Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Best Angelus Story Never Told - Angel vs. Frankenstein

...until now, that is. It's not unknown at this point that some people find Angel to be kind of a bland, whiny, dude. I love him to pieces but I know that's sort of fringe thinking these days. Angelus, on the other hand, is generally accepted as being the best, most terrifying, and sinister villain Buffy has ever faced. It's a wonder more time has not been spent reveling in the time when our young Liam was the most sadistic son of a bitch in the known universe. Cue John Byrne to jump on the opportunity and craft an absolutely stunning period piece that pits our favorite evil vampire against one of the most well known monsters of all time: Frankenstein

Back when we interviewed Mariah and Chris, they told us that John had been kicking around the idea for this story since "Blood and Trenches" and that it was ultimately decided that it would work best as a kind of Halloween story. I wish that the book landed on a less cluttered month though, because I haven't seen anyone talking about even though it is, for my money, the best comic for fans of the 'verse to come out.

The story is a simple one, leaving plenty of room for these two larger than life characters to get in some suitably clever and creepy dialogue before duking it out. Angelus comes to Geneva, Switzerland for the same reason he goes anywhere: to cause a little mayhem, eat a few attractive women, and steal the fortune of a well-known family. Alright, that last thing took me a little off guard but, honestly, how else does Angelus do the things he does if he doesn't swipe off another man's wealth from time to time? What ties Angelus's antics to our mythic monster I'll leave as a surprise but, in short, it's darkly funny in that very Angelus sort of way.

What really sells the book is the treatment the two characters receive from Byrne. It's not easy to pen a tale where there really isn't a good guy and still have the audience care but does it with effortless aplomb and he does so by making sure to keep these characters fun and interesting (take note, Dollhouse writers). With Angelus, especially, I found myself wondering what kind of delicious acts of evil the bastard was going to get up to and I was never, ever disappointed. That's what makes it easy to root the Angelus, he's just so damned likable. Frankenstein's Monster acts as an incredible foil because he is deep in the moral gray, tragic, and downright scary even though he's kind of the hero of the piece. Byrne really captures the essence of the monster in a way that fits with Mary Shelley's mythos while simultaneously bringing a fresh approach that helps fit the character into an Angel story.

As for the art, much like "Blood and Trenches", Byrne finds that important middle ground between obsessing over making the characters look identical to the actors who played them and using artistic license. What impresses me most is the consistency. Even with good artists, I find that some panels are good while some seem rushed. Every frame, every moment is well crafted. It's sequential art at it's best, each beat pulling you further and further in. I especially love the look of Frankenstein's monster, all gaunt, sanguine, and zombie-like. He's really scary looking but not in a stupid, lumbering, Michael Meyers sort of way. There's a real intelligence that comes through not just in the writing but in the art as well.

If the goal was to make this into sell this as a Halloween story then let me remind you that Halloween is still a week away. Get yourself to your local comic book store and get this before the holiday passes you by. It's the perfect read for a scary night of kids in shoddy costumes coming to your house demanding candy.

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