Timing: Things are finally back in chronological order. A while after Angel #22.
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.
REVIEW: The idea has been going around for a while. Brian Lynch first mentioned that a hack screenwriter would be making a crappy movie out of the events in LA, and that our heroes would go to check it out. Back then, it was said to be part of the SPIKE series. But instead, it kicks off something that is as sad as it is hilarious... Brian Lynch's last three issues of ANGEL ever.
Why funny? Well, the plot is insane in the best way possible. Angel goes to San Diego Sci-Fi Festival ("Rip-off of the Comic Con," says Connor) and catches a screening of "Last Angel in Hell." It's starring Nick Cage as Angel, Jorge Garcia as Gunn, a dog as Betta George, and a lady as Spike, who is Angel's love interest. To top it all off? It's directed by Michael Bay. Okay, it's doesn't say that exactly, but the director is a spitting image of Bay, and has a similar love of explosions. So it's Bay. Along with Angel, we get a sneak peak of the film that is glorious in its complete cheesiness (get the entire thing in Brian Lynch's "Last Angel in Hell" Angel annual this December). The scene with the movie and the crowd reacting is just sheer brilliance, commenting on shitty action films, the nature of fandom, and the canon issue in five of the best comedic comic pages ever. While the "Last Angel in Hell" material is funny for obvious reasons (and even funnier to watch Angel witness this complete mockery of his life), the bespectacled fellow that asks Bay about the canonical status of a "Last Angel in Hell" tie-in comic is Brian Lynch's wink at his loyal readers. It must be frustrating writing for a fandom as canon-obsessive as this one can be, and this little fun-poke is just what the Buffyverse fandom needs to lighten up about the canon issue. Why are we like this guy, who has "lost much sleep" over the canonical status of a story? If the story is good, the story is good. That's it.
And this one, even putting the hilarious "Last Angel in Hell" stuff to the side, rocks. Groosalugg's flaming sword--the weapon that killed Angel and Connor--has gone missing. Why? "Not many weapons can claim it killed you. Three or four, at most. So far." A standout line, though it isn't as shiny as it would have been if the grammatical error had been caught. It should have read "Not many weapons can claim to have killed you" as opposed to "it killed you." The former refers to the idea that few weapons killed Angel, the latter makes it seem as if there aren't many weapons that would claim the flaming sword killed Angel. English major. Sorry. The moment is actually really cool, and not only because it's awesome to see Angel, Groosalugg, Connor, and Kate (in her normal clothes, thanks to Mr. Mooney) hanging out together. It also shows how Connor is web-savvy, how research is going to change drastically with use of the interwebs.
Okay, rambling. It's late. This is what happens when I try (ahem and fail) to get reviews out on time with my schedule.
The issue essentially becomes an Angel and Spike team-up when their paths cross at the Sci-Fi Festival. It's got all the comedy of The Girl in Question, though more arc significance. Instead of seeing Angel and Spike chase around an ex-love (which was admittedly fun), they simply deal with each other in a very post-After the Fall way. Their relationship has changed, and this reflects it. Angel is aware of Spike's unspoken affection for him, and despite the consistent snarkiness, they're able to... almost hang out. As friends. Spike openly admits his lack of direction now that he has a completely open path before him, and Angel understands that. These characters have come a long way since Not Fade Away, and it's great to see some of the seeds planted in #17 finally starting to grow.
Also, Jeremy is in this. Yup, Spike's buddy from Spike: After the Fall that bit it, thanks to Illyria tragically misunderstanding something. He fits in perfectly with Angel and Spike in the setting, which makes me thrilled that Brian Lynch confirmed the character would appear in Spike Unlimited.
There is a big surprise at the end (though it isn't a surprise if you've been following the covers), that makes this episode at sort of sequel to the Buffy: Season Two episode, Halloween. The same spell goes down, turning evil assassins that came to the festival to purchase the fiery sword (guess why?) into cute cuddly bears and it turns Spike into... well, read the issue. It's great, and it's going to make for some hilarious and possibly heavy and character-reveally moments in the next installment.
Brian Lynch excels as much at a funny issue as he did with the heavy stuff in After the Fall. It's the funniest thing I've read from him yet, and that's including all the amazing stuff from Shadow Puppets. I mean, check out these lines:
"Angel, I have planted a flag at the beginning of the line to enter the auction room. A few similarly dressed warriors tried to invoke something called 'cutsies' but I held my ground."
"Hey, look at you yelling, which is the opposite of subtle."
"Horses, prepare to be played!"
"It had commentary on the human condition and love and drama and that stuff is great. Also I love explosions. And hell, with its flames and crap, was like one big ongoing explosion."
But yeah. You get the point. Very funny. Very appropriate for the characters at the point in the series. Forward movement, engaging storytelling. Just what the series needed.
Brian Lynch is on the regular ANGEL title for one more issue that ties up this storyline, and then after The Last Angel in Hell, he's said he's done with the title. He'll be writing the on-going SPIKE series, but this sort of feels like the end of an era. So sad, but I can't wait to see what Brian Lynch brings to our other favorite ensouled vampire and what Bill Willingham brings to ANGEL.
Art: The art is very good. Not Stephen Mooney's best or most consistent, but still very good. The opening pages are all out great, and there are a lot of perfect panels spread through-out, but there was one character that seemed to really suffer... and that's Jeremy. I wasn't really a fan of the way Mooney drew Jeremy, and while that would normally be a footnote, it's a bit more important here because a) we haven't seen Jeremy in a long time and b) he's in the issue a lot. Mooney's Angel, Spike, Groosalugg, Kate, and Connor likenesses are as great as they've been since Mooney's wonderful After the Fall arc, and he does great with the comedy here. I just would have liked a bit more details on Jeremy, who seemed to get pushed to the side a bit here.
Covers: Two great ones. Nick Runge's cover shows Angel and Spike surrounded by fans at the Sci-Fi festival. Spike looks great, and the setting is really cool, but something is off with Angel's face. Still a very cool cover. Stephen Mooney's is just as interesting, appearing to be Angel as an action figure. Both covers work hand in hand to show how big Angel has gotten in his own fictional world, winking at the real world Angel fans with a bit of meta-fiction.
Characters We Know: Angel, Spike, Connor, Kate, Groosalugg, Jeremy.