A Quartet Of June Whedonverse Comic Reviews

 
Serenity: Float Out
 
Penned by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, this one shot is the tale of a few old friends saying goodbye to the much-mourned fan favorite, “Wash.”  As the three men (all new characters to the audience) gather to christen a maiden voyage on a new ship, an event known as a “float out,” they share their memories of everybody’s favorite “leaf-on-the-wind” and his plastic dinosaurs.
 
Oswalt wrote a decent script, but his new characters never endeared us in the way that the Serenity crew seemed to do instantly. Still, any Serenity fan should pick it up for the jaw drop in the last few pages. I won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s something that causes you to think about where the old Serenity crew ended up since the death of their friend, “Wash.”  Patric Reynolds delivers in the art department with a style that can sometimes be rough with character’s faces, but it gives the issue a dingy, lived-in feeling. He especially excels with his rendition of the spacecraft. All in all, a decent one shot and addition to the ‘Verse.
 
Angel: Barbary Coast #2 
 
This month wraps up the two part tale of a recently-souled “Angel” walking the streets of San Francisco in the year 1906. Writer David Tischman writes a decent tale of “Angel’s” search for an escape from the pain of his newfound guilt, but for many Whedon fans who’ve followed the comics throughout the years, this one feels very old hat. While Tischman adds some great touches, like the famous, devastating earthquake, the story feels extremely similar to many that have come before and doesn’t reveal much of anything that we didn’t already know about “Angel.”
 
Artist Franco Urru from Angel: After The Fall illustrates the series, and his art is quite impressive. Many resisted his style during Angel: After The Fall, but he seems to have really settled in with the character of “Angel,” making him instantly recognizable. 
 
John Byrne’s recent additions aside, most of these “’Angel’ in the past” storylines suffer from the massive limitations on the story. Not much can really happen during the plot due to continuity and the limitations placed on the author by the licensing. Every now and then, one works out really nicely, but it’s a rare treat. A friend of mine suggested recently that IDW should abandon doing these one shots and limited series set in the past and think on a much grander scale. He suggested an ongoing, monthly series that would fill in every gap in “Angel’s” pre-“Buffy” history. We would see events we’ve never heard of and see where and how the events we already know fit into the time line. Eventually, “Spike” and “Drusilla” would join the storyline, and other characters would surely show up for cameos. It might seem somewhat lofty, but broken into separate story arcs, it would be quite an epic tale to follow. Any IDW people out there listening?
 
Spike: The Devil You Know #1
 
After seeing “Spike” written so poorly for months now, it gives me great pleasure to say that writer Bill Williams knows our boy well. “William the Bloody” is back, folks, and it’s been far too long! Williams’ first issue comes out swinging with just the right balance of action, humor, and snarkiness necessary for this sort of tale. Williams also shows his respect and knowledge of “Buffyverse” history by cleverly including the “Order of Aurelius” and its reformation in the plot. This provides opportunities for some flashbacks that feel as though they are straight out of the show and a believable history between “Spike” and the current villains.
 
“Eddie Hope” is also an unexpected joy in this issue. While he hasn’t been a disaster as a character in the recent mini-series that was attached to the official “Angel” arc, he wasn’t very memorable either. Maybe he just needed to be paired with “Spike,” but for what ever reason, “Eddie” is a joy here and it’s fun to watch him and “Spike” play off one another. Hopefully, his character will continue to grow beyond being just a cool ex-demon who hunts down bad guys.
 
Another reason this issue succeeds is the phenomenal artwork by Chris Cross. His artwork is clean and engaging, making for thrilling action sequences. This is a lot more difficult to achieve in a comic book than one might think, and it shows that Cross is a talented fellow. He also is a master with facial expressions and emotions. Not only does Cross draw a wonderful and animated “Spike,” but the facial expressions of all of the characters add much humor and emotional impact to the story. IDW should chain this guy to his desk and bleed his talent dry! (Sorry, Chris! At least I resisted making any jokes about your name, right?)
 
Can’t wait to see what comes next with this one! Make sure to grab this issue while you can!
 
Angel #34
 
Sadly, Bill Willingham’s main “Angel” arc continues to fall short, especially on the heels of the refreshing Spike: The Devil You Know. A lot of this is simply clunky writing and dialogue that grates against the characters’ natural voices. Willingham, as I’ve pointed out in previous reviews, seems to have an especially hard time writing dialogue for “Illyria” and our beloved “Spike.” “Illyria” seems stilted and out of place, which were always part of her character, but her grace and grandiose nature are missing; she just ends up seeming awkward. Willingham has also made her obsessed with grammar and the English language for some odd reason. Every time she talks to another character, she ends up inquiring if she’s using a word or phrase correctly. Like much of what Willingham has written during his “Angel” run, the notion itself is not a bad one, but the execution is fairly poor.
 
Willingham fairs even worse with “Spike’s” dialogue in this issue. Given that most will have read Bill Williams’ version of “Spike” in Spike: The Devil You Know, Willingham’s shoddy writing of the character becomes even more apparent. Willingham writes “Spike” like a bad fan fiction version of the blonde vamp who stumbles through the story repeating how “cool” and “great” he is and trying to screw anything he comes across, despite the logic of it.
 
The majority of the issue deals with “Illyria’s” attempts to seduce “Connor.” Apparently, when “Illyria” is in heat, she releases powerful pheromones which quickly grab hold of the “Angel Investigations” crew and makes for some awkward situations. While it’s an idea ripe with potential, Willingham’s humor seems slightly goofy as opposed to funny, with many characters acting highly out of character, even with the pheromones in consideration. Willingham also seem to ignore the fact that there’s room for actual character depth and exploration during this story, so instead of having a few real moments to explore the actual feelings between characters like “Angel” and “Kate,” we get an issue that never goes beyond goofy sex jokes. Many online stated that this issue felt like a “Buffy” episode, but I would say that the fact the Willingham never elevates it beyond hormone humor proves the exact opposite. Life of the Party is the closest episode of “Angel” to the current issue, and Willingham has pretty much expanded the predicament “Eve” and “Angel” (having magically-influenced sex) found themselves in during “Lorne’s” party to now affect the entire team. The difference between the two is that Life of the Party balanced it out by letting the magical predicaments in which the characters find themselves be both humorous and add to the plot/character. When this is done right, we get the joy of seeing characters like “Fred” and “Wesley” cause us to laugh with their “drunken” antics, and then moments later crush us (and “Wesley”), by having “Fred” admit her feelings for “Knox” to him. Sadly, this sort of thing is not present in Willingham’s tale.
 
Aside from that, the issue ends with a big bad on the way that sucks souls. Color me bored. We also get another installment of the continuing mini-comic following “Eddie Hope.” He has kidnapped “Gunn” and is now forcing the tied-up hero to choose his punishment for his crimes in Hell-A: a bullet in the head or a stake in the heart. While this comic is finally picking up, much like Willingham’s “Angel” arc, it feels obsolete in the wake of Spike: The Devil I Know. Still, Bill Williams is a good enough writer that it should be worth finishing.
 
That’s it for now! And if I haven’t said it enough yet, then get your ass out there and pick up Spike: The Devil I Know! You’ll be happy that you did! I leave you with a few peeks at Chris Cross’ wonderfully-awesome interior art from Issue #1! Enjoy!
 
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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