Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Angel's New Beginning

What Is It?: Angel #18- Aftermath part I (written by Kelley Armstrong).

Timing: Probably a week after Angel #17. Angel #17 was set a month after LA was saved, and Angel's narration reveals that this also takes place a month after the "return to normalcy." The Gunn issue, which fills in what happened to him between Angel #17 and #18, will likely show exactly how much time passed between these.

REVIEW: The issue was a decent start to what looks like it'll be a good book. Angel: After the Fall really set a standard of greatness, so it'll definitely be tough for this book to live up to it. While Kelley Armstrong doesn't seem to have the strongest sense of the characters, she dives right into the plot and it seems as if she knows exactly where its going. The story is pretty tight around the edges, plot wise, and seems both interesting and thematically strong.

Some of the best stuff and worst stuff of the issue concerns how it connects to After the Fall. I'll tackle the plus side first. I love how the Lords are still sending assassins after Angel, and how one is even addressed by name. It feels like it's building on the stuff After the Fall started, developing continuing plot threads. It makes the series have that cohesive feel that I was really hoping it would. However, not everything in the book really helped add to that feeling. The fact that Angel gave Lorne a card that a) said Angel Investigations and b) had the Hyperion's address on it made it pretty clear where the series would be going. But at the open of Aftermath, Angel is still very confused. It's only after he gets advice from various demons he's fighting/killing--a scene that is both funny and awkward--that he decides to re-open Angel Investigations. That made my eyebrow archy. Then, later on, when he runs into Kate (I'll get into that later), she suggests he open up shop in an abandoned church. More archy. Then, I remembered. This issue was written before the script from #17 was even finished, as evidenced by Kelley Armstrong's message board and Brian Lynch's blog. Armstrong had obviously gotten the characters she could and could not use, but it seems she wasn't briefed on where Angel's head is at at the end of #17.

There are a bunch of very good scenes. The "screening process" montage, where Angel and Kate (again, I'll get to her later) deal with shady clients was great. Very funny stuff. The effects of Angel's celebrity status and the other negative effects of the Fall are handled very nicely, making for some funny scenes as well as some heavier stuff. The scene in the issue that's obviously supposed to rub you wrong--Angel not being able to realize that a client is in actual trouble--does rub you wrong, so again, Armstrong is really good hitting all the plot points she wanted to. The smaller cast makes it easier for her to concentrate on getting Angel's voice right, and she, for the most part, doesn't write a lot of dialogue that jumps out as out-of-character. It's hard to hear the actors voices than it was in After the Fall, and lines like "As much fun as it is, chasing down scumbags like you," don't really help, but I suspect her understanding of Angel's speech patterns will develop as the series goes on. She has a very good handle on Connor, both the way he thinks and the way he speaks, and she doesn't write a bad Kate either. There were definitely times in reading this that I thought she was writing Kate too much like early-Cordy, specifically when she said "Why not? Client wants us to stop a sacrificial ritual and we fail? Not like they'll return to get their money back."

Now, to Kate. Kate's return. She had a nice reintroduction to the Angel title in #7, but she hasn't crossed paths with Angel until now. And within a minute of meeting back up, Kate is linking arms with him and planning the future of his business. The former irks me more than the latter, but their meeting should have at least warranted an entire page. I don't like that three entire seasons of not seeing each other is solved in three extra tiny panels. The angst or awkwardness didn't really need to be played up, but I just found it strange that she, after not seeing him for so long, latched onto him so quickly. It works as a plot point, definitely, but I want it to also make sense for the characters.

Notice all of the issues I have tend to be in the early section of the book. From the re-opening of Angel Investigations and on, everything is gravy. A lot happens, a few new characters are introduced, and some new mythology is explored. As if Angel didn't have enough corporate adversaries to worry about in the past, two new suits show up and claim that they're part of a city sanctioned committee to "handle the apocalyptic fall-out." And it seems to be pretty major. I'm excited by the immediate ambiguity of these characters, who seem to have good intentions but wouldn't be out of place in a Wolfram & Hart office.

And the issue ends on, you guessed it, a cliffhanger. No spoilers on that front, but it will definitely leave you excited for more.

Overall, I enjoyed the issue despite its problems. I'm looking forward to this book getting better, and I trust IDW so I know it'll wind up being very, very good.

Art: So I liked the story, liked the covers... but the art. But the art. For a superhero comic, it would be very good. Maybe even for a horror comic, as Dave Ross draws one of the most badass monsters I've seen. What he's not very good at is drawing women or capturing character likeness. I totally understand that Franco Urru needed a break after all his work on After the Fall, but I think Messina or Mooney might have been a better choice. Angel doesn't really look much like himself, but the real issue here is Kate. Her hair... her mannerisms... I don't know. It just really doesn't work. Take the scene where Kate runs into Angel again. Really, the hair is just badly done. Angel's likeness isn't that bad, and if it were just that, the art wouldn't really be an issue because it would for for most other comics. But Kate. Most of the issues I had with the actual writing are kinks that could and will likely be worked out as the story goes along, but the art is the only big point lost for this issue.

Covers: Gabriel Rodriguez has been one of my favorite artists since I first saw his work on Chris Ryall's adaptation of Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show, which I enjoy more every time I read it. He's also the artist of Locke and Key, which is my favorite IDW title after Angel and Spike. His cover here is good, and his trademark style is definitely here. It's just that it's hard not to compare this to his later Angel covers, which get better each and every time. He's the artist to watch, and I would love if we could one day get some interior work from him. Nick Runge, one of the artists who contributed to After the Fall, switches up his style for this issue and gave us a painted cover. While it does look somewhat washed out for some reason, the composition of it all is great, It's a really iconic image, and actually might be the better of the two. One thing, though. Both covers show Angel with a leopard, though the werecat on the inside turns out to be more panther-esque. Not sure what's up with that. Maybe Dez can change into all different kinds of cats, or maybe it was just a miscommunication. That's neither here nor there, though, it happens. I mean, take Angel #5. Both covers featured things that didn't happen (Groo with his hair cut, Spike in a white get-up), but it didn't make the issue or the covers any less awesome. Same case here.

Characters We Know: Angel, Connor, Kate. Gunn, Illyria, Spike, and Lorne also appear briefly.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spike: After the Fall Hardcover Review

What Is It?: A hardcover that collects the Spike: After the Fall miniseries.

The Story: A lot of beloved stories don't really hold up to a second reading. A lot of stories that didn't go over so well read a lot better after a second reading. Spike: After the Fall definitely changes with repeated reads, but doesn't fall into either of those categories. It was fantastic when I first read it, but the more I read the more the utter greatness of it starts to stand out.

Getting the flaws out of the way first, Art Lyon's coloring doesn't really vibe with Franco Urru's art. It's not really appropriate, I feel, for the tone of either Spike or Angel, but at least his coloring work on this book was an improvement over his work on the middle issues of Angel. The art is best in the third issue, in which Jason Jensen's beautiful coloring leaps off the page, but Urru's art is as good as ever, so it is still able to shine even with less than ideal color work. He is wonderful with character likeness and even better with movement. Take the page in #2, where Spike and Spider have a bit of a stand-off. Perfect pencils, perfect layout. What an example of how effective visual story-telling in comics can be.

As for the story, it's a prequel that truly stands on its own. It tells what happened to Spike and Illyria between First Night and the main arc of After the Fall, so we know where they start and where they end up... but getting there is all the shocking, tragic, bloody fun. Spike's dialogue is the strongest it's ever been, allowing us to get close--but not too close--to our vampire champion. Brian Lynch subtly, gracefully crafts the relationships between the three leads, Spike, Illyria, and Jeremy, setting us up for heartbreak that we knew had to come but could have never predicted how. Brian described the story as having an "indie" or "low budget" feel, and he's right in that the tone is a lot closer to the television series than the Angel title, but this just makes it a more interesting read instead of limiting it. It's a fast paced, highly emotional tale with great character development, cool connections to the Angel title, fantastic dialogue, and Brian's best original villain. Well, at least tied with Kr'ph.

Spike's story reads even better in the context of the entire Angel: After the Fall arc. Both of them play off each other so well, elevating both stories to a new level. I loved Spike: After the Fall when it was released in four parts, and I looked forward to the book every month... but it's nothing compared to how the story reads now. Knowing what is to come for Spike, knowing how Angel: After the Fall is resolved, reading the story is a nearly perfect experience. Things that didn't seem to matter much before--such as Gunn being interested that Illyria was with Non--are now vital in the light of the final few issues of Angel: After the Fall. Jeremy's entire arc, knowing what will become of Illyria... it all works so well with the book. Also, the story is so tight, so many little moments pop up and are payed off, that this is really the only form that can do the book justice. Even the little things--like the way Spike tells time in #1 vs. the way Connor does in #4--contribute to the tight feeling of Spike: After the Fall. I've seen a lot of people say it's the best installment in Brian's Spike trilogy of Asylum, Shadow Puppets, and this, and I always thought Asylum was slightly better. Now, I think they're at least equal.

Brian ended his commentary by saying this: "Spike's grown a lot throughout the TV shows, hasn't he? Just thinking about all the changed Whedon and company put him through on the TV shows, it's pretty mind-boggling. He's a wonderfully rich and complicated character, and hopefully Franco and I did him justice."

I'll end my review by saying this: Spike is among the most well-developed characters in the Buffyverse, going from pitiful poet to feared killer to a monster trying to go against his nature to a true champion. Brian and Franco took that character to the next level. In their Spike trilogy, they forever changed the character, reminding us how deep and complex he can be, something that might have been glossed over in the business of Angel: Season Five (which isn't an issue, I don't think). They've added at least a season's worth of development to the character, taking him in brand new and excitingly dark directions, and I can't wait to see what they bring to him with the on-going Spike series. No one writes our favorite blond vampire better.

The Presentation: Tony Harris's cover from Angel: After the Fall #2 was used, which I found odd at first. But it's really a beautiful book, and once you lay it next to the hardcovers Angel volumes, you understand. The painted look of the cover really vibes well with the other books. Other than the golden tint (which does make it hard to read the embossed title and credits), there isn't much different than the look of the other hardcovers. The images chosen for the chapter headings were very nice.

Special Features: Not much in this volume, which is understandable, considering both Brian and Franco were finishing up work on Angel: After the Fall at this time. There are, however, extensive Franco Urru sketches, including a whole bunch of different perspectives of the Spike/Illyria kiss, as well as quick sketches of particularly important scenes. There's a nice "previously on" section set over an image of Spike sizing up Angel's dragon, as well as some commentary on the first issue. I do miss the in-depth commentary offered in Brian's first two Spike volumes, but when it comes down to it, I would definitely rather Brian and Franco have the time to make the actual comics the best they could be, so I'm good with the limited commentary. There is also a comprehensive cover gallery, featuring all of the Urru and Sharp Brothers covers.

Rating: 10/10 Classic.

Oh so quotable

Re-read the majority of the Spike: After the Fall hardcover today. Will finish up when I get home. Will then review.

Aftermath tomorrow!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Coming soon, coming soon

Hey all,

This week has been crazy, and all sorts of good things are happening, but it's sort of put a delay on the reviews. Well, review, because Angel: Smile Time #2 was delayed on the East Coast. That review will come out Thursday, and the Angel #18: Aftermath review will come out Wednesday. Yup, on time!
Somewhere between then and now, I'll post my Spike: After the Fall HC review. Truth be told I could review it now, as I've seen the extras and have the book (beautiful volume), but I want to re-read the story before I make with the reviewage. Give a better assessment of the book that way.

If this is all lies and the reviews are delayed, don't blame me. I just started writing a one-act play last night, have no coherent outline, and have to have it in by... well, yesterday, but since I was just informed about the one-act festival, the person in charge might be interested in taking my piece on Monday. Or, if I can get it done, by Sunday. AND all my friends are putting on the last day of the POTENTIAL ENERGY festival (I'm done, though), so I'll be there tonight. Ah. It'll get done.

If I keep saying that, it'll be true.
PS: That isn't a new cover for Aftermath. I wish it were. It's by Ben Templesmith, and it was for Angel: The Curse a few years back. Great, innit?

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Pretty shocked right now. Put up the hit counter three days ago, already got 240 hits. Yowza.

Admittedly, this is just an excuse to talk about hits next to a picture of Angel hitting demons with his car.

The end.

FIR Part Two: The ElseWhere Chronicles

Non-Buffyverse Related


What Is It?: The ElseWhere Chronicles- Book One: The Shadow Door
Who Wrote It?: Original story (French) by Nykko, translation by Carol Klio Burrell
Who Pencilled It?: Bannister
Company: Graphic Universe

REVIEW: The series was originally written in French and got a decent amount of acclaim, which you can read on the back of the book. I met the Graphic Universe team at Comic Con and they were some of the most pleasant people I've met there. The series is different because the format of it isn't anything I've seen before. It isn't a series made up of single comics, nor is it a series of graphic novels that add up to a cohesive story, per say. It's sort of a mix. The books are like really skinny trade paperbacks and are roughly the length of two single comics put together. The story continues over the volumes, so don't expect to buy one book and get a full standalone story. Thankfully, each volume is priced at an affordable $6.95.

I'll get to the art first. The character design is great, evoking the feel of some 90s cartoons such as Hey Arnold and Doug. We don't get a good look at many of the monsters, but all the creepy stuff--the scenery more so than the little we see of the creatures--is very well done. No issues with the art sections. The story itself is also very good, keeping the scares to a minimum in order to not terrify their target readers (children), but the risk factor is never taken out of the story. To throw in another Hey Aronold reference, the scares get about as edgy as that show did, but always throw in a little lightness to remind the kids that it's okay.

The weakest part of the book, for me, was the translation. Some of the conversations the characters have don't really seem to make sense, and a lot of the dialogue feels clunky, as if it were directly translated, word-for-word, instead of getting the general meaning and then making it make sense, like most of the best translations do. I haven't read the original French versions so the problem might even be in the actual dialogue, but that was the only major issue I had with the book. The only other thing I'd say is that the balloon placement is haphazard, and confused me. I read comics all the time, so I'm not sure how a child would understand who is supposed to be talking in some scenes when it's really hard for me, in a few cases, to decipher it.

Overall, the book was decent. I hope it'll improve down the line, but it's not a bad read if you're looking for something new and interesting for your kid to read.

VERDICT: Yellow. THE ELSEWHERE CHRONICLES series is pretty good. Give it a try.

Non-Buffyverse Related

Saturday, February 14, 2009

DOLLHOUSE 1x01: Ghost

What Is It?: The first episode of Joss Whedon's new show, Dollhouse: "Ghost." Written and directed by Joss Whedon.

Timing: First in the Dollhouse universe. Modern time.

GENERAL REVIEW: Prior to seeing Dollhouse for the first time, I kept hearing two things that had me a bit worried for the show. I know, I know, Joss Whedon is one of the best of all time and I should trust him, but when you hear something said so much, even the biggest Joss fans (consider myself up there) might start to worry. First, I started hearing that Eliza Dusku wasn't a strong enough actress to play the roll of Echo. That Dollhouse was a showcase for an actress that couldn't support a showcase. Then, less alarmingly but still not good, I heard that the first episode isn't that good. In fact, Joss even said that the show doesn't take off until episode six. So, warning myself and my family and friends who were gathered to watch the episode that it might not be as instantly good as we expected, I turned on the television.
And thankfully, both of those statements were one-hundred percent wrong. Eliza Dushku is wonderful in the various roles she plays, and can very much support this show. Also, the episode is instantly good, and probably the strongest Joss Whedon pilot behind "City Of." It's faster paced than the two part premiere of Firefly, "Serenity," and feels more developed and sure of itself than the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Welcome to the Hellmouth."

The plot features a rich man renting an active, Echo, to help facilitate an exchange of money with some gangsters who have kidnapped his daughter. It is very standalone, but the seeds are planted for the longer arcs of the series to grow. It looks wonderful, the sets are great, the cast has palpable chemistry, and so far I've found it to be as funny, emotional, dark, and intelligent as any of Joss's previous works.

This is just television on a different level.


+ What a powerful opening scene. We get a glimpse at Echo before she became an active, back when she was a young, and apparently troubled, woman named Caroline.
+ Shortest. Dress. Ever.
+ Amy Acker is a scene stealer. She has an amazing screen presence, and her small scenes here all prove that she's by far one of the best actresses working today.
+ The guest stars here totally rock.
+ In contrast to the hit or miss Paul Ballard scenes, Joss develops Sierra, a new active, skillfully, making the most of her screen time.

- The babbling after Echo encounters (spoilers:) a man who kidnapped and molested the woman her memories for this specific job were taken from, she starts babbling a lot... only the babbling isn't very good. It didn't feel like she was coming apart, like it should have, it sort of just felt off. Similarly, the "You can't fight a ghost" bit was pretty cheesy.
- Biggest complaint about the episode is the first scene with Paul Ballard (played by Tahmoh Penikett) just didn't do anything for me. I guess it serves its purpose in introducing the character and what he's about, but the scene was weak compared to everything else going on in the episode. However, his next scene in the club was informative and hilarious, so it kind of made up for the first one.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, February 13, 2009

FIR Part One: Welcome to Hoxford

Non-Buffyverse Related


What Is It?: Welcome To Hoxford #1
Who Wrote It?: Ben Templesmith, known for creating/writing/drawing Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse and doing the art on the 30 Days of Night books.
Who Pencilled It?: Ben Templesmith.
Company: IDW Publishing

REVIEW: First, I'll give a bit of background on what I'm doing here. I picked up a lot of first issues of comic series over at NY Comic Con, and I told most of the creators I'd review them on this site. I chose to start this off with Templesmith's "Welcome to Hoxford" because the TPB just came out this week, so I thought now would be the right time to tell people whether the series is or isn't worth getting into. I met Mr. Templesmith at Comic Con, and he was a very nice fellow, and we already know he's talented from his wonderful stuff on Wormwood. When I questioned him about Hoxford, he told me that the series was a new kind of f***ed up, which piqued my interest even more. The first issue wasn't at his table, but I was able to pick it up at another booth that had a box of IDW comics. And Templesmith is right, it's really f***ed up, and it's really different than his stuff that we've seen before. It's unrelentingly dark, void of the lightness that Wormwood manages to squeeze in.. and it works. The tale is gruesome, but never gratuitous with the gore. It's gross, but what makes it better than series like The Walking Dead is that all of the grossness is done for setting up the plot and the characters, which are all very very interesting. What I've noticed about Templesmith's written/drawn projects like this and Wormwood is that he spends little to no time on exposition in the beginning of the story. He hops in, completely trusting the reader to follow on the ride as he slowly reveals everything, and that is rare in any medium of story-telling in modern times. It's a very solid first issue, and the art is, as always with Templesmith, sickly satisfying.

Verdict: Green. WELCOME TO HOXFORD is worth following.

Non-Buffyverse Related

Be sure to tune into DOLLHOUSE tonight.
FOX, 9pm.
Be sure to check back here an hour or so later for a review.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"After the Fall" comes to an end.

What Is It?: Angel- After the Fall: Issue #17 (written by Brian Lynch, plotted by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch).

Timing: One month after Angel #16.

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: Last month, we got the climax. Now, we get the epilogue. We've been following Angel, Brian Lynch, Franco Urru, and many others on this ride for almost a year and a half. And now, it's finally come to an end. Even with the main conflict of the series resolved, there were so many characters and plot threads that felt like they needed to be tied up. The fact that Brian was able to pay off all of that so nicely, in twenty two pages no less, without anything feeling rushed or crammed is great.

Nothing feels too neat, nothing feels rushed. Nothing is too happy, nothing is too sad. The issue finds a nice balance between the tone of what the comic has been for the past year and change and what the TV series was, which makes sense, seeing as this is a sort of return to normalcy. Much like last issue, it's hard to talk about what happened without spoiling some things, but this issue isn't about big, gasp inducing revelations, really. It's how stuff happens that matters here, not what happens, so I'm not going to tread as lightly around plot points as I usually do.

The issue feels like it's broken up into three acts, so I'll address it as such.

ACT ONE: The issue begins with a bit of an update on Angel and his situation. As revealed in #16, yes, he's famous now, yes, LA is aware about the supernatural, and yes, Wolfram & Hart is gone. Angel spends most of this act trying to find out why they left and what their plans are, and I like that it's never really resolved. There are hints dropped as to why this happened, but much like the resolution of Brian K. Vaughan's equally epic Y: The Last Man, there are no neat explanations offered. Maybe, as Angel hypothesizes, W&H used up all of their resources and cash on the trip to Hell. Maybe, as Spike suggests, Angel is being more depressing than an emo song and should enjoy his relatively happy ending while it lasts. That's all the resolution we get to the Wolfram & Hart arc for the moment, and that's really all I need. I have my theories, but I'm glad an answer wasn't crammed in.

There is a nice research scene between Nina and Angel that I found particularly subtle in what it was trying to do. I might very well be reading too much into it, but the conversation between them really feeds into both of their insecurities and self-consciousness and, with only a few lines of well timed dialogue, really managed to evoke a lot of emotion for a pairing that never really was that admired by the fans. I honestly can't even place the exact mood the scene evoked, and whether it was intended or not, it really spoke of Nina's lack of confidence when around Angel, how she recognizes that she can't be what he needs--which I believe Illyria hinted at in #12--whether you're talking about research (being on his team) or being what he needs in that way.

There were a little "montage" that was inserted in the Nina and Angel research scene that shows some fallout of the trip to Hell. Angel bids a sad goodbye to a friend, the LA Lords deal with a traitor, and a certain someone gets to make good on a promise to a lady. HIGHLIGHT FOR MORE. (SPOILERS:) Yup, the LA Lords kill Bro'os, the Loan Shark, for his betrayal. For some reason, I felt kind of sorry for the guy. Like Dracula, Connor, and Kennedy, the transition to comics actually made him a cool character. Also, Jeremy finally gets to propose to his girlfriend he spoke about in Spike: After the Fall. And, seeing that Jeremy is modeled after Jim from The Office, his girlfriend is modeled after, of course, Pam from The Office. Beautiful scene either way, definitely one should shouldn't read without a box of tissues next to you. So not only is the scene great (it has some cool stuff I didn't go into as well), it also will make the few people who said "What? A reboot!? Bah!" feel very, very silly. Nothing is the same.

ACT TWO: This is the biggest chunk of the issue. We get that great Angel/Spike talk we've been waiting for. And, by waiting for, I don't mean we've been waiting for it since Brian told us about it. We've been waiting for the scene since Angel's first scene with Spike. It's just so well played, having them have their most intimate conversation while each of them play it off as if it's not happening. So true to the characters, and so proves that Joss was right to bring Spike into the Angel fold. The insight each of them have into the other's life is fascinating, because Spike really understands Angel in a way that no one else does. And vice-versa. In addition to this, there is awesome Betta George banter, laugh out loud Kr'ph one-liners (yup, he's back), and some brief but effective Illyria action. Brian Lynch pointed out two errors in the book over at the IDW forum, and they might make you cock your eyebrow a bit, but knowing what the text was supposed to say makes the conversation flow even better. Anyone who doesn't visit the IDW forum, please pass on the correction so everyone knows.

ACT THREE: It's so bittersweet that this is over. I love the ending, but I can't believe it's over. I know the series will go on, and I know Brian Lynch comes back, and I know Franco Urru comes back, but still. Sadness aside, the story closes out in such a fantastic way. Angel talks to a (SPOILER:) comatose Gunn. He lets his friend know, as Lorne watches, that it's going to be okay. Hard, but okay in the end. It really speaks to the redemption angle of Angel. The series closes out with a truly iconic page of Angel walking down street, away from the reader and toward his future, whatever it may be.

Written with intelligence, care, and understanding of the characters, Angel #17 is a perfect ending to the best comic I've ever read.

Brian Lynch, thank you for writing. Franco Urru, Stephen Mooney, David Messina, Nick Runge, Alex Garner, and more, thank you all for your art. Thank you for following me on this journey, blog readers. It's been quite a ride, and I can't wait for what's next.

Art: What is there to say about Urru's art that hasn't already been said? It was once said that his specialty was monsters, and that was true. Then. Now, he captures emotion on the faces of the characters in a way I've never seen before. His wonderful pencils are made into atmospheric art by colorist Fabio Montovani, whose cool tones are even more suited to normal LA than they are to the Hellish atmosphere. This is the best interior art we've seen so far.

Covers: Alex Garner's cover is a mock-up tabloid of Angel being photographed by the paparazzi. Not his strongest Angel likeness, but still good. The images on the side of Illyria, Gunn (especially Gunn), and Spike/Spider are all so on point. Each of them could be their own covers. The other cover is the big spread of heroes from Hell-A on one side with villains on the other by Franco Urru. Despite the coloring error on Lorne's right arm, it's a great cover that really pays tribute to what the characters went through. The villains side is only included on the Retailer Incentive A cover. There is also a Retailer Incentive B cover which is the Garner cover, but only the Angel image. All four covers are very worth owning.

Characters We Know: Angel, Nina, Groo, Jeremy, Gwen, Cordelia the Dragon, Spike, Betta George, Illyria, Kr'ph, Burge, all the other LA Lords, Gunn, and Lorne.

Rating: 10/10 Classic.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Upcoming Posts


This is all tentative, as it's the week before two of my staged readings go on, so I have to be on my grind with that... but this is the stuff you should be expecting in the week to come.

WED 2/11: REVIEW FOR Angel: After the Fall #17

THUR 2/12: REVIEW FOR Spike: After the Fall HARDCOVER

FRI 2/13: DOLLHOUSE- Episode One review. Check for it an hour after the episode.

SAT 2/14: "Pat Shand Journeys To Comic Con" Part II. Yeah, I know, late, Buffy Fest pwned me, I concede. This'll be less about the announcements and more about the awesome stuff I didn't get around to in the first entry. I'll talk about meeting Georges Jeanty, Dave Stewart, Peter David, Ben Templesmith, the dude who writes Love and Capes... and then I'll show you all some nice original art I got. Shall be a thing.

SUN 2/15: REVIEW FOR Doctor Horrible's Sing-along Blog. Wrote it a while ago, not sure why I didn't post it.

MON 2/16: Something I've been holding off on since 12/31/08. I ended 2007 with a "MY YEAR WITH BUFFY" post, so it makes sense to end 2008 with a "MY YEAR WITH ANGEL" post. However, with only two issues left in "After the Fall," I thought it best to hold off until #17 is out. Also, now I get to include my Comic Con experience. So get ready for some sad stories and some happy stories surrounding the reading of the most epic ANGEL tale ever, "After the Fall." Complete with some ANGEL history and pictures of... things.

TUES 2/17: Give me a break, would you? Shooting starts for my short film, ULTIMATE COUPLES THERAPY, today. Can't wait to see the Uber Chick costume and hear some great actors say my lines. Look for a report on this at my personal blog, with maybe maybe maybe pictures.

WED 2/18: REVIEW FOR Angel: Smile Time #2

Until then!

Friday, February 6, 2009

ANGEL #17 review; MET BRIAN LYNCH; ANGEL/SPIKE details, all at NYCC

NY Comic Con.

I met a lot of wonderful people that I admire. Met the man who has quickly become my favorite writer. Met some of the best artists working, met some cool up-and-comers. Also saw a dude at a certain popular Comic Con booth try to go stealth for an ass-scratch, but he wasn't as suave as he thought.

All in all, fantastic experience, ass-scratcher aside.

Since this is a review site, I'll start with--gasp--a review. I'll do a proper review for Angel #17 this Wednesday when I get a copy to keep, but yes, I did get to read it in full. Which means, yes, I got to meet Brian Lynch, who is one of the men I mentioned above. Hint? Not the ass scratcher.


Loved it. It's such a perfect end to the series, packed with huge character moments and a lot of action as well. The Angel/Spike talk Brian promised? It delivers. It's funny, poignant, and gives insight into Spike's role in the overall scheme of things. It's gives us some of the most brotherly, emotional Angel and Spike moments of the entire series, but keeps it popping with all the bickering and quipping you'd expect from a conversation between our two vamps. There are great moments for Nina, Illyria, and a lot of the earlier villains (who, after the physical reboot, are all alive again). It's so low key, and really feels at once like a return to the normalcy of the Angel series and like an effective ending to the most epic story that has ever been told about these characters. There are some great exchanges between Spike, Betta George, and a certain early villain who gets a lot of screen time, and oh is it deserving. It's Franco's best art even, the colors are great, and it is every bit as good as #17. I'll give a more insightful review when I've read it again and I'm not so worn out, but damn what an ending. What an ending.

Before I get into the bigger stuff--the IDW panel, as it was big on announcements--I'll tackle the Dark Horse panel. I didn't stick around for the entire thing, because I heard they were selling colorful energy drinks for affordable prices next to the Image Comics booth, but I caught all the Buffy announcements. As Buffyfest (grumble, grumble) (just kidding, love you guys) posted earlier, there is going to be a Tales of the Vampires one shot that focuses on a slayer and vampire in modern times. That comes out in June, which is great, as that is when the Buffy comic will go on a one month hiatus. Gotta say, I'm glad they gave us another issue this time, as it was pretty hard going that long without a Buffy fix. Allie announced a writer and artist, but I didn't really catch the name. Becky something is the writer, and Fabio Moon and someone else is on cover duty, along with our beloved Jo Chen.

Scott Allie really breezed through Buffy, but he did reveal the cover of the "Predators and Prey" trade, which I have... here.

...No, just kidding. Here it is.

So, that's it on the Buffy front.

Before I go into the autographs, pictures, and assorted nuzzles I got, it's time for the big stuff. This may/may not be the first time you're hearing this stuff, so read carefully, favorite the site, tell all your friends, etcetera.


Yup, you knew it. It's been implied quite a lot, but now it's official. Brian Lynch is writing, Franco Urru is pencilling. It's about Spike trying to find himself, find his true purpose. And if you read Spike: Asylum, Shadow Puppets... you know like I do that it'll be a risk, seeing Lynch take on a character like Spike that he's never really dealt with before. *cricket* Really, though, it'll be awesome. Can't believe we're lucky enough to get an ongoing anything from Mr. Lynch, who already has enough on his plate. Oh, which I will get to later.

But yeah. You knew all that, so how about some NEWISH Spike details?

+ Will BECK be in it? Uhhhhhh yes. She will. In other news, Brian Lynch said that Beck is based on the lady sitting behind me who (Pat Shand turns around) just happens to be Brian's wife!

+ Will BETTA GEORGE be in it? Uhh, yeah. Notice how many less h's there are there. It's because while Betta George is awesome, Brian feels that "the fish has had his time in the spotlight." I think Spike might find it hard to stay away from George, though, I think he has a fish thing.
+ It's an on-going. Brian said it will go for at least a bit over a year.

+ Not really related to the SPIKE series, but there was a moment right before the spin-off was revealed that Brian "revealed" that Spike dies in #17. For those that bought it, there was collective gaspage. The panel was really pretty damn funny the whole time. My friend Anthony, who I'll get into later, was cracking up the whole time, and he doesn't really even read comics.

To break up the big mondo revelation news, and also because it was the highlight of the con for me and my buddy Anthony (Twon, we call him, Twon), I'll get into my meeting with Brian Lynch. Pretty cool when your favorite writer is also the most down to earth, chill dude there is. I was thrilled that he recognized me, and equally thrilled that he recognized Anthony from his role as DRAKE in Whatz Good Studios, a webseries I created. I got to talk to Brian for a while about Angel, got to meet his wife and some of the dudes around him, and yeah, t'was awesome to meet the guy whose books I've been buying/reading/reviewing/repeat for the past... damn, has it really been more than two years since Spike: Asylum #1 came out? But yeah, definitely the highlight of Comic Con for me, seeing the IDW team. So even if I was the unfortunate witness to a gruesome ass scratch, I also met Brian Lynch, so all is well in the world.


Yep, really couldn't come up with a better title there. Speaking of Mr. Brian Lynch, he's also writing more books in the official Angel title. Well, co-writing is more like it. Let me start over.

An Angel comic. Two issues. In the main series. Centering on Drusilla. Art by Franco Urru. Written by Brian Lynch and... and... get ready for it... are you ready?... ew, are you peeing in anticipation?........... Juliet Landau. Yup, best Angel writer there is teams up with Drusilla to write about Drusilla.

Remember that moment in Lost when Hurley tells Jack that he thinks they're all dead and in Heaven, because everything is perfect? I agree with good old Hugo, things are lookin' mighty fine.

Oh, on the topic of the main ANGEL line...


Yup, new Nick Runge cover. Best of his work on the series yet, easy. And that's saying a lot, have you seen his covers to #18-21? Whew! I'm guessing this is for #22.

Some small info on the Aftermath title was announced during the panel by Brian, with a bit of input from Chris Ryall. Gunn is (SPOILER:) comatose in Angel #17 but (SPOILER:) "upright" in Angel #18. There will be an issue--it might have been implied the Drusilla centric issues would handle this--that explains. As Brian put it, the Gunn moment in "Aftermath" might make fans go "WTF." The explanation will make 'em go "THAT T.F."


So before the interwebs start talking, as they inevitably do, let me clear the air. We all know the letter section of the Buffy comic has been dismissive of Angel: After the Fall. Scott Allie recently apologized for being snarky after some fans got riled up at a comment he made about the book over at Slay Alive. The Buffy book was brought up at the panel, and Brian made a joking comment about the book. Something along the lines of "Buffy who?" and "I skip out on the letters section," the former maybe in reference to how Allie reminds us at every Q&A that he doesn't read the Angel book. BUT. But but but. Throughout, he assured the audience that he was joking about the book, loved the story, and respected the entire creative team. The question that Brian Lynch was answering, to get to the center of that, was if LA citizens remembering Hell was the real reason the public knew about vampires in Buffy #21. The answer was an "I don't know." But yeah, in short, I'm squashing this before it's whined about by anyone else. Yes, Brian Lynch reads Buffy. Yes, Brian Lynch loves Buffy. Yes, Brian Lynch was joking, had you missed the assorted shits/giggles/and "I'm kidding"s. A year ago, I might have had confidence in the interwebs to not have to clarify, but after the whole "IZ DIZZ CANNON" debacle, I feel I sort of have to spell it out.

Oh, and by the way, that's canon.

As you can see, I'm a master at blocking photographs. This is a picture of the IDW panel. On the far left is J. K. Woodward, center is Chris Ryall, far right is Ben Templesmith, who is obscured by a computer (I got a better picture coming up). I'll talk about Woodward first.

How is he involved in Angel? Well, he's the artist of Fallen Angel, which will cross-over with Angel for four issues this summer. Illyria will visit Peter David's Fallen Angel world in Fallen Angel: Reborn 1-4, with art by the stylish Woodward. It's set during the fifth season of Angel, shortly after Illyria gets depowered. The series deals with Illyria looking for a way to regain her full power, and Peter David gave cryptic hints about her true form. He also signed a Fallen Angel TPB for me, so I'll be all caught up in time for the issue.

Cover art for Fallen Angel: Reborn #1 by Franco Urru. Who I also met. I heard an Italian voice behind me, looked, saw a handsome man. I remembered that Franco is Italian. I remembered that Brian said he was handsome. Me, being the genius that I am, put simple numbers together and shook hands with the hand that pencilled "After the Fall."

Didn't see Mooney, though. :(

Who I did see, however, was Ben Templesmith.

Ben Templesmith! It's true, there isn't always a computer that obscures his face. He's an actual face-having person!

NOTE TO SELF: Next time, be spiffier. Next to the dapper Mr. Templesmith, it's hard to be stylin'.

So Ben. Ben Templesmith. This is non-Buffyverse related, but he's working on a book with Chris Ryall called Groom Lake. It's out in March. I tried to track Mr. Ryall down after I finished reading Angel #17 to see if I can get in a sneak peek of Groom Lake #1 so I could do an early, non-spoilery review... but the thing about Comic Con? Looooootta people. Saw two of my professors, though, which was a bit beyond awesome.

Yup, met Georges Jeanty, Buffy artist, also. The guy did a fairly extensive Illyria sketch for me, which was cool. I'll talk more about Georges and the sketch later, when I get the sketch scanned. I'll save the Jeanty and Andy Owens bits for then.

So yeah. That's all folks. Loved Comic Con, loved the IDW Panel, will be going back next year, and hopefully to the SDCC. We shall see.

I got a lot of free shit that I said I'd review, so look out for some new comic reviews on the page this week. And stay tuned for a more in depth review of Angel #17 on Wednesday, as well as a NEW YORK COMIC CON/PAT SHAND PART II: THE CONSIDERABLY SHORTER AND LESS REVEALING AND LESS PICTUREY SEQUEL in the next few days.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Covering NY Comic Con

Yup. Can't say I'll be posting from my phone, because... I couldn't if I tried. But I'll try to get a post up somehow during Comic Con. I'll get some stuff to review, hopefully, and will definitely attend the IDW Panel, and will likely attend the Dark Horse Panel. We can expect some new ANGEL: AFTERMATH information as well as announcement of a small BUFFY: SEASON EIGHT side project. Also, I hope to get a look at some of Chris Ryall and Ben Templesmith's stuff for GROOM LAKE. T'would be awesome.

Until then, you've probably seen it before, but he's a look at the first page of ANGEL: AFTERMATH. Looks great.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vampy Cats Attack

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #22: Swell (written by Steven S. DeKnight).

Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Short while after "Harmonic Divergence."

REVIEW: Best issue since #19. Still not near the level it should be, considering what it is, but it was a good read with funny, quotable dialogue and some fairly decent emotional stuff. As you know by now, the issue is about Kennedy evaluating Satsu's performance as head of the Japan branch, which is a fun pair-up to say the least. Some of the best stuff in the issue is the way these characters interact, which always seems to be working on two levels. First, it entertains, using a lot of clever plays on words and neologisms that have become the norm for Whedonesque comics. DeKnight, however, gives his all to each line, and none of it sounds at all clunky like that of Espenson's #19. He has a great feel for the way the characters speak, as well as the way comics work.

The story is mostly standalone, in that it centers on Satsu and co. (yup, there's nary a Buffy or Scoob until the final two pages) dealing with a new problem: Vampy Cats. They're adorable "stuffed" toys that climb into girls' mouths and possess them while simultaneously drying out their skin. Also, they're a Hello Kitty parody, which is amazing. Satsu gets tricked into taking a prototype back to her base thanks to a four armed monster who was the highlight of the issue. Before one of his arms are severed, we get some of his internal monologue ("Oh crap... Oh crap oh crap oh -- crap!"). I loved the guy, and he reminds me how much Buffy the Vampire Slayer can do in this format.

What reminded me how little Buffy the Vampire Slayer can sometimes do in the format is the final battle scene. A whole lot of too much happens all at one time, and--as you'll see some people on Whedonesque saying--it's a bit hard to swallow (no pun intended, as you'll find out). Satsu and Kennedy fight an army of Vampy Cats, which eventually going together into one body... yeah, it's true. If that wasn't enough to be too much, Satsu orders the vampy cats to be (SPOILER:) blown up by a missile from a submarine. Yeah, it's true. I never really wondered if the show was losing something when it went into this format, because I knew Joss could do it right. But I'm starting to wonder if the fascination with "Look what we can do" is actually limiting the story more than it's adding to it. Because this, this was too much. Mecha Dawn was justified, because of the "blue jeans and irony" line, and because they were in Tokyo so it was expected. The gargoyle fight was justified because it's plausible, within the 'verse. But this? Couldn't they come up with a more creative way to dispose of these guys?

There's definitely a lot of sexuality behind the Swell--that's what the vampy cats call themselves when they join forces--and it's beyond thinly veiled. First of all, something that is called the swell violates women through their mouths? This isn't the metaphor of early Buffy, this is the metaphor of porn DVD titles. Still interesting, though, and the bluntness of the vampy cats dialogue sort of excuses the lack of finesse with the metaphor. The straight-forwardness of their misogyny and homophobia is used for gags through dialogue, so I guess it's understandable. The lines about Satsu's "furisode" were especially funny, and managed to also give a bit of insight into the character's past, which I liked. Also loved how the vampy cats referred to their brethren as "My brothers!" All their dialogue, except for the obvious clunker of "Eat their #%&@ing ovaries!" is hilarious.
Overall, a lot better than the last two issues. I gave the last two, especially #20, higher grades than they deserved, but that isn't the case with this one. #22 is good, and very much deserves its 8/10. But it's Buffy, so we're used to this stuff being better. I hope it gets there again. It was a terrible choice to put an arc like this directly after #20, which really got away from the main arc. Especially seeing how #16-19 took Buffy away from the Scoobs for many months, it just adds to the feeling that this series is no longer a coherent story that builds on what was set up before, like with #1-15. The next issue can hopefully bring that feeling back. The preview looks very promising.

Art: Jeanty is great. He has a nice handle on the main characters, as usually, and does well with Kennedy. There was some "who is who?" confusion in some of the scene changes, but subsequent reads were very clear. His demons rock, and his Vampy Cat should be an actual toy. I've reviewed his art over and over, so there's not much to say. Love 'im.

Covers: Finally we get a Jo Chen cover with Satsu on the front. I wish she didn't make her look so boring, in fairly simple black and blue armor. Well, boring for Satus, because she still looks awesome, but it just doesn't mesh with the style of the character we've seen so far. Her flair should have made the cover. Kennedy is behind her on the cover, and it's a great likeness. Not the best Chen cover, but better than most comic covers because mediocre Chen is great mostly-everybody-else. The Jeanty cover is really good, one of his best. In it, Buffy is attacked by a group of vampy cats over a red background. Simple, to the point, funny. Love it.

Characters We Know: Satsu, Kennedy, Buffy, Xander, Harmony.

Rating: 8/10