Monday, November 29, 2010

Buffy Reboot

Where have you been, commenters?

Have you guys seen the awesome interviews with Mariah Huehner and Bill Williams? Just keep on scrollin'!

Also... if you guys ask nicely and butter me up (I mean with actual butter, I'm kinky), I might just maybe will review Buffy #39 on Thursday.

Oh, also, there's a Buffy reboot. Click for my thoughts. Tee hee.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interview with Mariah Huehner... and review for Angel #39

Angel #39

The Wolf, the Ram, and the Heart part 1

Written by David Tischman and Mariah Huehner

Art by Elena Casagrande

This review is going to be peppered with the best kind of pepper outside of actual delicious pepper. VIDEO INTERVIEWS!

Don’t mind the roar of the audience in the background. Mariah and I were surrounded by adoring fans of Angel and this site. There was a whole coliseum of them.

That, or we were at New York Comic Con.

Now, the issue.

It feels a lot like I wanted “Angel: Aftermath” to feel. Back when “Aftermath” came out, the biggest Angel arc had just ended. The character’s lives were changed forever. I wanted to read something that was simultaneously different from what came before but still consistent with the characters and the tone of the series. My expectations weren’t really met with that series, and now we’re in a somewhat similar place. The arc that Bill Willingham started and Mariah and David carried out has just finished. By the end of the arc, everyone had been changed forever. Connor took over as champion of LA, Spike left for Vegas, Illyria set out to find herself, and Angel decided to take a step back and let his son grow as a man. So again, I was faced with the same expectation. I wanted consistency, but I knew that things couldn’t be the same.

This book excels at doing just that.

The parallel with “Aftermath” continues, as both books feature the main action of the story moving away from the Hyperion. Thankfully, though, Kate doesn’t go around offering anyone churches in this book. Connor decided to sell the Hyperion… essentially because the writers are trying to take a more realistic look at things. It takes a shitload of money to own a place as big as the Hyperion… and the only reason that normal folks are able to afford owning that kind of space is because they rent rooms to paying customers. Angel and co., not so much. And this book finally addresses what I’ve been wondering since early in the series: How in the hell can they afford that place? Well, they can’t. Not anymore. And Connor, Gunn, Laura, and Mr. Polyphemus make a necessary move to new digs.

Now, about that crowd. It’s a good group. I’m still waiting for Laura to have a moment that really sells me on her (Polyphemus’s was when he let Spike use him as a ball), but she’s tolerable. I love the pairing of Connor and Gunn, though. I’ve been anticipating some actual movement for their characters since “After the Fall,” because… well, Gunn killed Connor. And then, last time they were together, Connor said that he wanted to cut Gunn’s throat. A bit unsympathetic, no? This book makes up for that. Connor realizes that he was in the wrong for that, but there is an air of tension between them that goes beyond that. I’m excited to see how the clearly capable Huehner and Tischman explore that.

There is a creepy scene with James. Or Jamerah? Or the other creepy alieny name he had before. Everyone else is going with James, so I’ll agree with them. They’re my fictional buddies. So, James. He kinda… has a goo… baby… thing. It’s similar to the birth of the soul eater, but this one looks very different. No idea where any of that is going, but it ups the horror factor to a level that Angel as a television show rarely took it to. It facilitates the different mood that the comic is playing with.

Now, to Angel. Angel Angel Angel. We knew thanks to the kind and good smelling folks over at Buffyfest that our eponymous hero was going to be removed from our current timeline. Not much I can say about that, other than the folks that pull him out are pretty much from where you’d expect. Good ol’ Wolfram & Hart. While they’re creepy as always, they seem less… lawyery in the future. And this time, when they say what they’ve said before (“We’re not the bad guys.”) I… kind of believe them. At least, they’re not the worst bad guys. James really screwed stuff in the future up, and Angel realizes that that means something he did in the past (his/our present) must have really been off base. They, for some reason, were unable to stop this threat. So Future W&H wants to enlist Angel to somehow make things right.

But Angel would rather jump off a building than do that. So he does.

And because this is a comic, it ends on that dramatic moment. It was solid read, and it felt very much like the beginning of an epilogue. The end of IDW’s Angel is coming, and Mariah and David are crafting what promises to be an excellent story.

Plus, Angel is wearing a hoodie. He sure knows how to rock a hoodie.


Back-up story: “Eddie Hope- Sunset”

Written by Bill Williams

Art by Elena Casagrande and Walter Trono

While Angel gets a new beginning, Eddie Hope comes to an end. Not a deathy kind of end, though. The “Holy shit, that guy Angel and his crew really beat me up… and kind of for nothing. Gunn wasn’t even on my list, but I went after him anyway. I’m going beyond what my original mission was. Time to say fuck that and go home.” And that’s essentially it. The actual writing is more eloquent than that, but as the title implies, Eddie lets the sun set on his vengeance gig. It’s a good, if abrupt, end to the character. Bill Williams has consistently done a great job with shoving a big story into four pages, and while I would have liked a bit more breathing room for Eddie’s swan song, this does the trick. He was an engaging character, and the back-ups were always a pleasure to read. He’ll be missed.

Don’t miss my interview with Bill Williams, where he comments on Eddie’s final chapter:

Oh, and just a bit of “I hope” here. While Eddie’s story end with the first part of “The Wolf, the Ram, and the Heart,” I really hope that it’s collected with the previous installments in the “Connorland” hardcover. It would be super awkward to have this one Eddie back-up in the final hardcover.

Eddie Hope and Bill Williams Bow Out: Exit Interview

SPOILERS: Read Angel #39. Don't be that guy. You know
that guy. That guy who gets spoiled by reading an interview
because he/she (girls can be "that guy" too, don't be sexist)
didn't have enough patience. Be warned, potential "that guy."

IDW Extravaganza

Pat Shand Interviews Bill Williams

Again: Exit Interview

Writer of the Eddie Hope backups in ANGEL


Buffyverse Comic Reviews: So, Eddie Hope dies. Very sad.


So Bill, Eddie Hope’s story end with today’s issue. After escaping from Team Angel, everyone’s favorite bright blue devil came to the realization that it’s time for a break. How do you feel Eddie’s decision to return home wraps up the character?

Bill Williams: Well, the plan was to have him introduced into Team Angel, but that was scrapped which works just as well for me. I’m not sure that the vengeance road has room for a full minivan.

For me, I got a solid grip on the character when I had another character ask him why he never went home when Los Angeles snapped back to normal. Eddie Hope’s name became ironic for him in that he considered himself damaged and corrupted by the events of After the Fall. He was afraid that he would poison all of his friends and family if he did not quarantine himself. That put him on an even lonelier road.

So in Angel #39, Eddie has suffered a nasty physical beating and it makes him reconsider what he is doing. There is also a nice callback to the Spike mini-series. It was fun for me to be able to write a few lines of dialogue for Angel in the Angel comics.

My truncated run with Eddie ends with the scene I always intended to conclude the series with, just a bit early. Eddie’s story is over, but in comics anything is possible.

BCR: Fans have been all a-twitter. Is Eddie modeled after Wentworth Miller?

BW: That’s a question for David Messina who is a great guy. An Italian publisher found that we both worked on the Eddie stuff for Angel. They were interested in publishing Italian editions of some work I published in the states and David more or less vouched for both sides so I’m at the contract stage for those foreign rights. Like I said great guy.

When it comes to the art I do my best to leave out any reference to celebrity. It’s one of those things that can really bite you when it goes wrong and I did not know that David would be the lead artist on the Eddie stories until the last minute. I suppose one of the many reasons not to provide reference is the danger that you will end up with bad photo tracing as a result.

I was at the Wizard show in Austin chatting with Brian Denham as he was drawing a Spike commission for a fan and man that guy gets it. He can pull up a photo on his cell phone and draw a likeness that is spot on and not deadened by the process.

That said, I can see a little passing resemblance to the Prison Break actor.

BCR: What was your favorite moment in your tenure as an Angel/Spike writer?

BW: At the end of Angel #38, Eddie has been beaten unconscious by Team Angel. Originally in issue #39, Eddie was to have a hallucination and have a bit of a dream walk where a few stray bits of his character were stitched together and it was surreal and charming and funny. But that bit was cut away in the change over in the creative teams when Willingham left the title.

I liked writing the banter between the Spike and Eddie in the Spike: Devil You Know mini-series, which will be out in trade form early next year. I pitched it as ‘24 with Vampires’, but by the time I was through it was more like ‘48 Hours with vampires’. Spike has such a wonderful sense of humor, that it’s a shame not to use it.

But my favorite bit that hit the shelves was the extended fight between Team Angel and Eddie in Angel #37 and #38. Eddie is fairly certain that the vampires and monsters on Team Angel will kill him if they beat him and Team Angel is furious for the abduction of Gunn. There’s a lot of drama in that fight.

BCR: Now that Eddie's story has wrapped up, what is next for Bill Williams?

BW: I am so far behind in my effort in the National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and November 30. To hit that mark, you need to manage around 1700 words a day. I lost a week already as I finished a new comic book project that just hit the digital distributors. So, I need to pull out a few 5,000 word days to hit the writing deadline. The novel is a mystery set in Austin where a young police detective chases a killer and wanders into a variation on a Hitchcock classic.

The reason I lost that week was that I have a new webcomic launching on December 1. A few years back, I wrote a story that is loosely based on some events I lived through when my cat was hit by a car and I had to help him rehab. Biscuit & Lefty: A Cat’s Tale is available for digital download from WOWIO. It is also in the works with and Comics Plus and more. It will launch for free as a webcomic on December 1 off of my blog which is chock full of fun stuff. The story is so sweet that my letterer Thom asked me if I really wrote it. The art is by Bobby Diaz and me and I’m pretty proud of it. Bobby penciled it and I inked and colored the pages.

At that show in Austin, I talked with Brent Erwin from Ape Entertainment and he seems keen on a pitch I sent in for one of his licensed properties. So I might have a few projects in the cycle from them.

But with the comic book field, you never know.


Big thanks to Bill Williams for the interview! Check out the links he provided and be sure to catch the end of Eddie Hope's saga of vengeance in Angel #39.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Angel #38, Illyria #1, Spike #2

Angel #38

Cats in the Cradle (the conclusion of "Connorland")

Plotted by Bill Willingham, David Tischman, and Mariah Huehner

Written by David Tischman and Mariah Huehner

Back up story ("Eddie Hope: Knockout Punch") written by Bill Williams

Art by Elena Casagrande

The scene on the roof.

That is all.

Alright, kidding, but I seriously could end the review there, because... just damn. More on that later. A few loose ends get tied up here: The Sisterhood of the Jaro Hull is defeated in one of the best fight scenes in the comics, Spike's soul flu is cleared up with a few lines of a dialogue (all that needed, for me), and the chief characters (Angel, Connor, Spike, Illyria, and Gunn) are all taken or about to be taken to interesting places.

Gunn is back in the group. The Eddie Hope back-up story shows him being saved by the gang, but the main action of the issues shows Gunn already back in play. He was my favorite character in After the Fall, and the whole reason that arc resonates so well is that all the crazy shit that happened while they were in hell matters because they remember it. Gunn's character is at such a rich point, and he hasn't really been explored that well since Become What You Are. But he has a little moment in this issue, where he throws a weapon to Connor and simply says, "We'll talk later" before proceeding to whoop Sisterhood ass. Based on conversations I had with writers David Tischman and Mariah Huehner at NYCC (videos to come!), Gunn is in for some wonderful, deep, and startling development.

Spike. Oh, Spike. Probably the main issue most folks took with Willingham's run was his characterization of William the Bloody. Mariah Huehner wrote this article that promised there was a twist concerning Spike if fans just waited, and that twist came to light a bit earlier in the arc. Spike's got a soul flu, which was a fallout from his ghosties all the way back in Season Five. In this issue, Spike is back to his... well, Spikey-self (Is there really an adjective that can properly describe him? No one word can sum up his Spikeyness.) and it's great to see. He recognizes that he's been acting out of character, and he's off to do some soul searching (mwah!) to find out what he's made of.

Illyria leaves the group after a conversation with Angel that happens in between scenes. To see this convo, read Illyria #1. These two issues really work well together, even though they're kick ass on their own. For those who didn't really dig Willingham's characterization of Blue Thunder, this issue and Illyria #1 are here to show you that IDW is on top of things.

Now, Angel and Connor. I'm bunching these two together because, really. With Connor in the picture, Angel is really all about his son. He's not interested in aerial sex, wearing costumes, or hanging out with skinless dudes. Just Connor. And Connor knows this. And here's another thing that the both of them know: Connor is special in a way that has yet to be discovered, and the Sisterhood--creepy as they were--helped show them that. And Connor isn't going to be able to tap into his true power and see how far he can stretch it in order to become a champion while Angel is around, worrying about him every second of the day. Angel and Connor have this conversation, which has been in the works since... well, I was going to say since After the Fall, but I think it dates as far back as the finale of Season Four. Angel walked away from Connor, leaving him in the safety of a normal life. But Connor didn't belong there. Connor belongs where he is now, playing the role of a champion... and Angel recognizes that it's finally time for him to walk away, leaving Connor to fend for himself the way Angel did when he came to LA. The scene on the roof is beautiful, calling back to both Home and Angel and Connor's post-resurrection reunion in After the Fall #16. A lot to live up to, huh? Well, it easily succeeds. It's heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, if that's possible. You see those broken pieces of your hearts? They're super toasty.

I'll end with a quote from the issue. Angel says to Connor, "None of that matters. What matters is you and me and the people in this city. The city needs you. And maybe you'll find you need it, too. So... maybe it's time I stepped back for awhile and let you find each other."

That is Angel. That is all.

PS: The title. Jeez. Fits. Wow.

Illyria #1

Haunted (part one of four)

Written by Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner

Art by Elena Casagrande

...My god.

So, so very good. While IDW has given Illyria a lot of attention in the past (Fallen Angel: Reborn, Illyria: Spotlight, Angel: Only Human, etc.) this book gives us more insight into her perspective than we've gotten... well, ever. Since her arrival in Shells, she's been a mystery. We've seen her develop, change, grow... but she remains alien. Now, we finally get a good look at her thought process, and it's fascinating. Illyria has great conversations with both Angel and Spike that sheds light on all three characters in new and interesting ways. And that's really what good writing is. Developing characters in a way that makes sense considering their history, but keeping it all unexpected. Illyria: Haunted treads new ground, which is kind of ironic seeing that the plot is taking Illyria back to where she started: The Deeper Well.

All in all, it might be the best Buffyverse issue since Brian Lynch's epic "Become What You Are." It's right up there with that issue, and also the recent and awesome Spike #1. Good things are coming in with all of the IDW Angel comics, and I can't wait to see what the dream team of Mariah, Scott, and Elena have in store for us. If the next three issues are anywhere as good as this, I just might have to break my "Serious Fans Do Not Squee" rule.

Actually, I may have broken that when I read the dream sequence where everyone but Illyria and Spike were crayon drawings. What an outright brilliant way to tinker with the medium.

NOTE: After Illyria #4 is released, Scott Tipton will be dropping by Buffyverse Comic Reviews to give you guys "Illyria Annotated." He, Mariah, and Elena threw a lot of tiny jokes and references into the book, so let's see if you can catch them!

Spike #2

What Happens in Vegas, Slays in Vegas

Written by Brian Lynch

Art by Franco Urru and Nicola Nanni

The issue was good and fun. I'm finding that while the balance of Brian Lynch's Spike: Asylum, Spike: After the Fall, and Angel: After the Fall series was in tune with that of the television series (equal parts comedy, drama, and fantasy), the on-going Spike series is veering more in the direction of comedy. And that's not really a problem. It has a Spike: Shadow Puppets kind of feel, even more in this issue than the first. I can tell that there are bits that will have emotional payoff, such as Spike's upcoming reunion with Drusilla and whatever happens to Jeremy, who is revealed to be possessed in this issue by an agent of Wolfram & Hart. Seeing Spike taking the reigns as leader is awesome, and Brian Lynch utilizes the thought captions very well, showing our hero's thought process as he struggles to pave his own way. There continue to be awesome one-liners (Beck's "Weird, right? Whoa, someone must really want you to shush?"; Spike's "Gits like you mess with the mystique. Seriously, mate, the chocolate cereal vampire is embarrassed by you."; and John, the Big Bad's "I fully anticipate a slap on the wrist" come to mind) and fun character moments, but I'm anticipating the story really kicking off. The first issue had a lot of great set up and fun moments. This issue had a great deal of comedy, banter, and exposition. I'm ready for the arc to kick in, and I'm excited to see where my favorite Buffyverse writer takes his trademark character.

Also, for you continuity nuts and Whedonesquers taking issue with how these relate to each other and Season Eight, here's a quote from Mariah Huehner to clear things up.

Mariah Huenher: "You can ask Brian for more specifics, but it's not actually a continuity goof so much as gray area of time. And some inside jokes. Buffy is a year ahead of all the Angel comics at least, and while Spike will be more directly related than the others, we're not defining precisely how far behind it is. Hence why you're not seeing direct ref's to Harmony's show or the like. It's just a bit of humor for those who have read both, it's not to be taken as exact references to the timeline.

Spike's Vegas adventure takes place after Angel #38, and that's pretty much all the defining of the timeline we're doing for now. Illyria's story takes place after #38 as well, and after the little fight with Angel and Spike. When you see Illyria #1 you'll see how some of it ties together, but again, it's a tight time frame for only those specific events. The Spike adventure goes off on its own and has its own arc to manage. Brian's story was too important to hamstring with trying to force it all to gel perfectly. And a lot of the Spike comic had been established before the last story arc became the last one, so it's more on me than it is on Brian. We just want to link what we can, and hope fans will be forgiving and okay with the sort of vague "happens after #38" answer. :}

The way we see it, the pro-vamp attitude has probably been around awhile. Heck, there have been groups who really didn't understand how bad there were long before ATF (the ep of Buffy with the pro-vamp teens, for instance). So this is really just an extension of that, plus the fact that vamps are "known" now in this verse, and a little bit of a poke at the sparkly "romantic" vamps of "Twinkle". It's just playing with the idea that people are easily misled when they want to be. Our culture has often romanticized vampires, and this is just another facet of it. Which is, I'm sure, what the idea was in the Buffy comics. So we're just showing how it manifests in the Angel/Spikeverse side of things. :}"