Angel: Blood and Trenches
# 3 out of 4 issues
Story and Art: John Byrne, Letters: Neil Uyetake, Edited By: Chris Ryall
Cover By: John Byrne with Coloring By: Tom Smith/Scorpion Studios
Where We Are: Angel has traveled to France after reading in a U.S. paper that soldiers in the war effort (WWI) are being found mysteriously drained of blood. He’s discovered that his suspicions are true – there are vampires interfering in the war. He’s met up with a Red Cross volunteer, but has been discovered by Colonel Wyndam-Pryce and barely escaped death by sunlight.
Traveling behind enemy line, he’s discovered that the vampires active against the allies are Crixus (who he’s had contact with as Angelus) and a ‘big bad’ vampire who looks suspiciously like Kakistos. We know the latter because he was hunting down Faith in BTVS: Faith, Hope & Trick – assuming it really is him….
I also have to flash-forward to Issue 4 and mention that the confusing jumps in the time line here are made clear in that issue… I can see that John chose to play with the events and their timing between these two issues and I get the creative challenge he was setting up for himself. I’m just not enamored with the results… but onto this issue….
Page 01: First thing I want to do is mention that this is mostly a flashback issue. The reason I’m mentioning that up front is because at first I was confused as we open the issue in London at night during a heavy rain. We’re looking at a huge building and there’s a word bubble coming from a window of someone confirming they’ve been summoned.
Page 02 & 03: We are in the presence of Colonel Wyndam-Pryce who is getting a briefing from three ministers (maybe that should be Ministers – they’re the government kind, not the religious kind). Anyway, they inform him about the rash of strange deaths that Angel will be reading about in the papers in Issue #1 in America.
A symbol found on the drained bodies reveals the involvement of a cult which had been reported destroyed – the Cult of Antemorh who the Colonel’s father died while destroying at some point in the past.
Page 04: As the Colonel leaves, he’s updating his right hand man and driver, Dowling (a relative of Father Dowling who solves mysteries? Never mind.). Anyway, the rain has stopped and the Germans take this opportunity to begin bombing London using their ‘airships’… i.e. blimps.
Page 05: As our heroes are shepherding civilians to the underground shelters, the Colonel hears a hideous scream. He immediately recognizes it as he has heard it more than once before.
As he rounds a corner into a short alley, he sees a vampire killing a woman.
Page 06: The Colonel is quick to dust the offending vampire….
Page 07: …, but he’s not alone. The Germans are dropping vampires from the blimps… not just bombs. Which neatly answers a question I had re: the Kaiser’s involvement with the vampires on the front lines.
It’s obvious that the Kaiser’s program of using the supernatural in war is the predecessor of Hitler’s doing so during WWII (Angel: Why We Fight).
The Colonel finds himself outnumbered, but is saved by Dowling.
Page 08: The battle continues against the dropped vampires, with one of them retreating as it recognizes that the Colonel and Dowling are well trained to fight them. This may be a sly admission that the Colonel is a member of the Council, but I can’t be sure. He has certainly had plenty of experience fighting the fang-gang before this.
Page 09: The Colonel mentions letting the ‘Home Guard’ know that German vampire-troops have landed in England. I thought that ‘Home Guard’ might be another sly reference to the Council, but it was a real group of volunteer militia that helped defend England during the War.
Anyway, Wyndam-Pryce also takes care of the victim off screen (but it’s apparent he’s going to behead the corpse).
Page 10: Later, aboard ship, the Colonel and Dowling are on their way to France when they spot the U-Boat that Angel hijacked in Issue #1. They take a dingy to investigate the grounded craft.
Page 11: Going aboard the U-Boat, they find the German crew dead from vampire. Angel must have done this in order to survive the trip, but it’s still disturbing to see the mass murder of these soldiers – even though they’re on the wrong side. Part of this is the artwork – John Byrne likes wide-eyed, shocked grimaces frozen in a scream to represent victims of vamps.
Page 12: There are some discussions here about the motives of the (at this point) unknown vampire. Obviously, the Colonel doesn’t believe for a moment that the vampire in question could actually be on the allies’ side.
Page 13: Wyndam-Pryce arrives at the Red Cross station… the one that Angel has already arrived at. We see a replay of both the German tri-plane and the ambulance crash of Angel’s from Issue #1.
Page 14: We see the confrontation between Angel and the soldier who capture him for interrogation from Issue #1 from the distant viewpoint of the Colonel and Dowling (using field glasses).
Page 15: The portion of Issue #1 where Angel is exposed to the dawn’s early light and dives into the frozen river (which will lead to him being taken captive in Issue #2 by Crixus).
Page 16: This page repeats where the soldiers are shooting into the river at Angel and the Colonel deciding it’s time to interrogate Lady D’Ascoyne.
Page 17: Now here, we pick up the story after Page 5 of Issue #2 briefly. A shadowy figure sneaks into Lady D’Ascoyne’s room.
Page 18: It’s Angel.
And, here is where I get back into the mixed time line of the series. In Issue #2, we saw that Angel was taken prisoner by Crixus and was confronting the group of German vampires.
Now, here he is slipping into the Lady’s room after his escape from Wyndam-Pryce which led directly to his being taken prisoner.
With hindsight being 20/20 and having read Issue #4, this does make sense. It’s just confused because of the way the story has been structured.
Okay – Angel tries to explain that he’s on the allies’ side. This is really awkwardly written, I have to say as Angel goes into Angelus’ history unnecessarily.
Anyway, the good Lady rings for assistance when Angel’s back is turned.
Page 19: Wyndam-Pryce and Dowling rushes into the room, and even Lady D’Ascoyne gets into the act by nailing Angel in the back of the head with a bed-heater.
Page 20: Angel is able to kick Wyndam-Pryce off of him just as he’s ready to plunge a stake into his chest.
The Colonel and Dowling are thrown back against a closed door (a closet, maybe). As the Colonel makes a joke at Dowling about his “providing a nice cushion” since he’s a wee bit overweight, blood starts to trickle from Dowling’s mouth.
Poor Dowling gets a vampire claw punched through his back and out his chest.
Page 21: And, here, FINALLY, it is confirmed that this is Kakistos!
We find out that he is the leader of the Cult of Antemorh – and killed Wyndam-Pryce’s father.
The Colonel tries the stake through the heart trick, but as we learned in BTVS, Kakistos is harder to kill than that.
Page 22: Angel tries to intervene, but is knocked out of the window. More vampires close in on him as he lies on the ground.
The most important thing about this scene though, is Angel’s asking how Kakistos was able to get in…
Yes, Kakistos has gotten to Lady D’Ascoyne who invited him in.
The Good: The cover is pretty darned cool, as well as the artwork within.
The story has nice pacing, even though for a large part of it we’re seeing events we already know from Angel’s POV in previous issues.
Dowling’s death was sudden and well handled (though I have to admit, I didn’t see him making it to the end of the series).
The Bad: Before you read Issue #4, this one is just confusing. The way Angel has moved from prisoner to his place and actions in this issue is a sudden, nonsensical shift from where we left off in Issue #2.
I can see it’s a purposeful playing with time and linear storytelling, but I don’t think it was successful if you take this issue on its own.
The Score: I liked this one (even with my confusion), especially Lady D’Ascoyne who I’m sorry to see will not be making it out of this as a friend and ally of Angel’s.
I also like the way Wyndam-Pryce and Dowling are handled, particularly since Dowling came across as witty and warm. His death was sudden and unwelcomed. For those who don’t mind non-linear storytelling, I’m sure this will come across a lot better than it did for me. I’m rather prosaic and like things to occur in a logical order.
So… 4.25 out of 5.0