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Angel #23

Posted: Monday, July 6, 2009
By: Jon Judy

Brian Lynch
Franco Urru
IDW Publishing
"Become What You Are"

This is a good comic book. Not a great comic book, but still a good comic book. So what makes it good?

Well it isn't Urru's art. As I've said before, I'm no fan of it. It's not suitable for a licensed property as he does not capture likenesses well. It's not suitable from a storytelling perspective because he does a poor job of capturing a sense of location. You kind of need to know where a story is happening if you're going to follow the story. Take panel one, page two, an establishing shot of a hospital. However, all we see is a shot of some glass doors, some trees, and some people milling around out front. Do we get a wide shot to show us ambulances here and there? A sign labeled "hospital"? Some close ups of people in scrubs wheeling around patients? Anything to let us know we're looking at a hospital? No. We get some glass doors and some trees. What's the sense of an establishing shot if it establishes nothing?

We get the same thing in the very next panel when we cut to Gunn's hospital room. Yes, we can decipher it to see that it is Gunn there, and we see that Lorne is standing over him, but all of the clues that this is a hospital room are jutting in from the outside of the panel, or are in the extreme foreground and not easily or instantly identifiable. And who is that reading to Gunn? I have no idea. Faces are not Urru's strong suit, and this is less a face and more some quick lines that imply a face.

This lack of a sense of location is a problem throughout the issue. At one point the action comes back to the hospital room, but it appears to be just a mostly empty room. I had no idea where the characters were until the next page, when suddenly we see there is a bed in the room, and, yes, with close inspection we can see it is a hospital bed, although Gunn is sitting on it and word balloons obscure it and so, without careful consideration, it appears to be just a bed. It isn't until the next page that we reverse angles and can see some of the aforementioned equipment which lets us know we're back in the hospital room.

That of course raises the question of why Illyria chose to return a now healed Gunn to the hospital. I've got no answer for that one.

So if it isn't Urru's art, it must be the story that makes this good, right? Well, no, although the story isn't bad per se, it's just that there isn't much of a story here. It's just cleaning up from the last story arc.

However, it is Lynch's writing that makes this a good comic book. It's not the story, but rather his understanding of the characters and the one thing above all others that makes Angel work: Guilt.

Guilt as a motivator to noble deeds is what the television series was all about, and here we turn to a Gunn, who was left in desperate need of redemption in “After the Fall.” And as Angel fans have immense affection for Gunn, it's nothing short of, well, heartwarming, to see him begin his journey to redemption. And we get to see Illyria begin hers. And the whole thing develops logically out of the events of “After the Fall,” with characters acting like, well, themselves.

Put it together and what you have is good, not great, but that still makes it a good deal better than many of the Angel comics books we’ve seen.



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