Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"After the Fall" comes to an end.

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #17 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch).

Timing: One month after Angel #16.

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: Last month, we got the climax. Now, we get the epilogue. We've been following Angel, Brian Lynch, Franco Urru, and many others on this ride for almost a year and a half. And now, it's finally come to an end. Even with the main conflict of the series resolved, there were so many characters and plot threads that felt like they needed to be tied up. The fact that Brian was able to pay off all of that so nicely, in twenty two pages no less, without anything feeling rushed or crammed is great.

Nothing feels too neat, nothing feels rushed. Nothing is too happy, nothing is too sad. The issue finds a nice balance between the tone of what the comic has been for the past year and change and what the TV series was, which makes sense, seeing as this is a sort of return to normalcy. Much like last issue, it's hard to talk about what happened without spoiling some things, but this issue isn't about big, gasp inducing revelations, really. It's how stuff happens that matters here, not what happens, so I'm not going to tread as lightly around plot points as I usually do.

The issue feels like it's broken up into three acts, so I'll address it as such.

ACT ONE: The issue begins with a bit of an update on Angel and his situation. As revealed in #16, yes, he's famous now, yes, LA is aware about the supernatural, and yes, Wolfram & Hart is gone. Angel spends most of this act trying to find out why they left and what their plans are, and I like that it's never really resolved. There are hints dropped as to why this happened, but much like the resolution of Brian K. Vaughan's equally epic Y: The Last Man, there are no neat explanations offered. Maybe, as Angel hypothesizes, W&H used up all of their resources and cash on the trip to Hell. Maybe, as Spike suggests, Angel is being more depressing than an emo song and should enjoy his relatively happy ending while it lasts. That's all the resolution we get to the Wolfram & Hart arc for the moment, and that's really all I need. I have my theories, but I'm glad an answer wasn't crammed in.

There is a nice research scene between Nina and Angel that I found particularly subtle in what it was trying to do. I might very well be reading too much into it, but the conversation between them really feeds into both of their insecurities and self-consciousness and, with only a few lines of well timed dialogue, really managed to evoke a lot of emotion for a pairing that never really was that admired by the fans. I honestly can't even place the exact mood the scene evoked, and whether it was intended or not, it really spoke of Nina's lack of confidence when around Angel, how she recognizes that she can't be what he needs--which I believe Illyria hinted at in #12--whether you're talking about research (being on his team) or being what he needs in that way.

There were a little "montage" that was inserted in the Nina and Angel research scene that shows some fallout of the trip to Hell. Angel bids a sad goodbye to a friend, the LA Lords deal with a traitor, and a certain someone gets to make good on a promise to a lady. HIGHLIGHT FOR MORE. (SPOILERS:) Yup, the LA Lords kill Bro'os, the Loan Shark, for his betrayal. For some reason, I felt kind of sorry for the guy. Like Dracula, Connor, and Kennedy, the transition to comics actually made him a cool character. Also, Jeremy finally gets to propose to his girlfriend he spoke about in Spike: After the Fall. And, seeing that Jeremy is modeled after Jim from The Office, his girlfriend is modeled after, of course, Pam from The Office. Beautiful scene either way, definitely one should shouldn't read without a box of tissues next to you. So not only is the scene great (it has some cool stuff I didn't go into as well), it also will make the few people who said "What? A reboot!? Bah!" feel very, very silly. Nothing is the same.

ACT TWO: This is the biggest chunk of the issue. We get that great Angel/Spike talk we've been waiting for. And, by waiting for, I don't mean we've been waiting for it since Brian told us about it. We've been waiting for the scene since Angel's first scene with Spike. It's just so well played, having them have their most intimate conversation while each of them play it off as if it's not happening. So true to the characters, and so proves that Joss was right to bring Spike into the Angel fold. The insight each of them have into the other's life is fascinating, because Spike really understands Angel in a way that no one else does. And vice-versa. In addition to this, there is awesome Betta George banter, laugh out loud Kr'ph one-liners (yup, he's back), and some brief but effective Illyria action. Brian Lynch pointed out two errors in the book over at the IDW forum, and they might make you cock your eyebrow a bit, but knowing what the text was supposed to say makes the conversation flow even better. Anyone who doesn't visit the IDW forum, please pass on the correction so everyone knows.

ACT THREE: It's so bittersweet that this is over. I love the ending, but I can't believe it's over. I know the series will go on, and I know Brian Lynch comes back, and I know Franco Urru comes back, but still. Sadness aside, the story closes out in such a fantastic way. Angel talks to a (SPOILER:) comatose Gunn. He lets his friend know, as Lorne watches, that it's going to be okay. Hard, but okay in the end. It really speaks to the redemption angle of Angel. The series closes out with a truly iconic page of Angel walking down street, away from the reader and toward his future, whatever it may be.

Written with intelligence, care, and understanding of the characters, Angel #17 is a perfect ending to the best comic I've ever read.

Brian Lynch, thank you for writing. Franco Urru, Stephen Mooney, David Messina, Nick Runge, Alex Garner, and more, thank you all for your art. Thank you for following me on this journey, blog readers. It's been quite a ride, and I can't wait for what's next.

Art: What is there to say about Urru's art that hasn't already been said? It was once said that his specialty was monsters, and that was true. Then. Now, he captures emotion on the faces of the characters in a way I've never seen before. His wonderful pencils are made into atmospheric art by colorist Fabio Montovani, whose cool tones are even more suited to normal LA than they are to the Hellish atmosphere. This is the best interior art we've seen so far.

Covers: Alex Garner's cover is a mock-up tabloid of Angel being photographed by the paparazzi. Not his strongest Angel likeness, but still good. The images on the side of Illyria, Gunn (especially Gunn), and Spike/Spider are all so on point. Each of them could be their own covers. The other cover is the big spread of heroes from Hell-A on one side with villains on the other by Franco Urru. Despite the coloring error on Lorne's right arm, it's a great cover that really pays tribute to what the characters went through. The villains side is only included on the Retailer Incentive A cover. There is also a Retailer Incentive B cover which is the Garner cover, but only the Angel image. All four covers are very worth owning.

Characters We Know: Angel, Nina, Groo, Jeremy, Gwen, Cordelia the Dragon, Spike, Betta George, Illyria, Kr'ph, Burge, all the other LA Lords, Gunn, and Lorne.

Rating: 10/10 Classic.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Yep, total classic. Loved the art.

My only unfulfilled wish here was to see what became of Maria/Spider. Especially since she was on the cover. Minor compared to the stuff we did see, and Spike's emotional arc was of course much more about Fred/Illyria and Angel at this point in the story -- but still, Spider was a cool character and I hope we see her again in some Lynch-written comic.