Angel: After the Fall
Getting back to the storyline from issue 5....
Plotted by: Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch
Scripted by: Brian Lynch, Penciled by: Nick Runge, Inked by: Shayne Corbett (except page 2 - done by: Nick Runge)
Colored by: Art Lyon, Lettered by: Neil Uyetake, Edited by: Chris Ryall
Cover B by: Alex Garner
Commentary: I believe the cover is supposed to be Illyria over Fred - great job on Illyria, horrible job on Fred....
Where We Were: Angel stood up to Wolfram and Hart. Wesley died. Los Angeles went to hell. Gunn was turned into a vampire, and Angel is no longer a vampire. Connor has teamed up with Gwen (a mutant with the ability to channel electricity) and Angel's former girlfriend and current werewolf, Nina. They're working to save humans from the evil demons ("Lords") that have conquered and divided Los Angeles.
Gunn stole a powerful trinket, killed a Lord, and stole his telepathic fish.
Angel befriended an overprotective dragon and Wesley is back, but now he's a ghost, bound by his contract to Wolfram & Hart. Both are still trying to help the citizens of Los Angeles. This led Angel to killing the son of a Lord, which led to the Lord wanting Angel's head, which led to Angel challenging the Lords to a battle to the death for control of Los Angeles.
Lorne and Groo, who turned the Silverlake section of Los Angeles into the one safe place in hell, rallied the troops to come to Angel's aid.
Spike is with Illyria, and was with Spider and company, a group of ladies that encouraged Spike to kill Angel. But instead, Spike and Illyria decided to help Angel.
Spike didn't know Wesley was back. Neither did Illyria. Upon seeing Wesley, she turned into Fred.
Commentary: This is a pretty good description of issues 1-5, before the 'First Night' three issue arc interrupted the story. Spider is a woman who has spiderlegs which spring from her spine. She was featured in Spike: After the Fall. The Illyria to Fred situation was also introduced in Spike: After the Fall, as well as Illyria once again accessing her time-jumping powers randomly, which we haven't seen in the story proper as yet.
Page 01: 'Fred' stands before three of the demon Champions, confused and vulnerable. Wesley 'pops up' in between her and the demons and put his hand into a flame-wreathed warrior and threatens to crush its heart if it moves any closer.
The demon says, "You... can't do that."
I get the impression its not actually sure.
Commentary: As we know however, Wes can't affect matter directly. While Dennis the Ghost could move objects, we haven't seen Wesley display this ability. And also, Fred is drawn like shit on the second panel.
Page 02: A full page spread, which is well drawn. Wes says, "Got me there", confirming my comment above. But, the important thing is he bought the extra seconds needed for Angel and Spike to get in there. Angel gives fire guy a quick left while Spike has wrestled She-Skip to the ground with an arm twist.
In the background, the T-Rex is closing on Angel's back while a shadow-guy is swooping in toward 'Fred'....
Commentary: I'm not wild about Nick's sketchy-like artwork, but it doesn't look bad when it comes to Angel and Spike. Wes is in the background, so it works, but he could look better.
Page 03: Angel is looking at his hand, mentioning he might have broken it (now that he's human, hitting things is a lot harder on his hands - he doesn't mention that it should be blistering after punching fire guy). Spike yells at 'Fred' to get back, but she's too busy wondering what is happening to stay out of the way.
Spike kicks She-Skip in the face. Shadow guy (who's hands have sharp claws and who's body can form spiked tendrils) slashes at Fred, Angel pushes her down to keep her from getting impaled.
The action there is interrupted by Groo and his sword, which he sends through the middle of Shadow-guy. In the meanwhile, Angel is able to ask Spike about the sudden appearance of Fred. Spike tells him if he'd known that Wes was back, he'd have kept her away....
Commentary: And they can have the quick convo, because Dinosaur-Guy has vanished into thin air suddenly - bad continuity. Wes in the background of panel two is horrible and 'Fred' still looks nothing like Fred. Groo also looks phenomenally bad.
Page 04: The T-Rex is suddenly back after vanishing from Page 03 - Angel swings his flaming sword at it, while the Dragon swoops in.
Overlooking this battle is Gunn and his three vampire minions. One of them, Vic, tells Gunn that Angel's team is going to die without Illyria.
Gunn basically says that he hates the situation with Angel, but he's overlooking it as they work toward a common goal (to get out of Hell), but hates even more that Vic is doubting his assertions that Angel is going to make it....
Page 05: Gunn admits he was surprised that the gang got back together... he didn't see that one coming, but insists they're making it out alive and stakes Vic for doubting his word.
In the meanwhile, Bruge (whose son's death at Angel's hand caused all of this warfare) is angered. Angel was supposed to fight against Hell's champions alone, so since he has changed the rules, Bruge decides they shall too. He orders the spectator demons and the remaining Champions to kill the human spectators that were gathered to see Angel's defeat.
Page 06: Angel confronts the Lords, demeaning them for not first fighting for themselves and then for sending the Champions to slaughter weaker people when they can't fight the battle well enough to take him and his friends out. In the meanwhile, Spike is suggesting that the rest of them should get away from Angel before they're all blasted to kingdom come.
Angel calles them "D-Listers"....
In the meantime, Gunn says 'new plan... kill Angel before Angel's killed', which I don't understand in the least. Gunn's actions remain confused throughout this series and I can't decide if it's the vampire thing - or just bad writing.
Commentary: Time for Angel to look like crap....
Page 07: The Lords take Angel's bait, with Shark Guy telling the others that they'll show him what they can do with their power staffs. Gunn mentions that one of those is what they wanted to steal from W&H when he raided the offices before blowing the building up. He seems to know what Angel has planned....
Meanwhile, Spike is telling Connor what they're for... killing immortals, which upsets Connor as he thinks Angel is trying some sort of suicide run at these heavily weaponed Lords. He doesn't know that the rods are useless against Angel currently because of his mortality.
Page 08: While Connor is busy telling at Angel that he has gotten his memories back and he knows what Angel tried to do for them all. He yells at him for forgetting that people still need his help. Plus, he has a lot he wants to talk about with him, since he's his father and everything.
In the meanwhile, we get a panel dedicated to Shark-guy dropping the Power Staff for some reason (which will become clear in a few pages).
Commentary: Connor still looks relatively badly drawn, except for the last panel. All of the artists of 'After the Fall' seem to have trouble with drawing him....
Page 09: Angel points to the floating chunk of rock the Lords currently are standing on and says, "Bippity Boppity and, Boo" and the Lords are blown sky high and to pieces.
Angel is hailed as the conquering hero.
Connor mentions that Spike said the staves killed immortals, which the demons weren't, but Angel reminds Connor that "Uncle Spike" says lots of things....
Commentary: I'll admit to being confused as to what was going on here, but it's explained next page....
Also, *Sigh* Angel, Wes and Connor - all looking badly. Obviously, Nick Runge is simply not for me.
Page 10: Angel explains what just happened to the Lords... the Rod was actually a sceptor designed as a suicide weapon to be used when a Hell Lord was in imminent danger of getting themselves defeated, so they could go out in a blaze of glory and pride. Since Angel didn't know that the others would be joining the fight, and since he obviously couldn't defeat them single handedly, Angel and Wes targeted one Lord's ego to betray his fellows by activating the sceptor - Shark-guy, who mysteriously dropped his scepter on page 08....
Of course, they're not out of the woods, yet. The city itself seems to be angered and tentacles reach up from the street to grab at anything they can wrap around... good bye, She-Skip.
Commentary: Gwen has a clever line here that quotes Storm from the first X-Men movie: "Do you know what happens to a Champion that gets struck by lightning?! The same thing that--"; she's cut off by the tentacles breaking through the street to grab up the female Skip.
Page 11: As the city starts going slightly crazy for reasons unknown... Angel provides three possibilities... (1) The Lords were keeping the Hell forces at bay, so Angel could be killed without interference, (2) Hell has had enough of everyone (3) W&H could be pissed off... the regular humans are again at risk of being slaughtered.
Spike calls for reinforcements and they show up as his trained women army (recruited in Spike: After the Fall).
Commentary: Nick Runge may have trouble drawing a consistent Angel, Wes and Connor, but he does a good job with Spike throughout....
Page 12: Spike gives an abbreviated history of Spider as the women rush in to fight.
Page 13: Spike and Angel do more talking about the she-army, while Gunn decides it's time to withdraw.
Page 14: One of Gunn's vampire minions complains that the AI team and allies were formidable on their own, now that they're together....
But, Gunn says that they had to be for him to do what he needs to do....
Commentary: Remember a few pages back when he was going to kill Angel himself in order to save him from being killed by the Lords and now he wants him to live and join up with the others....
Confused, much? I don't know what the hell Gunn's plan is, but I wish they'd stop playing coy about it.
Page 15: Angel's newly reunited team fights Hell's forces, but are outnumbered worse than they were in the alley. They have to make a tactical retreat, taking as many people with them as can escape....
Commentary: And, remember how the Illyria/Fred thing was a big deal because of her vulnerability... well, she hasn't been seen since page 5... sigh.
Page 16: Lorne steps up to lead the survivors as the only 'official' Lord left, now that Shark-guy stepped down. We find out here that his price for betraying Bruge and the other Lords was not being gutted and a block of waterside property. People ask why Angel isn't leading him, but Lorne tells them that isn't his thing - he's returned to fighting the bigger fight....
Page 17: In the meanwhile, Angel has picked out a new HQ and invites Connor and Gwen to join him. Connor jokes about moving back in with the old man making him pathetic... Angel manages to hide his new condition from the others still.
Page 18: The place Angel has chosen is the Hyperion....
Spike complains about Angel allowing Wes and 'Fred' to go off through town on their own - but Connor points out that one of them is Illyria and the other is immaterial. There wasn't much they could do to stop them....
Wes has led 'Fred' to... someplace... and she sees that his body has been laid out. She doesn't understand what has happened. Being reminded that she should know what happened because she was there when he was killed, she reverts back to Illyria, again.
Commentary: Yea, Fred/Illyria finally returns after disappearing for half the issue..., and she looks ghastly (which I'm sure she isn't supposed to).
Page 19: Wes explains to Illyria that he had Angel retrieve his body in order to have it on hand for any ritual that may get him free of his contract with W&H. He tells her that he tried to contact an old friend for advice from the Powers on how to get out of his enslavement. Though coy, he is more than obviously speaking of trying to contact Cordelia Chase.
Page 20: Wes reports that he never got to speak to Cordy, but he believes she sent him a sign in the guise of a cool breeze that he could feel through his immateriality and the fact only the most aethetically pleasing leaves were lifted to the air.
It was only a brief moment before the breeze was gone and the leaves burst into flames.
Page 21: Wes informs Illyria that he stopped trying to leave Hell after that. Cordy couldn't do more than a 'parlor trick' in this place and he realized if he did succeed somehow, Angel would be alone in the middle of it.
Illyria points out he is alone - he doesn't trust Wes, and shouldn't. Further, Wes' real desire is not to help Angel, really, it is to be with Fred. He agrees he would very much like to be with her. She tells him that Fred is there within her, even though, as Wes points out, there shouldn't be any part of her still existing.
Illyria calls them all pathetic for trying to protect her to protect Fred.
Commentary: I like the Wes storyline more than I like the rest of 'After the Fall', but I have to point out that Illyria is wrong. Angel was alone, but now he isn't. Plus, there is an error on Wes' corpse. In the panel, it looks very much like he has a gunshot wound to the upper torso, which is wrong - he was stabbed in the side by a dagger.
I like how when Illyria is talking about what happens when she sees faces Fred loved, we see Wes without his glasses and with his scruffy face before switching back to Illyria seeing Wes in his glasses and suit that W&H dressed him in.
Page 22: Wes complains that he is making her vulnerable and should leave, but Illyria strongly objects. She insists, in her own unique way, that he cannot leave her side again (she tells him he doesn't get to tell her what will be, in her god-like way). She picks up Wes' body and tells him that he is staying with her....
The Good: The clever way they got Angel out of his fight with the Lords, a fight he couldn't possibly win realistically, was a good call.
I'm glad they didn't completely forget about Spike's army of women warriors.
I like the Wes/Illyria scenes, I think they were the strongest part of this chapter in the story.
I like how Angel was able to keep his mortality from the others, without cheating in the story (unlike when he took a hit from Illyria which should have shattered his face in a prior issue).
The Bad: Artwork. I didn't like it for much of it, specifically, the faces we're familiar with.
I don't buy for a second that Spike would let 'Fred' go off with Wes, alone and unprotected. That's IITS syndrome (It's In The Script - a case of something happening because the writers want it to, and not for a logical, sensible reason).
Other Thoughts: They really need to get a handle on Gunn's motivations and let us in on his plan. Right now, he's just acting schizophrenic and the bigger plot doesn't seem to be progressing any.
The Score: It's okay. Though I've complained a lot about the artwork, the plot and characters have more influence on the score and that is relatively good. I do wish we'd get more movement on Gunn's ultimate goals, but at least we wrap up the Lords of L.A. arc. Wes' tale remains interesting and I like the ending pages of him interacting with Illyria - but the way they come about being alone to talk is contrived.
I want to give this one a 3.0, but when I think about the problems in the issue, I think I have to lower it to 2.75 out of 5.0 - this comic needs improvement in both artwork and more importantly to me, in giving us more in terms of knowing what Gunn is up to - stop dragging this out.