Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two Episodes, One Pointless Graphic Novel: Angel: Not Fade Away Exploits Angel Fans.

The Good: Generally decent storyline, Prepares readers for After The Fall
The Bad: Mediocre artwork, Redundant
The Basics: A comic book recreation of the Angel series finale, Angel: Not Fade Away is a disappointing exploitation of fans, despite being a decent story.

I am a big fan of the television series Angel (reviewed here!). I enjoyed the program and ever since it came out in the single boxed DVD set , I’ve been looking forward to rewatching the entire series (an action I am prevented from as I have loaned it out to friends almost since the first moment mine arrived!) and I have been eagerly following the comic book follow-up Angel: After The Fall. So when I come around and pan something from Angel, it ought to say something. In the case of Not Fade Away, the reason is simple: this is an utterly pointless trade paperback anthology and I am left baffled as to why it was ever penned.

For those unfamiliar with Angel, “Not Fade Away” was the television show's series finale. After five years, the television show was abruptly canceled and Joss Whedon, Jeffrey Bell, and David Fury had to wrap up the series as best they could. They decided to have Angel take on the forces of evil one last time by establishing a new center of evil on Earth and having Angel and his team work to eliminate them. The episode was dark, it had casualties and it paved the way for the graphic novel series After The Fall. So why then does IDW, the comic's publisher, feel the need to recreate the television episode as a comic book?! Angel: Not Fade Away is a faithful adaptation of the final two episodes of Angel, “Power Play” and “Not Fade Away” and the only reason I can think that anyone would want this would be because they are reading the comic book series, but somehow missed the episodes. This is a bit of a foolish paradox as those most likely to be reading the comics are those who watched the show loyally!

In the first half, Angel seems on edge at Wolfram & Hart, neglecting the good fight and letting more evil into the firm. When a Senator turns up asking Angel and Wolfram & Hart to help her defeat her opponent in an upcoming election using mind control and magic, Angel agrees, which sets him at odds with the other members of his team, most notably Gunn. When his team turns on him, Angel sends Nina away and then he takes out Drogyn, a powerful demon who is also a member of the Circle Of The Black Thorn. Angel is then made a member of the secret society of evil and his friends surround him, prepared to kill him and stop what appears to be his attempt to seize real power on Earth.

Angel quickly disarms his friends and casts a magic spell which makes everything appear all right. Behind the glamour spell, he reveals to Spike, Gunn, Wesley, and Lorne that his plan is to eliminate every member of the Black Thorn now that he has been able to identify them (by getting on the inside). Warning the group that this might well be their last day on Earth, he tells them to go out, enjoy themselves and come back prepared to do battle. After dispatching the liaison from the senior partners with the help of his son, Angel and his team set to killing the members of the Black Thorn, which has shocking consequences!

Angel: Not Fade Away is a very faithful recreation of the final episode, following quite closely with the shooting script and recreating the finale in dark, brooding colors on the page for readers. Readers will not get the witty rhythms of the back and forths of the dialogue from the characters unless they have actually seen the episodes, which makes this a much tougher sell than it would initially seem to be. Instead of being a powerful or intriguing reinterpretation of the finale, it is a very literal translation into the comic book with a few minor bits removed for space. This is the end of Angel for those who would rather read it as a comic book as opposed to see it on television.

While the story is the same as the televised episodes, the look is obviously different (being that this is a comic, as opposed to photographs or a video). The artwork is decent-enough to let readers know who the characters are, but it is not extraordinary. For example, one of the characters meets their end in this book and the pencils for that event are disturbingly underdetailed. Instead, the character who is killed looks more animated than like the live-action version of them. Similarly, Lindsey looks rather unlike actor Christian Kane and oftentimes, he is only easily identified by the fact that characters he is with say his name.

That said, the comic book adaptation has a decent sense of movement to it. The artwork – the pencils and the inks – in the scene where Angel's friends confront him has a strong sense of reality to the movement and poses of the characters in it. As well, for the climactic battle, things that could look sloppy, like the rain beginning to fall, are handled with perfect depth and shading to make it look realistic and like there is rain coming out of the night sky.

In the trade paperback anthology, “Not Fade Away” includes cover art from the original comic book releases that this collects as well as the original shooting script of the final episode. This is not a huge selling point for fans of either the television show or comic books, but it is nice that IDW tried to add some extra value to the book. Even so, it's not enough to make me recommend this to anyone, even fellow fans of Angel. If you're into the show, watch it and enjoy the finale with all the live-action it had. This just comes across as an attempt on the part of IDW and the Buffyverse masters to exploit fans for a few extra fan dollars. I ask, “why let them?” Angel will not fade away; it's easily available on DVD!

For other books by Joss Whedon, please visit my reviews of:
Serenity: Better Days And Other Stories
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8: The Long Road Home
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8: Twilight


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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