What Is It?: Angel Annual #1: Last Angel in Hell. Written by Brian Lynch, art by Stephen Mooney.
Timing: The story in this book, which is essentially a bad action movie based on what happened when LA was sent to Hell, never actually happens in the Buffyverse. However, the film was shot, and it exists as a fictional film in Angel's world. A preview of the film premiered at the Sci-Fi Convention in Angel #26.
REVIEW: So this is it. The last Brian Lynch penned ANGEL comic we're probably ever going to see. Thing is, though, it's not really even an Angel comic. While it uses a shitty screenwriter's version of the characters and slightly uses the situation of "After the Fall," it's way more a parody of bad action films than a parody of "After the Fall." There are definitely the kind of jokes this needed to have to make the book work ("What, like a reboot? That's kind of a cop-out, no?"), but the action of the film was so wildly misinterpreted by the fictional screenwriter that it doesn't comment that much on "After the Fall" itself.
And that is probably the one thing I would change. As awesome as it is that this is 100% friendly to newcomers, I do wish there had been a bit more in-jokes. There is the instant hilarity of seeing how they turned Spike into a lady, Gunn into Hurley-from-Lost with a gun obsession, Fred into a black chick in a suit of body armor called I.L.L.Y.R.I.A. that gives her Gwen-like powers, Spike into a lady, Betta George into a dog, and Angel into Nic Cage. Angel's loner-ness is made fun of, the idea of snow in Hell-A is played with, and there are even some specific situations and lines that are winks to fans, but in a project as meta as this, there should just be more meta. It should be the meta-est. Other meta things should look at this with envy and desire to hold a meta-stick to the meta of this issue.
Now, for the great.
The book is funny as hell. PUN! Pretty much every page has a great line (well, usually a line so purposely bad that it's hilarious), and that kicks ass because the thing is 48 pages long. If this comic went to a school of other comics, it'd spend most of its time kicking the shit out of punier comics. Probably stealing their lunch money, too. Oh, and definitely the occasional swirlie.
I never thought plot inconsistencies would be a positive thing about a comic, but Brian Lynch totally skewers action films perfectly here by hinging the entire story on a plot twist that doesn't make sense. (Lady) Spike (whose name is Sara, she's only called Spike because of an offhand reference Detective Angel Cartwright made to her teeth looking like spikes) essentially causes Hell to come to Earth by spilling a lot of blood at her and Angel's wedding (yup), but it turns out that she was on Angel's side all along and only pretended to be bad to kill the devil. Yup, sounds just like a Michael Bay film, right? Right. There are all the cheesy, big moments where the heroes conquer the one, random thing that always held them back that was awkwardly introduced for easy pay-off at the climax. There are all the expected, clunky action flick lines (at Doublemeat Palace, where the sign outside says "Over five billion serves," Angel Cartwright says to an employee "You just gotta do one thing... change the sign outside. Because three more are about to get served" before he kicks the ass of some vampiredemonperpscum. Also, there's the awesomely bad product placement, and not just the ads. The whole Doublemeat Palace thing is totally milked for all its worth in this. The existence of this book and the funniness of those scene almost justifies the existence of that Buffy episode for me now, which I'd thought was an impossible feat.
There are a lot of awesome lines, and it's pretty much page-for-page entertaining. I dig it, I'll come back to it over and over, and it's a good way for Lynch to end his stint on Angel. I hope to hell there's a sequel ("Next Last Angel in Hell"), and, I can't help it, I hope the dude comes back to the main title someday. Since Spike: Asylum #1, Brian Lynch has been my favorite comic writer, and he's made the recent years kick ass for Angel fans. I can't wait to see what he does with the SPIKE on-going, but until then, we've got all his Angel issues, all his Spike issues, and now this bad-boy to enjoy.
Art: And Stephen Mooney. This is also probably Mooney's last issue, and I'm pretty torn up about that as well. Not only has he been one of my favorite Angel artists, he's just an all around great guy. He puts his best work forward here, for sure. The art is cinematic, appropriately cheesy, and the characters just look great. If he has to finish up his run on Angel, this is the way to do it. Bravo, sir.
Covers: Two of Mooney's best. The main cover is probably the most epic ANGEL cover ever, which is kind of ironic, seeing as this isn't exactly an ANGEL book. It's an iconic image, and if there is ever one book that collects all of "After the Fall," this should be the cover. It's that bad-ass. Then, the B cover features the same characters, except as played by their "Last Angel in Hell" actors. Freakin' awesome.
Characters We Know: Hm... I never thought this would be a difficult section. Betta George actually appears as an extra in the movie, which was great. There are fictionalized versions of Angel, Spike, Gunn, Fred/Illyria/Gwen, Wesley, and Lorne.
Brian Lynch, Stephen Mooney... thanks for this, thanks for the past few years of great work you've done, thanks for everything. I'll be following both of your post-Angel careers, so keep up the fantastic work.