Angel & Faith
"Daddy Issues, P1"
Script: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt (Comicraft)
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: While keeping the streets of London safe, Angel and Faith struggle with their sin-filled pasts. For now, Faith finds some peace in guiding a group of Slayers -- one of whom has a lethal grudge against Angel. With reluctant assistance from Faith, Angel seeks to undo his greatest sin and resurrect Giles from a natural death... somehow... in a world without magic.
Warning: Drawn bloody massacre page-scan included.
Page 01: We open on top of a monument in Highgate, where Angel is looking over the cemetery. He is both visiting the grave of Douglas Adams (author) and tracking the scent of something mingled with blood a short distance away.
Page 02: Angel tracks the scent to a pensioner's public housing complex. There he meets an officer, to whom he claims that he's there looking for a friend. The officer is there because of a call from a worried daughter. He offers that the old folks are usually off at the pub in these situations, but with their age... well....
Of course, Angel worries that his blood scent is leading to the very pensioner with the worried daughter, and that he hasn't died of natural causes. He starts to head for the apartment, until the officer reminds him who has the uniform.
When the officer opens the door, the smell is enough to tell him they've got a body.
Page 03: But, Angel was right. This is the source of the blood trail -- and it isn't only one pensioner.
In the room, they find a man with crazy eyes and a hacksaw standing over three elderly people with slash marks across their foreheads. Our loon claims that "They had the disease. But I cut it out."
Page 04: Our nutso-cuckoo tells our heroes excitedly that he can help them too, as he slashes out with the saw across the cop's arm (Does England still use "bobby"?). Angel uses a toss to take out the hacksaw wielder, throwing out that trying to help him usually goes badly.
The officer asks if one of the oldsters is the friend he mentioned he was looking for. Angel says no, and that he doesn't think he'd been there for awhile.
Commentary: And, here I was a bit confused because it feels like a connection was being made in his search for the bits of Giles, but it didn't gel and I couldn't understand what Giles would have to do with following a blood trail to an old folks' home. I still don't think it is completely clear, but I have an idea over what he's doing.
I believe he was tracking the demon we're about to see in a flashback because it is holding a small bit of Giles' essence and that is what Angel was after.
Page 05: So, Angel's unclear statement leads to a Giles flashback. During Giles' early years, just before he walked out on the Council, he was part of a "graduating class" with four others. Their assignment was to obviously take on a vampire "in the wild" so that they could be evaluated. One of the classmates was Philip, another was Lucy (but this can't be the Philip that was in the Eyghon cult later with Giles and Ethan because... well...).
Philip was joking around with Lucy and Rupert, but Giles was pissy about it because he didn't feel his classmates were taking this exercise seriously enough and it was going to get them all killed... or flunked.
Page 06: Rupert and Philip continued bickering about how seriously they should be acting in this situation, with Charlotte agreeing with Giles, because she felt they'll be graded on not only their performance but also their conduct.
The disagreement over fun vs. serious was interrupted by blond-kid who pointed out that they had been joined by a mysterious stranger in a trench coat and hat pulled low, staring at them intently.
The flashback continues, but this time from entries in Giles' diary, which had obviously been read by Angel putting him on the trail of our monster-to-come in the first place.
Giles' entry tells us that he knew something was wrong with the scenario right off.
Page 07: Philip launched himself at their mysterious stranger despite Rupert's shouting for him to wait. With a stake he struck true, but then stood in shock as the expected dusting didn't occur. Instead the wooden stake shattered against the chest of their foe, also dislodging its hat, revealing a head that was not very human.
Page 08: Philip, alas, stood a second too long in shocked awe. The creature, which Giles names as a Lorophage Demon, used its proboscis to pierce Philip's forehead almost instantly killing him by feeding from his mind.
And it's not just his beak you gotta watch, as his crazy-long claws allows him to do the same thing. Something that Lucy quickly discovered as she had rushed to Philip's aid.
Blond-guy died a bit more cleanly, but no less quickly as the Lorophage Wolverine-clawed him up through the chin and out of the top of his skull. Alas for our two surviving Watchers, neither figured out that sometimes a tactical retreat is the wisest option.
Commentary: I want to take a moment to discuss the Lorophage design, here. I like the design on this demon, especially those large ruby-red eyes and the Wolvie-Claws. The general skin coloring and tall gaunt figure who drains minds also made me immediately flash back to my young D&D days and the Mind Flayer and I wonder if this was on somebody's mind during its creation.
Finally, there is a Mexican horror movie that I've yet to see, but which I also immediately flashed on during this page: The Brainiac from 1961. He's a little different, being an alien and using his whip-like tongue, but the general facial features are similar and I wonder if this was also a thought during the demon's design.
I'd like to see this members of this species again as a villain for our Slayers to fight in future (y'know, on the off-chance that one of the comic creative team finds this review and wants input -- use more Lorophages).
On a totally different note - Did they need to use "Philip", since we already had a Giles friend named Philip who dies? I was very briefly confused on if this was supposed to be a younger version of Philip from "The Dark Age" ... but obvs not.
Page 09: So, as stated, our Watchers did not think "retreat". Even worse, Charlotte rather ridiculously retried the ol' wood stake which had proven to be an utter failure for her three compatriots. Surprise -- she got the same result. As Charlotte had her mind drained, Rupert at least went with a knife instead of the stake.
He doesn't have any better luck though, and he got the Fingernails of Drainage. But as he thought that he'd go mad and then die with his former classmates, the adult Watcher contingent - who were supposed to be there to step in if things went pear shaped - arrived to tackle the demon off of Rupert.
Among them was his father.
Commentary: And this is why I think page 04 was showing Angel tracking this creature, while thinking about Giles. I believe he is after the bit of Rupert that the Lorophage drained and apparently holds indefinitely within its own psyche. It's the only thing I can think of that would make the last panel of that page make sense when Angel tells the cop (of the friend he was supposedly coming to visit), "No, I don't think he's been here for a while".
The only question really is what does the madman have to do with the Lorophage, and why wasn't he simply drained/killed rather than left to operate insanely in the area.
I don't know, what do y'all think? Am I building a connection that wasn't meant -- are these just two separate events? Because they could almost be, except that weird Angel moment on the bottom panel of page 04.
Page 10: The adult contingent were thrown off by the Lorophage Demon, but rather than continue the battle since it was sated, it fled leaving behind four dead teens and a devastated Rupert Giles.
Commentary: And now, I'm even more sure that the demon's Long Nails were meant to reflect a Wolverine-fan; That action pose of panel one is a well known Wolvie-pose, if ever there was one.
What I also liked about this demon? It wasn't chatty. Sometimes it's nice for our good guys to just fight a quiet critter.
Page 11: Giles' diary entries continue, along with the flashbacks as the numb horror turned to anger. Rupert was convinced that his own father, and the others, set up himself and his classmates for slaughter by not informing them that their prey wasn't a vampire. The elder Giles disputed this, putting the blame on faulty intelligence about the neighborhood threat.
He also tells Rupert that he also wasn't ready during his first hunt; he pointed out that being killed was a risk that they've accepted in their chosen profession.
This only made Giles more angry, as he never chose. He was informed of his destiny to be a Watcher and then expected to simply submit to the family line and follow in his father's footsteps.
Mr. Giles seemed (to me anyway) to try to be understanding, but Rupert was full of angry grief and resentment. When Mr. Giles told him that they're heritage is a Destiny that would come for them and they needed to be prepared to meet it, Rupert chose to storm out of the house instead... and we know where that led... and where Fate ended up leading him back to.
Commentary: So, first what I love about this scene is seeing the events that led up to Rupert's throwing in with Ethan and company. It's nice that it wasn't just teen rebellion, but that there was a traumatic incident that really caused Rupert to adopt an entirely different persona as 'Ripper'. And, I also really liked that they gave Mr. Giles some real sadness about what happened and why Rupert couldn't just walk away (even though we obviously know he tried). I had always had an image in my mind that Mr. Giles was going to be a hard-ass, like Travers, but that isn't the case at all (presuming that this flashback is accurate, and there isn't any reason to believe that it's being distorted).
But, I'm less liking the entire explanation for how they ended up misjudging the actual threat so badly. How the hell did the Council manage to "mix up" a brain-drainer with a run-of-the-mill vampire??
I mean, even if they didn't literally think they were dealing with a blood sucker, you'd think there would have been a LOT more prep work on finding out what was draining people's minds before engaging in combat. This just doesn't feel correct to me. One may be tempted to think this was a test of Mr. Giles by putting his son in danger or that it was a Watcher version of a Cruciamentum test, but this really doesn't fit either.
I simply don't believe that the Council would set up a test against a creature without at the very least giving the tested appropriate information and/or weaponry to give them the chance to survive. Otherwise, it's just a fancy execution (mass in this case).
I was debating whether there is a subplot going on, or whether it was just weak writing... I'm leaning toward the latter unless we see this addressed again later in the arc (perhaps by Alasdair).
Page 12: Elsewhere in London, Faith is with Nadira and Daphne. They're in an alley snatching a vampire off of a girl who is complaining that he bit her without permission. Faith tells her she'll be okay, as it isn't a deep bite.
Nadira lines up to stake their wayward vamp for breaking the rules, but Faith surprises her by grabbing her wrist before the down-stroke.
Page 13: Nadira reacts much like Faith would -- with aggressive annoyance at being interrupted. But Faith points out our vampire's lack of bumpy face and fang action. Nadira realizes that the guy isn't a vampire at all.
Well, Vamp!Wannabe insists that he is, blathering on about how a mysterious 'She' wouldn't sire him, so he just sired himself instead and is now a Creature of the Night. He offers to sire the girls if they'll be nice to him.
Faith orders the cops be called for their nutter and an ambulance to check over their alley victim, as Nadira stands in growing shock as it hits her how close she came to killing a person (she specifically uses "I was almost a murderer"). Her horror is even more profound a moment later, when she realizes what she said in front of Faith, whose history is well known among the Slayers.
Commentary: Let me just say here that I like Nadira's reaction, but I wouldn't call her a murderer, even if she'd accidentally staked the guy. In my mind there is a big difference between 'killing' and 'murdering' involving intent. I am glad though that she's appropriately horrified by her near-fatal error.
Page 14: Faith reflects on her accidental staking of the Deputy Mayor in Sunnydale. She turns attention away from her past and onto the mysterious "She" that our nutso mentioned. Nadira tells Faith about the "it" vampire in the area calling herself 'Mother Superior'. She's been wanting to hunt her down for awhile, apparently, but Daphne points out that there isn't any evidence of whoever-she-is breaking the no-kill/no-sire code to give them cause.
Nadira complains about their current state of being vampire Slayers, but being unable to vampire slay and mentions the law's view, which Faith points out again is still in a grey zone. But the more pressing issue is one that Harmony raised last issue -- the Slayers start staking wildly, and the vampires on board with playing nice suddenly stop. They'll start a war and since they've just come off of one of those -- not a great idea.
She tells the other two that she's going to do some digging and see if she can find any reason to stop ignoring this "Mother Superior" vampire and takes off.
Commentary: I want to address the public-vampire thing here, because during my BTVS: S8 reviews I mentioned how worried I was that they were going to completely ignore the can o' worms that was opened by it. I think they've been doing alright in this regard, and I've stopped worrying about it so much.
Sure, I think there would be more societal effects than what we've actually seen, but they're not just sweeping this huge thing under the run either and as long as we're focusing on the 'small story' with our character's POV's, I can overlook that we're not seeing much of the grand effects of such a revelation.
I think maybe I just don't trust that they'd do a convincing job of trying to deal with the world picture so I'm comfortable that its being acknowledged, but not focused on.
I also want to address Faith's recollection here, because it feels off to me. Not that she wouldn't immediately reference Allan Finch in her memories, but that she'd be blabbing about it in front of this bit girl. I'd accept her throwing out a single sentence ("Hey, I've been there myself", would be sufficient), but her second panel continuation just doesn't feel right for this setting.
Page 15: Later in the evening/early morning hours, Faith and Angel are sparring on the roof of Faith's home. Faith turns conversation toward Mother Night. Angel isn't particularly interested because although he's heard of her vaguely, it seems that she's been following the no kill/no turn rules. Faith agrees that she's heard the same thing, but she's also sure that something is off about whatever she's into, and explains the two different not-vamps, but think they are that she's run into.
This does interest Angel, because it sounds like possibly, maybe being related to the Lorophage that can leave behind insanity in its wake. Plus, according to Giles' journal in regards to it, it should have been dormant for the past few decades and if Rupert was right, this would be about the time when it has re-awoken to feed before returning to its decades long slumber.
Page 16: Angel and Faith go to Alasdair's for more information on Lorophagi Demons to see if it could be responsible for the new outcropping of local insanity. He agrees it would be possible, although it would require the demon to have been interrupted in its attack -- they're too instinctual to stop of their own volition. Faith wonders if it could be controlled. Alasdair discounts magical mind control, as the breed is quite resistant to magic -- even if magic weren't an issue in getting ahold of.
This leads Faith to hypnotism, which makes Angel think vampire, which makes Faith think Mother Night and the Lorophage are going to be connected. Alasdair suggests all other pursuits be set aside until after this situation is clarified and dealt with.
Commentary: Faith's attitude is very interesting, here. Clearly she's still very protective of Giles' reputation, as she gets quite snotty when Alasdair besmirches Giles, even only mildly. But also, she walks away with a bit of angry sarcasm when Alasdair even makes a suggestion of a plan of action, in a way that sounds a bit too Watcher-y.
I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, because I'm not sure I'm entirely sold on Alasdair myself.
Page 17: Minutes later, Angel joins Faith out on the rooftops again, and Angel asks about her problem with Alasdair. She blows it off as he talking too much, when they got things to do [which I'm not buying]. While Angel was, presumably smoothing things with their contact, Faith was contacting her London Slayer contigent. She had been having them check up on the recent cases of madness in which there were three cases found - and all of them involve a recent trauma that the victims were trying to deal with and seemed to be handling okay, considering, until this sudden snap.
Faith also reports that the victim's families all stated they were worried about a sudden interest in Mother Superior that struck them as being cult-like. Finally, and best of all, the Slayers have a bead on where she hangs out. It's a deconsecrated church turned nightclub in Highgate.
Faith wonders about the weird of a vampire being at all interested in hanging around a Catholic Church, even on not officially a holy site anymore. Angel gives a look and tells her they should get going.
Commentary: And Angel's look off of Faith's line leads me to think that he knows the vampire in question. The hints are all there in the issue to deduce who is directing the Lorophage, if not why and the focus on the ex-church as a base of operations is really a capper. Despite this, I MISSED IT. ARRRGGGHHH.
Hopefully, you've got who they're foe is turning out to be, however.
Page 18: Faith and Angel - unnecessarily, but with drama points - smash through the club's stainglass window (Crime! Never break stainglass -- it's work of art, man.) where they find minor vampires and groupies partying. They rough up a few of the vamps while demanding to know where Mother Superior is.
Meanwhile, Nadira and Daphne are hanging out in a pub over pints of ale. They're approached by a late-middle-age man looking for them, because of their Slayer status.
Page 19: At the church/nightclub brawl, Angel is getting pissed because being there is reminding him of some of his worst excesses as Angelus, where he assures us that he was especially creative and brutal in killing nuns. He states that some of his worst moments were right here in London (so is that part of why he stays in London -- ol' salt in his wounds for penance?). He
vamp!demands where Mother Superior is located, giving Faith a bit of worried-surprise face.
Over at the White Hart Pub, the man is showing our pair of Slayer pals a picture of he and a young, dark haired girl. He tells them that he's looking for Faith Lehane.
Page 20: At the club, Angel and Faith bust into a back office with Angel telling her it's time to confess. We see a group of her followers surrounding an ornate chair up on a dais.
And wouldn't you know, Mother Superior turns out to be Drusilla!
Angel is utterly speechless (which blows a hole in my interpretation of Angel's consternation earlier -- he's clearly as surprised as I am, so I can only think the look he through on page 17 was actually just him being bothered by returning to a church where he knew he was going to be reliving some bad memories).
But enough of that, we skip back on over to the pub to see Nadira getting up in middle-aged-guy's face with hostile suspicion.
Commentary: The break away in the last panel of these several pages to deal with Faith's mysterious seeker is kinda annoying. I'd much rather have had this confined to the last page as a cutaway from Dru/Angel/Faith than the way it was structured.
Page 21: Drusilla and Angel stare across the divide of the floor at one another.
Meanwhile, at the pub, middle-ager lifts the picture again toward Nadira and tells her that he's looking for Faith because he's her father.
Commentary: I immediately get a flashback to WATCHERS: THE VIRTUAL SERIES, whose reviews I've dropped for no real reason. I should really see if their still online so I can download them to a cd for review again. I especially want to revisit the earliest reviews and totally revamp them. They were early days and those reviews are nearly unreadable to me now.
Page 22: Angel stares at Dru, and remarks that something is different about her. Drusilla is spieling that she's aware of the obviousness in her setting up shop in a church, considering her history, but she waves it aside as nostalgia for she and Angelus.
"The more things change the more they stay the same," she says. "Well. Some things."
The Lorophage is standing at her side and Angel realizes that Dru is sane.
Commentary: This page would be great, if it wasn't for the extreme tilt. WTH??
I'm assuming that this is supposed to be representative of Angel being suddenly thrown completely off-kilter at seeing Drusilla and seeing her sane ... but... uh, this isn't a POV-camera shot. It's offputting, instead of enhancing. If this as an effect they wanted to go for, I'd have smudged out everything except for Drusilla's face, and drawn that with extra detail, suggesting that all Angel can see at that moment was her in hi-def.
The weird tilt in the panel just comes across as excessive, like a director pulling too much attention to themselves - this seems like the artist version.
The Good: No impact on scoring, but a special kudos to the bloody artwork on page 03.
Obviously, any time we can fill in some backstory for Giles' pre-Buffy life, it's a good (with a caveat though).
I like the design of the Lorophage Demon.
I like the complicated feelings that I'm sensing between Alasdair playing a Giles role (inadvertently) and Faith's emotional reactions to recognizing it. I hope we'll see more tense interaction between them.
I love Drusilla, so I'm very happy to see her make her appearance after the Las Vegas gig (IDW's Spike limited). I also love that she's obviously using the Lorophage for her sanity and the problems that is going to create for Angel in deciding how to deal with it and her.
The Bad: That caveat of seeing Giles' history: I'm sorry, but Giles' classmates were supremely stupid and now are dead. Let that be a lesson -- if your classmate gets killed because his stake shattered on impact with the monster you're fighting, it probably wasn't because he had a defective stake. Yours isn't going to be any more effective. That was clumsy writing - they could have at least specified that each student was given a different weapon, or they could have had them realize that they weren't fighing a vampire and tried to make a run for it. The way it played out just made them all look like chumps.
That scene where Faith datadumps to Nadira about her own killing a person and having served time for it is okay --- except for that part where she's doing it all in the open in front of the girl they just saved! Am I the only one who didn't see Faith sharing this heart-to-heart in front of some random people in an alley?
No impact on scoring, but I really hated that severe tilt of the panel art on the last page. Maybe it's because I review so many tv episodes and movies too, but this really struck me as a "look at me, look at me" from the artist, rather than it actually serving a story purpose. Maybe only because the tilt angle is soooooo pronounced? I'm not sure, honestly - it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it really yanked me out of the story immediately.
Other Thoughts: I did think that the line of thought from Mother Superior to the couple of mad people to the presence of a Lorophage to the connection between the three was just a tad hamhanded. It seemed to have occurred with a bit of wild intuition/speculation.
The Score: I really liked the beginning to this arc. The Lorophage is an interesting looking demon, Dru's inclusion is inspired considering the demon we're dealing with, and the look back at Giles' pre-Watcher past is always a good.
3.75 out of 5 stars
--Next Up: Angel & Faith #7