Plotted by: Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch
Written by: Brian Lynch
Art by: Franco Urru
Coloring: Fabio Mantovani
Coloring Assist by: Federica Manfredi & Mirco Pierfederici
Color Flats by: 2B Studio
Lettered by: Robbie Robbins
Edited by: Chris Ryall
Cover B by: Franco Urru
Where and When: Los Angeles has been returned from Hell by Wolfram & Hart in order to preserve Angel. There is a Prophecy out there, tied to Angel's future, in which either he turned evil, or Angelus returned will lead the demon overthrow of the human world. When Angel was on the verge of death in order to prevent the Prophecy from playing out, W & H had to time loop everyone back to before Angel suffered such injuries as to make him near death.
The twist is that everyone remembers everything that occurred to them in Hell from slavery through being killed. The world outside of L.A. was unaware of any of this because of a distortion field. It is now one month after the end of the "After the Fall" alternate reality ended.
Page 01: Angel is at the desk of a city clerk trying to find out what happened to W & H. Their L.A. building has disappeared from its lot. Records indicate that there was never a law firm located at the address. Angel insists there was to the clerk, who expresses her belief. She asks whether he suspects demon foul play... and then offers to work the case with him ... or just to go out to dinner sometime.
With everyone remembering L.A.'s trip to the Hellside, they also remember who the Champions were and Angel has received the sort of local fame that he always tried to avoid when running Angel Investigations.
Page 02: Later that night, Angel meets up with Nina to try to find a trace of W & H. It's not all that successful. Everywhere that Angel goes, he draws gawkers. Which is why he tells Nina to enjoy her returned humanity (in Hell-L.A., Nina was stuck in a transitional state 24/7 because of both the sun and moon being up at once).
He explains that due to the attention he's been receiving, he's had to make some changes. He has had to bid good-bye to the dragon, Cordelia. This he sends off to join Groo, who retains his flying stallion - also named Cordelia.
Page 03: Angel and Nina continue to research the changes that have gone on in the city since their return.
Page 04: Nina tells him that, besides W & H's suddenly missing, the only changes seem to be to the people. With everyone's eyes being opened to the supernatural, they look to him as a celebrity now. He tells her that people want to forget what happened and go on with their lives, but there isn't any going back.
We see someone (I think this is Spike's friend, Jeremy - who was killed by Illyria) asking his girlfriend to marry him. We see Gwen withdrawn into herself on a date, but she tells him not to touch her.
Page 05: We see the Demon Lords, who once ruled L.A., resurrected along with everyone else. The Shark-Guy that betrayed them and blew them up in return for some seaside property in Hell-L.A. has been strung up by them. Presumably, he isn't the only one they'll be looking to revenge themselves against.
We also check on Illyria and Spike. She is obviously not handling what she became very well - but at this point we don't know if it is because she reverted to her Warrior-God self while in Hell, or if it is the Fred-persona that has caused her current unhappiness (I'm betting it's the Fred hangover).
Commentary: This is all very interesting developments. I wasn't sure I liked the idea of Angel being 'known' to everybody in the city, but this really keeps the entire "After the Fall" storyline relevant, so I'm happy with it. I like that everyone doesn't just have a vague notion that Angel helped them, but that they actually have to live with the memories of everything that occurred. Of course, this could lead to future story problems - in the same way that the Slayers and vampires being public knowledge creates some story issues for me in BTVS: S8.
Mostly, it just feels like these developments are too big in to be contained in these comic books. The entire world has to change now with these revelations which makes me worried that everytime the story arcs are small and personal, it'll feel silly that we're not seeing the world changed with all of these revelations. What's done is done, though, so we'll have to see how it is handled going forward....
Page 06: Nina and Angel leave the library. The branch name has been changed to the 'Burkle Wyndam-Price Wing'.
Page 07: On his way to his car, Angel thinks of Fred and Wes. His ghost has vanished again, now that L.A. has returned to "normal". Angel expresses hope that they could find each other and be together, but each time that thought leads to his doubt it could happen. According to what they know, Fred should be non-existent and Wes should still be serving W & H.
He feels a warm breeze and thinks it is Cordelia telling him not to be so pessimistic.
Commentary: This was a nicely done sentiment. I like the call back to Cordelia appearing as a warm breeze to let him know he doesn't stand alone. I hated in AtS when they tried to build some sort of romantic tension between these two: it felt bogus and fake, to me. But when they're just deeply caring friends, the two characters clicked - and it's nice that the writers here bring that relationship out, even with Cordelia Chase dead.
Page 08: As Angel tries to get focused back on his investigation, Spike is in an alley. He supposed to be helping Angel with legwork, but actually, he's fighting. Kr'ph, former Lord of Los Angeles and victim to Gunn, the vampire, socks the cigarette out of his mouth. Kr'ph appears to have been hunting down Betta George to re-obtain him. Betta started out as his slave in Hell-Angeles.
Page 09: Kr'ph points out that Betta has mind-powers, so who wouldn't want one? Spike concedes the point, but still drives his sword through the jelly-over-skeleton demon.
At that time, Angel rings up Spike's cell to check in. He tells everyone to hold on a second so he can answer, telling Angel he's just drinking tea and listening to records....
Commentary: I find it really funny that everyone actually stops fighting when Spike says, so that he can answer his phone.... Yeah, it's minor humor, but I liked it.
Page 10: Spike breaks off his fight with Kr'ph, who allows him to leave! He warns Spike that if that was Angel on the phone, he should enjoy his company while he's able. He tells him that Angel's finale is coming near.
In voiceover, Angel expresses that since their return from Hell, they've stopped bickering and become more brother-in-arms. Which is immediately undercut by the fact that they continue to insult each other as much as possible. Angel decides their mutual respect is just well hidden.
Page 11: Angel and Spike continue bantering with Betta George butting in now and again. Spike accepted a free car for his role in saving the city from Hell, but the trunk won't open. Betta tells him he accepted free crap. Angel asks after Connor, but he hasn't been heard from.
Spike tells Angel that W & H isn't there anymore and he should learn to crack a damned smile when he's won.
Page 12: In the trunk of Spike's car is Kr'ph. Spike tells him he'll 'untrunk him' if he repeats the news he shared before to Angel. The demon Lord tells him the other Lords have been resurrected along with all of the dead people and they're looking to vengeance.
Angel already figured that out. He tells him to spread the word his door is always open. But, the demon reports that everyone knows Angel hurts himself more than they could bother, and that they're planning to go after his most vulnerable cared for.
Page 13: Angel guesses the first one on their list to hit will be Gunn, lying in a hospital bed.
Commentary: This is one of the things I regret they did. It doesn't feel fair that Gunn would have made it out of the alley alive. I would have preferred that they had made the decision to save him from being a vampire only to then have him lose his life bleeding out, as 'Not Fade Away' very clearly implied he would. This feels like a cheat to me.
Page 14: With time to kill, Spike brings up what Angel thinks exactly happened with W & H's plans for him. He expresses that it seemed strange to send everyone to Hellsville, if they were so convinced that in the end Angel was going to switch sides for his Shanshu, anyway. He wonders if his future fate is a lot less certain then evil let on and that is why they tried to break him so hard.
Page 15: He also states that the Shanshu could still be about himself, rather than Angel at all. He wonders aloud if maybe future-him requested that a big deal not be made of it and that's why he doesn't get equal time in all of these visions and prophecies.
It sounds like weak logic, but Angel gives him a slight smile and tells him that whatever he ends up doing - whether part of the Prophecy or not - no one will see him coming.
There's a moment of silence between them, before Betta breaks in to amusingly tell them that they each thanked each other in their heads. They both deny, deny, of course.
The threesome arrive in Silverlake - home to Lorne.
Commentary: In the Hellverse, Lorne - not adequately explained - became Lord of Silverlake. He apparently retreated to this suburb of L.A. following his shooting of Lindsey. It is still a sore spot that he ran out on them for Spike.
Page 16: Angel explains that he had Gunn moved there so that Lorne's friends (the women with the colored hair that summoned them for Lorne in Hell) could keep an eye on him. Angel further explains it hasn't been easy to force himself to see Gunn, after everything that happened in L.A.-Hell (including Gunn putting Angel through some physical torture and nearly succeeding in killing him). In the hospital parking lot, Burge and his son have returned, and are ready to get vengeance on Angel.
Burge is pissed that he killed him - he concedes he understands why his son was killed, being as weak as he is. But, he's outraged that Angel blew Burge up.
Angel tries to get him to leave well enough alone, but Burge is adamant that the spell stopping force being used in Silverlake has been broken, so he can hurt the vampire. Angel points out that they can also hurt him.
Page 17: Burge warns that W & H can no longer protect him, the way he was guarded in Hell. Before they can engage in combat, however, Illyria calls down from a rooftop. She's beheaded another demon Lord.
She tells those below that no one will harm Charles Gunn because he meant something to Fred. She warns that if anyone harms Gunn, it will be her in challenged one-on-one combat for his striking her down (Gunn shot 'Fred' in the chest with a crossbow and then tried to use Illyria's wonky time powers in a ritual to "save everyone"). She uses the head on her spearpoint to show what will happen to anyone who thinks of interfering by hurting Gunn first.
Commentary: I'm glad that they're taking Illyria's Fred-persona issues in Hell seriously, here. During 'After the Fall'-verse, I didn't like the way Fred's returning was handled at all because it felt random. Not random in a good way either, but random as in 'convenient for the writer to push Illyria out of the way when her strength/invulnerability interfered with the story progression, but brought back every time they needed it again' deus ex machina way. It had the effect of making her story irritating and ill-used instead of interesting through too many of those arc issues. They look like they're going to handle the aftermath, without Fred's physical form returning, much better here.
Page 18: With Illyria dashing off, Spike shares that things are very confusing and he's not much ready to deal with Illyria's presence right now. He takes off, too with Betta George, leaving Angel to deal with both Gunn, and his visitor, Lorne - who is peeking out of the blinds.
Commentary: This is the only follow up we've ever gotten to the wild, deep kiss that Illyria laid out on Spike in "After the Fall". We don't even know just how intimate they got, because the entire plot point was dropped without a word in Hell. It was another dangling thread that was ill-used in that series. Maybe this is a hint that somebody remembered they broached the topic in the first place and they'll actually deal with it, at least peripherally.
Page 19: In the hospital room, Gunn lies comatose with Lorne watching over him. Angel look down at him and wonders if he's aware of anything - if he's thinking about what he did in the other timeline. He says aloud, "It wasn't you".
Commentary: I want to point out the only bad part of the artwork for the issue - Lorne is too dark green, but otherwise, I've enjoyed all of the art in the issue.
Page 20: Angel continues to Gunn, as he holds his hand briefly, that he knows what mistakes are about. He tells him that all that matters is how they're dealt with afterward. He leaves his calling card for him and then says to "take care of yourself". One might think he's speaking to Lorne, too, at this point, but he makes no direct reference to the other demon in the room.
Page 21: As Angel leaves, he's thinking about Gunn. He hopes that when he awakens he'll allow Angel to help him atone. After all, he's had a lot of practice with that.
Page 22: Angel head down the block, walking: "My name is Angel. I've done very bad things. I've been told I'm destined to do worse. But for now, I'm here to help."
The Good: I like the fact that everyone remembers everything that happened in Hell because it keeps the entire 'After the Fall' arc from being pointless with a reset button ending.
I like that Illyria is still dealing with Fred's appearances, when she was time-shifting in Hell.
I really like the tension that remains with Lorne, clear by the fact that Angel never directly addressed him. And this time, it isn't about 'After the Fall', but about his skipping out on the battle in the alley after shooting Lindsey.
I like how this is affecting Gwen, who betrayed Connor on Gunn's behalf because she wanted her electrical chip back (which seems to have worked) but now feels horrible.
The Bad: Just that minor coloring issue, where Lorne is too dark green. Nothing storywise or dialogue wise was badly done.
Other Thoughts: I remain concerned about future stories with everyone already knowing what is going on. The fact that everything is out now should have profound effects on civilization, and I'm worried that it will all be brushed aside when it is inconvenient. This is too big a deal for it not to be dealt with head on. My other problem is Gunn's survival - I just don't buy that. I also don't like that Connor didn't appear in the issue and that Angel is talking like he's made himself scarce. This seems minorly inconsistent with the heartfelt reunion they had as Angel discovered he was returned to life. Groo has never looked right, and that also continues, but I've learned to just accept it - especially since he doesn't appear set to be a regular character in the book. I still think that a telepathic, floating fish was a dumb idea, but at least I like his attitude and personality. I just hope that his telepathic abilities aren't used as a constant crutch for the writers to shorthand developments....
Overall, I'm far more interested in Angel's title post 'After the Fall' then I was during their extended time in Hell. I think the writing is stronger and more focused now. I also appreciate that dangling threads are at least being mentioned, including the Spike/Illyria and Spike/Spider relationships.
The Score: It's not a bad follow up to everything that happened in the Hell-timeline. I think maybe a bit too much time is being spent on W & H mentioning, since no one is learning anything of value, but with them dominating Angel the Series, it's also understandable that Angel would still be so focused on their fate. I like the shoutouts to Wes and Cordelia too, without necessarily twisting things up to get them into the comic on an ongoing basis, which just wouldn't make sense. Yeah, they did a decent job.
3.75 out of 5