Angel: After the Fall
(a.k.a. Angel, Season 6)
Plot: Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch, Written: Brian Lynch, Art: Stephen Mooney (pgs 1-19 & 22) & Nick Runge (pgs 20 & 21), Colors: Art Lyon, Letters: Robbie Robbins, Editing: Chris Ryall
Cover By: Alex Garner
Page 01: At the end of last issue, Connor along with Spike and Gwen rushed over to Gunn's pad to rescue Angel. Alas, upon arriving, for reasons yet unknown Gwen has turned on our gang, using her electricity manipulating mutation to strike down the dragon.
Connor is devastated by the sudden betrayal. Spike snarkily welcomes into the club of men. Gwen obviously feels horrible that things have happened in this way since Gunn had apprarently told her sometime beforehand it wouldn't come to this. It appears that Gunn shared his vision for how to return L.A. to normal sometime before she met up with Connor and was on a mission to infiltrate Angel's group to undermine them on Gunn's behalf.
Now, the plan has gone pear shaped because Angel found Gunn before anyone forsaw.
Page 02: Gwen here tells Connor that the point of this whole thing is to return to the real world, where her device will allow her to touch people again (including him, is the inference), but things need to play out according to Gunn's visions for that to happen. Spike accuses her of lying and tells Connor he should grab his favorite sharp weapon, as he rushes Gwen to behead her.
She tells Spike to shut up, and blasts him away with her lightning.
Gwen tells Connor she loves him, but she can't let him near Gunn. She asks that he not make her blast him. He responds not to make him give Cordelia permission to eat her.
Commentary: This is a pretty awesome page, art wise. I felt the need to give that, because I'm about to slam the artwork - again - in a few pages.
Page 03: Behind her, we see a steaming dragon... literally steaming, but also steaming mad and ready to give her a face full of flames.
Angel is looking hale and hardy, even though we saw him literally at death's door last issue. He's talking to someone, which quickly turns out to be Cordelia Chase.
Page 04: Cordelia is sitting on a couch in an otherwise empty room. She tells Angel that he's never had a boring tale to tell and she wouldn't have it any other way.
Commentary: At first, I was ready to rant about the drawing of Cordelia here, but the more I look at her, the more I like it. I'm not particularly fond of how she's dressed, but Mooney's interpretation of her has grown on me.
Page 05: Angel has a lot of questions for Cordelia, which she answers for him. But she also points out that he's in a bit of a jam... lying on the floor and bleeding to death and all.
Page 06: As Angel and Cordy watch, Gunn drags Angel over to the wall to prop him up against it. Angel complains that he doesn't really want to get up, anyway. He tells Cordelia that Gunn has a right to feel angry, even if he's not expressing it in a healthy way (understatement!). He tells her that everyone who believes in him, including her, ends up coming to a bad end.
He tells her further that he isn't giving up, but... at this point, Cordy who has been trying to interrupt his self-sorry tirade tells him that is exactly what she's there to tell him. He surprises him by (1) being able to touch him and (2) telling him to give up.
Page 07: As Gunn is trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Angel isn't a vampire as he's supposed to be in his visions at the end, Angel is confronting Cordy as a fake.
She tells him that she knows he has already come up with three explanations for himself as to why she's there, now: (1) She's an hallucination caused by his shock, trauma and approaching death. (2) She's super-evil W & H delusion trying to twist the knife a little before he gives up the ghost. (3) She's actually Cordelia who somehow has managed to do what she previously couldn't, which is to visit Hell to bring him some comfort.
She tells him that it doesn't matter which one he believes. It's all leading to the same thing: this is the moment of his death, and this time it's sticking.
Commentary: While I think this would be a terrific end to Angel's story, having him go off into the light and working from there to save his son, his friends and the city - I don't see that happening. The only question is how will Angel end up surviving this, so he can go on with the fight - and I'm wondering if Gunn is going to turn him... that would allow his 'vision' to proceed, as it is clear that Angel is supposed to fight Gunn to the death as a vampire according to what he's seen....
But, having said all that, I really like the scenes with Angel and 'Cordelia' here, and I'm really hoping it is her.
Page 08: As Angel and Cordelia are having their conversation about his dying for good, blocks away at the Hyperion, 'Fred' is frantically looking in tomes for a reason that Gunn is back when he should be lying dead in an alley. Because Fred used to research things that confused her, Illyria is now doing it as Fred, but of course, she doesn't really have those skills.
In the meanwhile, Wes is having Nina try to contact Lorne over a cellphone in order to mount a backup for Connor's team. As Nina worries over not being able to reach anyone though, Wes starts to do a fade out.
Page 09: Wes' sudden disappearance has Illyria revert back to her true persona, and she's pissed off with his abrupt absence. She demands that Nina bring Wes back, but of course, she can't.
Commentary: And, here is where I complain about the artwork. I hate the way Illyria is drawn over the next few pages. It's awful. And, how in the world did editing not catch the fact that Nina's outfit changes for one panel right in the middle of the page?! And, how about the changing wall behind Illyria between panels along the entire page??
JEEZ, SLOPPY MUCH? This makes me angry, looking at it.
Page 10: Illyria roughs up Nina a bit as she tries to sympathize with the way people she misses keeps popping up and disappearing from her life (in obvious reference to the extremely short relationship between Angel and her). Illyria tells her that she understands her rejection because she's inferior, but she expects a certain amount of order and this constant coming and going of those she knows is unacceptable to her Demon King royal self.
Commentary: I hate whiney and boring non-werewolf Nina. No wonder her and Angel never went anywhere. I love Illyria's dialog at her.
Page 11: Illyria busts out through the wall and walks off to where she sees Cordelia the Dragon hovering off in the distance.
Commentary: I like the streaks of lightning from Gwen that we see, too, but also check out the bottom panel. On the right side is a billboard with "Coming Soon!" It depicts a nun praying, and she has swords buried in her back to the hilts... I found that amusing.
Page 12: Over at Gunn's, Wes makes his fade in. He and Gunn greet each other, and Wes notes Angel's current condition and rushes to this side.
Page 13: Gunn complains that it's always about Angel. Wes didn't even say he was sorry to see he was a vamp or asked him how he's been since being sent to Hell. Cordy tells Angel she feels sorry for Wes and he tells her he knows. Wesley feels so useless being immaterial, but Cordy tells him she was talking about his being relegated back to the Men's Warehouse wardrobe.
Commentary: Okay, that was funny.
Wes yells at W & H for bringing him there if he isn't allowed to help, but then yells out in pain.
Page 14: Wes levitates and starts glowing brightly, as a disembodied voice tells him they're sending him a confidential inter-office memo regarding why he's there to stop Gunn from killing mortal Angel. In the meanwhile, Cordy and Angel-spirit are confused as to exactly what Wesley is up to, even being there.
Wes tells Gunn that W & H never filed the signed Shanshu paperwork that Angel signed.
Page 15: Angel is shocked by the revelation that there was a Shanshu Prophecy involved in any of this because he really had taken to believing it was Spike's destiny. That was why he signed it away in the first place, because he didn't believe he 'owned' it, anyway....
Commentary: At least, this is what I'm reading into it. This whole thing is so vague, I have to do a lot of reading between the lines.
Wesley, having received the download from his masters, tells Gunn that he's seen things all wrong. He believed that Angel and he were to fight for control at the apocalypse and that Gunn would then defeat Angel and thereby save all of humanity from his bumbling attempts to save it that only manage to make things worse for all involved.
Page 16: Gunn is convinced that everything happening is about him, while Wes now tells him that it was never about him. It was always about Angel, still, and his "visions" were just a part of his being a pawn to bring Angel to pain, to break his spirit. All so they could finally have him in their grip.
Page 17: Angel still doesn't believe this was all about enslaving him when they already have him under contract - but Cordelia senses there is something going on here that she's not grasping and tells him to be quiet so she can listen.
Wes tells Gunn that everything that has happened so far has been a set up. They couldn't control all of the details (like Gunn having brought Angel to the brink of death), but the endgame was always the same, to use his friends and associates to slowly drive him away from the powers that be and toward doing what W & H wants.
Commentary: I like that we're finally, after far too long of spinning our wheels, get some inkling of W & H's plan. I also like Wes' revelations here that they all thought they were in their own personal hells, but in actuality, this was about Angel's version of Hell - it was his despair that they were interested in. The rest of them and their trials and tribulations weren't important, except in relation to Angel's feelings about it. But, this is issue #12 and we're just now getting some sort of semblance that this is more than just a series of happenings and that is taking too long to get to a narrative point. Gunn's role in this still remains highly confused, but thankfully that is about to be cleared up too....
Page 18: Wesley reveals here that Gunn was always meant to be a vampire, not to destroy Angel physically, but to destroy him emotionally and spirtually when he had to dust him. His "visions" gave him only enough information to force him to be a large enough threat that Angel couldn't allow him to go on existing out of sympathy for who he used to be and their relationship to one another. In order to help drive Angel over the edge, killing Gunn was all part of W & H's goals for Angel.
It gets even more heartbreaking though, as the visions also led Gunn to believe that the 'vampire with a soul' was actually him! This whole time, Gunn believed that he has had his human soul still, despite being a vampire (and doing some heinous stuff, proving to us that he hasn't been in the same vein as Angel at all).
To Wes' objections, Gunn grabs up Angel's sword from his near death body to cut off his head and prove that the Shanshu Prophecy was about him - his reward for stopping Angel and saving everyone in L.A. from Hell.
Commentary: Again, a lot of this is my interpretation by reading between the lines of the actual dialog and writing....
Page 19: Wesley reports to Gunn that his interpretation of the visions is now causing W & H some consternation, as he is taking things much too far now. Angel is stunned by these revelations and insists to Cordelia that he can't leave with her, yet.
Commentary: I'll not even pretend to understand Angel's view here. He knows that according to the prophecy, he'll play a major role in the Apocalypse (which one would not be an unreasonable question) and he knows that W & H wants to break him, to force him to switch sides. He knows he'll become human as a reward for his trouble in the endtime to come and this will, allegedly, be his reward for his part in this apocalyptic war.
He knows now that the Senior Partners deliberately brought Angel to Hell in order to cut him off from the powers of Good (something that both Cordy and Wes have mentioned by now) so they can't interfere in this destiny they have in mind for him. So... why wouldn't he immediately choose to die, go with Cordelia and undercut all of W & H's scheming as well as the contract he's under to them (presumably, the Powers that Be didn't send Cordy there to retrieve him, just to turn him back over to W & H)? Why risk the coming apocalypse at all by staying and continuing the fight, one which by all accounts W & H are continuing to manipulate events to push him onto the wrong side, when he could put the whole thing to a stop right now by truly giving up the Shanshu Prophecy, his role in the upcoming battle and lay waste all of the games being played by both sides right now?
It makes zero sense to me, especially since he tells Cordy here he can't leave because things aren't over and he's needed - which wouldn't be true if he'd stop fighting right now and refuse to play any longer....
I just don't understand what the writers are getting at here.
But, in addition to clearing things up for Gunn (if not necessarily us completely), he also has one last message to share with Angel. It is for Angel's eyes only, and to him is revealed his actual, foretold role in the coming battle - it has already been written, witnessed and is inevitable....
Page 20/21: Angelus will lead evil's army in the End Days, and humanity will lie slaughtered at his feet as the world burns....
Commentary: Again, I question the logic here. This time it's from W & H's viewpoint: If they need Angel to not die off so he'll be around to fulfill this prophecy, why would they now have Wesley share this 'fact' with him, when he's hovering at death (and realistically should already be good and dead by now)? How does that make him keep fighting for life, something he was fully prepared to do for reasons that are already completely non-sensical in his own viewpoint?
I really don't understand any of this - but beautiful two page panel, anyway. I'd love this as a poster.
Page 22: Well, W & H's brilliant plan of driving Angel to turn evil and join them by revealing his destiny has the exact cause that one could guess. He tells Cordelia he's ready to go with her, doing exactly what I said he should be doing - undercutting the entire prophecy by dying off so he won't be around to play any role one way or another....
The Good: Gwen's turning on Connor and the others in her desperate hope she'll be returned to allowing her to touch others.
Cordelia's dialog as Angel lies bleeding out to an astonished Gunn.
Much of the artwork, especially the close ups of Cordelia's expressions and that gorgeous Angelus two-page spread.
W & H's overarching plan to use Gunn's turning as a way to drive despair into Angel and its emotional impact on Gunn. Gunn's thinking this whole time that he's the Shashu Prophecy recipient is an awful blow, even more painful than his being a vampire in the first place.
The Bad: Read the commentary on logic and common sense regarding both Angel's and W & H's choices... they're just... bad, bad plotting or explaining or both.
The artwork for Illyria is awful. Nina is adding nothing when she's not in her transitional partial werewolf form - she's whiny and dull.
Other Thoughts: I'm quickly growing bored with Illyria/Fred as well. It appears the only reason she's flipping back and forth is for plot convenience - do we need a super strength, near invulnerable deus ex machina here, or do we need Illyria out of our way for the scene to proceed? I really wanted there to be some emotionally interesting scenes surrounding her flipping back and forth, but there isn't. And, her sudden kissing of Spike (Issue #2? Or was that in Spike: After the Fall?) has had zero follow up as well, making that diversion pointless. I'm not at all happy with the apparent lack of a concise vision for how this arc is playing out... it appears to be mostly meandering its way unnecessarily.
The Score: Yeah, I'm feeling pretty grumpy over all with the amount of money I've spent on 'After the Fall' with such gaping plot holes from one issue to the next and especially within this issue, even though we're finally getting some clue as to what exactly the purpose of yanking everyone into Hell was. I'm still involved in Gunn's story and I like that W & H is still so focused on what Angel can do for them in the Apocalypse that everything is still revolving around him. I just wish they didn't stretch this out to so many issues and I'm pissed about the artwork mistakes, the plot holes in the character's reactions and the meandering writing. On the other hand, this issue standing alone gives us some answers and hints to things that we desperately needed to give us a feeling that this isn't the endless series of random events it appears to have been.
I'm going to give issue #12 3.75 out of 5