Now, I came straight from the show + half of AtF - haven't (yet) read much else in IDW's Angelverse, so I'm not sure if I'm missing anything. It doesn't feel like I am, but forgive me if I'm flying partially blind here.
Taking this page by page, because the first thing I have to say is that I love the cover of my new Angel Yearbook. Angel is bathed in holy light, Spike is fierce and growly, and Betta George is...there, so what more could one want. The matte finish is kind of neat, too.
Foreword by Mariah, love how "let's go to work" is still making ripples in fandom and canon. I'm not getting misty eyed yet because I can't really say goodbye to these comics while I'm still in the middle of reading them, but I see how other fans might.
Dust to Dust: Okay, begin. Gunn was never my favorite character, but that was partially because I thought his development and history were always neglected. We saw his beloved little sister die horribly right after we met him and then hardly hear about her thereafter. The first story in Yearbook seems like a very plausible look at their childhood, especially the way they're constantly losing the people they love, one after another.
I didn't know quite what to make of the old man that turned into a vampire and then apparently sacrificed himself to teach them a lesson. It works in the context of the pages, but seems to contradict the mythology unless there's some heavy speculation applied to it - maybe certain personalities react to being sired with such disgust that they quickly turn to suicide?
Great art here. I love Messina! My favorite panel is Mrs. Jackson serving breakfast and Alonna being all psyched about her pancake. And this is an off-topic observation, but I'm throwing it in here because that's when I noticed it: George is framing our page numbers!
Bloggade: Ah, Harmony. Not exactly a fan favorite, but I freely admit that I never regretted a single moment that she was on the screen. I love the blog format (pretty sure it's LJ; extra yay), and could believe Harmony keeping one, although her good spelling and grammar requires some suspense of disbelief. (I'm not suggesting it could have been written with genuine Harmony-level English. Even in the real blogosphere that stuff is torturous.)
I'm a little conflicted about the way her character was used. She's at her best when she's pure comic evil/stupid, and here we see her being reluctant to kill and then feeling inspired to make something more of her life - why? I don't want Harmony to be a better person. I want her to be evil and stupid. I also felt I was missing something about Angel's letter of recommendation. Did he actually write that? With what intent? He never trusted her that I recall, and he'd have no reason for wanting her to find another good job. Is there a chance that this ties into Twilight's plan in Season 8? He did seem to be making use of Harmony's fame there.
On the plus side of this story we have OMG UNICORNS!, a hilarious conversation between Harm and the butcher, a vampire unicorn mood icon, and some lovely portraits. I'm sure you don't need me to point this out, but among the reading material surrounding Harmony in the first picture is a copy of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Someone in charge knows exactly what the readership likes to mock.
All the Time in the World: Well, the obvious remarks about this one are that a) it's meant to be a heartbreaker and b) it totally worked. The voicemail in the final panel made me do one of those internal "NOOO!" reactions.
But before it got there, I loved seeing Wesley and Fred together in one of the longest-coming and most prematurely terminated relationships in the verse. They sound in character, they look like themselves (mostly), and the interruptions are inevitable but fresh, as befits the setting. I would never believe in Wesley pulling off that white jacket, but you know what? He did. And Disneyland is actually a very logical place for vampires to lurk. I'll never trust that ride again.
I think my favorite date was the last one, the moonlight walk on the beach. The close-ups of their faces were beautifully drawn and romantic. I think if their relationship had had some time to develop, it would have looked a lot like that, just being alone together and appreciating the peaceful parts of the world.
My Only Friend: Okay, it's going to be hard to not suck up in this one since I know the writer is reading it, but I really did like these pages. Angel's relationship with LA definitely could use some attention - it could be read like Malcolm's relationship with Serenity, though less obvious. Angel loves his city because she has her quirks, because there are some not-so-nice people living there, and mostly because the city loves him back, and needs him. It's not so different from the way Angel falls in love with women.
And then there's another layer to it with Angel coming home to his people, and zooming in on Connor. Wherever Connor is, there's home, right?
So how much of this was inspired by the Chili Peppers song? :)
Fight for the Remote: ...And here my pages begin to fall out. Sad. Well, I guess I just won't be loaning this one out to anyone.
If there's one thing that the writers and the fans seem to share a weakness for, it's Angel vs. Spike. I love the dramatic panel configuration here, and how Angel skips the initial warnings and goes straight to the threat with a sword. I hope this is what every night is like in their apartment (are they really sharing an apartment?).
This One Time: I see what's going on here. Brian Lynch is saying goodbye by cramming everything awesome about the show and the past comics into a single issue, right? Puppets. There are puppets.
There's also more Angel vs. Spike banter, and I'm pretty convinced that nobody does it better. On a related note, nobody draws puppets better than Franco Urru, so those were a great way to kick off the alternate realities. The next one seems to contain a few references - Angel becomes Doyle, Spike becomes Nina, all the better to quote the Mutant Enemy (I'm trying to teach my parrot to quote that, too).
Next we have the Junior Fang Gang, which is almost better than puppets. Even within two panels, the characterization is consistent: Angel is the tattletale/goody-two-shoes, Spike is the brat, and Illyria is the troublemaker. And all of them are freakishly adorable.
Gunn as Illyria's shell is an interesting concept. Fits right in as the path not taken, although I wish a few adjustments had been made to the outfit. It looks a little drag queen-y now that I'm used to seeing it on a woman's body.
The next path not taken is one that really interests me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who's wondered what would have happened if Connor had been able to grow up under Angel's care. Lots of telling moments here: Spike is the only one that Angel trusts with his son, Fred and Cordy left Angel due to his overprotective issues (but probably survived!), and W&H have brought us into post-apocalyptic territory. I would so read an entire "What If?" series on this.
Not sure I fully understand the next one, but I'm getting an "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" vibe from it. Illyria has killed...everyone? Wesley tells her stories and periodically turns into Fred. We can only guess at his levels of insanity. What does it mean when Illyria speaks in blue?
I don't always agree with Spike, but he is spot-on about Precious Moments here. They're entirely sinister.
The next part is my favorite bit of the book, which may have something to do with being a Buffy fan first - sweet Moses, do I love crossovers, or more accurately in this case, acknowledgement of the characters' Buffyverse origins. Angel's "perfect world" has him staying in Sunnydale, and he gets to see who lives and dies, and whether he's still a Champion and whether his and Buffy's love would last. Of course it affects Spike too, and we get to see another exciting chain of possibilities, generously directed once again at something we've all wondered: what would happen if Spike never needed a soul for Buffy's sake. Apparently he's destined to be a hero anyway, but I'm not sure I believe the all-white outfit.
Of course the boys reject the perfect worlds, and I love their reasons for it. Getting Fred out of Pylea was damned important. As George says, nudging through the fourth wall one last time, these stories aren't canon, but I think they do count. If nothing else, they scratched a deep-down fanfic writer's itch.
A Blessing and "The Curse": So, that's what Chris Ryall looks like, huh? Hiya, cutie. (Kidding.) (Sort of.) This is such a great medium for making commentary. So very meta.
Actually, I just realized that these last two pages might provide me with a helpful guide for figuring out what to read next. Mostly, though, I just got a huge kick out of seeing Cordelia's return, and the jab at Dark Horse. It warms my heart to see how chill these sometime competitors have been with each other. Also, nice geographical accuracy. The destination is indeed due north.
I loved this book, despite its flimsy binding. I loved the stories and I loved the art, and like all good continuations, it made me love the characters even more.