I’ll be honest. “Smile Time” was never my favorite episode of “Angel.” It wasn’t horrible, but that season it was outshined by many better ones, and an overarching storyline that had plenty to offer on its own. But somehow, inexplicably, it became one of those episodes that captured the Whedonverse Zeitgeist. There would be figures, t-shirts, cosplayers. It was an instant classic.
So, when I heard there was going to be a “Smile Time” miniseries, I thought to myself, “Well, okay. It was a decent enough idea. I could stand to see Angel hack a puppet army to shreds as they attempt to take over Los Angeles.” You know, something widescale enough to legitimize the existence of a comic about it. Stuff you could never do on television.
Unfortunately, there is actually no reason for this comic to exist.
It turns out that “Angel: Smile Time” is just an adaptation of the television episode. That’s it. I haven’t seen it in a while, but it looks like it’s scene-for-scene. And that includes the ones involving ongoing subplots like Gunn losing his legal acumen and Angel’s ongoing relationship with Nina The Werewolf. There’s no recap or anything, nor even an attempt to explain why Gunn might be losing his skills. It’s literally just a drawn version of the TV episode.
Now, I get why Movie Adaptations exist. A lot of times they might release before the movie, offer up a sneak peak of the action. Or they might feature deleted sequences, or offer the fresh perspective of a unique artist. “Angel: Smile Time” offers none of these things. “Angel”, when it aired, was never the largest budgeted show, so much of the action in its final season took place in a rather average looking law firm or an interchangeable murky looking warehouse district. So already we’re not dealing with the kind of rich vistas that an artist can really go to town on. It’s mostly a talking heads issue.
David Messina is a perfectly competent artist, but he’s not really bringing any kind of new perspective to the material. Pretty much the only thing it reveals that the TV episode couldn’t is the gradual visual transition between Angel and Puppet Angel and that only appears on the cover.
For a four dollar cover price, I honestly can’t muster a single reason why someone would be compelled to buy this book. The episode is out on DVD. This issue tells us nothing more than the original telecast did. Perhaps later issues will feature deleted scenes, or the true origins of the Puppetverse, but as it stands, I can’t fathom the point of this book. Angel fans will have already seen the episode, probably dozens of times. The art is fine, but certainly not revelatory. There’s a brief moment of internal Angel monologue but it does little to illuminate the character to any degree (“Uh-oh. Company.”).
I just do not see the point in any of this, much less at an inflated asking price The fact that it was rendered with a professional level of competence is the only reason it got any part of a star at all.