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IDW Publishing

Written and Drawn by Various

This collection of four short stories featuring the ANGEL cast provides a pleasant reading experience for fans of the show. The creative teams pick interesting spots in the continuity to drop their tales in to, and the result is a generally successful look at some characters that many people loved dearly (including myself).

Opening the book is a story by Jeff Mariotte featuring the Angel Puppet from season five’s classic episode “Smile Time”. Mariotte captures the character’s voice perfectly, and considering how popular the Puppet became, it is a perfect lure to get people to look at the book (the Puppet graces the cover, also). Season five is also the home for the second story in the book, one that focuses on Wesley and Illyria. Scott Tipton plays with the show’s built-in tension between Angel and Wesley in particular, as the grief over Fred’s death is still very raw for the characters when this story takes place. Story three turns its eye on Cordelia, and is set back towards season two and three, as she has yet to become half-demon at this juncture. Sadly, Chris Golden’s story stalls, but on the flip side, the artist, Steph Stamb, delivers the best work in the book. MASKS concludes with a fun fill-in-the-blanks effort by James Patrick that shows how Lindsey and Eve met and began cooking up their schemes against Angel and company that came to light in season five.

As a whole, the quality is reasonably consistent here; none of the stories knock your socks off, but even with the Cordelia tale reading flat, it doesn’t drag the book down. I’m not sure this would appeal to anyone who wasn’t a fan of the series, because the continuity is heavy, and the absence of Gunn is rather glaring. As is the absence of a spine on the book, considering its $7.49 price tag and 48 page length. But as a fanboy who knows far more about the show than anybody with a decent amount of a life should, this gets a passing grade from me.

Marc Mason

Written by Dan Taylor and Drawn by Chris Fason

HERO HAPPY HOUR gained a pretty decent cult following during its short run on the stands a few years ago. But when life stepped in and put the creative team on other paths, the book went quietly into that good night. Now, however, Taylor and Fason have gotten the band back together and put out a brand new story, and they’ve thrown in some additional goodies to sweeten the pot.

The premise behind HAPPY HOUR is quite basic: the superheroes of First City all frequent the same watering hole, and much like a certain reality television show, it’s where they stop being polite and start getting real. We never really strayed beyond the barstools, because that wasn’t the point; the point was in having a good time watching the characters poke holes in archetypes and score some solid laughs. The LOST EPISODE alters the formula a bit, though.

In this new chapter, we are introduced to an Aquaman-type who comes to the surface world and becomes a great champion. But those bright days are endangered by an invasion of “Shadow Soldiers from Dimension Z.” That means that, for the first time, we get actively involved in seeing the goings on of the battle, as well as what goes on with the heroes when they take a break from fighting and stop for a brew at the bar before going back to the frontlines.

By doing so, Taylor and Fason are attempting to ratchet up the drama a bit, and I think that came out okay. Characters become funnier when they’re more rounded, and by seeing them on the job in serious situations, it strengthens them on the page. On the flip side, though, Fason, who does an excellent job of rendering the humorous material and selling the jokes, shows a deficiency. Action is not his forte, and much of the material dealing with the battle does not sing on the page. His excellent use of blacks and shadows in the character work muddies up the movement and flow of the fights.

The package they’ve put together also contains a “blooper reel”, “deleted scenes” and “cast interviews”. The inside of the back cover even displays a mock-up of what the actual “DVD” set would look like. That serves to remind you of just how fun the series has been, and leaves you appreciating the experience. While it wasn’t the duo’s strongest effort, I was still pleased to see the book return.

Marc Mason

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