After 16 issues BOOM! Studios’ Angel + Spike reaches the series finale, but is it really the end? Only time can tell. Before it’s over however, Zac Thompson and Hayden Sherman have a number of loose ends to tie up.
With battles to be won and friends to be rescued, Angel and Spike have miles to go before they sleep. How well do Thompson and Sherman finish off the story started by Bryan Hill way back in issue #1, and do they allow the titular characters an ending they deserve?
Bringing it together
After a plot that has been growing issue after issue, there are a number of threads still hanging at the start of Angel+Spike #16. There is the obvious werewolf problem that allowed the introduction of Oz into the mix, but there are other, subtler, story-lines that need to be addressed. With this issue billed as the Series Finale it does imply that an ending is imminent but how satisfying that ending is will depend on how committed to the series you have been.
There are a number of story-lines that need to be pulled together and tied off which Thompson appears to do. Unfortunately the comic reads like he wasn’t given enough time to do justice to each narrative strand. From the ending of the werewolf smack-down on-wards there is a great sense of narrative urgency. Everything is suddenly resolved with a quick exchange between characters to explain it. This creates an uncomfortable pacing in the comic and, on occasions, the effect is so jarring it pushes the reader out of the story. Instant character exclamations seem to come out of blue leaving you wondering if you’ve missed a chapter.
This issue is packed with story, Werewolves, Wolfram and Hart, Demonic Gods, but none of it is given the full justice it requires to be truly satisfying. Up to this point Thompson has succeeded Bryan Hill brilliantly, bringing his own style of witty banter to the horror comic but there are clear pacing problems and an overload of plot. It gives off the impression that several issues have been rolled into one to get the series finished, which is similar to Thompson’s Relay from Aftershock Comics.
The End Draws Near
Despite the narrative problems, the Art work still retains the high standard of previous issues. Sherman’s line work is chaotic and expressionistic, which works perfectly for the tone of the story. The horror comes from the uncontrollable ride these characters are on. Danger comes at them from every side and often it is not clear exactly what that danger is. Sherman fills his pages and panels with shapes and shadows that overload the reader with visual information. The pacing of each page is set by Ed Dukeshire’s lettering which leads the reader from one character to the next. You are then forced to revisit the page to take in the details.
The exaggerated figures allow Sherman to give the characters intense emotional reactions to situations. This helps to heighten dangerous situations or hammer home the comedic punchlines. Thompson has a dry wit, evident in his script, and Sherman translates this to the characters, making the humour work on the page. Scenes contain horror, action, and comedy side by side like partners in crime. This combination of elements gives Angel+Spike a tone which has been brought over from the television series.
Sherman loves to draw crowd scenes, with many pages full of characters. Luckily Roman Titov isn’t afraid to use striking colors to pick out a single person or a specific group. There is an array of color on each page adding to the organised chaos of Sherman’s drawing. Combined with the lettering, there is a sense of urgency throughout, as if they are rushing towards the end. References to ‘endings’ litter the script through speech and visuals that nod their head to moments from the television series. There are references to the end of the first Angel episode, the end of the fifth series, and more in between. Endings is used as a theme in this chapter, which highlights how quickly some parts of the story are finished.
Angel+Spike #16 has some outstanding scenes. The interplay between all of the comics elements create atmospheric and often complex narrative moments that fit into the world of Angel beautifully. Where this issue falls down is the speed at which it has been forced to tie up all of the loose ends. There is simply too much plot crammed into this one issue.
For the most part the creative team maintains the level of excellence that this run of Angel has achieved over the last two years. Some of the moments in this comic are excellent and will have you laughing or gasping in shock. Unfortunately it is not as satisfying as you might hope for a finale to the series. The twists and turns towards the end are either rushed or under-explained which leaves you disconnected from the story by the final page. This is a real shame for such an amazing comic, and does imply that certain editorial constraints, a shortening of the series perhaps, may be to blame.
In the end, if you have been reading this series you won’t want to miss this issue. The art is wonderful and the creators have clearly enjoyed putting this comic together. As a series Angel has been magnificent and is worth catching up on if you’ve missed it. Hopefully this is not the final End and only a break with a new series to follow soon.