Angel (the comic/S6)
Written by: Kelley Armstrong, Art by: Dave Ross, Inks by: George Freeman (pp 1-18) & Dave Ross (pp 19-22)
Colors by: Charlie Kirchoff (pp 1-15 & 22) & Lovern Kindzierski (pp 16-21), Lettered by: Robbie Robbins, Edited by: Chris Ryall
Cover 'A' by: Gabriel Rodriguez
First Problem: Note the reproduction on the inside of the cover with Kate in an action-kick. This is from page 06. Look at Kate, and tell me the huge problem with the art, here. I don't know if they were trying to be sly or what - but doesn't it appear she has a tear in her pants in a very inopportune place? WTH.
Page 01: Naked assassin (a well-endowed woman, naturally) has snuck into Angel's room undetected. She has a stake. As she raises it to dust the vampire, he senses her and opens an eye just in time. He swings out at her and punches her away hard enough to send her tumbling across the room.
Page 02: The assassin is highly acrobatic. Angel tries to fight her, but she seems capable of dancing just out of reach.
Page 03: Assassin woman leaps over Angel's lunge. He asks her if her being nude is supposed to distract him, and she jokes that would be terribly unprofessional... and then asks if it's working.
She drops to the bed and lounges on his headboard provocatively. She tells Angel she's been sent to kill him, but would prefer to make some sort of deal, instead.
Commentary: I have complicated feelings about this development. First, I appreciate the wit and humor of the assassin. Second, I do find it unusual, and therefore arresting, that we have a naked woman dashing all over the room. I would hope we're going to get a better explanation than 'just because', but for now, I'll say she certainly has my attention. Third, I don't however enjoy my being interested because the artwork for Kate mentioned in Note above and which I will address in more detail when we reach page 06 makes me feel like this was meant to be less interesting than sexist in hindsight.
Now, women in comic books tend to be treated in a certain 14-year old boy manner. They all seem to have ample breasts, they all seem to wear either skin tight or barely there or some combination of both costuming. It's just a part of the comic-book artwork culture, if I can put it that way. The boys always have eight pack abs, the women are always bosomy. But there is a line where you're crossing from acceptable to tacky and perverse (not to mention blatant in the sexism), in my opinion. It feels like we've crossed that line with this issue, which makes me feel badly about enjoying any of the artwork. I could have accepted the nude, female assassin more easily as something different, and just meant to be fun, if it wasn't for the combined facts of their making sure Angel is in large, loose-fitting shorts and - especially - the drawing of Kate already mentioned. It tips this whole thing too far into sleazy for me.
Last - both panel 2 and 4 create logic issues which really just bugs me. First, panel 2 is physically impossible after we find out the assassin's nature. We find out in a few pages what this is, so I can spoil it here - she is a shape-shifter, specifically able to take the form of a jaguar (it's more complicated than that - but it isn't necessary to spoil what her real story is here). Anyway, unless jaguars can stick like Spiderman, there is no way that she could cling to the underside of the piping on Angel's ceiling the way she does. Panel 4 bugs me because not only is it another cheesecake shot, but does anyone see it at all remotely comfortable for her to balance/lounge on the headboard of Angel's bed that way? I really loathe to be all PC, or to get my undies in a twist over this sort of thing - we've become far too sensitive and touchy in general thanks to Political Correctness, again in my opinion, but this is all adding up to give a mysogenist bent to this issue, undermining the female characters that I don't think was deliberate but makes me uncomfortable, nonetheless.
Page 04: So, the assassin offers Angel an opportunity to stop the assassination attempts against him for the things that happened in 'After the Fall', while at the same time allowing herself to clear an unspecified debt owed to the Lord of Sherman Oaks.
Page 05: We don't get details on this, as we leave Angel and the assassin to check in on Connor and Kate. They mention that the city has been pretty quiet at night in the aftermath of L.A.'s time in Hell, allowing them to hear the screams when things do go wrong. They check out a disturbance, where they find a woman eating a raw rat, surrounded by a mob of people.
Kate claims to be from the "Department of Post-Apocalyptic Cleanup" to clear the crowd, so her and Connor can deal with this situation. They have to chase the mysterious woman into an abandoned building.
Within, they find an additional two men - both of which are huge and built like tanks....
Page 06: Kate and Connor are trying to disable everyone in the room, when suddenly Gwen Raiden steps into panel and electro-shocks one of the brutes. Now, Gwen and Connor used to be an item, while in Hell with her moderating chip disabled. Naturally, despite their intense attraction, they couldn't actually come into physical contact because of Gwen's inability to shut off her power.
Due to this, she betrayed Team Angel for Team Gunn, confident that when Vampire-Charles returned them to L.A., her chip would work again and she and Connor could do some consumating of their relationship. This was a good plan, except that Charles was delusioned about his 'good guy' status. Also, Connor tends to hold a grudge about the whole betrayal thing - even though Gwen died in Hell trying to make up for it.
Commentary: Okay, so let's address my extreme problem with Kate's artwork - specifically in panel 2, during her action-scissor kick. One, did we really need to put her in the position of our looking up her yoo-hah... was there no better angle for this scene? Secondly - am I just a real pervert, or is her, uh, 'mound' a little too obvious ... in fact, with the shadowing around her crotch, her 'triangle' seems both really obvious and eye-drawing to me. Was it really necessary to highlight that she's wearing spandex or lycra by highlighting the spot between her legs, like this? I can't be the only one who immediately noted this detail. Lastly ... and here is why I find this panel so disturbing and mysogenist in its tackiness ... what the hell is up with the black slit drawn right between her legs?! Not only does it emphasize the area, like she's been deliberately drawn to feature a 'camel-toe', but it also looks like she has a small tear in her pants right at the worst location.
Now, all of this might have passed by not consciouslessly noted by me as I flipped from page to page - except that naked assassin woman has already primed us to note the details of the female anatomy within this issue. I don't know if I'm seeing more - so to speak - than what is actually there, or if this whole panel really was designed to highlight Kate's nethers. I can only say that this panel just leaves an ugly impression on me and I really wish that it had been completely scrapped and re-drawn from a different angle, or that the coloring had been used to de-emphasize the line of sight from where it's focused.
Page 07: Connor takes exception to Gwen's presence and isn't shy about insulting her and letting her know she isn't wanted. Kate points out they could use her to help with prisoner transport, but Connor warns that one shouldn't turn their back on Gwen, unless they want a knife stuck in it.
Page 08: In front of Mount Sinai Hospital, where the 'prisoners' were delivered due to that rat eating business, one would presume, Connor yells at Gwen to get lost. Gwen is determined to regain his trust, but after he storms away Kate points out to Gwen that he won't just get over it overnight. Gwen snaps back that she would like that, implying that she thinks Kate might be interested in Connor, herself.
Back at HQ, Gwen has still followed Connor and Kate, despite Connor's attitude toward her. Awaiting them is the assassin girl and Angel.
Commentary: And it's the panels like 4 here that is making me feel like there is something a lot more sleazy than necessary going on in this issue. They've given the formerly nude assassin a shirt, but couldn't also give her a pair of sweatpants? They could even have simply only drawn her from the waste up as she's sitting on the desk - but no - instead we get to see her naked butt. I mean, we get it, she likes being unhindered by clothing so she can switch forms easily - we don't need to ogle her over and over, here. I think that we're supposed to see all of this skin as a forewarning that she isn't as she appears - and I guess I have to spoil here to make my point understandable - she is actually an animal that can shapeshift into a human, not the other way around. Being a big cat, she naturally finds her nudity to be her natural state and the clothing to be artificial and unnecessary - which is fine for the character. But, it's the way that the reader is continually being invited to stare at her (along with the POV of Kate's action kick and the focus on our looking up at her butt (see panel 1 of next page) that is really irritating me. It feels egregious and there not to reflect her character's nature, but for pure titilation value.
Page 09: Angel introduces Jaguar-lady as Desdemona, who goes by the shorter 'Dez'. Kate has immediate suspicions, which Angel acknowledges while Dez is out of the room to change. When the assassin comes back in, she's in her cat-form.
Page 10: Dez and Angel head out for the rendevous with the Lord of Sherman Oaks. Kate promises to 'hold down the fort', but then follows behind them with Connor because no one knows who Dez is and don't trust her.
Meanwhile, Connor warns Gwen that if she doesn't back off, he'll consider her a stalker and treat her as such - which could be really, really bad, if the writers ever consistently remember that he's knicknamed 'The Destroyer' and was raised in a demon dimension. Kate is more understanding of Gwen, despite Gwen frankly not deserving it, and tells her she could help them if she wants by trying to research what Dez might actually be.
Page 11: Angel follows Dez, the jaguar-woman, through some ductwork. He's nervous that she might be setting him up for an ambush because of the tight quarters. She shapeshifts back to human-form and tells him that the good thing about tight quarters is that if he can't turn around, neither can an assassin leading him, obvious joking about herself and his lingering distrust.
Commentary: And, imagine how that might have made sense, if Dez hadn't actually turned around to face Angel....
In the meanwhile, back at Team Angel HQ, Gwen is stuck in research hell with a library that would keep Giles overtaxed.
Page 12: In the office of the Demon Lord, Dez lies across his desk, flirtatiously. She confirms to him that she had Angel's head as requested. She just wasn't clear on if he needed it separated from Angel's body.
Commentary: I'll admit, I liked the dialog here, but I'm presuming that the Demon Lord wasn't expecting Angel's head to literally be delivered since, you know, it would have ashed away....
Page 13: While Angel is fighting minions in the background, Dez loudly proclaims to Sherman Oaks Lord that he already knows she could be bought. She heavily implies that another demon lord has paid her more to set him up and make it look like a certain rogue vampire.
Angel's fight is interrupted by his exlaiming that she set him up....
Page 14: Angel goes after Dez, as one of the minions uses the distraction to flee. Once he's gone, Dez explains that the minion will spread the tale that a demon lord set up the Sherman Oaks Lord for execution at her hand, and that Angel was set up as a patsy. The plan is for this to create such division in the Lordly ranks, as each fights the others for 'betraying' their truce, that Angel and Connor will be left alone for awhile.
It would appear that Dez really is on his side.
Page 15: Outside the demon lord's estate, Kate and Connor arrive, but are confronted by the escaping Angel. He complains that if they wanted to play back up, they could have just said so. But Connor, rightly, points out that Angel would have said no - and if they pushed, he'd have agreed to take Kate. Connor tells him that he needs to stop trying to protect him just because he got killed in Hell. Connor tells him he's dealing with that, but he can't take being 'protected' by his dad.
Page 16: With the gang returning to HQ, Gwen reports there are several possibilities. Angel tries to dismiss Gwen's further assistance, but Kate once again steps in to tell her that she could help by looking for any precedents of the type of beings they have a contract to hunt (see previous issue). Gwen thanks Kate for trying to help her stay where she can get a chance to make things up to Connor.
Page 17: In the meanwhile, like with the strange woman earlier, there is a guy hunting rats through the garbage. Dez is there in cat form and she attacks him, using her strength to crack his head into a wall, knocking him out.
Page 18: As she tries to re-assume human shape, she complains to herself that it is getting harder to leave her cat-form behind. She steals the guy's clothing and returns to Angel HQ a little later.
Page 19: When Angel, Kate and Connor arrive back at HQ, Dez tells them that she has a 'gift' for them (the rat-hunting guy) waiting for them a short distance away. Gwen chooses that moment to come out and tell Angel that she thinks she knows what Dez may be - but Dez tells her she's just a were-kitty.
Angel doubts her story is that simple; she takes the opportunity to flirt with him.
Page 20: Dez leaves. Angel asks Kate to pick up the guy that Dez left for them for delivery to a hospital (Mount Sinai, most likely). Gwen offers to follow Dez on Kate's behalf, which is accepted.
As they deliver the rat-hunting guy to the hospital, Angel expresses discomfort with the place.
Page 21: Kate tries to assure him that she's checked out the new department at the hospital and it seems on the up and up, but Angel thinks to himself that he has met too many white hats who are wearing another color underneath (I like that line).
There is something strange going on in the wing dealing with the influx of 'mental patients', as a security man points out. It seems that all of the cameras stopped recording for a period of 10 minutes and when they came back, one of the patients was missing.
As Kate is getting the details of who the missing man is, another patient wanders up and addresses Angel by name, telling him that he knew the vampire would come there.
Page 22: This new patient is "Mr. Smythe", but as the doctor sends the security officer to retrieve him and escort him back to his room, the human looking man stops looking quite human. In fact, he now looks like an angel... wings and armor and weird eyes and all. He tells our Angel that he has a message from Cordelia Chase....
The Good: I like the character of Dez (especially her dialog) and I like the way that Connor, Kate and Gwen are handled writing wise.
I also like that "After the Fall" is still having repercussions throughout L.A. and with Angel's team.
I like the artwork on Dez (with a major caveat already expressed in Commentary) and for the angel on page 22.
The Bad: I'm disturbed enough by the artwork on the female characters to deduct a whole .50 points off of The Score. There is just an air of sleaziness that is too inappropriate for this title - especially those problems with ogling Kate mentioned in commentary. It is just too distasteful and blatant to not notice.
Other Thoughts: While I like the dialog throughout, the actual mysteries of Dez and the rat-eating patients really isn't doing anything for me. Things perked up with the introduction of a possible celestial angel at the end.
The Score: I was prepared to give the issue a 3.25, mostly due to the dialog and the personality of Dez. But, the way that Kate is constantly ogled and the really distasteful panel of her on page 06 drops the score to a 2.75 out of 5.