Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spike: After the Fall #1 Review

Writer: Brian Lynch
Penciler: Franco Urru

After ten months of reading about his sidekick, Angel, we finally have a story about the main man himself, Spike. This book is about the experience of Spike right after he and the rest of L.A. are sent to hell at the end of the television series, Angel.

The book is a mixture of good and bad elements. On the positive side, Spike finally finds his voice. While Spike has been a character in Angel: After the Fall since the first issue, he's never really sounded like Spike and has never really been a focus of attention. In this book, Lynch shows that he really understands how to write Spike. His sardonic humour and wit come across perfectly, and he has the ability to make jokes even in the face of horror. He is like one of those very intelligent people who make clever and witty comments at the most inappropriate times, because they can't think of anything stupid to say.

The story is a lot of fun, and catches up with Spike right after the trip to hell. He and Illyria lead a group of refugees in a former amusment park, which is the source of a great deal of humour in itself. Illyria is busy smashing the park, since she is apparently wounded in her Fred form, and the rides make her angry enough to change back. The backdrop of an amusement park is a perfect location for Spike and Lynch to let their absurd sides out, as they are unlikely to upstage their surroundings.

On the other hand, Spike: After the Fall makes the same mistake as the main series. The main draw of both Buffy: Season Eight and Angel: After the Fall is that we want to catch up with the main characters and see what happens to them. Telling stories about what happened in high school or before Wolfram and Hart never sold very well. However, the After the Fall stories have now spent almost half their time telling us stories that are now in the past, not progressing the stories any further.

Unfortunately, it looks like this might be the case for the entirety of the Spike series. I don't understand why Lynch believes that he cannot simply tell a story about Spike that runs concurrently with the main story, and turns the entire series into a flashback. There's little here we didn't already know: Spike and Illyria are working together and she is turning periodically into Fred. Lynch is dangerously close to having less development in his stories than Bendis.

The art is also a bit jarring. We met these characters as live-action characters, and they look especially cartoon-like in this story. The edges of the characters are drawn very thickly and sometimes they seem more like shapes than people. However, the art is good and I'm sure with time it will grow on me, but it is worth noting that this book is not attempting, like Buffy: Season Eight, to mimic the faces of the actors.

Nonetheless, it is nice to see some focus on Spike and it refreshing to catch up with someone who feels like an old friend. The subplot of the possibly evil Jerry/Jeremy is interesting. It's nice to see Fred back, even if she is a bit confused, and the ending, in which the people at the amusement park are happy to be conquered because they are so bored is hilarious. This is an entertaining book and a worthwhile read.


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