Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Top Ten After the Fall Moments

Over a year and a half ago, I did a "Top Ten Angel Moments" countdown, all leading up to the release of the first issue of Angel: After the Fall. Back then, all we had was a promise of good things to come. We had awesome names attached to it (Brian Lynch, Joss Whedon, and Franco Urru). We thought the series would be twelve issues long. We thought a lot of things, but all of our expectations were blown out of the water by the actual product. Reading Angel: After the Fall has changed how I read comics as much as the show itself changed how I watched television. It was smart, hilarious, dark, emotional, and challenging, right up until the final installment. All of the characters, particularly Gunn, were in such interesting places. Illyria was finally dealing with the fact that she took the life of a person that her team (would it be wrong, at this point, to say "friends"?) cherished above anyone else. Spike was left wondering his place as a champion in this world. Betta George was free. Connor was still pretty chill, coping well with the fact that he had been killed by the vampire version of someone who stood in as a father figure to him during Angel's stint in the deep blue sea. Angel was left to come to terms with the death of his best friend Wesley, and also the fact that, though his son is alive, he witnessed his other best friend shove a flaming sword through his chest.

And Gunn. Oh, Gunn.

Either way, all the characters had such interesting roads ahead of them. Unfortunately, Angel: Aftermath didn't explore any of the things that After the Fall had set up, focusing more on a new plot instead of character development. But now, after five issues without Brian Lynch, we have been wondering what is truly going on with these characters, especially Gunn, and when we're gonna find out.

Well, tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow, the issue of many names (Angel #23, Become What You Are, Angel: After the Fall-Epilogue) comes out, and gives us the skinny on what Gunn and Illyria have been doing. Betta George, Lorne, and Non make appearances as well. We've all read the preview, and that writing that drew us in in the first place is just as good as ever. Click here to read.

To celebrate the fact that we're getting more of the story we've been waiting for, here are the top ten moments of Angel: After the Fall.

10. Cordelia's Reveal (Issue #12)

"I imagined you. I talked to you the entire time."

In the previous issue, all of the magic that Angel had used to heal himself was taken away by Gunn, so our hero was left to die. Between life and death, a spectre Angel walks through the halls of Gunn's lair, approaching... Cordelia. His transitional state allowed her to appear to only him, and the way she was revealed was just so beautiful. We'd been anticipating learning the dragon's name, thinking it would be funny, but as Angel approaches his unseen friend, talking about how he would talk to Cordelia while he was in pain and the dragon thought he was talking to it... well, it was beautiful. Brian Lynch slowly let the reader catch on to who Angel was talking to, allowing the emotions to blossom just in time for the big reveal page of Cordelia.

9. Angel and Spike Talk It Out (Issue #17)

"You guys just thanked each other in your heads! Simultaneously!"

Angel and Spike had very different adventures in hell. Spike fought a deadly pixie, lost a bunch of new friends, and became the object of a lot of warrior chicks' affection before he met up with Angel, and the two didn't spend much time together once they did cross paths. However, much like their chat in "Damaged," their heart to heart conversation at the end of this big epic is what brings the entire series home. These two help each other make sense of their own situations. Through dialogue that couldn't have read better if Whedon himself wrote it, Angel tells Spike why he thinks that Spike doesn't appear in the history books, while Spike gives Angel hope that he won't be the downfall of man, as predicted. Plus, Betta George gives some pretty hilarious commentary from the backseat of the car the two are riding in. If that doesn't make for an amazing moment, friggin' Kr'ph is in the trunk.

8. Angel and Wesley Say Goodbye (Issue #16)

"Thank you, Rogue Demon Hunter."

Always similarly minded, Angel figures out how to win at the same moment Wesley does. Wesley knows that once Angel is killed, they will all be sent back to the last moment that he was in one piece... and that was in the alley, when Wesley was dead. Angel knows that either way this goes down, he's never going to see Wesley again. Though the look they gave each other in "Not Fade Away" spoke for everything that had happened between the two characters, the time they've spent together in Hell during After the Fall brought them to the place where they can finally talk to each other in a way they hadn't been able to since Wesley stole Angel's child years before. Wesley tells Angel that being his friend and fighting by his side has been an honor, and Angel says the quote listed above. In any other situation, it would have been a hokey line, but evoking where Wesley had been at when Angel met him, he underlines Wesley's beautiful sacrifice by showing just how far he had come. It's a quick moment in the middle of a battle, but it's tragic, heroic, and probably the last time we'll ever see Wesley, my favorite character.

7. Wesley and Fred's Library (Issue 17)

"Warm breeze. Each and every time."

After the climax of After the Fall, we picked back up with Angel, the dynamic of his team rocked, researching with Nina in a seemingly random library. But when he leaves, he puts his hand on a sign that reads "Burkle Wyndam-Price Wing," bidding goodbye to his lost friends. The next page is one that has surely misted many an eye, as Angel reminisces on Fred and Wes, contemplating where they are right now. Though he'd like to think they're together somewhere, it's hard for him to stay positive... But Cordelia sends a warm breeze past him every time he thinks that way, letting him know not to worry about Fred, Wes, and--the way I read it--her. That a series as epic and action packed also has moments as tender as this is really special.

6. Angel Saves Gunn (Issue #16)

"Sorry, Charles. It's Not That Easy."

Yeah, I know that most of the moments so far have been from the same two issues. The fact is, they're the pay off from everything that had been set up before. After this, we'll really start to get into the other issues, but this is a big one and sort of spans two issues. In #8, it's revealed that Angel left Gunn vulnerable to gain control of the dragon during the alley fight, and this is what lead to Gunn being turned into a vampire. This time, as soon as Angel finds Gunn's scent, he knows what to do. Despite just seeing a sired Gunn murder Connor, Angel knows that he has to save his friend the way he should have in the first place. It's a poignant moment of redemption for Angel, and the most tragic moment of Gunn's life, as he lies in his own blood, remembering everything he did, begging Angel to let him die. Of course, Angel doesn't. Also, there is just something so badass about Angel dealing so quickly with the DesmondFromLost-esque vampire that sired Gunn.

5. The Prophecy (Issue #12)

"It is written. It has been witnessed. It is inevitable."

This is a big one. It shocked me that the series had balls this gigantic, because in one moment, the entire Shanshu mythos, one of the biggest parts of the Angel mythology, had been flipped on its head. Since Angel first read it in the season finale of the first season in the 2000, it had been an object of hope for him, the white light at the end of the tunnel. So the Senior Partner's using Wesley to deliver the vision to Angel that the Prophecy means he'll fight for the side of evil (and win) in the Apocalypse, the entire way Angel views his redemptive fight is rocked. In this issue, it's a moment of complete despair, but it's worth mentioning that as incredibly sad as this reveal is, Angel takes his destiny by the balls three issues later, saying, "All this time, I did what I did because of the Shanshu Prophecy. Time to start doing what I do despite it."

4. Angel is revealed as a human. (Issue #3)
"Which, of course, would mean so much more... if I were still a vampire."

That sentence, much like the previous moment, changed the entire mythos of Angel. The story was always about an ensouled vampire fighting for his redemption. But when Angel is so causally revealed to be human, you know this is going to be a big story. I mean, I definitely knew it was going to be epic from the start. I mean, Angel has a freakin' dragon, Gunn was a vampire, and Wesley was back. But knowing that Angel had his greatest burden and, furthermore, greatest weapon stripped away from him at the one time he really needs it most, it's... well, brilliant.

3. The Alley Fight. (Issue #16)

"Hey, another one of your girlfriends is resurrected."

So Angel and Wesley had a plan, but we had no idea what it was. Just that something pretty damn big had to happen. Gwen, the Dragon, Groosalugg, Connor, maybe Illyria, and now Angel himself were dead. How could the series continue from here? Well, the moment that Angel was decapitated by Gunn, his and Wesley's plan went into effect. They knew Wolfram & Hart would have to send them back to the alley fight (see Moment #8), and they do. But here's the catch. Everyone remembers everything, and everything is changed because of it (as evidenced by the BestMontageSceneEver in #17). And what happens next definitely ties into not only Moment #8 but also #6... but it very much deserves its own spot. We see the alley fight from start to finish, which, after many brief flashbacks, we thought we would never see. It was a wonderful climax and eucatastophe to After the Fall, and definitely the most clever way to make everything that happened matter, but still make all of the characters we love usable for future series.

2. Connor Dies, Illyria Falls (Issue #15)

"Vampire or not... you're a good man."

When I first read this issue, I called it the most emotional thing I had ever read. As an English major, I would have thought that my English teachers would want to kill me for that statement, if they weren't avid Angel fans themselves. There is just no deny the beauty and tragedy of the last few pages of Issue #15. In a moment of incredible violence, Gunn stabs Connor through the chest with a sword. Always the hero, Angel puts his emotion and terror aside long enough to give Spike, Wesley, and Betta George a way to take Illyria down, which is sad enough in itself, for Angel. As George floods Illyria with Spike and Wesley's memories of Fred in one of the most beautiful pages of comic art I've seen (Franco and Fabio are really an incredible team, bringing such emotion to such a monstrous figure), Angel rushes to his son's side, just in time for Connor to die in his arms. It was unexpected, tragic, and poignant, because with his last breath, Connor tells Angel something he'd been waiting to hear forever. That he was a good man in the eyes of his son.

1. Angel's speech to Gunn. (Issue #17)
"...A man isn't measured by the mistakes he's made. He's measured by what he does about them."

This moment never fails to choke me up a little bit. A lotta bit. It's like Marley and Me, only without dogs and with vampires. And ex-vampires, and a green demon. Also, way better. But yeah, it's a beautiful moment, and just works so well as the final big moment of Angel: After the Fall. At its core, Angel has always been a story about redemption, so when Angel sees Gunn, beated and brusied in a hospital bed, he gives him the speech that would have helped him out so much years before. He tells Gunn that it wasn't him. That he will have to make amends, but that he knows that Gunn isn't the monster that murdered his son. It's a packed moment, because Angel is a) making amends with Gunn, b) in a way realizing that he isn't responsible for what he did as Angelus, and c) setting out on a new quest to right his own wrongs. Another awesome thing about this moment is the dichotomy of this and the last time Angel visited Wesley in the hospital. In that moment, Angel tried to smother his friend for stealing Connor as a child. This moment, without specifically referencing it, shows that Angel has risen above that. The silent Lorne, the Angel Investigations card, and the "voice-over" as Angel walks off into the light all make this a perfect moment and a perfect way to end ANGEL: AFTER THE FALL.

Now... you guys ready to see what happens to Gunn next? I know I am.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Annnnnd Aftermath Is Over

What Is It?: Angel #22- Aftermath part V (written by Kelley Armstrong).

Timing: Directly after Angel #21.

REVIEW: Reading Angel: Aftermath has been an... experience. Interesting, frustrating, at times even infuriating. The main beef I've had with the entire series is the structure. And by that, I don't mean just the way the plot points are hit, I mean the structure of the plot, the dialogue, the character arcs, and the actual panels. None of the conversation flows like actual conversation, important moments (Kate running into Angel for the first time in years in #18, Angel barely addressing the fact that Cordelia is standing in front of him in #21) are sped through and never resonate, and internal monologue meant to flesh out characters (Gwen throughout, Kate in #21) is shoehorned awkwardly into the story in an unsuccessful attempt to flesh out the characters that the story has turned into one-dimensional cut-outs. It all stood in harsh contrast to what Brian Lynch had done with After the Fall. In that epic seventeen issue arc, Lynch took the momentum that the stellar finale (and the best episode) of Angel had built and ran with it, creating a funny and tragic story that changed the 'verse forever and resonated with fans. Going from this story to Aftermath was an awkward change of pace to say the least. So all in all, what I was hoping for was that Armstrong would pull a rabbit out of her hat and deliver an issue that, at the very least, gave a decent end to a wildly uneven arc. I wouldn't say that this is a good issue, because there are still no transitions from panel to panel and the art is bad... but it's markedly better than the bulk of Aftermath, which I generously gave a 4/10 to.

I didn't hate this issue. I wasn't confused by this issue. I didn't feel that "how could you do this?" shock only a true fan could feel, as I felt after reading the terrible exchange between Angel and Cordelia in #21. The plot takes a turn for the better, steering away from all the "animals are being turned into humans" stuff (that boiled down to be nothing but a means to give back story for Dez and a way to beef up a five issue arc that should have been a four issue arc) and tackling the Angel vs. angels story. The dialogue is actually a lot better, and gives the characters opportunities to be funny and even throws in a rather nicely crafted Angel speech. Connor says and does some stuff that sheds some light on his character and pokes fun at his inability to work with hot chicks without falling in love with them. Some father/son drama between Angel and Connor is needlessly thrown in, but it's quick, and doesn't really matter in the long run.

The issue deals a lot with destiny, which is what I thought Armstrong was setting up in #18 with all the prophecy talk. Unluckily for the middle issues, she decided to pay all of that off in the last issue only, but it does make this conclusion a lot better. Definitely not good enough to save the arc from being a major letdown, but enough to give it a somewhat decent ending. It sets up a surprising amount of plot for the issues to come, and I have to wonder if the new on-going writer (who comes in at #28 after Brian Lynch's #23-27 run) will go with this plot or ignore it. I hope it's a mix of the two; that the potentate plot isn't forgotten, but that it doesn't become the main story. Whoever takes over the title next (it will be announced at Comic-Con, and I'm betting his name rhymes with Schmeter Save-it) has the unique chance to make something fun out of what Aftermath was and make it, in retrospect, a worthwhile chapter of the Angel saga. Hint: It might involve retconning the Angel/Cordelia conversation, which is definitely possible judging on the dark plans of the "Powers" that are giving the potentates their orders.

One more thing about transitions. On the final page, Angel is fighting a potentate... and then without showing said potentate disappear, it cuts to Angel talking to the Elohim. You can't explain how the climatic battle ends, you have to show it! I really don't get that choice, nor do I get a lot of the transitional choices, but it is what it is. The actual end of the issue isn't bad. It makes it seem like Dez and James are on as full-on main characters, which is an... interesting choice. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but I want to see how the upcoming writers handle it before I make any judgments. Overall, Armstrong gave it a somewhat decent end, and I'm happier with it than I thought I would be. Still massively let down by the majority of the story, though.

Bring on the Lynch, Urru, and (a bit later) Landau, and (a bit later) Mooney.

Art: Dave Ross is back, for some reason, and none of the characters look like themselves, all of them (especially Angel) are wearing strange clothes again, and the fights and interactions between the characters are awkward. Ross knows not subtlety; when Connor is being snarky, he draws Connor as an enraged beast that Dez has to hold back. Can't wait to see some awesome Angel art from the IDW team of Urru, Mooney, and Messina. I'm not sure why they weren't used on this arc, as they might have been able to make something readable out of even the worst of Aftermath issues, but Ross's style just 100% does not work for Angel.

Covers: I love Gabriel Rodriguez, and I love Nick Runge. Both of the drew up awesome covers for this issue. Rodriguez's cover shows a badass design for the potentates that I wish Ross had used, but alas. It features a ready-to-fight Angel in a somewhat homoerotic position in front of a potentate, but it still manages to be badass. Runge's is even cooler, as he shows Angel, Kate, and Gwen ready to face off by potentates, who have surrounded them... and they're actually wearing clothes that these characters would wear. It's sort of bittersweet, because the cover is fantastic and by far Runge's best cover work on the arc, but it also just makes me think of how different from this the characters actually look on the inside.

Characters We Know: Angel, Kate, Gwen, Connor. (From now on, both Dez and James will count as Characters We Know).

Rating: 5/10

Monday, June 15, 2009


I know this is way late, but...

My new short film, Blood Pong, has been released!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The War Is Over

What Is It?: Angel: Blood & Trenches #4 (written and illustrated by John Byrne).

Timing: Read the series in order, obviously. But to say when it takes place is tricky. It tells what happened to Angel between #2 and #3, and then speeds up over what happened in #3, and concludes the story.

REVIEW: John Byrne's Blood & Trenches has been a very good read. It's unique, and its look and presentation works hand in hand with the story being told, which makes the reading experience all the better. Though the series has been fun throughout, the third issue took a slight step down in quality, but you'll be glad to know that Byrne bounces back for the final issue which really delivers a knock out punch.

The structure of the story works really well in this one. We get to see what happened to Angel while he was imprisoned by Kakistos, and though I was scratching my chin as to why this couldn't have been told linearly, the climax of the story when Angel figures out why Kakistos and his men were treating him like a human answered that question. The structure really works, putting all of the information we need in just the right place to give a proper build-up to Angel's realization. It's all really good stuff.

What I really liked about this issue was how Byrne handled the alliance between Angel and Colonel Geoffrey Wyndam-Pryce. It was never friendly, and they never really connected, but it was made the focus of the issue. All of the plot bits, even things as monumental as Lady Margaret's betrayal, fed into that unlikely partnership, serving to make these two men come together to face on Kakistos. And speaking of our cloven handed friend...

...there was obviously no way Kakistos could kick it, because we know he's alive in Sunnydale years later. Byrne handles his temporary defeat in a pretty cool manner, having Angel defeat him in a way that would a) make Angel believe he could have died and b) actually put Kakistos out of commission enough to ruin his place. It was really clever. The most clever moment, however, came at the end, when it is revealed that... well, I'm not gonna write it here. It's something you really should read. Angel and the Colonel unknowingly make a grave error, and thanks to good old dramatic irony, they will never know. And thank God for that, because we all know Angel already has enough to brood about.

In the end, very good issue with a great shock ending. This has definitely been the best non-After the Fall Angel comic that IDW has published (not including the SPIKE spin-offs).

Covers: The cover captures a moment from the book, where Kakistos and Angel fight on the wing of a plane. It's not the most detailed of all of Byrne's covers, but the action and violence is pretty catching. It's definitely appropriate for the issue.

Characters We Know: Angel, Kakistos, and (SPOILERS:) Hitler.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

BKV Style Backstory of Colonel Geoffrey Wyndam-Pryce

What Is It?: Angel: Blood & Trenches # (written and illustrated by John Byrne).

Timing: Non-linear. Set before, during, and directly after Blood & Trenches #1 and #2. Clues us in on stuff we need to understand to appreciate what happens after #2.

REVIEW: The art is as great as ever here. It's shadowy, sketchy when it needs to be, so so detailed when the story calls for it, and just incredibly good. Angel's likeness is spot-on, and the fact that it isn't inked gives the story an almost washed-out look that works well with this historical story. In a way, it's out of date, and meant to be. I'm no historian, but I buy the language, I buy the setting, and I buy how this story fits into Angel's life.

This comic is definitely a risk. Well, the whole series was in a way. Angel's current, happening-right-now story continues to be told in the on-going series, and all of the characters (particularly Gunn and Illyria) are at really interesting places in a post-After the Fall Buffyverse, so it was definitely a gutsy move to tell a four issue ANGEL tale that takes place before any of the supporting characters were alive, before Angel became the champion we now know him as, and before he really came into his own as a character. What makes this issue even more risky is that Angel's role is minimalized, and the story instead chooses to focus on Colonel Geoffrey Wyndam-Pryce, the "villain" of the piece, who we have seen little of up until this point. It's pretty cool that Byrne is confident enough in his story to take such a non-linear break from the narrative in the penultimate chapter, that's not in question. It's the results that... well, let's just say they vary.

The first half of the issue is a Brian K. Vaughan style back story on the Colonel. Much like BKV did with the supporting characters of Y: The Last Man, we're given a reason why the Colonel is doing what he's doing, and we're also introduced to the emotional bond between him a fellow officer. It doesn't go as deep as BKV's flashback issue do, and that's one of the problems here. We're left with a bit more understanding for the character, but I'm also wondering why Byrne didn't take it a bit further so we really feel for the character. We end up feeling some pain for him later, but the lack of true emotion in the opening (plus the lack of Angel and anything compelling except the "ohhh, okay"ness of connecting it with the main narrative) makes the first half a kind of dry read. There was a cool vampire fight, but we've seen those a million times, so that only goes so far.

One thing I also wish had been spruced up was a certain page of dialogue. When Wyndam-Pryce finds the vampire feeding on a young woman, he talks out loud to himself like a cheesy detective from a children's cartoon show. The same information could have been conveyed in captions, much like how Tipton did for Smile Time and Brian Lynch does in all of his ANGEL and SPIKE works. Perhaps Byrne didn't want us to get too close to the Colonel, and I definitely understand that. I would have preferred just letting the art speak for itself in that case, because the whole "talking aloud, alone" thing feels like the reader is being walked through the story, and I'm not sure that's necessary.

Things get better when we're caught up to the current story. Angel has somehow evaded Kakistos, and he comes back to Lady Margaret just in time for the somewhat emotional stuff with the Colonel to come to head in a tragic (and really violent) moment, and for a pretty crazy twist at the end of the issue. What John Byrne excels at is surprising the reader, even though we already know what happens... and that takes a damn good writer. We know Angel lives on years and years later, we know that Kakistos has to make it out alive... but Byrne's twist endings still pack that punch that leaves us eager to wonder what is going to happen to these characters now. This may not be the strongest issue of the series, but it was still a good comic.

Covers: Really cool one. I love the colors that have been used for this, from the dark purples of the first one, the bright blues and pinks of the second, and now the oranges and blacks of this one. We get a great close-up of Angel as a gloved enemy attempts to drive a stake into his heart. Did I mention Byrne is great with the details? Because oh is he ever. Second best cover of the series, after the fantastic #1.

Characters We Know: Angel, Kakistos.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Perfectly Captures the Feel of the Episode

What Is It?: Angel- Not Fade Away adaptation #2. Original teleplay by Joss Whedon & Jeffrey Bell. Adapted to comic script by Scott Tipton with art by Stephen Mooney.

Timing: Second third of the Angel: Season Five episode, "Not Fade Away."

Note: Adaptations are now ranked on this scale: EPIC FAIL, FAIL, BAD, OKAY, GOOD, VERY GOOD, GREAT, OUTSTANDING.
REVIEW: To get top marks, an adaptation doesn't need to give us new stuff. It helps, yeah, but I'm pretty much looking for the same thing I'm looking for in any comic. To be entertained. To laugh. To have my emotions pulled in all the directions they're meant to be pulled. And damn does this comic do that. A huge step up from the already great first issue of this miniseries, Scott Tipton and Stephen Mooney remind us how fantastic Not Fade Away is by creating a perfect adaptation. Though there is no additional dialogue, the pacing of the pages, the focus of all of the panels, and this time, the actual lettering is fantastic (bolded type is used successfully in this issue, unlike in #1). Please, get this team on the main ANGEL title.

I find myself with not much to say about the story, because we all know what happens. Tipton expertly translates the shooting script to comic format, not taking or adding from the sacred text of Not Fade Away. Little touches, like Lorne's sad look after he accepts his job from Angel, really flesh this book out. I laughed out loud during Spike and Angel's exchange, and felt a swell of emotion when Angel and Wesley share what they know will be their final look (until they're reunited in After the Fall, that is). The comic is as beautiful as the episode, and Tipton does the only thing he really could do; make this story work as a comic as well as it worked as an episode of live action television. And, along with Mr. Mooney's amazing art, he does just that.

Art: The art just works perfectly for ANGEL. Mooney's pencils are fantastic, and again were the main thing I enjoyed about the book. This time, however, I found that Ciaran Lucas's colors worked considerably better with Mooney's art, crafting panels that made me nostalgic for the episode. Mooney sticks a bit less to the episode here, providing close-ups that we didn't get last time, such as focus on Spike's mouth when he agrees to take down the Fell Brethren. There isn't much deviation from the source material, but I found that Mooney's art doesn't make me think of the way the episode look; it just makes me appreciate how the actual art looks. I love it!

Covers: Aside from the Wesley's ghost meets Wesley's body cover Mooney did for ANGEL: After the Fall and the two recent covers Mooney did for the upcoming ANGEL: Annual, this is the best Stephen Mooney cover I've ever seen. And just check those out to see how high a compliment this is. This cover is awesome, and though it's not really relevant to what happens in the issue (Wesley's death will be featured in the next issue), it's just perfect. Instead of concentrating on what is in this issue, Mooney crafted his three covers based on the most iconic and important moments of the episode. This one is probably the best death scene in all of television (appropriate, for the episode that I believe to be the best hour of television history), and Mooney captures it perfectly. The red smear (I always pronounce that word schmear for some reason) behind Illyria as she clutches Wesley's dead body highlights both her rage and the bleeding wound on the back of Wesley's back. It's just a perfect cover.

Characters We Know: Angel, Wesley, Illyria, Spike, Gunn, Arch Duke Sebassis and the rest of the Circle of the Black Thorn, Harmony, Marcus Hamilton, Lorne, Lindsey.

Rating as an adaptation: Outstanding.

Previously, On ANGEL: Bruno Came Careening Down, Right Into Angel's Lap, His Bare...

What Is It?: Angel- Not Fade Away adaptation #1. Original teleplay by Joss Whedon & Jeffrey Bell. Adapted to comic script by Scott Tipton with art by Stephen Mooney.

Timing: First third of the Angel: Season Five episode, "Not Fade Away."

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

REVIEW: No, the title has nothing to do with the review.
So this is a pretty ballsy move. Longtime ANGEL writer Scott Tipton and fan-favorite artist Stephen Mooney took it upon themselves to adapt the finale of ANGEL which is, in my sometimes humble opinion... the best episode of television history. I was instantly excited when this was announced, because even if this failed, it could never take away from the awesomeness of the episode. Tipton announced early on that, unlike his adaptation of Smile Time, there would be no additional scenes added. I was torn on this, because on the one hand, if you're not going to add anything, why make an adaptation in the first place? On the other hand, how could anything be added? Not Fade Away is a perfectly told story, and adding anything would be pointless. On the original hand, who doesn't love a little pointless fun? Either way, I enjoyed the issue. More for the art than the way the story was told, because you really can't beat the way the actors performed. I know the episode by heart, all the way to the way the actors say the lines, so again unlike the Smile Time adaptation, the issue didn't make me reflect on the episode and appreciate it more. Instead, I took it as a homage to the episode. And it works for me.

The opening scene swiftly sums up what led up to this episode with a Previously On. Everything flows very smoothly from the beginning to the end. Nothing is added, and nothing is noticeably taken away. The only comment I have about the text is this: I wish some bolded text would be inserted to make up for the lack of hearing the actors' voices. We all know how it sounds, and I think the script for this comic sort of takes that for granted. The non-adaptation issues use that kind of text to spice up the dialogue, and the lack of it here makes emotional scenes like Angel's conversation with Harmony seem slightly flat. It's very aesthetic, yes, but I noticed it.

The pacing and layout of each page, and the entire issue, is way better than that of Smile Time, which got a bit haphazard in the second issue. I wish there were more I could say about the content of the actual issue, but... I just liked it. It was a nice reminder about how great the episode is.

Art: We need Stephen Mooney back on the main Angel title, ASAP. Thankfully, that need is being fulfilled as of #26, which is a collaboration between him and your and my favorite ANGEL writer, Mr. Brian Lynch. Seeing Mooney's art in this issue is like coming home. He's relying less and less on promotional images as he becomes more comfortable with the characters, and it really shows. The wider shots need a bit of honing in the details, definitely, but check out his work on the closer, emotional pages like Spike's poetry reading. If that isn't a perfect page, I don't know what is. Mooney is best at Wesley, Angel, and Spike, and though he isn't the best at new characters like Hamilton and Anne, the overall look he gives the book is wonderful. I'm neither here nor there about the coloring, though; the colors don't really blend with the art as well as they should, but they don't jump out as bad either. Overall, the art is why I came, and it didn't disappoint.

Covers: Out of Mooney's three covers for this series, this is my least favorite. The next two are among my favorite pieces of ANGEL art, but there is something a bit off about this one. Wesley looks very angular, and the perspective is kind of wonky. It's certainly a hard image to capture, what with the "camera angle," and it does work for the most part. As a panel, it would be great, but covers should have a bit more detail and precision. Wait until next time, and you'll be blown away by the Wesley/Illyria cover.

Characters We Know: Angel, Gunn, Lorne, Wesley, Spike, Drogyn, Marcus Hamilton, Illyria, Arch Duke Sebassis and the Circle of the Black Thorn, Harmony, Lindsey, Anne, Eve, Connor. Wow what a cast. This must have been a fun one for Mr. Mooney.

Rating as an adaptation: GREAT.

My Bad. My Blunder.

Yeah, haven't posted in a while.

I'm behind on some reviews. It's true.

I've been very busy, though, shooting a lot of short films, writing a lot of long films, submitting a lot of short stories, and preparing to intern/research assist something really cool and really relevant to this site. Buuuut that is a different story. Here is what you should expect to read at this site soon.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Eight: Tales of the Vampires- The Thrill (READ IT NOW!)

ANGEL: Not Fade Away (adaption) #1 today

ANGEL: Not Fade Away (adaption) #2 within the next two weeks

ANGEL: Blood & Trenches #3- within the week

GROOM LAKE #2- before #3 comes out this month, for sure
If I fail to get those out on time... bug me. I'll listen.
I will try to be on time for everything, as soon as I catch up on these. Reviews of the main ANGEL title, as well as the main BUFFY title, will be posted on the day of the issue's release. No doubt about that.
In the meantime, here are some things for you to look forward to.
+ ANGEL #22 wraps up Kelley Armstrong's Aftermath arc. It's been a tough ride, but maybe Ms. Armstrong can bring everything in and give her story a solid end.
+ ANGEL: BLOOD AND TRENCHES #4 wraps up John Byrne's awesome WWI story.
+ ANGEL #23: Become What You Are features the return of Brian Lynch and Franco Urru! It's about what happened to Gunn between #17 and #18, and how he got in that car with Illyria.
+ FALLEN ANGEL: Rebirth #1: Illyria crosses over into Peter David's original series.
+ ANGEL: Not Fade Away #3- Scott Tipton and Stephen Mooney's adaptation of the best episode of television history concludes.
+ ANGEL #24: Drusilla, part one. Brian Lynch, Juliet Landau (Drusilla herself!), and Franco Urru give us the skinny on what has been up with the vamp who sired Spike.

+ FALLEN ANGEL: Rebirth #2

+ ANGEL: Only Human #1. Gunn and Illyria's story from ANGEL #23 continues in the first issue of a four issue miniseries, written by Scott Lobdell, writer of VIVA LAS BUFFY.
+ ANGEL #25: Drusilla, part two. The two part tale concludes.
+ FALLEN ANGEL: Rebirth #3
+ ANGEL: Only Human #2

+ ANGEL #26: Contents unknown. But Chris Ryall's blog revealed that it will be written by Brian Lynch with art by Stephen Mooney. Also, it includes a "red band trailer" for the ANGEL ANNUAL, which you can read about at the same link. Check out one of the covers on this post. The other is at Mr. Ryall's blog.

+ FALLEN ANGEL: Rebirth #4. The miniseries concludes. I'm pretty sure the Fallen Angel title will continue, though, so don't give up here!

+ ANGEL: Only Human #3
+ BUFFY, SEASON EIGHT: #26. Retreat, part 1. Written by Jane Espenson.
+ BUFFY, SEASON EIGHT: #27 Retreat, part 1. Written by Jane Espenson.
+ BUFFY, SEASON EIGHT: #28 Retreat, part 1. Written by Jane Espenson.
+ BUFFY, SEASON EIGHT: #29 Retreat, part 1. Written by Jane Espenson.

Dark Horse Reopens the Tales of the Vampires

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight: Tales of the Vampires- The Thrill (written by Becky Cloonan).

Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Sometime after "Harmonic Divergence." Before "Retreat."

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: This sounds like a fantastic idea. I was at the Dark Horse panel when Scott Allie announced this one-shot, so it was pretty cool to actually have the book in my hands after a few months of anticipation. Also, I loved the original Tales of the Vampires miniseries, so it couldn't really go wrong. The badass cover by Jo Chen, really stylized art that separated this from everything else in Season Eight, and the fact that, thanks to this issue, we wouldn't go yet another month without a Buffyverse tale from Dark Horse... well all that was just the whipped cream, cherry, and sprinkles on what already seemed to be a delicious sundae.

Unfortunately, the issue was just plain boring.

Conceptually, it's sound. You've got a boy who seems to be right out of a undergraduate's one-act play. He's just looking for something to feel. Which isn't bad, as contrived as it sounds. You can spin a good story from that jumping point, no doubt about that. Plus, writer Becky Cloonan has a rich setting for her tale; a post-HARMONY BITES! world, where vampires are the public darlings. The story is also fairly moody, and the feel for the Buffyverse is certainly there. It's just the pacing and lack of emotional connection in the story that left me wanting. I didn't care what happened to any of these characters, not in the slightest. And that isn't due to lack of page space, because Whedon and co. crafted some fantastic stories with considerably less pages in the previous Tales installments. It's just... all of this feels shoehorned to fit inside of the story, and all of the beats seem really false. Cloonan is obviously a decent writer, and she has a good feel for dialogue. She just didn't bring anything new to the table here. It's a story that could have taken place in three pages, and still have the same emotional weight it has here. Zilch.

In parts, it is sexy, and it's quirky throughout. The style seems like sort of a marriage between Juno and Buffy, with a lot more darkness liberally applied. If the characters had been fleshed out, and if the situation surrounding them had been a lot less painfully straight forward, there could have been something cool here. I didn't hate the book, and I'll definitely read it again. I enjoyed it considerably more than the lesser Season Eight issues, like The Chain and the aforementioned Harmonic Divergence. But in the Buffyverse, stories just can't be this simple. There has to be more at work, and there just isn't in this one-shot.

Art: As I said before, very stylized. It's crisp and clear, and distinctly different from anything I've seen before. Flipping through it, it's great. Each panel taken individually, it's great. BUT. For telling a story, it doesn't work. None of the main characters look the same from panel to panel. In every single panel, the main character Jacob has an entirely different face. Other than that, the art is pretty good. There are some weird panels, such as the one where Jacob asks Alex out in class and he stands up for no reason and what seems to be the outline of a couch (yeah, what?) appears behind him.

Covers: Jo Chen's is phenomenal. Her covers to this, #25, and #26 have just beaten the respective asses of all her other covers put together. Her painting for this issue, which features Jacob being bitten by May, is nothing short of beautiful. She adds a goth flavor to the cover with the washed out browns and the blood-reds, which is appropriate given the subject matter of the issue. Simply stunning. The other cover is... weird. I don't get the reasoning behind making one image take up 3/4 of the cover and then making another considerably less dynamic drawing take up the remaining space. I'm not a fan of it at all, but the Chen cover is more than enough to make up for it.
Characters We Know: No one.

Rating: 6/10