This comic book has been a little like the monkey’s paw of resurrection stories, or a bit like one imagines Joyce Summers would have looked like if Dawn hadn’t sent her back to the grave immediately after resurrecting her.
OK, that’s not entirely fair. This hasn’t been some God awful read, some half-decayed corpse-ish imitation of the television show Angel. But it certainly hasn’t been an excellent book, and it has the misfortune of existing in the same world as Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight, which is not only a damn fine adaptation of a property from another medium but is simply a great comic book.
A:AtF, on the other hand, has largely been a bit of a mess, a cluttered, difficult book to follow rife with questionable storytelling decisions and a basic premise that is confusing, to say the least.
So…all of L.A. is in Hell? Is this the L.A., and if so what does the rest of the world make of its disappearance? And we can assume the city will eventually return to our realty, so what will happen then? How will millions of survivors explain to the rest of the world where they have been, or if the city has been replaced by some sort of doppelganger city, how will they explain that now the genuine article has returned? And could a city the size of L.A. really go to Hell without anyone noticing? Wouldn’t Willow or someone else with major mojo sense a disturbance in the Force or whatever and put on their investigating shoes? Where’s the damn cavalry?
Putting all that aside, there are some obvious benefits to this premise. Angel is at his best when he is racked with guilt, when redemption seems to be forever beyond him. Nevertheless, he struggles on Sisyphus-like, rolling that boulder of atonement on up that mountain of guilt. And having a hand in condemning an entire city to Hell, well, that’s a lot of guilt.
This concept has also given the rest of the cast a chance to step up and remind us they are heroes, something that was easily forgotten in the morally-ambiguous confusion that was Angel’s last season. An this issue we finally get to see the…reunion…between Angel and Gunn, something that has indeed been a longtime coming.
So, yeah, big-picture-wise this book has been spot on, and this issue is no exception. It’s the details that have been lacking in this comic book, and again this issue is no exception.
This time around the major bugaboo is in the storytelling and the art. The team of Runge and Corbett turn in adequate work for the most part -- they are especially adept at capturing the likenesses of the actors who portrayed the characters – but in all their work leaves much to be desired.
Consider, for example, the almost complete lack of background details in pages 13 -- 21. That’s roughly one-third of this comic book that depicts character floating against scenes of nothingness, hardly the level of quality one expects for $3.99.
In other instances, even the character art is poorly done. Consider the last two panels of page 21, in which Spike, Connor, and Gwen look more like anthropomorphic blobs than they do faces. It’s almost as though they inked and colored Runge’s thumbnails, and of course didn’t bother to create any background art.
In other instances, the art just doesn’t contribute to the storytelling. Take the example of Connor’s face on page 22: This should be an expression of utter shock, to generate suspense – what is he so upset about? – in the fraction of a second it takes to move down to the last panel. Instead, the artists chose to depict Connor’s face as completely enshrouded in shadows. We surmise what he is feeling based on the last panel, rather than having the events depicted in this panel flow naturally into the next.
In a similarly perplexing choice, notice the last panel of page 3. This is supposed to be the moment in which Angel learns of Gunn’s condition. However, it’s not clear that Gunn has vamped out here. The shot is too wide, and his face is not drawn in enough detail to clearly show that we’re looking at Vamp Gunn. Thus the big reveal is ruined, and instead of shock we only experience a second of confusion upon turning the page and seeing Undead Charles.
In my final bit of facial criticism – a phrase one would expect to find on PornoBulletin.com rather than our site – check out Fred in the last panel of page 1. Based on her dialogue, we surmise that she is excited to see Gunn once again, but her face looks more like she is about to throw up, or like a drawing of Melanie Hutsell impersonating Tori Spelling on Saturday Night Live circa ’94.
In short, although the story is adequate, good even, A: AtF #11 suffers from artwork that could charitably be described as lacking. Pick it up if you’re a fan of the show, but be prepared to resist the urge to drive a stake right through it.
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