The First Wave
It took a few days to accomplish it, but I dug my way through ten comic books – the first batch on the long but distinguished list. The three series:
For obvious reasons, once you’ve started reading Whedon related material, it’s difficult to stop – so I had to run through the spectrum.
ANGEL: AFTER THE FALL
Angel was the first series simply because there were the most issues of it to read – oh and it was alphabetical. Gotta love the alphabet. However, there is a reason for such a large stock pile of issues. This series has been slow going due to the ambigous writing style of the scripter – Brian Lynch.
Together he and Joss Whedon plotted the series, so the PLOT is coming together nicely, if a bit unclear at times. And the characterizations are spot-on…the art by Nick Runge with a slew of guest-starring inkers and colorists is adept at catching the faces of the actors and there is generally an amazing close-up panel at least every other page that brings Angel, Spike, Lorne and Co. back to life. Unfortunately, on other pages there is squinting involved to discern who is who…especially during the action scenes. Overall, the art of the book works, and sometimes achieves moments of greatness, but I wouldn’t call it mind blowing.
It’s consistent – a bit noirish with dark inks (even when there are different inkers and colorists) and damn if that isn’t exactly what is needed in this series. So – yay to Nick Runge and friends!
But yes, back to Brian Lynch’s writing style. It’s just…sometimes very difficult to understand what is happening in a particular panel based on dialogue and text. The art is doing it’s job, and the characters are saying characteristic things, but when it comes to foreshadowing and moving the plot along in an intelligible manner, I’m afraid this series lacks, which is disappointing.
I’m horridly confused about what’s happening in this world, and I’ve read up through issue #12. Plot points and mysteries are being unveiled in fits and starts (that would have been best shown chronologically) and I would say the worst offender of all is Gunn. I don’t really understand half of what he’s saying – but that might have been intentional. At this point in the series, it’s hard to be sure.
And that’s more than a little frustrating. Because there has just been a big reveal in the last issue (which I had to re-read at least once to track what was happening) – I’m willing to stick it out for another couple of months. But if the clarity doesn’t improve dramatically in this book, I might consider dropping it. I have way too many things going on to blindly follow a comic book adaptation of a television series that ended on such a high note (nothing like going out in an apocalyptic battle blaze).
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 8
I was excited and a little skeptical when we first started collecting this series. But ultimately, it contains all the elements that made BTVS so brilliant when it was live-action with real people playing the roles. The Scooby Gang, and their chemistry has always been a major draw. As well as Buffy’s ability to cope with insanity by cracking lame jokes, which makes her comparable to other great anti-heroes (Yorick Brown) but in a feminine way. She’s always felt like a real person to me, on and off the little screen. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Joss Whedon have a lot to do with that.
Thusly – the BTVS comics are easier to swallow because there is so much heart. Angel was/is noir…and geared towards dudes (the title character is a dude, aight?) so his series (TV and comic) don’t especially click with me the way Buffy does. Which isn’t to say that I don’t like Angel. I just don’t like it as much.
The current story-arch involves Melaka Fray and time travel (but without all the oogey parts of time travel I detest, so far) and my one real complaint is that Fray doesn’t sound quite right. Her speech patterns are not at all like they were in the Fray miniseries. I think Whedon has lost the Firefly/Serenity dialect, and it’s a bit annoying when compared to the fairly understandable language in her previous incarnation. *shrug* Small complaints, really.
Overall, I love catching up with the Scooby Gang once a month, and I really enjoyed the Brian K. Vaughn cross-over headlining Faith. She is a much more palatable character on page, oddly enough. As this is a series that Whedon drops in to write regularly (and you can tell when Whedon is writing this book), it’s definitely hanging in the box for a good long while.
SPIKE: AFTER THE FALL
There isn’t much danger in this miniseries being eliminated, because it’s simply that – a miniseries. A fun liitle 4 part arch…which is really all that this character needs every now and again. A little bit of story devoted to him. Spike is a great foil for Angel, and though I never quite enjoyed his relationship with Buffy (I was amused, but a little horrified), he has become one of my favorite characters in the Buffy-verse simply because he’s quick with the quip, and geniunely cares about people. As much as a Vampire (with a soul) can.
Unfortunately, he’ll never be a leading man. That’s just how he’s been written and conceived all these years.
As for the comic – the creative team behind Spike is also the creative team behind Angel, so I think the general successes and pitfalls of the Angel series carries over into this arch as well. These elements can be largely over-looked because Spike is fun to watch and read. The art by Franco Urru is on-par with the Buffy and Angel series, so there’s no complaints here.
It’s all pretty much good.
Unfortunately, I have a few “issues” with Whedon’s entire comic line-up (excluding Fray). Whedon books are rife with ambiguity, mostly in scenes taking place between two characters. For actors, this would be fine. They would fill in the blanks with pointed looks or vocal cadence. In comics, it doesn’t work that way…which is a pity.
When you are writing for screen (big or small), you have to give the actor’s some play with the words you write. Actors take the ambiguity and run with it, and this helps them form character and connection with the audience. Sure, often-times a writer might interject elements that cue the actors on how to play a certain scene, or how to emote a chunk of dialogue. But many times, it’s left up to the actor to give the audience some idea of what’s happening with the plot through the use of that dialogue.
Joss is so good at this (writing for screen) – he forgets that on the comic page, the audience is the actor and actress along with the artist creating the image. So we need more clues. I need more clues in the writing. This has been an issue with Buffy, Angel and yes *gasp* even the untouchable Astonishing X-Men.
Characters utter dialogue which will make me scratch my head, and glance around to see where it fits. What does it mean? Why is it there? How exactly am I supposed to take this?
Without visual or story-telling clues, whole chunks of dialogue are lost. Moments are lost that would have obviously made sense with actual actors and actresses. It’s a shame…and I love Whedon, but I feel like there’s a trick to comic writing that he hasn’t quite picked up on yet. Not that I know what the fuck it is…I just know what it isn’t, and I know when I read Whedon comics, I feel slightly off-kilter. I feel like something is missing. And I’ve read enough Whedon comics (and comics in general) to know it isn’t just me.
But yes – they’re all staying in the box for the moment. Buffy and Spike for the long haul, with Angel teetering on the edge. Who am I kidding? The likelihood of keeping all these books is 99.9%.
Right then – that sums up the first wave of readings. I’ll be back again soon to give you the run-down on the X-Books. So stick around. 🙂
Much Love, Mindy C