that animated show that we "won't be viewing anytime soon" right here! Great month to be a Buffy fan.

4. Georges Jeanty's #2o cover is above. It's in the style of the original ANIMATED series. In the actual comic book, I think Georges is pencilling the present scenes while Eric Wright draws the flashback scenes in the style of BUFFY: ANIMATED.

5. Sadly, now this is a wee bit of bad news, Buffy #20 is delayed about a month. It comes out November 26th instead of the first week of November, which isn't a big deal. I'd rather a small planned delay than a... erm, not planned delay. Would you agree?

#20: "After These Messages ... We'll Be Right Back" written by Jeph Loeb
#21-25: The arc described by Scott Allie as "Vampires in the Vogue." It consists of standalone issues, each written by a different writer. Jane Espenson kicks it off and is followed by Doug Petrie, Drew Greenberg, Jim Krueger, annnnd one person we do not yet know.
#26-30: OZ arc, written by Jane Espenson. (If this is a five issue arc, there will be no standalones. If it's only four, however...)
#31-35: Arc leading up to the conclusion, written by Brad Meltzer
#36-40: Concludes SEASON EIGHT, written by Joss Whedon
Alright guys, a lot of stuff to swallow, probably most of which you already knew. Ah well, I'm late sauce. Gotta go put in the order for EVERYBODY'S DEAD #5 and ANGEL #11. Catch you on the flip.

PS: If you have time, subscribe to Episode One comes out AUGUST 29th, and we worked really hard on it to make it as shiny as we could, which we think is pretty damn shiny. Check out the trailers and such until it's released!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Spike vs. The Dragon


What Is It?: Spike- After the Fall #2 (written by Brian Lynch.)

Timing: Directly after Spike- After the Fall #1.

REVIEW: Brian Lynch is pretty amped on this story. Whenever he talks about it, he mentions how much he loves it and how well it's coming together. His enthusiasm for this title had me looking forward to it real hard, and I wasn't let down at all by the first issue. We get a new character, Jeremy, set up to be Spike's buddy, and a great cliff hanger. The band of demon/women that later on become Spike's groupies imprisoned the civilians Spike was looking over and Spike was left facing off against Angel's dragon...

...and that's a dynamic that I loved seeing. The introduction to this issue gives us a hilarious idea of what Spike's opinion on Angel and the dragon is, and it also throws back to a scene from "Not Fade Away," which is awesome. I love the entire scene between the Dragon and Spike, which ends with the Dragon trying to enlist Spike's help in Angel's achy breaky back situation. But we don't really see Angel... I mean we do, but... it's hard to describe. The mystical stuff at work here in that scene, as well as the villain's powers, are really well-thought out and make for some crazy visuals.

This issue is very simple and doesn't have any real climatic scenes--it is really very set-uppy, which is a good thing for an Issue #2 to be--but it forwards the story nicely and gives us some awesome character moments. None of the pages, none of the panels, feel wasted, as we're also treated to a little joke or reference to pop-culture or Angel history. Those little moments, those appreciative chuckles, are what elevates this beyond "just a good Spike story." Lynch handles each panel with a great knowledge of how comics, as a medium, work. Take the Spike and Spider show-down for example. A back and forth like that could only work in comics, and the movement of it is just brilliant and so hilarious.

The villain, a sort of mer/witch/necromancer/hottie/something woman, is a good one. Her dialogue is great and she's really a threat, unlike her demon/woman groupies. She, and this series, has a lot of intrigue that I can't wait to see paid off. It works great as a companion to "Angel: After the Fall" but is solid enough that it stands completely on its own.

Art: Franco does a great job. Pretty much the same I said last time, paste here. Art Lyon marginally improves, but still sticks way too much to washed out colors. The Hell-A sky was stunning and terrifying in the early A:AtF issues, but now it's just red. Looks sort of like a perpetual sunset. I do love the detail Lyon puts into the things he wants to pop out at us--the dragon in the beautiful splash page looks real--but I wish that everything wasn't so red, brown, and washed out. I'm sort of left yearning for the earlier colorists, who truly brought out the beauty of Franco Urru's intricate panels.

Covers: The Franco Urru cover is simply a win. A blatant win. Totally relevant to the issue, and sort of conveys how differently Spike is responding to the situation when compared to Angel. Such a great idea and executed nicely by Franco. The Sharp brothers also provide a cover, which isn't bad, but is more blah than good. I don't so much get the cover, but it's not horrible. Their next one, the one for #3, is when they really shine.

Characters We Know: Angel (sorta), The Dragon, Spike, Angel (sorta... in a different and more real way but still sorta), Spider, Fred, Illyria, Jeremy,

Rating: 9/10

Who's That Lady? (who's that laaayydayy)

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #17: Time of Your Life Part II (written by Joss Whedon).

Timing: Directly after (and a bit of it during) "Time of Your Life Part I."

REVIEW: It's a good issue. Doesn't quite crack great, and it definitely doesn't make a jump-shot for perfect like the last issue did, but it was entertaining enough not to be much of a letdown. But I'll start from the beginning, much like this issue did.

I liked that the first half of this issue sort of parallels #16, in that it shows what Fray and co. were doing before she ran into Buffy. The fact that we get to see this through Fray's eyes shows that Joss isn't just throwing Fray into BtVS as a minor character, but that this is a true cross-over and that both Buffy and Fray are, rightfully so, co-stars. It's great to see Fray, Erin, and the villainous Harth again, but something is noticeably off with the most important character in this crossover. And that's Fray herself. I don't know if it was all set-up for Buffy to say the "I should have treated (the English language) better, maybe it was make Haddyn more like the futuristic world of Firefly, or maybe it was just Joss trying to have fun, but Fray is speaking like she's a different character altogether. While she still has Fray's back story and design, she simply doesn't speak the way that Fray from the FRAY series does. In fact, every single sentence she says in this comic has a futuristic slang word in it. Surely, language would evolve (and break down) after hundreds of years, but it throws the consistency of the character out the window. The Fray series was peppered lightly with futuristic slang, but in this it's pretty much a Futuristic Slang Party With A Free Futuristic Slang Keg Open All Night, Drinks For Free! I just want that character to be more similar to the character I read and loved in FRAY.

That's the only majorly bad thing about this issue. The build-up to Fray's clash with Buffy is nice, as are the side stories. Harth has teamed up with a major villain from Buffy's past, who is cloaked on shadow on the cover. People have been guessing that it's Drusilla, even after the cover for Part IV showed Dark Willow, which sort of boggled my mind... but I'll let you see for yourself who it is. The last page, like many Buffy issues, is the big villain reveal, though in reality the colorist revealed who it was on Page Seven. You'll see what I mean. I like her relationship with Harth and her extreme creepy way of talking, to show how far this character has come since hundreds of years have passed. It's a really exciting plot that has plenty of room for Joss to break our hearts, so that is pretty much what I'm most excited for in this issue.

The Dawn and Xander plot continues on, and gets really good. They don't have as much page time as I would have liked, but let's just say that the missile--as I speculated--was not merely an explosive device. Oh it, to quote Kate, "s'ploded" some things, yeah, but it also made some really interesting, really green problems for Xander, and I ain't talking Ralph Nader clones. Another great thing about this scene was the sexual tension between Xander and Dawn when she tells him that he has to ride her. This ain't Season Five's Xander and Dawn, and if you don't mind a bit of speculation, I'd say that Xander is about to be real close-like with a Summers girl.

Overall, it's a good bridge between issues, with a few problems here and there. In addition to the Fray talk, Willow gives a really not-so-good written expository speech about how Buffy was sucked into the future. It's fine, making sense wise, but it takes a bit of re-reading to suss out what she means. This may seem negative, but those are really the only two things about this issue that bother me, so in the end it's an issue with one huge problem, one teensy problems, and a lot of awesome stuff that almost makes up for it.

Art: It's Karl Moline, so you know it's gonna be great. There are some really awesome pages and some that are not so much. My best guess was that he had less time to work on this issue, because it lacks the extreme detail of #16, but it's still good enough to make me stare at each panel with a dazed look of joy in my eyes.

Covers: Both covers are attractive pieces. Jo Chen's cover isn't as beautiful as her contributions to the other issues in this arc, but it is still a very good looking piece. We're looking up at Buffy and Fray through the watery screen of Gunther's tank, while said "mer-sleaze" swims toward us. Very dynamic piece, but wouldn't be listed as one of Chen's best--or most details--paintings. Georges Jeanty also gives a good looking cover with a great concept behind it, and it's always cool to see different artists tackle new characters (in this case Harth). It's a very shadowy cover, and basically created to make us wonder who the "mystery woman" cloaked in shadow next to him is.

Characters We Know: Melaka Fray, Erin, Harth, Willow, Kennedy, Xander, Rowena, Leah, Dawn, Buffy, Gunther.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Angel: After the Fall Hardcover Volume One

WHAT IT IS: A hardcover that collects the first five issues of Angel: After the Fall.

THE STORY: “Not Fade Away,” the series finale of Angel, was the most brilliant episode of television I’ve ever seen. It was just a poignant, sad, and epic send-off to the characters I’d been following for so many years. It ended in the middle of a fight, and it didn’t really matter if Angel and his crew won that fight, because the point was that there would always be another fight and that Angel would always be the one fighting to make things right. So it was pretty much the perfect way to end the show.

So needless to say, I wanted more. I mean, it’s “Angel.”

So when it was announced that Joss Whedon was going to work with IDW Publishing to create the comic series that fans have been asking for since Angel went out in a blaze of glory, I was thrilled. When it was announced that the writer who would work with Whedon to plot the series was Brian Lynch, writer of SPIKE: ASYLUM, I was even more ecstatic, because “Asylum” was as good if not better than some of Joss’s comic work. If that hadn’t already sold me, then Franco Urru—artist behind ASYLUM—was assigned. Pretty much my favorite writer from IDW and my favorite artist from IDW had been handpicked by my favorite writer of all time (Whedon) to create a comic that continues my favorite show of all time. I’m surprised my heart and/or head didn’t bust all over my laptop.

When the day came that “Angel: After the Fall #1” was released, I held it in my hand for a second and realized that I would probably be disappointed. I’d amped myself up way too much. I hosted a countdown of Angel’s best moments on my site, leading up to the comic’s release date. I’d watched the last half of ANGEL: SEASON FIVE over again. I waited outside the door of my comic shop to make sure I’d be able to get all the covers. So how could this book live up to my expectations. So again, needless to say… it didn’t.

It exceeded them.

Brian understands the story and world of Angel in a way that only we passionate few—the fans—do. He writes each character as if he’s been inside their heads for years, because he’s had. Like us, he’s watched the show from a distance, and knows each character arc as well as the fans. Brian Lynch takes what was great about Season Five and continues it, starting us off with an Angel who is broken and half the man he was, but still—as always—trying to make things right. The environment is different, because LA has been sent to Hell. Angel’s situation is different, because… well, you’ll have to read that to find out, because it’s one of many revelations that will shock you with just how ballsy Joss and Brian are… because they take it to THAT level. Angel’s friends have all developed since we last saw them. Wesley was dead, Gunn was dying, Connor was running, Gwen was nowhere to be found, Spike was doing the lonely champion act, and Illyria was reeling from Wesley’s death… well, each of those characters are doing something majorly different now, which makes for some great reading.

Issues One, Two, and Five are literally the best three comics I’ve read. Joss’s work in Season Eight comes close at points (his recent work has been completely stellar), but these comics are just the best. The story is clear, so large scale, and really tugs hard at the heartstrings. And, note this, issues three and four aren’t bad at all. In fact, they’re great, solid 9/10s. It just shows how great this series is that issues as strong as those can be the weak points. The art is stylized but always beautiful. Franco is great with character moments and facial expressions, but his true appeal is in his action sequences, which bust with life. Some artists struggle at conveying movement, but even the scenes where characters are walking seem to flow with such real movement in Franco’s panels.

I’ve read these five issues about fifteen times each. So last night, when I sat down to read them in the hardcover collection format, I thought I’d just read the first issue and falls asleep. But I read the entire book in the one sitting, after already having read each issue so many times. And I was still utterly captivated. Such is the power of Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, Franco Urru, and Angel.

THE PRESENTATION: We’ve got a new cover by Alex Garner, that feels glossy over some parts and smooth over others, which makes the image of Angel really jump out at you. The book itself is beautiful and has nice thick pages that will stand up to many readings. There is a nice design to the inside of this hardcover, which really shows that IDW put their all into this product. I’ve had complaints about IDW’s Angel TPBS in the past, because some of the books have very weak spines, but this is simply a very handsome book that really stands out on your shelf.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Oh there are a lot. The book starts with an introduction by Brian Lynch, which gives us background on how he fell in love with Angel’s story. Each issue starts with a nicely designed chapter page, leaving the covers to be collected in a comprehensive gallery in the back. We’ve also got the original series proposal by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch, which features awesome tidbits of info that didn’t make it to the overall series but are still interesting to know. As a bonus, the book also has the script to the first issue with commentary by Brian Lynch. There is even a cloth bookmark for you to mark your place.

RATING: 10/10 Classic.