Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Reviews will be back on track soon.

Reviews for ANGEL: ONLY HUMAN #3, FALLEN ANGEL: REBORN #4, and ANGEL vs. FRANKENSTINE will be coming by Wednesday.

Also, I'm closing down the sister site to this blog,

Keep up with my new stuff at these sites:






Monday, October 19, 2009

The Closest "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Has Ever Come to Jumping the Shark

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #29: Retreat part IV (written by Jane Espenson; art by Georges Jeanty).

Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Right after "Retreat part III."

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: This was my first reaction to the issue, the day it came out:

I'm sorry. I love Joss Whedon. Out of every writer I've ever worshipped, his work has just GOTTEN to me. It's great. They played Dr. Horrible today in my New Media class, and I basically cheered. And my favorite Whedon work? The Buffyverse. It's close to my heart, and, in my opinion, one of the best stories ever told.

I've had my issues with Season Eight since #17, that's for sure. It's see-sawed from bad to really great, but it's been consistently (at least) good for a while now.

But after reading this issue, I don't know what to think. It felt like Buffy as done by Michael Bay if Bay had a slightly better ear for dialogue. It was a mess of action, melodrama, and people who resemble the characters I've come to love fighting and killing faceless humans. What was the big end to the whole getting rid of magic thing? Not showing the world that the slayers were demons. It was to start using guns and torpedoes against an army. What was the RESULT of the whole getting rid of magic thing? Colorful goddesses coming out of the ground. What? Super cartoony, and utterly non-Buffyesque. In tone, characterization, and even down to the ever changing, maybe non-existent theme, this is not the Buffy I've grown to love for seven seasons and a whole bunch of wonderful comics.

I don't know what to think. It's the same team. Is Whedon spread too thin? Maybe. Dollhouse is great. Maybe that is taking up all of his time. But what about Espenson? Her last two issues were very good, and the one before that was also decent. And "Briar Rose" was phenomenal. What is going on? I'm just left scratching my head. Are the flaws inherent in the plot? Is the story just too big?

Whatever it is, my suspension of belief was completely blown, and it's breaking my heart."

I decided that, before I posted my review, I'd let myself cool off. I read it again. I felt no better about it. Then, one night, I turned on "Surprise," one of my favorite Buffy episodes. From the dream sequence in the beginning, to the cliffhanger ending, the whole thing has a very foreboding, Gothic tone that really defined the early series for me. But here's the thing. All the way to the end of the televised series, I was never really let down. Sure, Season Six and Seven had some clunkers, but they also had incredibly strong moments that made up for the problems. These seasons were still good Buffy stories, and they were great television. And Season Eight started that way too. #1-16, excluding #5, were great Buffy stories. The season was on its way to becoming the best season since the epic fifth year. But then, things started getting messy. The plot started making no sense. Scott Allie kept having to explain things that were happening off stage, shaking his head at readers for not realizing that these things--which are essential to the plot--didn't matter for "the story." We were expected to believe that humans no only accepted vampires, but knew that vampires were killers... and that this was basically a unanimous view amongst humanity. Okay. Very strange, very un-Josslike, but sure. I trust the man, so I'll rock with it.

And then Jane Espenson started cleaning house a bit. The first installment of her game-changing arc felt way too rushed, but did set things in motion. The idea of slowly getting rid of magic was suspect, but then again, the arc had just started. The next issue was better, and the next issue--last month's #28--was actually really great. Things started to seem real again. I started to allow myself to reinvest in these characters.

So I don't know what the heck happened this month, but this is not Buffy. This isn't the same series that "Surprise" was a part of. Not even close. It's sloppily written, silly, and doesn't even take itself seriously. The scenes where the slayers and friends are handing out guns should be grave and solemn, because that is the one thing that they never wanted to do. But the scenes are played for comedy. They're long, expositiony, and outright boring. The emotion isn't there in those scenes, or any other scenes in the issue. Willow has a random breakdown, after the calm she achieved in last month's issue, and it reads like a soap-opera gone the way of comics. I really, really don't get it.

The rest of the issue is basically a war comic. None of the human life seems to matter to any of the characters or the creative team, because it isn't even a plot point that they're killing humans. All we see is guns and torpedoes firing, no reaction, just a lot of ohshittery when the slayers realize they're losing, and then yayness when they get a bit of a break. When Angel killed a human in his series, it was a major thing... but in this issue, this choppy, speedy, sloppy narrative doesn't miss a beat. It doesn't matter in the book, and that is just weird to realize that Buffy the Vampire Slayer has become this.

Can Joss Whedon save it? Yeah, obviously, he's Joss Whedon. But it's going to take a lot. Angel: Aftermath was bad, and that was a somewhat standalone arc by a writer who won't be returning. This is a key piece in the puzzle of Buffy: Season Eight and it's written by Jane Espenson. What the...?

By far the worst issue of Season Eight and the lowest point of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a whole. Boring, badly written, and damn near insulting. I don't care about what's happening to the characters because it doesn't feel like them. It's not just a bad Buffy story... it's a bad comic.

Art: Busy, busy panels. I really can't fault Jeanty in this one like I have in the past for opting to not include a lot of details, because there is so much going on in any given panel. Some emotion from the characters in the art might have made the book a slightly better read, but in this instance, Jeanty isn't really at fault. It's the story. The art isn't great, but it's passable.

Covers: The main cover, by Y: The Last Man cover artist Massimo Carnevale, is really cool. It features Twilight flying over a stretch of mountains, and it's the best cover image we've gotten of this season's Big Bad. It would have helped if Twilight was featured in this issue, but it's still a very cool cover. Jeanty's, not so much. While it attempts a #9 like effect, both in cartooniness and the pop-culture reference, the cover is just ugly. The faces are sloppy, and everyone is nearly unrecognizable besides Buffy, Xander, and Rowena. I guess the girl on the far right could be Satsu, but there is no definition to her face. The girls on either side of Xander might be Faith and Kennedy, but which is which? They both look like interchangeable, angry brunettes. Thankfully, Jeanty's cover for next month's #30 is better than this, because this is just ugly.

Characters We Know: Xander, Dawn, Oz, Giles, Faith, Andrew, Satsu, Buffy, Willow, Kennedy.

Rating: 1/10

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Most Anticipated Since #17

What Is It?: Angel #26- Boys and Their Toys, Part One (Written by Brian Lynch; art by Stephen Mooney)

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.

Rating: 10/10

Saturday, October 3, 2009

As Fun As You'd Expect

What Is It?: Fallen Angel: Reborn #3. (Written by Peter David; art by J. K. Woodward)

Timing: Directly following Fallen Angel: Reborn #2. The miniseries takes place in Angel: Season Five, between "Time Bomb" and "The Girl in Question."

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: If you caught the first two issues and liked them, you'll like this too. It's nothing really surprising, nothing super insightful, but it's a fun action-adventure starring two awesome female characters. Illyria and Liandra, the Fallen Angel, really play very well off of each other. Illyria's first person narration gives insight into Liandra due to Illyria's cold, almost scientific observations, and the snark that Liandra throws Illyria's way makes this pairing both funnier and more tense.

I usually like to give really long reviews that really get into why the issue was good, but the fact of the matter here is that there isn't much plot or character development to talk about. And that's not a bad thing in this case. The plot is simply that Illyria is trying to get her icons in order to become her full self once again. It's your essential epic quest. And we already know what happens to Illyria after this, so, as a rule, this book can't really do anything character-changing. And yet... it succeeds. Partially because it revels in the endless fun that is making Illyria fight creatures. Illyria fighting creatures never fails. What it also does, though, is tell the story through visuals. In a way, it excels at what ANGEL #25 failed at. It takes the story from point A to point B, but still manages to tell an almost entirely visual story. It has sight gags, cool kills, and a stunning setting.

This seems to happen once in every Fallen Angel: Reborn issue, but there is one line where Illyria speaks out of character. Peter David loves sarcasm--hence Liandra--but Illyria doesn't. Illyria just wouldn't say "Oh, wonderful-" when she's being attacked by a polar bear. But the rest of the issue, which is narrated by Illyria's inner monologue, is consistently in character, so give it up for Peter David!

Art: Very nice. As I mentioned before, the issue is very visual, so Peter David really leaves a lot of the storytelling to J. K. Woodward, who does a phenomenal job. Get this dude to do some more ANGEL books! I've got an interview with Mr. Woodward coming soon, so keep a look out.

Covers: The three covers all feature Illyria and Liandra in this snowy dimension. J. K. Woodward's main cover is consistent with his interior work, and my favorite cover of his we've seen so far in this miniseries. It features Illyria and Liandra staring at a lanky, looming monster covered in a sheet of ice. Woodward's other cover pays homage to MADAGASCAR, and it's a riot. Runge's cover is also exceptional, featuring our two heroines in more iconic comic book poses as snow falls on them. Me gusta.

Characters We Know: Illyria.

Rating: 8/10

It's a mad world

If you missed my super late review for ANGEL #25, click here.

My review for FALLEN ANGEL: REBORN #3 will come out by Monday.

My reviews for ANGEL #26 and BUFFY #28 will be up on Wednesday, on time!

And now, I have some me to talk about.

I've been doing short films with my production company, Stinky Burger, for a while now. We've made a lot of comedy and a lot of horror, so I figured it was time for something a bit... as in a lot... different.

So I wrote and shot this film called "The Dreams in Which I'm Dying." It's a dramatic short, starring two great actors that I had only worked with in theatre stuff prior to this. They are Dennis Allen and Kari Nicole Washington, and you should really check them out.

Also, check out the film:

Coming along with the ANGEL #26 review is the first video promo for my ANGEL fan-film, "Gamers: After the Fall." It features Gunn (as played by Dennis Allen) calling out... eh, well you'll see.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sorry! At last, the review for ANGEL #25

What Is It?: Angel #25- Drusilla, Part Two (Written by Juliet Landau and Brian Lynch; art by Franco Urru)

Timing: Directly after Angel #24. During the fall.

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: Well, #24 was great.

I know I took too long to review this. I actually planned on writing up my opinion right after I read it, but then I sat down, read it, shook my head in confusion, read it again, cocked my eyebrow in confusion, read it again, and then sighed in confusion, figuring I needed some time to digest it. Since then, I've seen a lot of people's opinions, from any of the many Slay Alive users to Brian Lynch himself. There are a lot of theories about it, and I guess I just kinda had to come to my own... and I think I've got it figured out, but I'll let you be the judge.

First of all, this two-parter should have been a one-shot. Would it take away from the graceful, exercise-in-how-much-Franco-rocks that #24 was? Yeah, definitely. Franco had the entire first part of this two parter to strut his stuff and make the entire issue a beautifully bloody mess. But the success of that issue depended entirely on what the next issue did with all the set-up. And unfortunately, the answer is not much at all. The structure of the issue is this:

Pg 1-4: Drusilla continues to walk through her massacre.

Pg 5-14: Drusilla, suffering from visions, predicts some of the big events Heroes style by drawing various LA-in-Hell scenes.

Pg 15-22: A lot of audience confusing, little to none audience explanation.

It might have made an interesting little one-shot that explored the crazywonky place that is Drusilla's mind, but for a two-parter... you just expect more. There were some cool flashbacks popping up throughout the issue. We get to see how Angelus and Darla destroyed Dru's life and then turned her, which was interesting... but even the flashbacks weren't organically inserted, as they were in the show and in "After the Fall." ANGEL #4 starts with how Angel found out he was human because ANGEL #3 ended with us find out out he was human. Perfect. THE GIRL IN QUESTION had flashbacks of the Immortal screwing Spike and Angel over, because the episode was about the Immortal screwing Spike and Angel over. I can't think of any way to relate Drusilla's flashbacks to what happens to her in this issue.

Now, onto the speculation. I won't black text these spoilers, because a) the issue has been out for a while and b) this doesn't really have any impact on the overall arc of the series. First, it's never really revealed who wanted Drusilla locked up. Is it hinted that it's Wolfram & Hart? Um, kinda? Only because they are the default ANGEL villains. It doesn't really matter in the long-run, but the idea that there was a larger plan in keeping Drusilla locked up was one of the most interesting ideas in #24, and it isn't elaborated on at all in this issue. I remember writing in the review for #24 that "(the) second part will surely reveal who is behind this wonky experiment and why." Optimistic me.

Then, Drusilla draws a bunch of stuff and levitates. While she levitates, one of her drawings (a bunch of people, including KENDRA the Slayer she killed and the Chaos demon) comes to life. The people from the drawing swarm her and presumably knock her out. Well... what I think happened is this. Hell amplifies power. Hell screws with power. Just refer to the opening monologue of #3 and Illyria's entire After the Fall arc for that. So my best guess is that Hell is amplifying Dru's power, hence her levitating, and hence her psychic abilities amplifying so much that she is able to make her own artwork come to life. There's nothing in the actual text of this two-parter to justify that explanation, but it's context in After the Fall seems to suggest that. It's such an interesting concept, and I wish it was played with more. While #24 needed to be super visual and succeeded at that (it's probably my favorite post-After the Fall comic of the year after Become What You Are), this issue absolutely needed to be more ploty and spend more time on certain things. And it really, really didn't.

The issue ends with Drusilla waking up. She's in LA gone to Hell, only she doesn't see it as Hell. She sees it as her homeland, before she was sired. It's all golden (literally) with memories and warmth and love. She goes into her house, hears her mother's voice, and rejoices in her teddy bear. It's a sweet and interesting ending to an otherwise confusing issue, but it also brings up a few questions. I'm fairly certain that what Landau intended us to think that this is how Drusilla sees Hell. That she can rejoice in Hell. That, to Drusilla's messed up mind, Hell is the closest she can get to the happiness of her human home. But if that's the case, there should have been some cutaway shots that show Drusilla walking through how Hell actually looks to show the juxtaposition to how she sees it. To really make the point instead of just hint at it.

Basically, #24 stands as a brilliant, beautifully executed issue. #25 isn't a bad read, but it is a bunch of potential wasted. There should have been more time spent on the actual plot, and I do wish some of the stranger sequences had been executed a bit differently. At this point, while I really enjoyed Gunn and Illyria in Become What You Are and Drusilla in #24, I'm ready for the dream team, Brian Lynch and Stephen Mooney, to bring back our two favorite vamps with the Boys and Their Toys two-parter.

Art: Fantastic, as always. Franco Urru is my favorite artist working today, and most of the points I'm going to give this book are thanks to his wonderful pencils an Fabio Mantovani's great colors. Drusilla continues to move like Drusilla does (like a dancer), but this time, the highlight is the creepiest scene ever in an ANGEL comics. Drusilla picks up a severed head and attempts to talk at it. Franco pulls off the macabre as good as he does the action and the emotion. I can't wait until the SPIKE series starts so I can get a steady dose of Urru.

Covers: Oddly enough, none of the covers are as great as the ones for #24, but let's be honest... the covers for #24 were uncommonly great. Urru and Runge both turn over decent covers, featuring Drusilla reveling in LA gone to Hell. The photo incentive is Angelus hugging Drusilla, and the superexpensiveincentivethatiunfortunatelycouldn'tafford is another great one by Sam Shearon, who should definitely stay on the series as an on-going cover artist if they can't nab Alex Garner!

Characters We Know: Drusilla. Angelus and Darla, via flashbacks. Angel, Connor, Gunn, Cordelia the Dragon, Spike, Illyria, Wesley, the Chaos Demon, Kenda, and Spike's harem also appear via Drusilla's artwork.

Extras: There is another photo gallery, and it's a lot more... random than the last one. Juliet Landau really shows how she can look like totally different people. I love the short-haired Fight Club homage photos, and the two paintings by Mark McHaley and Sam Shearon at the back are really great.

Rating: 5/10