Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Illyria Extravaganza Day Three: The Review (SPOILERS)

The Preamble: Back when Mariah first took over as the lead editor for the Angel series at IDW, I asked her for one thing, just one.  I called dibs on an Illyria series.  But did she listen?  No.  She'd had designs on the blue one all her own and, since she's the editor and I'm, well, the guy who writes reviews about comics, she won out.  You win this round, Huehner, but you've not heard the last of… wait, what?  Oh, right.  Dark Horse. 

Hey, Scott Allie?  I'm a good writer and an even better ass kisser, do you think I could…. no?  Bugger.  Alright then.  On with the show.

The Review: Since this is a "night before the book is released" kind of thing, let's keep this short, sweet, and spoiler free…t (that was a bad rhyme, that).  So!  Illyria.  Really old, kinda blue, walks around wearing the face of a dead woman that a whole bunch of people really liked.  What's a sort of girl to do when she finally gets tired of punching things?  Why, she goes on a bit of a spirit quest to figure out her place in the world, of course.  And with this first issue we get the introduction to exactly that.

One of the goals here is to do something that hasn't ever been done properly before: get inside Illyria's head.  This is the one spot where Mariah and my opinion's differed a little.  This incarnation of Illyria is rather chatty, in the voice over department.  I imagine Illyria as being stoic and sparsely contemplative, even when she's at the proverbial crossroads.  But here she's teeming with things to say.  There are times when that works remarkably well but there are a few times it feels a bit forced.  That's my one quibble but, if truth be told, we've got some catching up to do on Illyria's identity and there's only four issues to do it in so I get the logic behind the decision.

In this first issue, Illyria seeks out two people for council: Angel and Spike.  One of the ways that this issue really excels is at capturing just how different Angel and Spike are in how they relate to the world.  Angel can be good at his own journey towards self discovery but he's complete rubbish at helping anyone else.  Spike, on the other hand, will be around for several issues because he actually knows how to be, you know, emotionally useful.  Both their characterizations are spot on.

The story construction for this issue is simple but effective: philosophical pondering bookended by ass kicking.  Sounds like exactly what you'd expect an Illyria story to be.  But it's more than that.  It's a real character piece, an in depth analysis of what makes her tick and it's very clear that whoever she was, whatever she is right now, is all about to change.  In all the quiet moments of this issue you can feel that we're teetering right at the edge of something massive.

More than anything, though, we should be talking about the art which is absolutely magnificent.  Elena's pencils and Ilaria's colors combine to make what, for my money, is the best looking book we've seen in the Angel franchise.  Not only is it absolutely gorgeous but it also fits perfectly with Illyria as a character and with this particular story.  I found myself just staring at individual panels and marveling at just how impressive they are.

When you get to the end of this issue, I think you're going to want to read it again.  You might even find yourself reading it not just twice, but thrice.  It's that good.  And there's a lot more to come, including a homage to Labyrinth, a number of brand new characters, and a return to the Deeper Well.

I give this issue four and three quarters Old One Sarcophagi out of five.

Stay tuned for tomorrow where we'll be previewing some more pencil art and sharing the interview we did with Mariah back at NYCC.

No comments: