Best Shots Advance Reviews: SHE SAID DESTROY #1, ANGEL #1

Angel #1
Credit: Dan Panosian (BOOM! Studios)
Credit: Liana Kangas (Vault Comics)

She Said Destroy #1
Written by Joe Corallo
Art by Liana Kangas and Rebecca Nalty
Lettering by Melanie Ujimori
Published by Vault Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Sci-fi meets high fantasy in Joe Corallo and Liana Kangas’ She Said Destroy, the latest offering from Vault Comics, but the creators do very little to set themselves apart from their myriad of influences. It’s easy to see a little bit of Star Wars, She-Ra, Voltron, Harry Potter and even more recent stories like The Wicked + the Divine in the DNA of this book, but without strong characters or an urgency to the narrative, those touchpoints don’t really add up to anything. And really, it’s notable that there isn’t an editor credited on this book because this issue suffers from a distinct lack of pacing and meaningful worldbuilding that a good editor should have been able to catch in early drafts.

The set-up is fairly simple. Once there were a lot of gods, but over time many were forgotten, so now there are only two: Brigid, God of the Sun and the Morrigan, God of Death and they are at war with one another. Unfortunately, Corallo’s approach is incredibly passive. We get all of that information on a one page slow zoom in on a city - not exactly the most riveting way to introduce your concept. We’re introduced to Winona and Rahul, who are the heroes of this story, but we’re never really given an opportunity to understand the world from their point of view. When we meet them, they’re sparring with wooden swords or wands before they are summoned by two other new characters to go help a fifth that we haven’t seen yet.

It’s not quite narrative whiplash, but the pacing and construction of the story feels off. We slow zoom in on a city only to cut to the next scene that is not within the city, despite the dialogue presumably coming from within it. It feels a little sloppy. But I think I see what Corallo is doing here. This would all play out in about three minutes of screentime in a movie or TV show, but that kind of pacing doesn’t always work in a comic because it often feels extremely decompressed. Decompression can work just fine for a book if it helps set the mood or tone of the overall work or helps us to get to know the characters or the world. Corallo doesn’t really do anything past introducing characters and concepts. Most of She Said Destroy plays out that way, with ideas being thrown at the readers while never really giving any indication as to how readers are supposed to feel about this information.

And part of the reason that the reading experience suffers is because of the line art.Liana Kangas’ minimalist style might be a fit for a different type of book, but she is completely unable to give us any information about the world of this story with her art. That’s a big problem in a visual medium. Walls and backgrounds are bare. Characters have distinct looks, but you can’t really glean any information from their clothing about who they are or what they do. Buildings and starships are blocky and poorly designed. In a lot of ways, these pages look like thumbnails for a book, like a work in progress. There’s too much space in her panel design and page construction and not enough inking to create greater contrast to these pages. I like Rebecca Nalty’s dreamy color palette of purples, pinks and blues, but I can’t help but feel like they would pop so much more of there was any black on the page. Again, this is somewhere that editor might be able to make some suggestions that the creative team might be too close to see.

She Said Destroy feels like a directionless debut. Corallo has yet to find his voice, and it’s unclear what he wants to say with this work. Even the story that he outlines for readers has somewhat ill-defined stakes. Kangas turns in some decent expression work here and there, but her lines are scratchy and inconsistent overall. There hasn’t been any time put into defining the world of this story or the characters, and so for now they just read as placeholders for where that work might eventually go. There’s a chance that She Said Destroy improves as it moves forward, but that chance looks particularly small at this juncture.

Credit: Dan Panosian (BOOM! Studios)

Angel #1
Written by Bryan Edward Hill
Art by Gleb Melnikov and Gabriel Cassata
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The relaunch of Sunnydale’s best-known antihero kicks off in earnest with Angel #1, as writer Bryan Edward Hill and artist Gleb Melnikov start their series off with slow burn that positively exudes mood and atmosphere. While the characterization of this book isn’t quite as effervescent as sister title Buffy, Angel #1 shows a lot of promise, with Hill’s portentous writing style meshing surprisingly well with Melnikov’s cartoonier linework.

Whereas Buffy dropped us into Sunnydale’s high school community only to show us the dangers lurking in the shadows, Angel takes the opposite approach - Hill starts us off with a harrowing flashback, showing the desperation and shame that transformed a vampire hunter into the thing she hates most. That’s when Hill switches gears, showing us the horrors of the present day, how an immortal vampire like Angel would coexist in a world of social media and cyberbullying. It’s a testament to Hill’s voice as a writer that he’s able to pull off tying together two ideas that might not have a lot in common at the outset - “Forever can be cruel. It took me two hundred years to learn that,” Angel thinks. “They learn that at sixteen.”

But what’s most interesting to me as a reader is seeing how Hill’s style works with that of artist Gleb Melnikov. When you look at Hill’s previous work - Postal, Killmonger, Detective Comics, Marvel Strikeforce - he’s usually working with more realistic artists with a harsher line style. But Melnikov has a cartoony flourish to his work that’s reminiscent sometimes of old-school Greg Capullo or Andy Kubert, while his rendering has a shade of Sean Murphy. For a second it takes getting used to, but then you quickly find that Melnikov brings the same level of self-assuredness that Hill brings to his scripting, and together they help sell the more cerebral conversations Hill brings to the table, even amidst the flashes of violence - in particular, Melnikov crushes the colors in the first half of the book, with one page of alternating reds and teals that is frankly incredible. (That’s not a knock on Gabriel Cassata, who adeptly handles colors on the back half, but Melnikov is clearly the real deal here.)

That said, the jump from television to comics isn’t always easy, and if there’s any complaints to be had here, it’s just that this debut issue still feels like a bit of a slow burn, even after the benefit of a zero issue last month. Hill gets some really cool one-liners in the mix, but it still takes until the back half of the issue to introduce Angel to the mix, and he’s swept up into the inklings of supernatural menace pretty quickly before we’re able to get a lot of exposition or internal characterization. I do think that even if you haven’t watched the TV series, there’s enough of a hook storywise with the flashbacks to get you invested, but this might be a case of playing the cards a little too close to the chest in terms of defining who Angel is for newcomers.

If you haven’t been checking out BOOM! Studios’ Buffy relaunch, you should really consider checking out Angel #1. There’s a thoughtfulness to Hill and Melnikov’s work that yields a certain stylishness to this vampire antihero — a sense of perspective not just from the title character, but the creative team behind it, giving us a little bit more depth than what we’ve already seen on the small screen. While this book’s page count runs out a little earlier than one might want it to, there’s still some strong work being brought to the table here, making Angel a book you won’t want to miss.

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