Monday, August 31, 2009

An Angel: AtF Film?

Pissed about that upcoming Buffy film that is going to go against Joss's vision? Love Angel: After the Fall or the Buffyverse in general? Ever wondered if you'd see a live action version of all those memorable characters, from Angel to Gunn to Connor to Gwen, ever again?

Well, then you might want to check this out.


Review for Buffy #28 on Wednesday!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Angel: After the Fall Hardcover Volume Four

What Is It?: A hardcover that collects the final five issues (thirteen through seventeen) of Angel: After the Fall.

The Content: What can I say about Angel: After the Fall that hasn't been said already by countless fans (myself included)? Brian Lynch crafted an epic, tragic, hilarious, and smart tale that was true to the characters and the story that had already been established. It referenced, ran with, and paid off plot threads that have been part of the mythology since the first season of the show. It kept the momentum of the series finale, "Not Fade Away," which I consider to be the best hour of television ever produced. It has become my favorite comic, and has set the standard for Angel tales to come, and some would even argue for Buffyverse comics to come. It's by far my favorite comic (and this, specifically, is my favorite volume of the series). I've also had a great personal experience with this comic, having met Brian Lynch and Comic-Con in NYC and getting an early look at the final issue of the series... a memorable experience to say the least. So here I am, having re-read this hardcover that collects the final five issues today, with no idea how to sum up my feelings about the series in a new way. This is probably the last time I'm ever going to review or speak at length about After the Fall, so I want to make this time mean something.

I'll start with the art. Stephen Mooney does the first two issues and Franco Urru does the last three, and their styles are so utterly different, but unlike the different artists used in Spike vs. Dracula, the different styles here don't clash. They're both crazy good in their own right, with Stephen getting the likenesses and the dark tone of the series across in his pencils, and Franco getting the fluid action and the raw emotion across in his. Both of them are fine artists, and I'm glad that they got a chance to work on this series. They did Joss Whedon's world and Brian Lynch's words justice.

And speaking of those words. Brian Lynch manages to bring his own quirky writing style to the world of Angel without it being intrusive. His style completely compliments these established characters, and he has come to know them so well over these seventeen issues that they wouldn't sound more in-character if we had the actors themselves reading the lines. His writing is at its most emotional here, giving us both the saddest of tragedy and the happiest eucatastrophe of an ending. Like any Buffyverse finale, there is triumph, there is loss, there are tears, and there are a whole shitload of epic fights. Brian Lynch has given added a beautiful chapter to Angel that sums up everything great about the series, gives it a great ending, and sets up everything that is to come. Since Spike: Asylum, the first comic I ever loved and the first time I realized this medium can be as exciting as television, Brian Lynch has become my favorite comic writer, and if you don't think he's one of the best in the business, well... I don't know, you're wrong. And you smell.

In short, I love this story. It's my favorite book, and it makes me laugh out loud, feel all tense, and cry like a little bitch every time I read it. I guess, to bring this all to an end... I just want to thank Franco Urru, Stephen Mooney, Nick Runge, David Messina, Chris Ryall, all the inkers and colorists and other artists who worked on the series, Joss Whedon, and especially Brian Lynch. You guys made this fandom and our little fanny lives brighter and I appreciate it a big damn lot. Thank you.

The Presentation: ...Crap. Feels kinda like an anti-climax to talk about the technical stuff after that send-off. I feel like the awkward guy who gives a really emotional goodbye at an airport or someplace and then realizes they're walking the same way as the person they said goodbye to Darn. But yeah, the book looks beautiful as always. IDW changed the color of the spine and inside to a blueish black in order to make it vibe with the Alex Garner cover. And damn am I glad they chose that cover. Angel getting dusted as he waves goodbye to the reader, his bones turning to ash in a burst of flames is just so perfect for the final volume of After the Fall. Also, we've got awesome chapter headings (though a bit spoilery if it's the first time you're reading it), the cloth bookmark, and pretty much all the physical perks from the first one. That sounds sexual. It's not. But the book DOES smell great.

Special Features: This is the only place where this book suffers in comparison to the other volumes. While it still has way more extras than most other TPBs or HCs, it doesn't have nearly as many as the other After the Fall collections. Here's what it has. All of the covers, including Stephen Mooney's Time&Space/SlayAlive cover that was missing from the last volume, three original drawings by Stephen Mooney (including the Angel/Gunn Christmas card), some page layouts and pencils by Stephen Mooney, and Brian Lynch's original Issue One proposal to Joss. It's a really interesting read, seeing what could have happened and how certain things did end up happening down the line. I think this book really did deserve an introduction, and I would have also liked to see commentary or just a few notes or insight into the final two issues, but that's just because I'm spoiled. The extras, as they are, are great.
Sigh. Again, thanks, and...

Rating: 10/10 Classic.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stephen Mooney Interview

First Tipton, then Messina, and now we welcome ANGEL artist Stephen Mooney to Buffyverse Comic Reviews! Read on to see what this gracious, talented, and supremely Irish man had to say about his work in comics.

Buffyverse Comic Reviews: First of all, thanks for doing this. Let’s start off with the basics. How did you get into being a comic artist in the first place? Was it always your dream?

Stephen Mooney: You're more than welcome man, thanks for having me!
I got into comics in a roundabout way, through animation. I had always wanted to draw for a living, and comics were my weapon of choice as a teenager. In Ireland there's no dedicated college course on comicbooks, but there is a very reputable animation college in Dublin. So I figured that I could take that course and draw 8 hours a day 5 days a week, thus gaining a grounding in the same basic aspects of drawing required for comics, ie life-drawing, storytelling, layout etc.
I started freelancing straight out of college, for the first couple of years mostly as a storyboard artist for ad agencies, then two years in a Dublin based animation house called Boulder Media in the background dept, and then finally to full-time comics from there around five years ago.

BCR: How did you first get involved with IDW?

Mooney: After 2 years on an Irish book called Freakshow I emailed (then relatively new EIC of IDW) Chris Ryall after hearing that he'd hired a couple of Irish guys in the recent past. I figured I could play the Blarney card. Chris couldn't have been more responsive and pleasant(or better groomed), and he made me feel right at home straight away. There happened to be a CSI script on his desk looking for an artist at that very moment, and he figured I might be a good fit. After 5 years at this game I've come to realise that timing is 50%, and who you know is the other 50%. There are a lot've guys who're good enough to draw and write these books, opportunity plays such a massive part.

BCR: You’re well known for your work on ANGEL and THE MUMMY, but where can Mooney fans go if they want to see more of your stuff? Are there any other books you’ve been a part of?

Mooney: Well as I mention above, I started with IDW on a CSI series called 'Dying in The Gutters' in 2006, which was a fun whodunnit set firmly in the world of comics at the San Diego comic convention.

Before that I spent 2 years on an Irish book called Freakshow, which was basically Scooby Doo as re-imagined by Tim Burton, a lotta fun. I also drew a series for Fangoria Comics at one point called 'Strangeland: Sevin Sins', but only the first issue of that was released before the company went under. It was all completed though, and they keep threatening to release it in it's entirety as a graphic novel, so who knows.

The last two years has been pretty dominated by Angel work, with the Mummy series somewhere in between.

I've had a few short stories here and there in Irish and British anthology books also. Tough stuff to track down, even I don't have copies of everything.

BCR: You expressed interest in working on AFTER THE FALL ever since it was announced. You even drew up a few pages of the alley fight. How did it feel when you were called in to work on the pivotal arc of issues #12-14? How were you approached?

Mooney: How was I approached? It was more a case of when was I unleashed! I remember I got a mail from Chris, under the subject heading of ANGEL that consisted of one line that said 'We're ready for you'. That was to draw the Connor and Kate segments of First Night. To say I was thrilled would be somewhere beneath an understatement. I had been badgering Chris since I came onboard IDW to let me at the Angel books, but I didn't think I'd ever really get a shot since David Messina was doing such an amazing job there already. But Chris had let me know that sooner rather than later, big things would be happening in the Angelverse and more troops would be required. When I heard that Joss was working on a comicbook continuation to the show, that's when I drew those sample pages up to 'audition' for the job. I didn't know that the artist had already been chosen for the book(the amazing Franco Urru), and I'm kind've glad now that I didn't come on board until later as I don't think my abilities were quite sharpened enough at that point. So to start on issues 6+7 was perfect for me. Those stories seemed to get a pretty strong reaction, along with Nick's Wesley story, which I think was probably the main factor in us getting the nod from Chris and Brian to tackle those meatier arcs further on. For me, getting to draw the issue 12-14 arc was beyond perfect, as Cordelia is my favourite female Buffyverse character(followed closely by Anya and Fred, fact-fans), and this was a chance to really do her justice. I was a massive fan of her send-off in 'You're Welcome', so I was a little dubious about her return at first. But once the scripts started coming in from Brian those fears were allayed big-time.

BCR: What was it like to draw all those epic moments?

Mooney: SO cool. Real, character defining, in-continuity moments for some of my favourite characters? Yes please. Cordy coming back, Illyria unleashed, Connor finally growing up... I mean, I was and am such a fan of the show, and this is pivotal stuff, so yeah... I was a happy bunny.

BCR: The pages you worked on brought a lot of old characters back. How did it feel tackling likenesses of characters like Kate, who had never appeared in the comics before?

Mooney: It was grand really, likenesses don't really bother me(although I wouldn't mind working on a book soon WITHOUT any likenesses...). It was just such a thrill to be involved that all technical concerns like that became secondary. You just work it out. Cordy was the most fun, as she's such a looker. That said, I do love drawing Kate and was so happy that she has a little upcoming cameo with Angel in issue 26. She discovers where she'd left the key to her wardrobe.

BCR: Something you’ve said a few times is that NOT FADE AWAY is your favorite episode of television, period. Well, that’s something we have in common. How did it feel to work on an adaptation episode you love so much?

Mooney: Daunting! I mean, in all honesty, my initial reaction to the offer of working on it was 'really? um... hasn't that already been done, like, really quite well?'. As you mentioned, I do consider that episode as being pretty untouchable. But then I've always been a bit of a groper. So when I sat down and tried breaking down some of the scenes, I realised that maybe comics could bring a little something new to the tale. Little changes of angle and perspective here, and a totally different shot there could maybe bring out that tiny bit of nuance in a certain look, or emotive response. As to how successful the adaptation was is anybody's guess, but myself and (the fantastic) Scott Tipton were quite proud of the results, and felt that we at least managed to provide a slightly different take. There's an argument that such adaptations aren't all that necessary, why repeat something like that? But I think that maybe there is sufficient gold to be mined, and there's certainly fun in trying. At the end of the day the books are there for those interested in such new takes on old favourites, and can be ignored by those who don't feel the need.

Different strokes for different folks. That said, I did get offered more episode adaptations but turned them down, as I felt that I'd had my say and that other people could bring a fresher perspective.

BCR: If you could do the art for any other Angel adaptation, what episode would it be?

Mooney: See above. If they offered me the Five by Five/Sanctuary two-parter, well then I'd hafta think about it, as I adore Faith and those episodes in particular. Never say never!

BCR: Now, the essential trivia bits. Favorite character? Episode? Season?

Mooney: Favourite characters, in order of preference: Wesley, Angel, Cordy, Doyle, Lorne and Fred/Illyria.
Favourite episodes: Not Fade Away, A Hole in the World, You're Welcome, Darla, I Will Remember You, Hero... the list goes on, way too many.
Favourite Seasons: 5, then 3 for Wesley's arc. All the Darla material in 2 was pretty great. 4 would be my least favourite.

BCR: Out of all the books you’ve worked on, Angel or otherwise, which are you most proud of?

Mooney: Angel, for the fact that what I was getting to draw was so momentous and really meant something in the scheme of things. Also for meeting and getting to work with Brian Lynch. Then, on the other side of the coin, I was really proud of the Mummy book I did with a great writer named Josh Jabcuga. It was a hugely fun, swashbuckling tale in the Raiders of the Lost Ark mould, that was just diametrically opposed to the dark seriousness of Angel. I was dying to do a book like that that was pure action-adventure, and I thought it turned out really well. It had beautiful colouring by a painter friend of mine, Lisa Jackson, which I loved. She also coloured my segments of First Night, actually.

BCR: I know it’s still a few months until the issues come out, but hell… I’m excited. What can you tell me about the BOYS AND THEIR TOYS issues?

Mooney: Um, not much unfortunately, other than what's been described already in the solicitation. I will say that I'd been dying to work with Brian on a proper Angel/Spike tale, where they spend a lot of time in each other's company and have loads of those great back and forths that I love so much from the show. My favourite aspect of Brian's writing is his dialogue, and these scripts certainly didn't disappoint.

BCR: You came to NYCC this year, but I unfortunately missed you. Did you make it to SDCC this year, and did either of your experiences at the cons influence your work on BOYS AND THEIR TOYS?

Mooney: I've been to the San Diego con a few times, and the CSI series I drew was also set there, so I've had a lot of experience with these things! Didn't make it to Comic-con this year as I was in New York earlier and hafta limit my trips to the states to generally once a year. I'll probably be there next time though, I have to go to Brian's house and wee in his pool.

BCR: You’ve also been working with super scribe Brian Lynch on another project that has more in common with DOUBT than it does with ANGEL. How much can you tell us about ONE BAD MOTHER? How did the idea come up, and when did Brian approach you?

Mooney: The idea was mostly Brian's and he talked to me at length about it at the New York con. I LOVE the premise, it's right up my alley. What is the premise? I'm not sure I can say... I don't wanna step on Brian's toes, this book is his baby. I was delighted to be asked to collaborate and have drawn the first 7 pages of the first issue. We've yet to shop it around the publishers to see if anybody bites, but hopefully that'll happen sooner rather than later.
Brian Lynch is one ridiculously busy guy. He does the comics stuff purely for the love of it, he has a full-time job as a (successful!)screenwriter.

He's also an amazing lover.

I hear.

BCR: Any chance we’ll see any more of you on the main ANGEL title or any spin-offs? We need the Mooney fix!

Mooney: You know, I'm really not sure. I was thinking about it, and the annual which I'm working on now could very well be the last Angel book I draw. After nearly two years working mostly on Angel, is that enough? I don't know. I can tell you that I've written a pitch with Brian for a Wesley one-shot/mini, set during season five, which I think is really interesting and delves into stuff to do with his father and the watcher's council, and lots of struggling to come to terms with Fred's death and this new beast named Illyria. I just think there's so much more can be said with the Wesley character, and I'm loathe to let him go! So maybe we'll see that at some point, I don't know.
As for other Angel-related material, I hope so some day.

BCR: Lastly, can you talk a bit about the Eclectic Micks and another other projects you’re working on?

Mooney: Sure! The Ecclectic Micks is a collective of seven Irish comicbook artists that maintain a blog in which we each post a sketch/finished piece/brainfart on our given day of the week. I post every moondog monday, often with Angel-related material.
Being a comicbook artist is indeed a solitary game, and any avenue you can follow that will lead to actual social interaction is indeed a prize worth pursuing.
The lads are all sound, and we get on really well. A couple of them(Nick Roche - Transformers, Stephen Thompson - Star Trek) wallow with me in the IDW gene-pool too. We get tables together at cons and the like, and you'll probably find a bunch of us together at any given event. Tis fun.
We have our first sketchbook coming out soon, with all of the best stuff from the first year of the blog. Folks should come on over to and check us out.
I also have my own blog over at which heavily features Angel artwork. Come say hi!

Thanks Stephen! And what do you say, IDW? Make that Mooney/Lynch Wesley story happen!
a. Freakshow #1 cover
b. Freakshow #11 cover
c, d, e. Angel alley fight demo
f. Angel #26, page 1
g. One Bad Mother #1, page 2
h. One Bad Mother #1, page 5

REVIEW FOR Angel: After the Fall Volume Four
REVIEW FOR Angel: Smile Time HC
INTERVIEW with Fallen Angel artist J. K. Woodward
INTERVIEW with Angel: Only Human writer Scott Lobdell

Pick up Mooney & Lynch's Angel #26 this October!

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Love isn't brains children, it's blood screaming inside you to work it's will."

So, not a Spike-centric post. The quote seemed relevant, though.

Just wanted to A) thank you all for checking out my reviews. I'm really passionate about the Buffyverse, and it's a huge part of my life. This fandom rocks and has been crazy kind to me and my site, so thanks.

Now B) continue that oh-so-givingness. Stroke the hand that... you're already stroking. Stroke it more. Stroke it nicely. And how might you do that, you ask?

By watching my new short film, THE BUTCHER. I wrote and starred in it, and Steve Wisnowski co-directed with me and also starred. I really hope you guys like it. But if you hate it, dandy, just let me know why! We're always trying to improve!

And oh, yeah. ANGEL fan film. Coming December 2009. Get amped.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gunn and Illyria Hit the Road

What Is It?: Angel: Only Human #1 (written by Scott Lobdell; art by David Messina)

Timing: After Angel #23; sometime during Angel: Aftermath.

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: So this is pretty much a dream come true for me. The thing that intrigued me most about the events of Angel #16 was the fact that while everything was physically reset, everybody remembered everything. Gunn, specifically, remembered the taste of blood in his mouth, the death gurgles of his own victims, and the look in Angel's eyes when he killed Connor. That would make for some interesting character development. Then, with Angel: Aftermath, Kelley Armstrong just threw Gunn (who was supposed to be comatose) into a car next to Illyria, and let someone else tackle that story. And it was for the best, because Brian set up Gunn's character arc nicely with the beautiful Become What You Are issue. Well, now we're lucky enough to have a Gunn/Illyria spin-off miniseries alongside of the main title that focuses on the two characters most in need of redemption.

Scott Lobdell is tackling scripts, which is fine by me, as I loved his Viva Las Buffy arc from Dark Horse's pre-Season Eight run on BtVS. His work here is even better than the Buffy arc; he is true to both the voices and characters of Illyria and Gunn, and throws them into a really interesting situation. Illyria, intrigued by the idea of a wake, decides to visit her family when Fred's uncle dies. Gunn accompanies her, trying to come to terms with his own inner darkness while also trying to understand Illyria's motivation... no easy feat. Despite Illyria's cold remarks toward Gunn ("Nor would it have mattered to me if you had a heart attack or not"), it's clear to see that the two of them are bonding, albeit in a very strange way. In true Whedonesque fashion, Lobdell gives Illyria and Gunn a moment together in the car that is both funny, true to the characters, so strange, and even slightly touching in a way. (SPOILER:) After Gunn recounts a beautiful memory of how his grandmother once promised to get him and his sister out of LA, Illyria--with just as much nostalgia as Gunn had--reminisces on Los Angeles in the ancient times, when she would "amuse herself by tossing any who dared oppose me into oceans of lava." It's clear that Gunn is put off by what she says, but the look on his face betrays him; now that he was a vampire, a lover of brutality and violence, he relates to Illyria on an entirely new level. As foreign as a story about a monster reigning over her land might seem to him, when he thinks about it... he was in the same shoes a month prior.

Though the character stuff is fantastic, the issue contains both the positive and negative stuff that comes with being the first of a series. As far as the good stuff, the plot hasn't really developed yet, so Scott Lobdell had some time to set the scene and have some fun. The issue starts with Illyria and Gunn putting a stop to demon drag racing, shows more of Gunn teaching Illyria to drive, and throws them in a couple of new settings; a diner, Fred's apartment, Fred's parents house (yup), and a farmland that just happens to be infested with (SPOILER:) what appear to be harmless demons. But on the flip side, I did feel like there was too much time spent explaining back story. Everyone that reads this is going to know that Illyria infected Fred's body and that Gunn allowed that to happen by signing the papers, so that exposition could have been a lot shorter or just not included. I do like that Lobdell is showing all sorts of ways that Gunn and Illyria are connected, from that moment to the picture of Gunn and Fred (which is lovely), but I think this would have been better handled in dialogue. We got that exposition and exposition about Gunn being a vampire and then not being a vampire (more necessary). I do like the first person narration by Gunn, but I would have preferred if some of that had been woven into the conversation.

All in all, a very strong start. I can't wait to see what Scott Lobdell and Messina cook up for us next month, because from what I've read in the solicits... well, it's pretty balls out crazy. And I'm excited to see how Gunn and Illyria, at once at their most fragile and most strong, handle their new and old foes.

Art: The art is great. Messina is better than ever, creating more explosive action scenes and more emotional down moments. His likenesses have never been stronger, and his panels have never been more detailed. His improvement from his early ANGEL work to this is utterly phenominal. We're lucky to have him, along with Brian Denham, working on the on-going ANGEL title this coming December. I do have one quibble, though. Gunn's beard is super inconsistent. He has from pages 4-7, no beard on 8, beard on 9, no beard on 10-11, beard on 12-14, no beard on 15-19, beard on 21-22. I really hope that gets fixed for the TPB, because otherwise, this is some of the best art we've gotten in the Buffyverse, period.

Covers: Messina's cover is good. It's a great image of Illyria, a pretty cool image of Gunn, and a creepy ass skull in the background. It's the weakest of Messina's covers for the series, but that is more a compliment to his covers for #2 and #3 than anything about this cover. Dave Dorman's cover, on the other hand, has a great concept and so-so execution. Illyria is trying to get in touch with her humanity in this arc, so it's cool to have her, in normal clothing, playing fetch with the dog (and a glowing frisbee of energy)... but her face just looks weird. She looks like Kirstie Alley got her hair dyed blue. Gunn looks pretty awesome, though; I dig the painted look, and how it looks half storybook/half sitcome... but I just can't get over Illyria's face.

Extras: For an interview with David Messina concerning this series and his other works, click here. Interview with writer Scott Lobdell coming soon!

Characters We Know: Illyria, Gunn, Fred (flashback), Wesley (flashback), Spike (flashback), the Burkles.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, August 10, 2009

God(dess?) vs. Angel

What Is It?: Fallen Angel: Reborn #2. (Written by Peter David; art by J. K. Woodward)

Timing: Directly following Fallen Angel: Reborn #1, which takes place between "Time Bomb" and "The Girl in Question."

REVIEW: The issue was good. Not as stunning as the first chapter, but still highly enjoyable. There is way more dialogue, and we also get a glimpse at some of the supporting characters of Fallen Angel, which I was really looking forward to.

First, as a Fallen Angel fan (this won't bother those who haven't read the previous volumes), I'm confused as to why Jubal is alive. He was the vessel for Moloch, and seemed to be burned to a crisp when Jude dispatched of the demon. I don't know the reasoning behind bringing the character back, and I trust that we'll find out why, but it seems like a strange decision, especially since he went from betraying his entire city to a monster last arc to trading insulting quips with Liandra in this issue. I would think she'd be trying to kill him instead of talking to him with only minor hostility. That, I don't get.

The plot really does develop a lot in this issue. Jude, the most interesting character in Fallen Angel (except, perhaps, for Asia Minor, who also appears in the issue), gets a lot of page time in this issue. Illyria compares him to Wesley, which is a great connection for fans of both the show and this comic. Illyria does a lot of that in the issue; she's new to Bete Noire, so her internal narration continues to make this highly readable for those unfamiliar to the series. She remains the main focus, and we even see a bit of the struggle in her head during this transitive state of her life. She's not totally removed from her God-self yet, but she's also promised Wesley to co-exist... subtly, Peter David hints that she has been influenced by Wesley and her time spent in LA.

But one thing about Illyria in this issue... she doesn't seem as organic as she did in the first installment. She seemed 100% in character for me in the first issue, but there are a few slight flubs in this one that got my mouth a-frownin' and my eyebrow a-raisin'. There's a line where Illyria says, "Let me... unh... guess... you displayed... free will..." Now, first let me clear it up. And yes, typed out like that, it does sound as if it was said during sex. But what strikes me about this is the "Let me guess." I just can't picture Illyria saying this. Too modern, too passive. And she also quotes her future self by saying that she "will make a trophy of her (the Fallen Angel's) spine." That is one of Illyria's most popular lines from the show. Was this repeated for the effect? I guess? But it just leaves me feeling strange. Illyria has way too many ways to describe violence in her twisted head than to double-dip.

Those issues aside, the book is solid. A fight between Illyria and Liandra (yup, it's as awesome as you'd expect) takes up a lot of page space, and the rest is devoted to Jude and Liandra "helping" Illyria find the icons she needs in order to restore her full power. Peter David shows a lot of restraint by letting out the details we need to know, when we need to know them. He keeps us guessing until the end with certain things (such as, why in the world would they help Illyria) and manages to stay true to his own characters while giving Illyria the page time a story like this calls for.

So the second issue was good. Hope the third picks it back up to very good/great again.

Art: Again, J. K. Woodward's new style needs to be given props. Between this issue and the previous one, it's the best of Woodward's work that I've seen, hands down. He gives the book a gothic, horror-ish look when they visit a cemetery, and also manages to nail the more epic moments like the fight between Illyria and Liandra. Major, major points for the great artwork. I do have one quibble, though, and I wasn't sure if I should put this in the writing or art sections, but there is a pretty major flub on Page 14. The first caption of the first panel on the page says "The rain has ceased, giving me a better view." Well, in the art... the rain hasn't ceased. Not on that panel, not on the next, and not for the entire rest of the issue. It's pouring out! It would definitely be a good idea to fix that for the TPB, because it's a strange moment that is easily amended.

Covers: J. K. Woodward's interiors again prove to be better than his cover images, which is definitely rare in comics. I definitely like his cover for this issue way better than his first cover, but in effort to recreate Illyria's odd posture, her face has been painted in a way that makes it seem as if her neck has been broken. Other than that detail, the cover is a very good one, showing Illyria and Liandra in action mode. Woodward also provides an incentive cover that features the same image of Illyria behind Liandra. They both seem ready to attack each other. I wasn't able to get my hands on this cover, so I can't talk much about it because all I have of it is a thumbnail, but from what I can see, I like it. Nick Runge also provides a cover for the book, and it's great. It's a close-up on Liandra's face, her eyes all electric-like, with Illyria, her face all shadowy-like, in front of her. Me gusta.

Characters We Know: Illyria.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Spotlight Shifts to Oz and Twilight


What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #27: Retreat part II (written by Jane Espenson; art by Georges Jeanty).

Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Right after "Retreat part I."

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: Okay, here we go. For the first time in a while, I can say that the writing is where is should be. I definitely enjoyed #24-26 a lot, mostly because they were better than what came before. But the series has definitely been missing something for a while. I don't think the writing has been Buffy quality since #19, and there hasn't been a stretch of great issues since #6-15... but I think things are about to change. For the first time in too long, I was left yearning for more after the last page. The epicness is back, the funny is back... and Oz is back.

Oz is a changed man, but he's still recognizable as the character we've been invested in for a long time. His dialogue rocks, which really makes this issue good, as a lot of it is a monologue by Oz, as he updates Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, and Dawn on his life. And, like his wolfy situation, it's changed. A lot. One of the most interesting things in the issue is seeing Willow deal with the fact that (SPOILERS:) Oz is in love with another woman named Bay and has a kid. It's not the angsty stuff you'd expect, but a really mature and subtle sadness that Willow experiences. I really like the way that was handled. Also handled nicely is Oz's backstory. The issue could have easily been cramped with the backstory, but instead it lets the story naturally unfold, gives the characters the space to react appropriately, and also shows what's going on with the bad guys. While #26 was a cool read, the pacing was way too fast, leaving a lot of the interactions (the Andrew/Warren confrontation; the battle of the Slayers vs. the demons) feeling rushed, too short. This, however, is just right.

Espenson also does really well with the Twilight stuff. We spend more time on him here than we have since #11, and we get a look at the interplay between him, Riley, Amy, and Warren. Some pretty juicy stuff is revealed about the dynamics of the group. Riley's behavior will definitely bring up some interesting theories, and Twilight's comment that he (SPOILERS:) "...know(s) Buffy too well to believe she'll be silent when she dies..." The best scenes are definitely the ones with the villains, but I can safely say that there wasn't a scene in the book that I didn't like.

I'm glad to say that I can't wait until Buffy #28.

Art: Now this takes away some points. Check out my old reviews for the Buffy comics. I loved Jeanty's style. His art from #1-4, 6-9, and 11-15 was amazing. Some of my favorite comic art. But ever since his pages in #20, something has been different. His lines haven't been as sharp. His Buffy, Willow, and Xander started to look very loose, and at times lazy. It would be jarring to have a different artist take over at this point, but it's nearly as jarring to open the book and realize that the dude who has been nailing these characters (har har) since #1 is now the same dude botching their likenesses. And it's utterly strange, because Jeanty's landscapes are beautiful. But he just seems to have given up on drawing people. Sure, there are panels that rock, such as the Oz "Run" flashback panel. But then... Twilight smacks a bowl out of Amy's hand, and the moment should be threatening, explosive... but it's not. Oz looks like Andrew in nearly every panel that doesn't solely focus on Oz. Oz's hair color keeps going back and forth from red to reddish brown to Andrew's straight brown. And Jeanty is probably only going to get once chance to draw Tara, and it's a shame that he made her look like that. I get that these are incredibly busy panels, but still... if you're going to shaft something, shaft the backgrounds. And that's hard for me to say, because Jeanty's strongest art at this point comes from his backgrounds. But I come here for the characters, and since the writing has gotten back up to where it should be, the art should deliver in a way we've come to expect from Jeanty. And this does not.

Covers: Jo Chen's cover is good, definitely. It's not my favorite of her works, but it's really peaceful, really cool. I love the Xander/Dawn relationship, and from the cover, as well as their interaction in the issue... I do think it's going somewhere. But lovey-predictions aside, the cover is nice. Not epic like the last one, but it suits the issue. Jeanty's cover is sort of a traditional horror cover with a werewolf attacking Oz. It's a lot of red and black, and I do like it. It's way, way better than his interiors, and also better than most of his other recent covers. If he can bring this caliber of art to the inside, I'll be a happy camper.

Characters We Know: Amy, Twilight, Riley, Warren, Willow, Buffy, Oz, Giles, Dawn, Xander, Tara (flashback), Faith, Andrew.

Rating: 8/10

Run and catch, run and catch...

What Is It?: Angel #24- Drusilla, Part One (Written by Juliet Landau and Brian Lynch; art by Franco Urru)

Timing: Right before the fall. We'll have to wait and see at what exact moment the fall occurs, but we can assume for now that it happens during the events of ANGEL 5x21-5x22.

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 hidden.

You might not know it, but Juliet Landau is the busiest woman in showbiz. You just have to follow her on Twitter or be her Facebook buddy to know that. She's got her hands in an amazing amount of projects, from her own directorial work, to music videos, and now comics. It's clear after reading this issue, though, that the quantity of her projects doesn't take away from the quality, because this comic is a top notch read. Along with longtime IDW scribe Brian Lynch, Landau brings back her beloved and scary-ass character Drusilla for this character study/bloodbath of an issue.

The basic concept is this. Drusilla is in an insane asylum... but it's not Mosaic, as the covers (a homage to Spike: Asylum #1) would have you believe. This asylum is for normal people. As expected, they can do absolutely nothing to contain Drusilla. The things is, though, it seems (SPOILERS:) that there are forces at work behind the scenes that don't want to contain her. The second part will surely reveal who is behind this wonky experiment and why, but this issue worked the set-up marvelously, making for a captivating and smooth read. I remember going really easy on Angel #18 (the first issue of the terribly received Aftermath arc by novelist Kelley Armstrong) because it was setting up the plot... but truth be told, the issue wasn't really enjoyable. This, on the other hand, effortlessly mounts the tension, makes the reader wonder what's going to happen, and reintroduces a character without missing a beat. I enjoyed the hell out of the issue, and was shocked and sorta sad when it ended.

And damn does it end quickly. There isn't much dialogue (but do expect some "grandmum" and "daddy" hilarity from Drusilla!), as Landau and Lynch let Urru tell the story through his art. Landau worked really closely with Urru from what I've read, making sure that the fluid movements of Drusilla translated well into this medium, and oh man did they ever. You can tell that Landau really knows the character in and out, and paired with Brian Lynch's intricate knowledge of how comics work, the overall product is amazing.

Art: Other than The Body, I don't know of any Buffyverse episode or comic that concentrates on the physicality of the characters as much as this issue. Franco Urru, as I mentioned before, nails the fluid movements of Drusilla as she playfully dances and sways from panel to panel... and also, you know, when she's bashing brains in and sticking syringes into eyeballs. The art is violent, Urru's most beautiful, and so real in its movement that I can see the movements that happen off-panel. I've always been a fan of how Urru captures the action scenes well, how you can visualize the fight and movement (take Angel #4, for example, where Wesley walks toward a broken Angel... can't you just see him moving, walking toward Angel?), but this takes it to the next level. The colors, done by Paolo Maddalini Fabio Mantovani )the man who should color every book I read), are cold, harsh, and so stylistically right for the book. They're different than anything we've seen before, and a lot bluer and greener than I'm used to... but in a good way. While Art Lyon's colors were brown and washed out for no reason, the color here is motivated.

Covers: A thousand million. COVER A and COVER B are done by Urru, with the former featuring Drusilla (human faced) curled up in a straight jacket against the padded wall of her asylum. The latter is the same image, except a lot greener, and Drusilla is proudly wearing her vampire lemon face. Both covers (but especially the second one with the greeness) are homages to SPIKE: ASYLUM, which is really cool for me, because while it wasn't the first Buffyverse comics I read, it was the first time I read a comic and realized that Buffyverse stories could be as good in this medium as they were on film. COVER C is done by Nick Runge, and it's his best in a long, long time. Drusilla's likeness is spot on, and he captures the gothic romance and even the frailty behind the violence that makes Drusilla so unique (see that cover above). COVER RI-A is a photo of Drusilla that might have been among the pictures taken exclusively for this book. It's beautiful, and Landau is lookin' fine as ever. Definitely worth the extra $10. Next are the covers I was unable to get (but I'm working on it!) COVER RI-B is done by Sam Shearon, whose photo-realistic painting is Jo Chen/Alex Garner status good. On the cover, Drusilla's head is in an open birdcage, with the open half of her face all vamped out, and the covered half normal. It's beautifully horrific. My least favorite of the painted covers is still amazing: It's the Comic-Con Edition, and it's also done by Shearon. On the cover, Drusilla leaps gracefully through the air in her asylum duds. Not as good as the others, but still a striking image.

Extras: Yup, I know, new category. We won't have this for every issue, because not every issue has extras. But this book has three new photos of Juliet Landau (shot by Deverill Weekes) done specifically for this issue. They're beautiful, graceful, and, erm, leggy. We likes it. Oh, and this: I'll also use this category to talk about things (happys, gripes) that don't affect the overall score of the issue but are still worth saying. First, I just wanted to say that ever since #23, there has been a slight printing problem with the IDW comics. The pages are sticking together in parts, and while it's easy to pull them apart, it sometimes damages the pages. It's not only the ANGEL titles either, because the STAR TREK and FALLEN ANGEL books have been going through the same thing. Not a major issue by any means, but still. Fixable, I think. And one last gripe that carries over from the Aftermath arc. Where are the titles? If the title on the front of the book has to remain simply ANGEL, fine. But put a title on the inside, the way "Become What You Are" was written on the inside. It's weird when 1-17 are After the Fall, 18-22 are supposed to be Aftermath but remain untitled on the actual issues, 23 is Become What You Are, and 24-25 are untitled. I'm gonna be calling this Drusilla (because the most Darla-centric Angel episode was called Darla, so there), but I hope stuff starts to get titles soon. I don't know, I just love titles.

Characters We Know: Drusilla.

Rating: 9/10