Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"There's gonna be some stuff you're gonna see... that's gonna make it hard to smile in the future."

What Is It?: Angel- Smile Time adaptation #3. Original story by Joss Whedon and Ben Edlund, original teleplay by Ben Edlund. Adapted to comic script by Scott Tipton.

Timing: Directly after Angel- Smile Time #2. Two-thirds into the episode.

Note: Adaptations are now ranked on this scale: EPIC FAIL, FAIL, BAD, OKAY, GOOD, VERY GOOD, GREAT, OUTSTANDING.

REVIEW: That was an enjoyable little issue.

The one thing I noticed right off the bat is that, unlike the first two in the series, there are no new scenes added. I'm fine with that, because it must have been extremely difficult to squeeze all that episode into a three issue miniseries, and the climatic fight and romantic resolution in this issue really did deserve the page time it got. One thing I'm slightly unsure about, though, is Spike. The two additional scenes with him in the first two issues set up the expectation for an appearance in this issue, if only for a one-liner to sort of wrap up the sub-subplot he had going on in this issue. As much as I would have liked that, the series feels complete enough that the lack of such a scene doesn't bother me.

As far as the translation of the episode to the page, this issue does a better job than the last one did. There are no awkward scenes at all, with the majority of them flowing exceptionally well. Could certain scenes have been improved? Sure. On page one, when Lorne is walking down the hall, there definitely should have been a shot of Angel before Lorne said "My little prince!" There were also a few panels, particularly the discussions between Fred and Wesley, that I thought more attention should have been given to the other person's face. There seems to be a lot of attention to reaction shots, and while that is fine, I think it's nice to ground the conversation with a shot of the person whose talking instead of doing two reaction shots in a row.

One thing that this series, particularly this issue, has done very well is setting up the tragedy to come two episodes later. I was originally unsure about including the Gunn subplot due to the time constraints of squeezing forty-two minutes of screen time (plus some extra fun scenes) into three comic issues, but I think it really paid off in the end. The dichotomy between seeing Gunn unknowingly sign Fred's death warrant and seeing Wesley and Fred's relationship finally move to the next level thrives on the tension of what we know is coming in A Hole in the World. The ending of this seemingly cheery episode is probably the biggest eucatasrophe in the Buffyverse; the tortured hero gets the girl after years of pining over her. The reversal of this happy ending is what gives those scenes a second, more powerful meaning, and this comic explores that nicely. Tipton was really right to include both of those subplots, because when paired together, they make this a more dark, more foreboding tale. And in an Angel episode about puppets, you kinda need that.

And that's a wrap for Angel- Smile Time. I was skeptical about episode adaptations, and in some ways I still am, but this issue served its purpose. As I said in the review for #2, it revitalized the source material, added some cool new stuff, and convinced me to like an episode that I never really gave a chance to. Job well done, Mr. Tipton.

Art: The art is a bit shabbier than I expected. Angel/Star Trek artist David Messina was the main artist advertised for the series, but it seems that the artist who was credited alongside of him, Elena Casagrande, had an increasingly important role as the series continued. The title was already released every two months, instead of the normal monthly status of Angel miniseries, to accommodate Messina's busy schedule. However, there are only a handful of pages where I can really feel Messina's presence. He does seem to come back for all the important or close-up shots, but the conversation pieces, especially the Wesley/Fred scene, seem to be a bit off. The art is definitely passable as a whole, and often awesome in the important shots... but I was looking forward to Messina's ever-improving likenesses, which I didn't quite get. Overall, though, still a pretty neat job. Just not quite at the level I expected.

Covers: These are my favorite covers from the entire Smile Time series. Messina's covers have been consistently awesome (we really need him back on the main Angel title in any capacity), but this takes it to another level. He paid homage to the famous Hulk cover with #1 and to Fight Club with #2... so it makes sense that, for the conclusion, he takes it home and pays homage to Angel. In tribute to the Angel: Season Five promo poster, Messina draws our two favorite vampires as puppets, with a reel of the other characters below them. It's one of the best Angel covers I've ever seen, no exaggeration. I believe this is getting collected into a hardcover with Spike: Shadow Puppets and the Angel/Nina story in Angel: Masks, but if there is ever just a Smile Time trade paperback, I think this should absolutely be the cover. The other ones were great, but they can't really measure up to this. The variant, a photo cover of Angel hugging Fred, adds just the right amount of cute to compliment the badassery of the regular cover. Plus, any cover with Amy Acker is a good cover in my mind.

Characters We Know: Lorne, Angel, Doctor Sparrow, Gunn, Fred, Wesley, Knox, Smile Time puppets, Nina.

Rating as an adaptation: Very good.

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