TONY'S ONLINE TIPS for Tuesday, September 29, 2009
John Byrne. Vampires. World War I. Those were good enough reasons for me to read Angel: Blood & Trenches, a four-issue series [$3.99 each] from IDW. When I opened the first of those issues, a fourth reason came to light: Byrne's fully-rendered pencils in black-and-white. Just flipping through the first few pages, this is some of the best Byrne art in recent memory. While that first issue is the best, the art throughout the mini-series is excellent. I'd like to see more of this from Byrne.
My regular readers know that, first and foremost, I'm a story guy. From that standpoint, Blood & Trenches #1 is terrific. Byrne sets up the story quickly, placing vampire-with-a-soul Angel in the middle of the war. He introduces the terrible prospects of vampires preying on the combatants as well as several sympathetic human characters, including a beautiful doctor toiling desperately to save the wounded and a dedicated vampire-hunter by the name of Colonel Geoffrey Wyndham-Price. If you watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," you know that character is a nod to the vast legion of watchers seen in both TV series. Byrne brings the first issue to a close with a great cliffhanger. All in all, it's a fine opening act to the series.
The second issue isn't quite as good as the first, but still first rate. The resolution of the cliffhanger is exciting and the appearance of the "Big Bad" is appropriately dramatic. I couldn't wait until the third issue.
Unfortunately, the third issue starts before the first issue and doesn't explain how Angel got from where he was at the end of the second issue to where he is in this one. We have to wait until the fourth issue to find out what happened between the second and third issues. It's awkward storytelling from a skilled creator who should've known better. There are good moments in the third issue, but the confusion distracted from them.
The fourth issue gets back on track. Not unexpectedly, Angel and the Colonel join forces. There are moments of tragedy and a climatic battle between Angel and the Big Bad. I've no complaints on any of those scores. However...
There's no simple way to put this. The surprise ending of the last issue, which reveals the identity of one of the soldiers Angel and the Colonel rescue, is a major groaner. I'm talking seriously hackneyed in a way that left me sad that such a good story had such a totally lame ending. There's fun stuff in these four issues, but that last panel ends the series on a sour note.
Angel: Blood & Trenches earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys. But, given how good the first issue was, that normally respectable score is awfully disappointing.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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