Timing: Early 1800s, after the action of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
REVIEW: Much like John Byrne's Blood and Trenches, this was a treat. It was told in a different style than the Angel stories we've been getting that have been set in modern times, offering a dark, gothic, and truly creepy tale just in time for Halloween. Unfortunately, I'm not in time to review it for Halloween, but... yeah. I really enjoyed it, and I think it's just what the doctor ordered.
These kinds of tales should be what IDW looks for to spice up the Angel title. Brian Lynch's one-shots and the current Boys and Their Toys two-parter (Part Two still hasn't come out in NY! No matter how busy I am, I do tend to drop everything to get my Lynchcomic reviews out, because, to be honest, they're at a higher level than any Buffyverse comic being published now) have been fantastic, but it's clear that the series is in a transitional period before Willingham takes over with the Immortality for Dummies arc in December. Stories like this one, though, help remind us where Angel comes from. As much fun as we can have with the comedy issues, and as heroic as Angel is now in the more dramatic issues, this served as a harsh reminder to me where he comes from. And that, at this point in the series, is essential. Each season was loaded with flashbacks, but the on-going series really hasn't seen much of that until now, other than Blood and Trenches, which showed a troubled but essentially good Angel. This... not so much.
It's a battle of the villains as Angelus and Frankenstein go head to head for an inheritance that neither of them really deserves or, considering what the inheritance has dwindled to, really want. It's more of a war of ego and honor between two monsters, one whose heart turned cold because of the way people treated him, the other who likes to snap necks and ravage virgins. So yeah, it's clear that Frankenstein is the better of the two here, but his nonchalance about taking human life to get what he wants throws this story into a dark, dark place. There really are no heroes, no one to root for or get behind. It's just two dark forces clashing, and it's damn chilling.
The language Byrne uses to tell the story is great. It genuinely feels like it takes place in that era, and besides a few awkward turns of phrase ("...He has been called Angelus. A name given to him as an ironic joke." Eeek.), Byrne uses dialogue and Frankenstein's expository monologue to set the tone here. Despite the idea having comic book fight written all over it (I mean, what hero hasn't fought Frankenstein?), Byrne takes the realistic route and totally succeeds. It's nothing earth shattering, but it's an enjoyable and well-written comic that works as an Angel tale, a Frankenstein tale, a standalone horror tale, or a start to a longer Angel vs. Frankenstein saga. And man, I hope for that last bit.
Art: So, so different than Blood and Trenches. I loved the washed out, newspapery look of that book, and I thought we might get something similar here, but nope. Byrne's likenesses are as strong as always, but the darkness of the story seeps through into the art. It's shadowy without being too dark, bright in places without breaking the mood... actually, it's almost as if it's a comic being told by candlelight. Colorist Ronda Pattinson should just color all the Angel comics, because her work here isn't just attractive, it also works perfectly with the story. Great, great art.
Covers: Not my favorite by Byrne. There are a lot of arms, and it is sort of messy. All I can think of when I see it is, "Is that Frankenstein's leg? How is it there. He's so tall that his knee caps are at Angelus's shoulder. Heh. Why? They're in a forest? Why is Angelus holding her that way? Looks uncomfortable for him. Why is her hand bent that way? Looks uncomfortable or her. Is Frankenstein stroking Angelus's hair. Sexy. But no." So not the best. Byrne showed in Blood and Trenches that he's way better at interiors than covers, but this is definitely below his usual standards. There are some very cool things about it, but they're all trumped by the sheer awkwardness.
Characters We Know: Angelus. Oh, and he hasn't appeared in the Buffyverse until now, but... Frankenstein, who you should know. If you don't, leave this blog now. Go. Shoo.
Extras: So I'm a geek. Know this before you read what follows. I love TPBs and hardcovers, and I love seeing what goes into them and what doesn't make it. As of now, it seems that this book doesn't really have a place in any collection. So, geek that I am, here are a couple of suggestions.
Angel- Volume __ - Short stories- Make it a part of the on-going series. Throw it in a hardcover. And no, not randomly. Wait until there are a bunch of one-shots. Fables, Sandman, Y: The Last Man, and so many other series do it. Have it start with Masks, then this, then Last Angel in Hell, and and the next few one shots that come out. Whatever volume hardcover has been published by then (I'm thinking Angel- Volume Seven- Immortality for Dummies) make it the next one!
Angel vs. Frankenstein TPB- I know what you're saying. "But Pat! It's only a one-shot! It would just be the very same comic in an ill fitting larger cover!" But "wait," I say! Make it a friggin' series. It works. The ending calls for it. It should happen.