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.

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