You know, I usually like to start these Buffy and Angel reviews with some funny line of dialogue from the issue. And with Buffy Season 8, my problem is inevitably that I have TOO many lines to choose from, and have to decide which 2 or 3 were my favorites. But with Angel these last few issues, I find myself poring through the pages trying to find even one humorous line that stands out to me. Granted, I understand that Angel was always a darker show than Buffy, but still … even at its gloomiest, I remember laughing sometimes. That’s the beauty of a Whedon show — laugh a little, cry a little, care a lot about the characters as they battle certain doom. But in the last few issues, I can’t help but feel that the plot has overshadowed the characters.
Anyway, so Issue #11– which I was sorry to see was still being drawn by Nick Runge — picked up right where #10 left off, with Angel and Gunn finally coming face to face. Wait, can we talk about Runge’s art for a minute? Right on the first page, I’m confused, because there’s a guy in the second panel who looks like Angel. But then Angel’s in the third panel. And what’s with Fred’s expression there — is she supposed to be happy to see Gunn, or terrified? And why do most of the panels in this issue have no backgrounds? And WTF is up with Gwen’s, Spike’s, and Connor’s faces in those last two panels on the next-to-last page?
“This is a little thing we call bad cop / bad cop / bad cop / bad cop / crazy primordial seriously bad cop.” – Angel to Flouncy Theater Vampire
Not thrilled with this issue for some reason, and I can’t quite figure out why. I’ve read it through a few times now, and although some things obviously DO happen, I still can’t shake the feeling that nothing really happens. Maybe it’s because after the finale of the big Angel vs Demon Champions showdown last issue, anything else was going to seem slow? Maybe it’s because I’m not all that thrilled with Nick Runge’s art, and wish Franco Urru was still drawing it?
Anyway, Angel’s comic book dream was a nice touch. Then he talks to Nina and Mayor Lorne and Connor and Gwen and Illyria, and it’s snowing, and I’m kind of bored. The scene between Wesley and his babysitter Spike is okay, but doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t know about these two already. The scenes where Gunn pressures George to use his powers are interesting — but a bit confusing too. I kind of feel like the whole “What’s the Hell’s Gunn Doing?” mystery has played out way too long at this point, particularly when it comes to how George and the Slayers involved. I get the impression we’ll finally get some clarity on that next issue, but that doesn’t do anything for the frustration I feel this issue.
“Does anyone have a car? We could get further away from Angel if we had a car.” – Spike
“Man’s career path is based on a pun, can’t be too much inner pride.” – Angel, referring to the Loan Shark Demon
So after all this time, it turns out the Loan Shark Demon is named “Bro’os”. Get it? Think Finding Nemo. Well played, Brian Lynch!
As I’d hoped, this issue brought back the cohesiveness that I felt the “First Night” issues lacked. Armed with a new artist (Nick Runge), we return to the story exactly where it left off at the end of Issue #5, in the middle of a pitched battle of Angel & Friends versus the Champions of the L.A. Demon Lords. At the last minute, Wesley (“Casper the Dapper Ghost”) has appeared on the scene, and as a result, Illyria has reverted back to being Fred again. And according to Spike, it’s not the first time. Apparently, she flips back and forth regularly, and whenever she’s Fred, he protects her.
Observation: If we’ve learned nothing else about Spike over the years, it’s that in the women department, he seems to be attracted to nothing quite so much as a fixer-upper — Crazy Drusilla, Season 6 Buffy, and now Fred-Not-Fred. And yet in each case, these women are powerful, and once fixed, they always move on. I’m guessing the same will happen with Illyria/Fred, even though technically, the two aren’t romantically involved.
“Seriously, we have to work on our gathering skills. Our slaughtering skills are second to none. But being late, that’s always our problem.” – Demon Mercenary
“What’s with that one word in your head, over and over … seriously, what the hell is a slayer?” – Betta George
“Well, this guy can go back to his box and pee next to where he sleeps knowing full well that he was right — and you’re all stupid!” – The End is Near Dude
Okay, so the “First Night” arc is over. And here’s what we’ve learned …
“Seriously, whose guy is the T-Rex? Who brings a T-Rex to a vamp battle?” – Loan Shark Demon Lord
Angel’s big day has arrived. The showdown with the Demon Lords. We learn that he has to shave and cut his own hair to keep people from figuring out that he’s not a vampire any more. And we learn that the glamour that creates the illusion he’s a vampire is somewhere inside of him. “Best not to ask.”
He jumps on his pet dragon and heads to the show. On the way, he saves human who’s been tossed into the crowd by a demon. Then he gives a really bad, very uninspiring speech. Then the champions start kicking his ass … or trying to. There’s a T-Rex, and a She-Skip, and a Human Torch, and a Shadow Thing. Please stop me if these descriptions are too technical for you. Continue reading
“Hell has been kind to you, old friend! And Wesley! I heard you’re without mass! Good for you, always keep your enemies guessing!” – Groosalugg to Wesley
Issue #4 of “After the Fall” starts with a very short flashback of the series finale battle that clearly has Angel a bit confused. Perhaps he’s still suffering residual Illyria time jump effect? Anyway, in the present, he forgets he’s not a vampire, and jumps off a building to save some humans from a zombie, and breaks his legs in the process. Wesley takes him back to the office for some voodoo healing, while Angel reads something that looks like the Necronomicon from the Evil Dead movies. We learn that for months, Wesley has been healing his wounds and casting glamors to make everybody in Hell perceive him to still be a vampire. Angel believes that making him human was Wolfram & Hart’s way of defeating him — taking away his power when he needs it most — and that keeping up the illusion is the only way to beat them.
A pair of colorful females arrive, and escort the two of them to Silver Lake, a happy haven of sorts, lorded over by none other than the Jolly Green Demon himself, Lorne, who is much loved in this little corner of Hell. Meanwhile, back at Bikini Central, Spike has received less attractive visitors — demon henchmen who have come to give Illyria an artifact called a Hagun Shaft, which each of the lords possess, and which is to be used to kill Angel painfully in the event that he manages to defeat all of their champions. Illyria herself hears none of this, however, because she’s busy gnashing her teeth while locked inside a vault. Not sure why. Continue reading
“Great. Fountain of blood is gone. When Fred Sonja is done, I want you to take that thing and get out.” – Spike to Angel
In issue # 3 of “Angel: After the Fall”, we pick up where we left off, with Angel getting attacked by Illyria. We also learn that life in Hell Angeles is proving peculiar not only for the humans, but for the various supernatural inhabitants as well, because the sun and moon are always out at the same time. And for a Primordial demon like Illyria, this has resulted in some time slippage, similar to what happened in the “Time Bomb” episode from Season 5. After some brawling, Illyria gets the upper hand on Angel, then starts fighting with his dragon. Meanwhile, Angel and Spike talk, then Connor shows up, and we find out that Spike has actually been doing the same thing as Angel — saving humans and keeping them safe.
After coming to the realization that he’s been duped by somebody into thinking that Spike and Illyria were his enemies, Angel brings Wesley along to pay a visit to the council of demon bosses who have carved out control of the various sections of Los Angeles. Including Burges, the demon whose son Angel killed in the first issue. Angel throws down the glove, challenging all of the bosses to a fight for control of their territories, and ends up agreeing to fight the champions of their choice in two days time. Which is a bold enough choice in and of itself. But it’s made all the more bold by the voice-over revelation revealed to us in the final panel — ANGEL ISN’T A VAMPIRE ANY MORE. Huh what?
“I didn’t rise from prisoner to prisoner with benefits to protector back to prisoner with benefits to Lord, just to have you come and muck it up.” – Spike to Angel
In issue #2 of “Angel: After the Fall”, Angel has to deal with the consequences of having just killed the son of Demon Lord Burge at the tail end of the first issue. Namely, he has to find his son, and warn him that the demon’s father might come gunning for him. What he finds is that Connor is more than capable of taking care of himself, as they both deal with the violent power vacuum created by Vampire Gunn’s killing of a demon lord (also in the first issue) — demons falling all over each other to vie for the top spot, putting humans at risk in the process.
As for Gunn, he seems to have a revenge bone to pick with his former employer. He’s holding it against Angel for leaving him on his own at the Big Showdown, which resulted in him being dragged off by vampires and turned into one. Yet he seems to think that even as a vampire without a soul, he is more of a Good Guy than Angel who has one, and has some plan we don’t know about yet to take all the demons down. In the meantime, he takes out his frustrations on Betta George — a giant floating telepathic fish (a character introduced in Lynch’s “Spike: Asylum” series). Continue reading
In issue #1 of “Angel: After the Fall”, we learn what happened after the big showdown at the end of Season 5 … sort of. We’ve jumped ahead a few months, which means that Joss plans to feed us details of the showdown and its immediate aftermath bit by bit. But we do know a few things. For one, Angel still lives (you know what I mean), thanks to the help of a dragon who was also working for Wolfram & Hart and decided to go rogue. Los Angeles is now in Hell, being ruled by assorted demon warlords. Angel’s son Connor and two of Angel’s ex-love interests — Electric Gwen and Werewolf Nina — are running a kind of sanctuary for humans and good demons. Wesley is now a kind of ghost, contractually bound to work for The Senior Partners but helping Angel when he can. And in a hugely ironic move, Gunn the diehard vampire hater is now a vampire himself. No sign yet of Fred/Illyria, Spike, or Lorne, but I’m sure they can’t be far behind.
All in all, I’m really loving this new title. Joss’s plot direction is clear, the storyline is satisfyingly twisty, and the clever dialogue always makes me smile. If Whedon couldn’t do it himself, Brian Lynch was a great choice for the writer here. If you haven’t already, buy the “Spike: Asylum” trade paperback, on the basis of which Joss hand-picked Lynch for this job. I’m eagerly waiting for “Spike: Shadow Puppets” to come out, so I can read that one too.