Angel: After the Fall
Plotted by: Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch, Written by: Brian Lynch, Art by: Stephen Mooney, Colored by: Art Lyon,
Lettered by: Robbie Robbins, Edited by: Chris Ryall
Cover By: Nick Runge
Page 01: We open on Spike, who last issue was blasted by Gwen with her lightning. He was blown off of the building and into a dumpster of garbage. He's wondering why he allowed himself to be talked into helping 'Ol' Johnny Bore' in the first place.
Commentary: Need I even say that I already have a complaint... honestly... why do I continue? Okay, the artwork is good, Spike's dialog is good. It's a matter of position: Spike's. If you look at panel 4, Spike must have blown blocks away from the skyscraper where the battle with Gwen is continuing. That's ridiculous. And worse, there isn't any real reason he needs to be that far away - he could still see the Dragon and Gwen's lightning from a building over, or an alley next to the building... except of course, it gets another super-strength guy out of the way so Connor can confront Gwen without her near-immediate and inconvenient death. Spike also opines here that Connor could easily kill Gwen, even without the dragon - I'd question that assertion. There's no reason that Connor couldn't be stunned by Gwen's electricity, unless Spike knows something that we haven't been told.
Page 02: We're still with Spike. He kicks in a door at the skyscraper. He's met by one of the guard-vamp's of Gunn's.
Commentary: See my 'no reason to have made Spike blasted blocks away' commentary....
Page 03: The henchvamp tells Spike that things are going to be quick and painful as well as boasting that he's survived Slayers. Spike has a great line after he's cut off the vampire's hand and then dusted him through the back... by the vampire's own cut off hand holding a stake!
"I didn't. Yet here we are."
Page 04: Spike responds to a knocking by tearing open some reinforced doors. We see three Slayers that Gunn had been testing his henchvamps with. They immediately take Spike for one of their jailers and attack.
Page 05: In the meanwhile, Cordelia wants to know what Angel saw. He tells her it's something he can avoid if he leaves with her immediately (the vision of he as Angelus leading Hell's Army in the endtimes and slaughtering humanity). She reminds him he doesn't know if that was a real vision or a trick, but he turns it back on her by reminding her that he doesn't know if she's actually Cordelia.
Meanwhile, over at his body, Wes is doing something that we don't see, informing Gunn that W & H want Angel. Gunn comments on a sound and I think it's the racket from the elevator shaft of whatever is happening with Spike and the Slayers - but I'm not sure.
Page 06/07: No - Gunn was hearing what is happening from outside - which explains Wes and his dialog. Anyway, W & H has launched another Army attack - but I don't know to what purpose. I can guess they want to convince Angel that people need him - including his son. W & H has transformed some fighter jets into half-dragons and they're raking the city with bombs. In the meantime, there are standard issue dragons raining fireballs down on the city.
Commentary: This is another nicely done two page spread, artwise.
Page 08: The W & H dragons head right for Connor and Gwen, who have stopped fighting since Hell has turned it up a notch. Cordelia the Dragon tries to defend them, but it quickly ripped apart by the opposing dragons.
Page 09: Gwen tells Connor to get to Angel and Gunn and save his father. She gets all super-electric to grab the flying lizard's attention onto her.
Page 10: The dragons attack Gwen, who dies when she's scooped up into a dragon's mouth. She words that she loves Connor as she's bitten through her abdomen. She releases all of her power in a final blast that blows the dragon who has her into pieces and they both fall to the ground below. The dragons who were also closing in on the rooftop get blasted as well.
Commentary: Okay, so that was a surprising death and already makes this issue feel like something is actually happening. Add this to last issue and I wish these were issues 7 & 8 instead.
Page 11: Connor has seen Gwen fall past the window and grieves as she lies on the street below.
Meanwhile, Spike is fighting with the Slayers he tried to rescue.
Angel's voiceover complains to Cordelia that he has tried so hard to do good, he's failed and everyone else pays the price. He's gotten through the losses by believing it was all building toward something - some good thing.
Page 12: Spike gets staked and dusted!
Angel continues to Cordelia that deep down he believed they'd win - no matter whatever came, even being sent into Hell, they'd be the winners. He doesn't believe that anymore.
Commentary: This monologue sounds a lot like Buffy's lament to Giles that she doesn't have her certainty anymore in 'The Gift'. It's good dialog and the artwork is really good too, so we're not distracted from it by the characters not looking like themselves. I'll also just re-iterate once more (at least until The Good, The Bad, The Score) that all of this should have happened a lot sooner because this is the point of the story. Angel's giving in and giving up, not because of the despair itself (like when he chose to sleep with Darla, expecting to lose his soul) but because it will put an end to W & H's plans for good. Only by 'losing' can he actually win....
Page 13: As Angel assures Cordelia that it's right that he go with her (he's still alive!), Gunn has apparently come to the same conclusion on his own. As Wes continues to do something mysterious to Angel's body (presumably trying to heal it enough for him to survive under W & H's orders), Gunn takes aim at Angel's battered head with a crossbow.
Page 14: Wes throws himself in front of Gunn, but as he tells him - the bolt is going to go right through Wes' ghostly form. Fortunately for W & H and Wesley, if not for the rest of us, Connor has arrived. Gunn is annoyed that Gwen failed, Connor punches him out stating he's pretty sure Gwen is dead.
They start to go at one another - Angel and Cordy are watching and Angel's afraid Connor can't take out Gunn....
Commentary: I'd have to side with Angel here just because Connor, for supposedly being raised fighting for his life constantly, sure gets beat up a lot. I also still feel really sorry over Wes' fate. He must know, having seen the Angelus-vision, that the best thing that could happen for the world right now is for Angel to die. I think that S5 Wesley might have allowed it, too. But S6 Wes has been tied to W & H and can't act against their better wishes when he has direct orders.
Page 15: The brawl between Connor and Gunn continues. Gunn apoligizes to Connor for Gwen getting herself killed, but he points out it was never about Connor or his feelings. He asks facetiously just who Connor is in the scheme of things, anyway. In the meanwhile, Angel is showing some moaning of life, even though he should be really dead by now.
Meanwhile Connor tells Gunn that he's Angel's son and tackles the vampire out of the highrise window....
Commentary: This is an excellent page, too. I've really grown on Mooney's artwork and the writing here is excellent... It is annoying that Angel is still, somehow, hanging on after his very human body suffered such damage....
Page 16: We see a different POV of Connor's sending Gunn out of the window, with a high kick - he's still talking to Gunn in that way that comic characters are able to do more easily than real people: he tells Gunn that he is Gwen's boyfriend and after Gunn goes out the window, tells him:
"I'm also the guy who just did that." Which is awesome.
Connor tells Wes' ghost to get Angel up and about. Wes shares what he showed Angel in the vision and suggests that Connor should let him go. He refuses in no uncertain terms.
Page 17: Connor gives Angel's unconscious self a lecture on not worrying about what he was or what he was going to be. He tells Angel that if he dies here, he'll go on fighting anyway, but he'd much rather have his dad at his side.
This changes Angel's mind; he wants to stay and help Connor fight on. Cordelia grins at him and tells him that she's fading now that he's moving away from the light.
Commentary: I find this mildly annoying. Yes, I knew Angel wasn't going to actually die. But, Cordy just grins happily here that Angel has decided to live and risk fulfilling the end of the word Prophecy because his son asked him to.
She's a 'higher being' now - she states it clearly - you'd think she'd remind him of what he's risking with all serious gravity, and then give him a wry smile when he sticks with his decision to live rather than being giddily happy that he's suddenly not coming with her. I don't object to the direction of Angel's choice, because like I said, we knew he wasn't going to die - but Cord's 180-degree turnaround because Connor wants his pops is just... not convincing, here. Both Angel and Cordelia look great though.
Oh, I don't believe Spike will stay dead either - so that also annoys me a little bit. I'd be seriously pissed if I didn't already know that the events here will have a lasting impact on the characters in Angel: Aftermath and the Gunn/Illyria limited series that I didn't buy.
Page 18: Connor takes charge here, blowing off Wes' assertion that Angel is dying. He tells him that he needs him up and fighting. When Wes asks how he'll make that happen, Spike is there with the three Slayers...
"Ain't that hard. Bringing people back from the great beyond is child's play here in Hotel de Chuck," he says.
Commentary: We don't see here just how exactly this happened or who was around to wish Spike back. But, it also throws doubt on Gwen's death out on the street - just drag her into the building.
Page 19: Outside, on a smashed in car, lies Gunn. He's despondant over 'not winning' and the deck being stacked against him. Illyria arrives.
Page 20: In the distance more of Hell's army is gathering. Gunn tells Illyria that she was supposed to be the key to saving everyone, but he got it so wrong. He's weeping over not being able to save anyone, including himself.
Page 21: Gunn's pain forces Fred back. This pleases Gunn to no end. He grabs up his dropped crossbow and tells her that he was right all along. He has clearly leaped back into the delusion that he matters full stop. He tells her that he knew she'd arrive and show him that things were happening as they should....
Commentary: All because Angel wouldn't just die!
Page 22: He shoots Fred at point blank range into the chest with the crossbow. As Charles leans over her bloody chest, he thanks her - and tells her they need to get to work.
Commentary: This could be interesting - Fred/Illyria as vampire? Could Illyria be infected by a vampire, since technically she is already an infection, herself? Could Fred be changed without it impacting Illyria more than she is already affected by the dual personality-thing?
I'll admit that Gunn's insta-turnaround was as abrupt and Angel's and just as mildly annoying, but it was worth it for the shock of seeing him shoot Fred through the chest.
The Good: Both the writing and the artwork were strong in this one - stronger than it has been in several issues now that we have forward momentum again.
Connor was allowed to really kick some ass - which doesn't happen nearly enough.
I really liked the dialog between Angel and Cordelia.
Gunn's despair was really well done, both dialog and artwork.
The Bad: Spike's insta-resurrection completely blows the shock value of seeing his staked. They couldn't put that off for an issue or two?
Cordelia's reaction to Angel risking the world because his son gives a stirring monologue bugs me. She really should have put up an argument about what he was risking before giving him the grin.
Other Thoughts: Angel and Gunn's immediate changes of view was also mildly annoying - but only mildly. I also can't tell now if Wes was doing anything other than standing by Angel's body, rather than my first thought that he was actually trying to heal him, which may make my observations about his predicament partially moot. I still find his being forced to serve W & H to be a sad fate. I'll also admit to still not being thrilled with how Wes and Connor are drawn, but they don't look unrecognizable.
The Score: Finally, after being so disappointed for so many issues, this one actually crackles with a purpose. The writing is excellent except for those minor things mentioned and the artwork is really good on Cordy, Angel, Illyria and Gunn. I'm happy with this one: 4.25 out of 5....