As he did with his love letter to hardboiled fiction, “Hollywood Noir,” Jeff Mariotte lets his passion for bloodless British mysteries show in “Solitary Man” (December 2003) – but in a different way. He invents Mildred Finster, a woman in the mold of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or “Murder, She Wrote’s” Jessica Fletcher – at least, that’s how she sees herself. As the story begins, Mildred finishes reading the last of the 79 Christie books, then tells her cat that she’s going to become a detective herself.
Jeff Mariotte recaptures some of the hardboiled style from “Hollywood Noir” in “Sanctuary” (April 2003), which has a straightforward mystery that all takes place in one night. It’s also an excellent character piece for Fred – marking one of her rare early ventures outside the Hyperion Hotel – even though she spends most of the book chained to a radiator as the kidnap victim that Angel and company must retrieve.
IDW produced three “Angel” one-shots in the final three years of its run. All of these double-length issues are finales of sorts, and there’s a touch of comedy or lightness to them – “Last Angel in Hell” puts a bow on the “After the Fall” era, “Lorne: Music of the Spheres” is the final Lorne story and “Yearbook” is the last publication in IDW’s Angelverse.
It’d be cool to read an “Angel” book of 12 short stories that each take place in one hour on the longest night of the year. “The Longest Night” (December 2002), unfortunately, isn’t that book. It claims to be that book on the back cover blurb, but the editors never told the writers. So the gang can be beat up or covered in demon goo the end of one hour and healthy and clean at the start of the next, for example.
In the first “Angel” hardcover, “Endangered Species” (October 2002), Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte spend the first two acts delivering a decompressed narrative that shows their strong grasp of where the characters are at in early Season 3. We soak up Angel’s growing feelings for Cordelia and Fred’s post-Pylea introversion, and everyone is on their game (except, as is common for these novels, I always feel like Gunn calls people “dog” more than on the TV show).
You can rarely go wrong with a Jeff Mariotte Buffyverse novel, but some go more right than others, and “Stranger to the Sun” (July 2002) isn’t one of his elite efforts. His second book set in “Angel’s” second season is quite readable, but it’s pretty obvious where every plot thread is going right from the beginning. On the other hand, it’s a decent character piece for Wesley – even though he’s asleep most of the time.
On my first reading of the “Angel” novel “Haunted” (February 2002), I probably wasn’t thrilled with the reality-TV focus. That was the era when a lot of good shows were being canceled to make room for cheaper and more profitable reality TV. Such fears seem silly today when there are more good scripted shows than ever.
Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte wrap up their “Buffy”/“Angel” crossover trilogy “Unseen” by paying off most of the threads in satisfying ways and going big with the idea of our heroes traipsing through alternate dimensions. As is often the case in the Buffyverse novels, “Long Way Home” (September 2001) has ideas (alternate dimensions) and character traits (Willow’s and Tara’s incredible magic skills) that are a bit too ahead of the curve from where the TV series is at. For instance, when the “Angel” gang ends up in Pylea at the end of Season 2, you’d think Angel might reference his trip to various dimensions in “Long Way Home” from the previous summer.
Following the “Spotlight” series, IDW’s “Angel” comics line unveiled more stories focused on individual characters in the loosely Halloween-themed “Masks” (October 2006). The double-length one-shot includes stories about Puppet Angel, Illyria, Cordelia and Lindsey McDonald, all themed around the figurative masks people wear.
Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte expand on their portrayal of gang warfare in Los Angeles and Sunnydale by digging into the Russian side of the Mexican-Russian conflict in “Unseen II: Door to Alternity” (July 2001), the second of a trilogy. In a backstory, the authors do some impressive writing from the point of view of scientist Alexis Vishnikoff, who believes in everything the Soviet Union stands for, and hates everything the USA stands for.