Wednesday, October 29, 2008

All Bloody Hail

What Is It?: Spike- After the Fall #4 (written by Brian Lynch.)

Timing: Directly after Spike- After the Fall #3.

REVIEW: It's hard to believe that the majority of this issue is one fight. It's so emotional, so bloody, so action packed, and so filled with well-written dialogue that it seems like many, many events are happening instead of one long fight. Including Connor was a nice touch, and I especially like his interactions with Non and Spike. Another thing I appreciated was how the focus wasn't taken off Spike or Illyria. Even when fighting the biggest bads, the story was 100% about them. Even the way Non was dealt with in the end was more about Spike's character development than actually defeating Non.

Like any Brian/Franco issue, it's loaded with fun little extras, like Spike taking on a vampire Hugh Hefner, who I think was turned way before LA went south for the fall... and how Spike got his robe. Fantastic. But nothing that happens here is really little, per say. For a book that is essentially a prequel to the main Angel: After the Fall arc, there are such huge, huge things happening here. Illyria has one moment that is frighteningly true to her character, and the way it's handled sheds light on where both Spike and her heads are at. It's definitely an emotional issue, on par with the latest two installments of Angel.

So concludes Spike: After the Fall, one of the most consistently, thoroughly good comics we've got this year. I'm praying we'll see more from the terribly talented trio (Brian/Franco/Spike) in the future.

Art: Brian Lynch has called Franco Urru the best artist in comics... and I'm starting to agree. He manages to nail all the emotional moments, but also captures the motion of the battle scenes so perfectly that you can almost see the characters fighting with each other across the panels. He's a champ at pretty much every aspect, especially his full page revelations which... in this case, are actually heartbreaking. I still think the man's one weakness is the detail of the characters when they're a distance away, but even that has improved dramatically since his work on Angel. I just wish he was paired with a talented colorist to bring out the best in his work. Art Lyon is back on this book, which was especially painful after Jason Jensen did such a fantastic, fantastic job last issue. I Art has improved at incorporating more colors into his coloring, and the book benefits from it. But honestly, how can you not make Kr'ph blue? Kr'ph needs to be blue. I will end with saying this--in this book, Art Lyon did surprise me with the improvements that he did make.

Covers: Franco Urru provides the better cover of the set again (of course). It's a very detailed cover, featuring many characters in the heat of many battles. And there is muuuucho blood. I'm not sure that it's Franco's best Spike likeness, because the face is sort of long, but otherwise it's a great cover. The Sharp Bros also deliver their best cover, with Spike in a circus setting presenting Illyria, the sideshow woman/monster. It's by far my favorite cover by them, and among the most interesting of the series. I love the text on the cover as well.

Characters We Know: Spike, Connor, Illyria, Fred, Non, Spider, Jeremy

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Keeps Gettin' Better

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #13 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch.)

Timing: Directly follows Angel: After the Fall #12.

REVIEW: Wow. It's been a hard month for Buffyverse fans, what with the delay of Buffy #19 and the latness of this issue... but as one Frank Barone would say, "Holy crap." The wait was worth it three times over. The writing in this issue is the best it's been, no contest. Subtle and outright references to the past, huge character moments, bad-ass fights, heroism, and ultimate heartbreak pours out of this issue, capturing the tone of the show better than any issue before.

It's a bit hard to talk specifics without spoilering, but here's what you can expect. At least two somewhat major characters die, probably for keeps. We get confirmation of the no-one-dies clause that keeps bringing the slayers back at Gunn's place. We get a fight between Connor and Gunn, as well as Angel's final decision on whether to live or die. Gunn takes his plan to the next, bloody level. Great Spike lines, and some really, really tragic scenes.

It's everything I expected from what looks to be the first act of the climax of Angel: After the Fall. Things are heating up in hell and we've got four issues left. November can't come soon enough.

Art: Mooney, again, did good here. If I had to compare his work here to what he gave us in #12, I'd say that his pencils here are a bit better than last time. He really captures Cordy nicely, as well as Angel, Gunn, and Gwen. His Illyria is also well done. His Spike and Connor are very hit and miss, though he did nail each character in their most important panels (both during the Angel "voice over" section). I'm still not thrilled about his shading technique, but it's his style, and the majority of his art is consistently good enough for me to ignore what I don't like and concentrate on what I do. He had a lot of major, major scenes to execute here, and he did a nice job. Now onto the coloring. Art Lyon, whose brown work has been my biggest complaint about After the Fall, actually does a good job here. I noticed his effort to make things more lively and colorful, and I definitely appreciate him bringing his work to the next level for this book. I'm very much looking forward to Fabio Mantovani (who colored the Gunn story from #8 and did art and colors on the Gwen story from that same issue) to take over coloring duties in #15, but I'm also really happy that Art Lyon brought a better product to the table in this issue.

Covers: The A cover is by the man who is to Angel as Jo Chen is to Buffy. Yup, that's right. The only and only Alex Garner. His cover is a puzzle of Illyria/Fred, with some pieces depicting Illyria and others depicting Fred. It's wonderfully done and a perfect likeness of both characters. The B cover is by Nick Runge, whose work this time around seems to be every bit as good as Garner's. His cover art is fantastic, this time featuring Connor holding a bloodied Angel in a rainy alley. Both of these covers are some of the best of the series.

Characters We Know: Spike, Dragon, Douche Lackey, the Slayers, Cordelia, Angel, Gunn, Wesley, Connor, Gwen, Illyria, Fred.

Rating: 10/10 Classic.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Everybody's Dead TPB

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: This collects the entire "Everybody's Dead" miniseries, written by Brian Lynch.

Timing: Comes first in what will hopefully become a continuing series, fingers crossed, please, please?

Story: Pretty simple combination to understand here. Dialogue that is halfway between Whedon and Apatow. Characters that fit the archetypes you want to see in a college comedy, while still transcending those archetypes to become fully fleshed out characters. A supernatural situation--in this case zombies--that is both scary, hilarious, and pretty bloody. All of these ingredients are brewed up in Brian Lynch's "Everybody's Dead," a tightly written and enjoyable comic that you really have no excuse for not owning.

Few words to sum it up? Best zombie story since "Shaun of the Dead," which is probably my favorite zombie film, period. Why go Romero when you can go stoner/slacker/hilarious? Also, it ranks pretty damn high as a 'college' film, too. I'd probably put "How High" as number one, followed by this. Simply put? F***ing love it.

Art: At first I was a bit unsure about the art--I read this when it came out as individual issues, then again as a trade--but now, on the second read, I really can still see where I was coming from, I just disagree now. The art totally suits the story. It's not at all realistic, but the thing is, it's not meant to be. Dave Crosland really puts his all into making each panel as wacky as can be. The really well-defined features of each character add to Lynch's already lively cast, and the zombie "effects" are just crazy. The moment when I knew Crosland was at "you-da-man" status was in Issue 2, with the CatMutantCannibalCreature's jaw falling off. Priceless. Great detail, great movement.

Presentation: Really, really nice. Pages are thick, Lynch wrote up a nice intro, and the extras are substantial. We've got a drinking game--which I'll be trying--and a cover gallery, as well as the character designs and profiles that Brian posted on Myspace a while ago. It's very pretty.

Rating: 8/10

Non-Buffyverse Related