In Review: Angel: Season 11 #4

A fine conclusion that shines light onto one character's very distant past.

The covers: The Regular cover again features stunning artwork from Scott Fischer. Angel looks at the reader, while before him Fred falls backwards. Illyria is loosed from her body and sticks her left hand into Angel’s chest to halt her tumble. She’s entered at Angel’s heart, creating a shattered design on it, complete with a stream of blood that flows down his body. Behind him is an inhuman skull in profile against a vivid green background. The twist comes at the top of the skull, which has changed into this story’s volcano, with the background changing to yellow-orange. It’s as if the three characters are underwater. Outstanding! The Variant cover is by Jeff Dekal and it’s a dark delicacy. Angel looks to be holding his hands up to his head, but he’s actually holding an orange colored disc, similar to Xena’s chakram. Writhing within are two mirror images of Old One Illyria and the Old One that she battles. The image of Angel is great and in that frosty blue coloring he looks as though he’s seething. Great idea for a cover carried out excellently. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant A

The story: This is the final installment of “Out of the Past” by Corinna Bechko and she shakes things up immediately. The locals have come to kill Illyria and Angel, plus the volcano is about to erupt. Angel pleads with her to do something, rather than stand about impotently. “You time travel! Take us back a little so we have more. Or move us forward. All of this already happened. Let history follow its own course.” She says she can’t and that’s when the denizens arrive with weapons ready. She proclaims her identity, but they aren’t sure it’s her, after all “Illyria would never consent to wear such a mortal form.” That’s when a character from a previous year reappears. He convinces them to pause in their attack, allowing her to use her magic to levitate him, cementing her proof as their goddess. Resolved to now do what she says, the group is stopped from moving by yet another character returns and chaos erupts. The battle that follows is major and ends in an appropriate way, with Illyria hopefully gaining some wisdom from Angel. Just as it seems all is well, Page 14 has them encounter their true foe. This conflict is unexpected, with the dialogue providing insight into a character. This paradoxical situation left me feeling mixed. I liked the conversation, but it did seem odd to even be occurring. It made the larger character seem much more intelligent than shown in the previous three issues. If this character always had the capability to be this smart, this dialogue could have occurred much sooner and alleviated the dangers sooner. That said, I did like the conclusion, which propels the pair of protagonists onto their next adventure. This story is Joss approved, so it’s recommended for all fans to check out. Overall grade: B+ 

The art: There are several pages with many, many characters on the page and Geraldo Borges does an outstanding job in making each a unique individual. I also really like the layout he uses on three pages. It’s first used on Page 1, which uses a series of panels connected by a line, with all on top of larger panels. The technique allows the reader to see the big picture of what’s occurring, but then focus on a small detail in the panel, moving in for a close up, and then moving back to see the same object from another point of view. This is very fluid storytelling and gives the story a zooming in effect not unlike that of film. The jungle that comprises the background of the opening pages is very lush, giving it a very untamed feel. The locales that go to attack the heroes look fantastic, especially with the ultra fine details in the close ups and in their backs — that’s right, even the backs of these characters look terrific. The chaos that breaks out on 6 is great with a nicely detailed creature and a crowd that seeks to escape its wrath. The transformation that happens at the bottom of 7 has been done a bezillion times by other artists years before this book, but Borges still makes this look thrilling. The battle on 8 is shown from several neat points of view, with Angel joining the fray on 9. I love the look of shock at the bottom of 13, since it’s rare to see this character gobsmacked. The full paged splash on 14 doesn’t work, though. The line work is really thick and very minimal, giving this a rushed looked, or that it was blown up from a much smaller piece. Pages 20 and 21 are also a mild disappointment due to the lack of backgrounds. This story arc has been building to this moment, so there should be strong visuals to show the story’s strength. Without them, it comes off as, again, rushed. The last page does have an outstanding image, with the twisted images of the characters looking sensational. This I like, especially Angel. It’s good to see the book end visually strong, but I wish the book had been more consistent. Overall grade: B 

The colors: Having the book start with such strong sick greens instantly tells the reader that this is not Earth. The various colors of the rabble out to attack the leads reinforces the alienness of the situation. The volcano’s smoke is similar to the colors that comprise Illyria’s outfit, making her seem as threatening as the force of nature. Michelle Madsen always delivers the goods for whatever book she’s on. The cool blues that Illyria uses when wielding magic are outlined in an otherworldly dark blue that’s barely visible, giving it a truly supernatural flourish. Orange is used well for intense situations: a monstrosity’s eye, the background of action filled panels, and Angel’s eyes. Red is used sparingly, but when it appears it always represents the fluid of life. Madsen continues her winning ways. Overall grade: A

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt do the letters for this book which includes the story title, dialogue, sounds, some of the local’s unique speech, yells, growls, and the tease for next issue. When nonhuman characters have dialogue that’s different from normal speech, it’s a terrific way to further differentiate the characters from others. I wish that had been done for the large character on Pages 16 – 21; a normal looking font diminishes this individual’s power. The sounds are stand out items when they appear, be they the snapping of limbs or the rumbling of the world. Overall grade: B+

The final line: A fine conclusion that shines light onto one character’s very distant past. Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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