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Angel: Only Human #1

Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2009
By: Charles Webb

Scott Lobdell
David Messina
IDW Publishing
Plot: Recent vampire Charles Gunn and once Great Old One Illyria go on a road trip in this character study-cum-exploration of human nature.

Comments: One of my pet peeves is overbearing voice over, wall-to-wall narration by one of the characters which does all the reader/viewerís thinking for them. Such is the irritation found in the opening installment of Scott Lobellís mini, Angel: Only Human. Gunn, formerly of Angel Investigations, formerly a lawyer, and most recently a vampire, is our garrulous guide to this road trip comic.

Itís unfortunate, too, that the narration is handled so poorly, since it hampers what are otherwise very solid elements of the script. Gunn, having regained his humanity is in the position to babysit the demoness Illyria who walks around in the skin of Gunnís once-girlfriend and ally, Fred. ďBabysitĒ is perhaps not the best term. Illyria is an ageless creature whose empire once spanned the expanse of the west coast of the United States before recorded history. Sheís a bit put off by her newly found human emotions and frailties combined with her reduced power levels.

Together the pair has enough guilt and regret to fuel quite a few good stories about choices made and past lives. The narration tells us this in so many words and is reinforced by painfully direct dialogue of the ďYou know that I am incapable of feeling ________, therefore _________Ē variety.

The heavy handed information dump puts us in the middle of a fight with street racing demons, a trip to visit Fredís family in the rural South, and all manner of out loud ruminations about the nature of the charactersí being in between. What should be dramatically tense--Fredís parents not knowing that their daughter is dead--becomes a limp conceit and a labored punch line when the duo comes rambling up the road in Gunnís truck. Some of the same ground was covered in the fifth season of the television series. There it was handled with tact and brevity, giving human motivation to everyone involved, including Illyria, who we are to understand is the farthest thing from human.

Illyria is normally a fascinating character. Most writers tend to handle her as something of an Apsergerís sufferer, with her clipped, brutally honest dialogue and lack of human social queues. Often itís played for comedy but there are moments of poignancy where she searches for the ďrightĒ reaction to human emotions, weighted down as she has been with Fredís memories and later those of Fredís friends and loved ones. Lobdellís hasnít captured any kind of voice for her as of yet. Sheís still brutally direct but more of a cipher.

Gunn remains one of my favorite characters of the Angel-verse. Not just because we bald black guys have to stick together, either. One of the most interesting facets of the character in the television show was his struggle to find his place on the team when they no longer needed muscle. When he was given a mystical mental upgrade it exposed untapped ruthlessness in him and left the character with a series of choices which haunt him to the present. Lobdell is a bit more successful in catching the characterís voice. Itís just unfortunate that the guy never stops speaking.

Again, thereís that disconnect. The more Lobdell tells us about these characters the less I feel like I know them. Itís not through any thought out intent, either. It feels like the writer has missed the opportunity for quiet moments to just let the character be.

Final Word: While I appreciate many of the ideas on display here, itís all too pat and expository. The script spends so much time catching us up that thereís no room for the story or characters to breathe.

If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the authorís work at Monster In Your Veins



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