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Angel: Blood and Trenches #3

Posted: Saturday, May 9, 2009
By: Ray Tate

John Byrne
John Byrne
IDW Publishing
"Interlude"

The people who believe that John Byrne is past is prime need to read Angel: Blood and Trenches. Not only does it excel in terms of artwork but also in terms of story.

The interlude in question is a break from Angel's point of view. Byrne turns back the clock, to before Angel arrived in the first World War. He chooses to relate the same story from the past two issues, but from the perspective of Colonel Wyndam-Price, Wesley's ancestor. This technique produces different events that nevertheless fit in the context of the larger tapestry.

In this frame of reference, we learn that Wyndam-Price isn't quite the one dimensional obstacle to Angel's aims than originally thought. He's willing even at one point to accept the idea that Angel is a different kind of vampire. In this sense, somewhat like Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart of Doctor Who, he breaks the stereotype of the stiff-upper-lip, stuck-in-the-mud British officer, depicted so frequently in old World War II films.

Byrne's pure pencil sketches offer as many surprises as the characterization of Wyndam-Price. Open the page and you will feast your eyes on what appears to be Watcher headquarters in London. Byrne does not Photoshop a building onto the pages, nor is this edifice a trace. The building is a construct of pencil and eraser. That's it, and that's skill.

Continue reading, and Byrne's pencils open up into an opulent, vast library. They rough the detail on faces and craft the illusion of depth. They evoke the texture of cloth, and they stun when emphasizing blood-soaked terrors. The blood and the crimson filled eyes of the vampire are the only striking colors you will see.

Byrne combines his artistic sensibilities with storytelling ability and evolves unexpected moments. For instance, a human would treat a corpse with respect. A vampire would use it any way it pleases. Multiple-dustings energize battles, and strategies based upon old vampiric powers surprise, but these twists and turns are nothing compared to a cliffhanger that's worthy of Joss Whedon at his best.

Angels: Blood and Trenches is a memorable tale with art that exemplifies Byrne at his very best. The choices from the selection of paper stock to the decision to publish just Byrne's structured tight penciling were brilliant.



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