Angel: After the Fall
Plots: Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch
Writing: Brian Lynch
Penciling: Nick Runge
Inking: Shaynne Corbett
Coloring: Jason Jensen
Lettering: Robbie Robbins
Editing: Chris Ryall
Cover (B) by: Alex Garner
Page 01: Having used Illyria's abilities to track down a vampire accumulating power in Hell, Angel, she, the dragon and Nina have arrived on the rooftop of Gunn's HQ. Everyone stands unsure what to do. One of Gunn's vampire crews complains that they weren't supposed to have met Angel, yet, in whatever plan that Gunn is working on, due to visions he has acquired....
Illyria immediately takes another powder, as she is wont to do when she unexpectedly meets someone that Fred cared for. Fred is excited that Gunn is alive.
Page 02: Things spin out of control for Gunn... his vampire lackey's react without orders and open fire on Angel. Angel orders Nina to get Fred out of the immediate area via the dragon. He plans on rescuing Gunn, who at this point, he thinks is being held. Gunn was turned, of course, but Angel hasn't yet figured that part out.
As he leaps from the dragon's back, he has it blast the vampires with a mouthful of fire.
Page 03: On the rooftop now, Angel beheads one vamp, but without his vampire strength, another quickly gets him by the throat. Gunn stakes his own minion in the back (killing his own minions isn't a new thing - Gunn is clearly not in control of his demonic anger).
Angel sees him in fang-mode....
Commentary: I'm glad that Gunn's plot is finally lurching forward, now that Angel and him are coming into direct conflict. I also really like the gruesomeness of the post-dragon blasted vampires.
Page 04: Angel is devastated by Gunn's transformation. The former Angel Investigations member tries to blow it off and being disconcerting, but he tries to act like the Gunn that Angel knew. Despite Angel's better judgement, he accepts Gunn's invitation into his lair to talk things over.
Page 05: Back in the lair, Connor is being questioned by Spike about what Angel said to upset him, but Connor won't share. Also present is Kate, Gwen and one of Spike's Amazons. Connor tells Gwen he's being and baby is going back to help Angel again, but she tells him he isn't at his best when he's pouting. They banter and we become aware that Connor and Gwen have gotten involved with one another -though of course, they can't touch because of her powers.
Nina arrives at the Hyperion and summons the others to join her on the dragon's back to return for Angel.
Page 06: Nina informs the gang that Angel went off after some vampires and needs backup. She further shares that they saw Gunn. Everyone has accepted that Gunn never made it out of that alley, so Spike insists that it must have been an illusion - like The First in disguise, again. But, then he has to have a second thought when Wes appears in the room, and admits that half of the gang have returned from the dead....
Page 07: Spike, Connor and Gwen take off for Angel's location on the dragon's back. Fred tells Nina and Wes that it's wonderful how everyone is coming back. But, Wes points out that the problem is that no one is coming back right.
Meanwhile, Gunn is leading Angel into the apartment complex he calls headquarters. He amiably discussing Angel's confusion and looks to put his mind at ease.
Page 08: Angel is immediately overcome by the smell, but more he's almost sick as he realizes that there are only two ways that an Angel confrontation with a vampiric Gunn can end.
Gunn introduces him to his gang.
Commentary: What I like about he dialog on this page, is that it's very clear that Gunn is trying hard to hide his resentment toward Angel. Angel asks Gunn when he was turned and Gunn replies, "... it was while you were trading up for the dragon."
Page 09: Gunn gives his gang something to do so he can have the chance to talk with Angel, which the others are not happy about. Gunn admits that he thinks his minions hate him. He's also sure that they'd rather he see him dust Angel than talking to him.
Angel apologizes to Gunn for what has happened, and he admits he's angry that Angel left him in that alley. But, he also tells Angel that it wasn't entirely his fault. Someone had been planning on changing Gunn all along - it would have happened eventually, the battle in the alley had just provided a convenient time. He also tells Angel that there are big plans in the works, to which Gunn is critical. He tells him that according to the visions, he's the motivator for how everything in Hell is going to shake out.
Commentary: Again, I like this dialog because the scripter really has a good grip on Gunn's voice, but at the same time you can see the peeks of the vampire voice too that Gunn wants so hard to believe he's controlling. I also really like how Gunn is being drawn, but especially in the last panel.
Page 10: We gets some concrete answers here - the vampire gang had captured one of the demons who received visions from the powers that be. The demon was a thought projector, able to cast illusions of the visions he saw. He showed the gang all sorts of things, and the most interesting starred Gunn.
Page 11: Gunn tells Angel that the gang has seen the entire fight with W & H before it happened. They knew exactly when Gunn would be left alone, weak, wounded and ripe for the turning. But as The Master shared with Buffy - prophecies are tricking things - and so are visions. They didn't show the gang leader that Gunn was going to kill him and assume control of the situation.
Commentary: We really see the dichotomy between what Gunn wants to do and what he's compelled to do by now being a vampire here as well. In a very nice panel, as he is telling Angel that he tried to free the vision-casting prisoner as Angel would have done, we see the past where Gunn was actually the one to literally nail the beast to the wall.
Page 12: Gunn tells Angel he tried to save the vision demon, but it was too late for him. He tells Angel that the creature, dying, passed on his visions to Gunn. He tells Angel he keeps the things body there as a tribute (giving Angel more than enough reason to think vamp!Gunn isn't exactly playing with a full deck).
Commentary: Like with page 11, we get to see flashbacks telling us what actually happened rather than Gunn's version. After nailing the demon to the wall, he vamped out and killed him, absorbing his visions along with his drinking his blood. It was hardly a "gift given".
Page 13: Gunn tells Angel that he's had to take out a few non-essentials in the meantime (and I think Angel is clearly seeing the people slaughtered in Issue #1), but he insists that in the long run, they won't matter. He tells Angel that he has a way to get them out of Hell and save Los Angeles and wants Angel's to join his team.
Commentary: There is particularly good artwork on the prior and this page - but especially strongly drawn is Gunn. I really like Runge's Gunn, and he has managed not to make Angel, Illyria or Connor look hideous this issue, so he's improving there.
Page 14: Gunn admits that at first he was orchestrating Angel's death, but now he's thinking that together they can make things right. Angel is trying to get his attention, but Gunn is off in his own world - he tells Angel that he'll have to follow Gunn this time out.
Angel finally gets his attention and tells him that first they need to get out of there. He further tells him that he'll do whatever he can to help Gunn out, but something in his demeanor and tone sets Gunn off. Gunn rages that Angel isn't buying that Gunn is the destined hero of this particular piece, he goes into an enraged rant that he is the one being tested - that he is the one who is supposed to be the hero....
He starts beating the crap out of Angel.
Page 15: Angel realizes during Gunn's rant that he wants Angel dead, but he also desperately wants Angel's approval as well.
Commentary: I love how Gunn is being handled throughout this 'maxi-series' and the horrible self-delusion that he's under. This really puts the idea of a vampire without a soul or chip or fear of reprisal in persepective. Gunn wants to be the hero he was - he wants to save Los Angeles from Hell, but he can't do so because he can't fight off his most base instincts: his need for control, his violent outbursts, his anger and resentments when things don't go how he planned. All of these drive him now and can't simply be put off to the side for a greater good and the fact he's a demon twists his perspective on everything (see slaughtering the humans he saying he wants to save them, nailing the demon to the wall while claiming to free him, receiving a gift from the demon while violently stealing it....).
Page 16: Getting up off of the floor, where Gunn has left him dazed, Angel tells Gunn that he's being played:
"They would have cut this thing off from the visions the minute he fell into the wrong hands.... I remember what it's like, Gunn. You don't think you've changed. You don't even try to fight it, because you honestly thing for the first time ever, your eyes are open. But the truth is, you're not in control. You've got a front row seat for a demon destroying everything that meant anything to you. And all you can do is watch. You're a big, ugly problem who's fooled himself in thinking he's the solution."
Gunn angrily rushes him, but Angel pulls a sword from inside his long coat and sends it through his side.
Page 17: Gunn, punches him out in return. Hearing the struggle, some of Gunn's men rush the room. Angel gets overwhelmed.
Page 18: After Gunn's men soften him up quite a bit, Gunn sends Angel's sword through his midsection. He lies on the floor grievously injured, but it's about to get worse.
Page 19: Gunn notes that Angel has been using an awful lot of accessories lately, and he doesn't seem as strong and fast as he remembers. He also mentions that he's seen him doing a lot of using W & H's stock of mystic items, something he generally avoided before The Fall. Gunn starts to suspect that things aren't quite as they appear with his old boss and friend.
Utilizing a piece of bling, he strips all of the magic in the room away....
Instantly, all of the glamours hiding Angel's humanity are stripped away. But worse, all of the mystical healing that Angel had been doing are also immediately stripped. All of his injuries all the way back to his jumping off the roof during 'First Night' and smashing himself on the pavement return. His spine shatters, his legs snap and his wounds open up adding to the bleeding from the greivous sword injury.
Gunn stares down at him, shocked.
Commentary: Excellent use of artwork on page 18 and 19 - and though I like this turn of events from a storytelling perspective, I just don't see how Angel couldn't be instantly unconcious from shock and trauma alone. He should literally have minutes, if that, to live and shouldn't be reaching for the sword in his side the way he is.
Page 20: Gunn looks almost sorry to see Angel human. He contemplates feeding on him, maybe even re-turning him. He spitefully tells Angel's still form that he bets Angel wishes he could tell him what to do now, and then admits that he sort of wishes that, too.
Page 21: He decides to let Angel die, but as he slipping away Gunn whispers to him, "I found her first"....
Page 22: On the dragon, Connor and Spike are getting ready to confront Gunn and save Angel, while Gwen is looking pensive.
Page 23: As the three of them dismount the dragon, Connor and Spike note stormclouds gathering overhead. Gwen is crying and Connor asks if she's alright, to which she replies, "No, baby. No, I'm not", and then sends a lightning bolt slamming the dragon out of the sky!
The Good: Most of the artwork is much stronger than it was during the 'First Night' debacle and earlier Runge issues.
The Angel/Gunn confrontation was everything that I wanted to see, including Angel's trying to force Gunn to confront the fact that he isn't Gunn anymore and isn't the hero he thinks he is still being.
I like the partial explanation for Gunn having visions.
The Bad: There are still some minor artwork problems when it comes to Angel's features (pg 3, 8), and there are some serious problems with Wes' face in his only issue appearance (pg 6).
Other Thoughts: I'm going reserve judgement on the twist at the end with Gwen, but I'm going to need some really convincing reason to buy her turning on Connor like this at the last minute....
The Score: I really like much of this issue, storywise, and there is some excellent use of dialog. The artwork is much stronger than it has been lately and Gunn's choices here strike me as making much more sense, rather than being so haphazardly schizophrenic. I am left wondering why Wes was included in the issue at all and I'm not convinced that Gwen's turnabout isn't going to be just to 'shock' the reader, which makes me nervous for next issue's explanation. This is a good read though and it has momentum, a clear direction and the confrontation between Angel and Gunn that has been sitting there waiting since the very first issue.
This is a good one: 3.75 out of 5