Angel & Faith
'Live Through This, Part I'
Script: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt (Comicraft)
Cover: The amazing Jo Chen
Blurb: Twilight is over. Magic is gone. Giles is dead, and Angel killed him -- that is, the possessed-by-mystical-forces Angel. Now his need for redemption is greater than ever, after Buffy and everyone else have turned their backs on him -- all except one rebel Slayer with a cause, Faith Lehane. Together, in the flat she inherited from Giles, Faith and Angel are living through the aftermath of Twilight, and keeping the London streets safe from the ever-present forces of evil...
Page 01: We open on a flashback of Giles, from a journal entry of his. It involves why Rupert never had any children of his own, when he "has an affinity for working with them" (hmmm... I'm not sure I'd agree with that assessment, necessarily). His answer is that others' kids are quite enough (a man after my own heart).
We see Giles performing an exorcism against a levitating child with demonic tentacles from her mouth.
Page 02: The mother of the possessed girl nearly blows everything and comes close to getting herself killed by the possessing demon. Giles rushes her to the bathroom and reminds her that the thing in the living room is not her kid. She (understandably) insists that her little girl is in there and needs to be saved, whatever the cost. She begs Giles.
But Giles' voiceover/diary entry reminds that he has to act for the greater good, not an individual child and her mother.
Page 03: Giles' entry goes on to reveal that he'd recognized that his exorcism wasn't going well because the possessing demon wasn't depending on magic to take over the girl. It was an innate ability of the demon's species. He tells the mother that he won't be able to banish the possessor, but could bind it powerless within the girl until he can come up with a more permanent solution.
She agrees. But what Giles didn't mention to her is that his own limited magical skill wouldn't be up to the task without an anchor, and that anchor would require a dear sacrifice.
Page 04: The price of the spell was a bloodletting, which Giles provided with a slashed throat. Fortunately for him, the demon's hook slashed shallowly. He got lucky.
Page 05: The girl's mother patches up Giles' wound as he tells her that he'll have to return periodically to reenforce the binding.
He, in diary entry, also tells us that it is another reason he hasn't deigned to have children. He knows that he is likely to suffer an early and violent death and he doesn't wish to leave yet another burden to others to take up.
Commentary: I like this opening, and the chance to see Giles and his past before Sunnydale and I'm hoping since Faith has inherited the bulk of the Watchers Files from Rupert, that we'll have a lot of chances to revisit with him, despite his being dead. I want to opine that I think this series' start is much stronger in these few pages, than the first few pages of BTVS, S9, I1. I want to mention this because you're likely to see stronger scores for this title, than Buffy, even though I like Buffy's characters more than Angel's.
I just think that the writing is more solid and meaningful, especially in the first arc of the two seasons. I also want to kudo to Rebekah for her likenesses -- not only for Giles, which looks great, but just in general. Her artwork has a lot of 'life' to it.
Page 06: We leap forward to the present. Angel and Faith are taking on the possessed girl in Giles' stead. Alas, they're a little late for a reinforce-binding spell, as the demons' tentacles are well in evidence again.
Faith is thinking that Angel can do this, while Angel is thinking he can't do this.
Page 07: As Faith is battling the tentacle-demons' tentacles and worrying over whether she's giving Angel too much credit, the demon is focused on Angel. It tells Angel that he has little chance of success where Giles couldn't defeat it. It refers to Rupert as Angel's "master", which I'm assuming is being used as "mentor".
But Angel takes offense, anyway. He vamps out and yells that Giles was no master and that he snapped his neck like a twig. He further informs the demon that he won't get away so easily: And then bites the little girl's neck!
Faith and I are both shocked.
Commentary: Probably for different reasons, though. I don't care if it was a ploy -- that bit about Giles was way too soon for me. Fuck you, Angel.
Page 08: Angel's intent wasn't to kill the girl, although the demon states that it could sense murder in Angel. This causes it to leave the girl's body.
Angel sends the mother away with the girl in her arms, while he and Faith continue battling. The demon seeks to enter either of them as a new home.
Page 09: Angel and Faith are able to hack to the creature's brain, now that it isn't hidden inside the child. When Faith strikes deep with her axe, a gusher of blood bathes Angel's face.
This causes a flashback, for some reason, of Giles' memories in him. He sees memories of Giles and Jenny Calendar falling in love (including some 'scenes' which clearly must have happened off-screen).
Page 10: Angel is rendered momentarily overwhelmed and then has to tell Faith why. These memories naturally give Angel another thing to angst about, as Giles had come to forgive Angel for Angelus' actions, only to then be killed in the same way by possessed-Angel.
Commentary: And, yes, I know that there is some controversy in fandom about how responsible for Angel's actions he is under the influence of Twilight. I'm too ambivalent about it to express any strong opinions. I do believe he was under New-Mystic-Universe influence during the Twilight stuff, but that doesn't mean he was under its complete control. Angel himself seemed a little too eager to create a utopia for he and Buffy, independent of being under Twilight's influence, but I can also certainly see where the Twilight possession made him take actions, or at least not think through actions where he would ordinarily angst about them first. Sorta like Angel without the self-reflection on his actions' impact on others. As to his killing of Giles? That I really can place on Twilight. I think at that moment, the Twilight Universe had overwhelmed whatever was left of Angel at the sight of seeing The Seed threatened.
But, I'm open to any other interpretations, considering the general confusion of the whole arc. I'm going to try to avoid re-arguing the point everytime it comes up, but this is where I'm generally coming from (except for those days where I'm a little more bitter toward Angel).
Page 11: The girl's mother is a bit pissed about the vampire bite, but Angel clarifies that he only superficially scraped her skin and he didn't drink anything from her. He also explains why he needed the demon to believe he'd kill her to vacate.
Girl's mother is relieved that Rupert didn't forget about them and asks if he sent them to her. Angel doesn't know what to say, so Faith answers with a definitely 'Yeah. He did.'
Page 12: Outside again on the street, Angel says he didn't like lying about Giles sending them. Faith isn't bothered by it, pointing out that the truth of possessed-Angel killing Giles wouldn't have done anything for her.
She asks if Angel is gonna go back to staring at a wall and drooling now that this mission is over, but he says he'll be okay. They split up, so that Faith can check in on the area Slayers.
Commentary: So, Faith seems to be a lot more forgiving of Angel than the gang over Giles' death. I feel like I'm trapped in the middle camp between the two. I think I more agree with Buffy not being able to see him right now, but I can't be pissed at Faith for choosing to help Angel through this, either (obviously, or I wouldn't bother collecting Angel & Faith). But I will say that I'm just mildly annoyed at her for not being a bit more... biting in her comments... at Angel whenever Giles is brought up. I kinda want her to be more mean at him about it. At the same time, I don't like Angel being totally cut off from everyone else either -- Willow did stuff just as bad and Giles only lived after her attack on him because she got distracted by his magical whammy, and the Scoobies didn't cut her off.
I'm also wondering about Team Angel. I hope that we're not going to just ignore that Angel does have his own support system and that they're all not also making him persona non grata. Gunn, I could see doing so. It'd be nice to see Connor, Illyria and Anne stay in contact though. And, assuming that IDW didn't need the character and would agree to let her go, I'd like to see Laura Weathermill join Faith and Angel in London as the Watcher-substitute-in-residence.
Page 13: We skip to Brixton, a part of South-Central London (Off-To-Wiki, AWAYYYYYYY).
A young woman is returning home from a club, when she's naturally attacked by a monster from the shadows.
Page 14: The girl though turns out to be a Slayer named Nadira. And that monster? It was actually just Faith testing the others' reflexes.
They exchange some banter, as Nadira is a bit miffed at Faith trying to keep them sharp, as if she doesn't trust them to take care of themselves, while Faith good-naturedly replies that she was just checking in.
Page 15: Faith takes Nadira back to the club for some unwinding. She points out to the other Slayer that she's wound too tight and that can only lead to bad things, as Faith has experienced. She makes Nadira tell her what happened to her former squad.
Nadira tells about her fellow 30 Slayers in the Azores on a training exercise. Things went entirely pear shaped.
Page 16: Nadira tells Faith that she failed to warn her fellow Slayers of the attack when it came from out of nowhere. Two mystic warriors, a man and girl named Nash and Pearl tore up the Slayer contingent.
Nash and Pearl were there to kill as many Slayers as they could -- and they could quite a lot -- to impress a 'master' that seemed to watch it all with disinterest. That master was Twilight, who never actually got involved in the fighting.
Page 17: Further discussion reveals that Nadira was the only survivor, and only because of Willow. She has some bitterness about Buffy, both because it was her boyfriend who was ultimately responsible for the deaths of her sisters, and because she then made it impossible for more Slayers to be called.
She tells Faith that the only thing that kept her going at all was Faith's being there for her, for which she's grateful. That and the promise to find Nash, Pearl and Angel and kill them for what they've done.
Obviously, she has no idea that Faith and Angel are a team-up. This promises to be ugly.
Especially, since Faith doesn't mention it.
Page 18: Speaking of Angel's past actions, we now join Whistler! And, he's giving the "finding out who you are" speech that he laid on Buffy in BECOMING, Season 2.
Someone off panel responds, and Whistler tells them that Angel has gone off the ranch and ignored his lessons he tried to teach him (also from BECOMING, in the flashbacks) and now the world has gone to crap. With Whistler unable to get orders from his bosses, he's convinced the balance has been seriously damaged and he needs allies to try to correct the situation.
The off-panel person tells him they tried that already and it didn't lead to anything good, referring to trying to help the world evolve through the Twilight deal.
Whistler acknowledges that kinda went south, but he's convinced that the world needs to be pushed forward more than ever. He wants help, but also pointing out that it will involve going up against Angel to see things through.
Page 19: The thought of going up against Angel/Ex-Twilight is really all that Nash and Pearl needed to hear. They're now onboard. We find out that we're in a pub, in which our duo have just engaged in a complete slaughter. This bothers Whistler not-at-all. Dickhead.
Commentary: And, I find Nash and Pearl's look to be very interesting with the slight elfin features and their being twins. They evoke very strongly Northstar and Aurora over in the Marvel-verse. I wonder if that was deliberate for some reason.
As to Whistler, I really hate that he's being set up as a big bad manipulator of events. I can understand his role if 'balance' is his shtik, but I really hate his character not being on Team Angel instead.
Page 20: At Faith's new residence, she confronts Angel about setting up Nash and Pearl to slaughter the Slayers during his Twilight phase. (She also spotlights the entire arc's logic-problem, which all of us fans kept complaining about.) Unfortunately, Angel can't deny that he did manipulate the bad guys, including Nash and Pearl to drive Buffy to be stronger and better as part of the "evolve" plan of Twilight-verse.
But he tells her that it did have a purpose, she just hasn't seen the things that he did.
Page 21: Angel tells Faith that all of Los Angeles had gone to Hell, and even though he fixed things and that now no one remembers it, he does and he was told by higher powers that the only way to keep the entire world from following suit was to become Twilight.
Commentary: Okay, STOP. There is so much to unpack here. First, Angel is obviously referring to IDW's "After the Fall" arc taking place after Season 5's finale. In that arc, W & H retaliated by sending Los Angeles to Hell to punish Angel for breaking the Circle of the Black Thorn and generally betraying what they gave him for defeating Jasmine in S4, instead of being manipulated into becoming an active partner in W & H's world-ruling schemes.
Using Illyria's returned time-manipulating powers, Angel left W & H without any choices other than to undo their Hell-Angeles. Everyone killed in their Hell was returned to life and Los Angeles was returned to real-Earth without anyone realizing it had gone anywhere. EXCEPT -- Everyone in W & H's hell did have their memories of what happened to them and that Team Angel rescued them from Hell.
That was the entire basis of "Aftermath", the continuation of Angel after "After the Fall". There is even a movie made about it starring a female Spike as Angel's love-interest. But, not anywhere during Twilight was there any mention of "After the Fall" being a contributing factor in Angel's throwing in with Twilight-verse to change/mold/create a new world (probably thanks to that whole 'different publishers' thing) and even if they were connected off-screen, Earth was being left to the demons because the entire point of Twilight-verse was to bore a new utopia universe with Angel and Buffy as its father and mother. Twilight making Buffy ready to take her place as the co-creator of Twilight-verse had nothing to do with saving Earth from the demons. Angel, in the Twilight-dimension, was very clear that saving humanity (by bringing them over) wasn't part of the plan. Earth was being written off so that Angel and Buffy could start a new, more evolved species in the new universe.
Now, I'll accept that between IDW's Angel title and Dark Horse's Angel & Faith, the memories of Los Angeles-ians faded mystically and now no one remembers they were in Hell after all. I won't accept the attempt to rewrite Twilight's goals of "saving Earth", when the entire plot arc was about Twilight/The Seed giving up on Earth for a new existence in a new dimension.
Angel goes on to tell Faith that his memories are spotty concerning what he may have done toward the end, as Twilight influenced him more and more, but that it is entirely possible that he did send Nash and Pearl to kill Nadira's Slayers. It is equally likely that they just went off the reservation on their own initiative, and he didn't know what they were up to.
Faith tries to blow it off as him not being him then, like when he killed Giles. But Angel isn't ready to accept that. He tells her that there were plenty of times when he was in his right mind, but chose not to ask questions or to doubt his "mission". He was weak, and he caused more death through that weakness than Angelus ever managed. That is the bottom line.
Commentary: I like this -- that Angel isn't scapegoating everything he did onto Twilight-verse and mind control. It makes sense that he'd take on the responsibility of anything that happened as being in character, but more, this opinion of his own faults plays very much into the Angel we saw in BTVS: Amends, where Angel admitted to Buffy that he was a weak man who wasn't righteous.
I also can buy Faith trying to minimalize for herself just what culpability Angel has in the Twilight disaster, after everything that Angel did for her in AtS: Sanctuary. She's clearly trying to separate Twi-Angel as a separate entity in the way that Angelus is separate. It's not the same thing, since Angel was very much in residence during Twilight, whereas when Angelus makes the scene Liam's soul is gone, but I think it makes character sense that Faith would try to gloss over that in order to keep standing by him the way he stood by her.
Page 22: Seeing how Angel is torturing himself over everything that happened as Twi-Angel, Faith tells him that she's down with fighting evil in Giles' stead, but that he has to stop obsessing over what happened. She accuses him of spending too much time with Giles' journal and trying to study every detail of his life in an attempt to take his place.
Angel disputes this. He isn't trying to take Giles' place, he's trying to find a way to resurrect him!
Commentary: Aieee. Obviously the revelation that Angel is working on a plan to bring Giles back to life (despite no magic, no access to the higher dimensions, and Rupert dying a 'natural' death) is supposed to be a WHAM-line.
But, I'm totally failing to see how Angel and Faith's discussion on pages 20 and 21 led Faith to accuse Angel of becoming obsessed with the details of Giles' life on page 22 so that he could make the wham-pronouncement. That was a really clumsy transition. This could have worked and would have a lot better if back on pages 12 and 20, Faith had accused Angel of spending too much time locked in his room and reading Giles' journal over and over as a throwaway line to tie into page 22.
As it is, I think we're supposed to take Giles' quotations from his journal and the visual evidence of Angel holding Giles' journal reverentially as some sort of shortcut that he's been obsessing on Rupert's life. This fails utterly. It makes too much sense for Angel (and Faith!) to go over Giles' journal after his death. There isn't anything obsessive about this by itself.
As to Angel's new plan: Does anyone see another attempt by Angel to do something good turning into utter shit? Because we know that resurrection should not be done in the Buffyverse (Joyce), and is forbidden (supposedly- according to Osiris- see Tara) if the person died a death by natural order. Both would seem to apply equally with Rupert's demise. I am very concerned about this 'arc' and I'd like to see Rupert remain dead since they took that step already. I hate when Death Is Cheap (see Supernatural's habit of killing Dean, Sam and Castiel and also see Buffy's deaths -- I hope the third time will be the charm for her or it'll fall into this category, too).
They killed Giles. Leave him be.
The Good: Since Angel & Faith is really centered about the aftermath of Twilight, I'm really happy that we started with a flashback of Rupert's Watcher days via his journal voiceovers.
I also really like that Angel is using his journal to follow up on things that Giles left hanging and the implication that Rupert had responsibilities before and in addition to his having a Slayer to council.
I also like the ambiguity of Angel's vampire attack on the little girl, before it is explained. I would like to see Angel wrestling with how far he can go anymore after his experiences between heading Wolfram & Hart's L.A. office, what happened in 'After the Fall', and his accepting Twilight's offer. And, how neat is it that FAITH has to play the voice of reason in this dynamic?!
The Bad: I'm just not seeing the page 21 to page 22 transition to set up Angel's wham-revelation.
Other Thoughts: As explained, I'm not liking the implications of how they'll use Whistler in this series, but it's too soon to place it in "The Bad".
I know, also, that we'll have to have supporting casts and recurring foes but I didn't feel much toward Nadira nor Nash & Pearl (other than wondering if we're supposed to be taking them as a darker twist on Marvel's characters, Northstar and Aurora).
I'm not sure about what I'm seeing as some serious backtracking on Twilight's goals: maybe I'm just seeing things in that arc that were never true? It was so confused, that I could easily have drawn the wrong conclusions about the point of it all. Either way, I'd rather we just skip trying to explain that entire debacle any further and move on from it.
The Score: The writing was really strong, and I liked the handling of both Faith and Angel. I really appreciated tying Giles closely into Angel's desire to move forward and his plans to bring Giles back, especially Faith's obvious shock. The artwork is really nicely done.
3.75 out of 5
Next Review: The Walking Dead's "Guts"