Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Listen up, boys and girls. Time for quick math lesson.
Five issue mini. Plus this Brian guy. Plus a vampire with a soul… no, not that one—
I guess it all started with SPIKE: ASYLUM.
When it was announced that Joss Whedon was going to continue Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a comic, I wanted to bone up on my funny books before the first issue hit the stands. I’d read some comics as a kid (I remember digging this oversized Stephen King Creepshow book), but it had been years since I’d picked one up. I took a trip down to the comic shop, picked up some of the very early IDW Angel books, and enjoyed them. It was until a few weeks later when I returned, wanting more of IDW’s Angel, that I saw they had a spin-off. Spike. I picked up Asylum #1 and everything changed.
I’d later discover Scott Tipton’s Angel: Auld Lang Syne and the three Spike one-shots (one by Peter David and two by Tipton) were up there with Brian’s work in quality and feels-like-the-showness, but Brian’s work on Asylum #1 was the first comic book that showed me what the medium can do when a phenomenal writer and a brilliant artist join forces on a story that they’re both dying to tell. And I guess that’s really saying a lot, because writing comic books is kind of what I want to do with my life.
Brian followed Spike: Asylum with Spike: Shadow Puppets (a sequel of sorts to Smile Time) and a prequel to his and Joss Whedon’s Angel: After the Fall called… well, Spike: After the Fall, that shows what Spike and Illyria did in Hell while Angel was healing from his unfortunate every-bone-in-his-body-breakage. Each of these Spike minis went above and beyond; not only did they feel authentic in both dialogue and characterization, they introduced new characters that readers actually cared about, developed both these newbies and the already existing characters so that they would be changed after the book, and centered around themes. Actual English major approved themes. Not “death is a theme” or “betrayal is the theme.” Single words aren’t themes; they’re motifs, and that will always bug the shit out of me. But Asylum, Shadow Puppets, and Spike: After the Fall had solid themes; statements about these characters, and he let those statements function as the backbone of his series without beating us over the head with a message.
Brian and Franco Urru (who is essentially the comic book version of Fonzie; that man is so suave) did great work on the Spike trilogy and Angel: After the Fall, so you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that they’d be doing an on-going Spike series together. I was at NYCC at the IDW Panel when it was revealed and Brian said he’d keep writing it until they made him stop. After the panel, I talked with Brian about some of the possible plots (we’ll cover that in an upcoming interview) and man did it all sound good.
But then, time passed. Other stuff came up, things were delayed, and then… it was announced that Dark Horse would be taking the Angel license from IDW. At first, it wasn’t clear if Brian would be able to continue Spike with IDW, because there were some quotes taken out of context that said Spike would remain on-going… but, as it unfortunately turned out, the Spike title would pass to Dark Horse as well.
So it goes.
It was at the next NYCC, a year and a half later, that I finally got my hands on Spike #1. It was everything that I wanted it to be; funny, epic, beautiful, smart, and (like all of Brian’s Spike stories) balls out insane. The issue sees Spike team up with Beck and Betta George to go to Las Vegas to stop whatever bad is brewing there; and that bad happens to be Wolfram & Hart. Erm, and a giant monster made up of Elvis impersonators.
The Spike on-going that became an eight issue Spike miniseries was about Spike leading a group of friends. In Buffy, Spike was fine at leading a group of lackies… because he didn’t give a shit if they lived or died. Then, he operated alone. Then, when he fell in love with Buffy and got a soul, he fought Buffy’s side with the Scooby Gang. Then he fought on Angel’s side. During After the Fall, he was the leader of a group of warriors, but he didn’t lead; he withdrew from the fight and set up a sanctuary, electing to protect his “flock” rather than lead them into battle. So Spike treads new ground, setting up our bleach-blond hero as leading a group of people that he cares about for the first time. He has to calculate decisions, he has to make tough calls, and he has to deal with everything Angel and Buffy have been dealing with for years. Spike grows, as he grew in all of Brian’s stories.
Spike is also about a serial killer named John who believes Spike has his soul. It’s about Drusilla, and how the (as Kr’ph so uneloquently put it) “hell moment” made her sane. It’s about how Spike gave her her sould back and unknowingly broke that sanity. It’s about hard choices. It’s about realizing when it’s time to walk away for your friends for their own safety. It also functions as a bit of narrative bridge to Season Eight, as the last issue has the infamous bug ship land in the middle of Las Vegas.
For me, Spike does a bunch of things. I could see the story growing as I read more than any story I’d read before. Like the eponymous character, Spike as a series was trying to find its footing. By issue #5, when Stephen Mooney took over as artist and Willow Rosenberg guest starred, Spike and Brian were knocking it out of the park. After that, every issue was better than the last until the epic conclusion.
For me, Spike makes certain hard-to-swallow elements of Season Eight a bit easier to take.
For me, Spike isn’t just a “this is how Spike gets the bug ship” story, which—and I don’t know why—was the reason why some people bought the series. For me, Spike was an ending. It ends with Spike leaving Beck and Jeremy and Betta George behind, because he realizes what being a leader means… and he doesn’t want the people he loves to deal with the fallout. He says, “No one is in control of anything. Innocents become dangerous. Heroes can turn on a dime. Sometimes, evil can do an about-face and want to help. People come into your life. People leave. Everything’s changing. Everything’s always changing. Bottom line, the only thing any one of us is in charge of… is ourselves.”
And so, Spike leaves on the bug ship in pursuit of the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart. Spike leaves Beck, Jeremy, George, Drusilla, Biv, Marv, Anna, and the rest of the Mosaic staff. He leaves IDW and he leaves us.
Spike was only on-going for eight issues. But Brian wrote three Spike minis before this that all seem integral to the narrative and character development of Spike and his stellar supporting cast… so, I guess, in a way, Spike sort of was this sprawling, on-going tale of a vampire with a soul trying to find his place in the world. Since Brian wrote twenty-one issues of Spike as a whole—and that’s not counting his twenty-two issues of Angel, his Last Angel in Hell special, and his upcoming short story in Yearbook—I can say that this was a good run. A beautiful, weird, hilarious, and goddamn I’m so sad it’s over run.
I wish Brian got to write the series how he intended it. I wish it didn’t have to get rushed due to some license crap. I wish Brian could write Spike forever, because no one gets Blondie Bear like that man. I wish a whole bunch of stuff, but you know what? This is what’s really special about Brian Lynch’s SPIKE series. Even all those wishes won’t come true, Brian managed to deliver a fantastic story… and that’s what I’ll remember when I think about, re-read, and talk about SPIKE for years to come.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
by Patrick Shand
It’s no secret that this site has been more of an IDW’s Angel site than anything else. I’ve be accused of being biased, and here’s the thing—I guess I am. I’m biased because on November 21st 2007 I fell in love. That’s the day that the first issue of Angel: After the Fall, the series that would eventually becoming known as the Angel on-going (or, as folks on the message boards call it, the main title), hit shelves. Brian Lynch’s tale of a vampire with a soul turned human, a city sent to hell, and a group of people learning what being champions means was so true to the TV series that I couldn’t help but obsess about the series. That book is essentially the reason that I’ve stuck with this blog as long as I have. Reading Brian’s seventeen issue arc planted the seed that would grow into a full blown love of comic books. But that’s just me. What Brian (and many other writers) have done with this series is larger than just me. So here’s my attempt at looking back.
After the Fall was an epic in its own right, but it also set the stage for things to come in what would become the on-going Angel series. Gunn was in a bad state (both physically and mentally), Illyria was trying and failing to find herself, Spike was dealing with leadership issues, Connor was growing comfortable with his new role as a champion, and Angel… well, Angel was working hard at getting back to doing what he did best—fighting the good fight. The first arc in the new post-After the Fall world, novelist Kelley Armstrong took Angel in a radically different direction. With Illyria, Spike, and Gunn off trying to work their issues out, Angel spent the arc assembling a new team in a new location. The new cast consisted of Angel (kinda the obvious one), Connor, Gwen, Kate (who had about the quickest and strangest return of all time), a werejaguar named Dez, and an angel named James. The arc wasn’t very well received, but it did serve in setting up what would be a major arc in the later issues.
And like a true prodigal son, Brian Lynch returned. I remember sitting at the New York Comic-Con panel when it was announced that Brian would be coming back for a few issues on Angel AND writing an on-going Spike miniseries. It was pretty damn awesome, and he definitely delivered. His first issue back on the series centered on Gunn and Illyria—the two characters most damaged by the events of After the Fall—and bashed them together so they could work their intense issues out. The issue showed a return to both the quality and tone of AtF, as did the subsequent issues. Brian Lynch teamed up with Juliet Landau to pen a Drusilla two-parter (set during the events of AtF) that set up some stuff that would pay off later down the road in the Spike on-going. But all good things have to end, and Brian’s run on the main title ended with a two-parter that took Angel and Spike to Comic-Con with a story that was a brilliant callback to the “Halloween” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
And then, Willingham. The superstar writer of the multiple Eisner Award winning Fables took over Angel for what was supposed to be the long-run; Bill Williams wrote back-up issues starring newcomer Eddie Hope for the entirety of Willingham's run. While it took Willingham a while to get some of the voices down, the plot was clearly going somewhere epic. The fallout of Wolfram & Hart sending LA to hell was starting to show, some demon ladies dedicated themselves to Connor for mysterious reasons, Spike had a bit of a soul issue, and the “angel” James was revealed to be a demon God who was planning on using Earth as his own personal demon farm. Willingham’s sights were set on the long-term plot, and things were coming to a nice boil when writers Mariah Huehner (also the editor) and David Tischman came in to pen a touching end to the arc Willingham had set up. Angel, realizing that Connor was becoming a champion in his own right, decided to leave his son to run Angel Investigations. It was an end of sorts, with Illyria spinning off into her own miniseries and Spike leaving to head his own title. This left the main series to focus on the elephants in the room: things were rough between Connor and Gunn, James was still a giant threat, and Angel was in major need of some more screen time in his own title.
Mariah and David stuck around to finish off the on-going series. I did an interview with them at NYCC 2010 right before their The Wolf, the Ram, and the Heart arc kicked off, and man were they pumped. They were telling an story that, to me, sounded as epic in scope as After the Fall was, and they only had six issues to do it. And they had to live up to both the endings of Angel the Series and After the Fall. Big shoes to fill. Hell, big shoes to even look at from a distance. I was both excited and sad for the end, but the confidence and I-can’t-wait-for-you-to-read-this factor that Mariah and Tisch were giving off gave me faith.
Fast-forward half a year later (man, time flies) and here we are. The on-going Angel title is done. Some things are left unresolved, such as Gunn and Connor’s beef (at one point, Gunn believes it is his duty to kill Connor before he becomes the next James… though, while it’s not spelled out, one can assume that Connor’s defeating James and saving Anne might make the guy okay in Gunn’s book) but the majority of the series has been tied up in a big, bloody, epic, and at times inappropriately sexual package. Angel was pulled into a possible future to help Wolfram & Hart deal with what James has done to the planet, while Connor, Gunn, Laura Weathermill, Mr. P, and Anne are readying themselves for a similar battle in the present. Like all good time-travel stories, it’s a bit of a mindfuck when you think about how certain events transpired, but all in all it’s a fitting conclusion to Angel. Angel and Connor beat the bad guy together, Angel takes a stand against Wolfram & Hart, and—with a page that echoes the end of AtF while paying tribute to the friends Angel has lost over the years—our hero walks off into the proverbial (and, luckily for Angel, metaphorical) sunset.
So. Angel the on-going series. The main title. IDW’s Angel. Angel #1-44. It was a great, uneven, beautiful, epic, memorable, intense, and goddamn awesome run. I wish it could’ve gone to issue #100 and beyond… because I already miss it.
(In just a few days… “Spike Rests in Peace: A Retrospect.” This blog loves Brian Lynch. Similar to the Angel and Illyria articles, this blog will take a look at Brian Lynch's epic Spike on-going series, as well as everything he's done with Spike in the past.)
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The same holds true for the comics; the only difference is, while her character growth was exponential, so was the number of books that she appeared in. Other than the big brand name characters like Angel and Spike, Illyria appeared in more IDW comics than any other character.
Prior to the fall of LA, she went on a couple of adventures that occurred during the final season of Angel. Most notably, Joss Whedon allowed writer Peter David to cross her over into his Fallen Angel universe, where she embarked on a quest to tap back into her original power. It’s a crossover that I can’t believe we were lucky enough to get; the dark dark dark (and snarky) world of Bete Noir clashing with the… well, dark dark dark (and snarky) world of Angel? Incredible. As it’s set during the TV show, there isn’t much development for Illyria, but we do get some wonderful flashbacks that serve to explain Illyria’s connection to plants. This was further paid off when Illyria got her own series, but we’ll get to that later.
Illyria big comic book development began with Brian Lynch's Spike: After the Fall. When Los Angeles was sent to hell, things got all crazy. With the sun and the moon out at the same time, vampires felt equal parts euphoria and oh-no-I’m-about-to-burst-into-flames; werewolves were able to get in touch with their beastly side while they were in human form; and, most extraordinarily, Spike got his own prequel. Illyria co-starred with him, and while the plot focused on Spike’s war against a hellishly cruel pixie named Non, the threat of Hell’s impact on Illyria bubbled under the surface. The demonic environment was tapping into her old power, forcing her to timeslip, overflow with emotion, and revert to her delicate Fred persona at the worst of times. What changed Illyria the most, however, was that Spike became her protector. She valued that and sought to keep his interests only on her; going as far as to kiss him to assert her ownership, embracing the sexuality of Fred to get what she wanted. The series also showed Illyria trying and failing to understand the position of a leader. Spike wanted to stop Non and defend the humans he was protecting. Illyria, trying to live up to the same standard, ended up killing Spike’s human friend Jeremy, thinking that “his absence will only strengthen (their) flock.” Illyria’s emotional imbalance boiled over during Angel: After the Fall, also penned by Brian Lynch, when she pulled a Dark Willow and sought to end all of existence to stop the suffering. It took a potent psychic dose of Wesley and Spike’s memories of Fred to bring Illyria down and stop her rampage.
Those memories served as a catalyst for the development that followed. She co-starred with Gunn in the road trip/action comic Angel: Only Human. Both of them, in order to deal with their own inner demons, fight literal demons. With Fred’s memories fresh in her head, Illyria is trying to find a balance between her demonic self and her undeniably human side. Wesley helped her on the way toward understanding that, and Spike took care of her when she needed it… but she took the biggest leap forward when she went out on her own.
Like Spike before her, Illyria’s story was just too big to be contained in the on-going Angel book. Long time Angel and Star Trek writer Scott Tipton teamed up with Mariah Huehner and Elena Casagrande (the former the writer/editor and the latter the artist of the on-going Angel book) to tell the best Illyria story ever told. While there are appearances from both Angel and Spike, Illyria is largely on her own in this four issue miniseries. After a conversation* and a bit of an adventure with Spike, Illyria discovers where she needs to go to get the answers to the questions that have been defining who she is since the Fall -- the Deeper Well.
(* That conversation, by the way, might be my favorite scene from all of the Angel comics. Illyria and Spike open up to each other in awkward, emotional, and brave ways that only those two characters can. Everything that was set up by Brian Lynch, Peter David, Scott Tipton, and Joss Whedon himself in these comics and the show is paid off and more by Tipton and Mariah in this scene. Speaking of her dreams, Illyria says:
ILLYRIA: There is one, it repeats. I can see them. Hear them. But from far away. Mundane things mattered so much to them And they shared a sense of… peace. Completion.
SPIKE: I know. You could feel it. I… I knew that feeling once. There’s nothing like it.
ILLYRIA: I… think it makes me jealous. Weak, just like every other human emotion.
SPIKE: You always get that wrong, blue. Love like that makes you stronger than anything. You can save the world with a love like that.
SPIKE: Never mind. We’re talking about you.
ILLYRIA: In my dream, they are… what they could have been. What they should have been. Without me. Their future spreads out before me, unfolding. So short and simple and yet… it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.)
When Illyria arrives at the Deeper Well, she finds exactly what she didn’t know what she was looking for. After throwing a God-king sized tantrum at what she perceived to be the fruitlessness of the trip, a glowing blue gem catches her eye… and when she touches it, it transforms her. And that, to me, thematically echoes what Wesley said to her as he died in her arms. “It was good that you came.” It really isn't the where or the what of the transformation that matters. It's the why. It's the because. She's ready to find answers, to explore herself, to explore humanity; and the answer is there, waiting for her to reach out and grab it and become who she is supposed to be. And what she becomes… well, that’s sort of left up to the reader. I know what I think. I like what I think. But the text does somewhat leave it open to interpretation. Illyria says, “Such burning… I taste the other… Oh, it’s sweet, it’s… everything, always, forever… You and… him? I… we become. I have ended. I have begun.”
And with that, Illyria finds the one thing that she’s been trying to imitate since Wesley showed her what was acceptable and what was not. She has reason to fight; she feels the connection between humanity and herself. Between the Earth and herself. This new connection with the Earth—which is a brilliant bit of character development, as it seems to stem (HAR HAR HAR) both from her affinity for plants in the television series as well as the revelation of what plants mean to her in Fallen Angel: Reborn—helps her out quite a bit in the obligatory Big Bad battle that she faces in the final issue of the mini. She defeats this full powered Old One not with brute strength, but by embracing her connection with plants; with life.
At the end, after a brief and well-earned moment of connection with Spike, Illyria discovers that time and space has opened for her again. It ends with her and her new pet (a squidly beast named Pancakes) on a beach, about to do what she knows she needs to do. She says, “I am her ending. But she, and I, and him, and them… we matter. We lose, we love. And in doing so, we become.”
Powerful words, especially coming from Illyria. She has truly become a completely different character after the IDW comics, and looking at her entire arc is just phenomenal. What Brian did with her in After the Fall and the events of Illyria: Haunted particularly stand out. It was a great run, with an utterly outstanding ending.
The TPB of Scott Tipton, Mariah Huehner, and Elena Casagrande’s Illyria: Haunted comes out May 18th.