Written by: Kelley Armstrong, Art by: Dave Ross, Inks by: George Freeman & Dave Ross
Flashback Pencils & Inks: George Freeman, Coloring: Charlie Kirchoff & Brian Miller
Letters: Neil Uyetake, Edited by: Chris Ryall & Mariah Huechner
Cover B: Nick Runge
Page 01: This issue starts directly on the heels of last. In that issue, one of the newly cropping up mental patients that Team Angel has been delivering to a special hospital wing seemingly turned into an actual angel... you know, one of God's Warrior class? Anyway, he claimed to have a message from Ms. Chase, who is somewhere working on behalf of the PTB.
Well, now the patient is being grabbed by a security guard to escort back to his room. Angel tries to stop this, but then see not an angel, but just Mr. Smythe - the rather drably human patient, again.
He's sure that he saw what he saw, but right now no one else appears to have either seen nor heard anything odd.
Commentary: And, I'm immediately thinking 'Supernatural crossover fic!' because that is the way my mind works. Plus, you know, it's nice to have passion for a TV show again, so I'm fully embracing my new borderline obsession with Dean and Sam. But, that really has nothing to do with this issue... ahem... moving on.
Page 02: Meanwhile, back with Dez the erstwhile assassin where Gwen Raiden follows her to a rundown tenement. In the basement of said building, Dez has a man tied and gagged.
Page 03: As Gwen watches and takes camera-phone pics, Dez draws a mystic symbol around the man she has tied up. She performs a spell in Spanish.
Page 04: As a result of the spell, Dez' guy is very oddly turned into a great ape!
With this new form, he easily snaps out of his ropes, but she's ready for him with a traquilizer. Things get even weirder, all under Gwen's watch, when Dez then makes a phone call to someone to come and pick up the man-gorilla. With his transformation and the phone call to someone to come and get him, Dez turns into her jaguar form and escapes via ductwork.
Commentary: She leaves behind her clothing, again, too as she is wont to do. I like the artwork for Dez, but I'm not so sure I like Gwen's look.
Page 05: Back at Angel HQ, he's agitated and starts demanding that a room be prepared for the arrival of the people they're catching. Kate objects that they're not prepared to take care of mentally ill folks, but Angel isn't listening. He doesn't want them to be sent back to the hospital, who seems to have problems keeping the patients from wandering around or getting lost.
As they're arguing, Gwen arrives. She wants to talk to Kate alone, but Angel demands from her that she work to find out what is going on with the people they've been taking into custody.
Page 06: Angel and Kate continue their argument on taking the mental patients to the hospital vs. creating 'cells' to hold them at HQ. Angel is adamant about not trusting the hospital facility. He orders her to get things arranged and then head out on a patrol. He intends to go back to the hospital that night, though he doesn't share this.
Commentary: Naturally, Angel's interest isn't so much in the patients in general, as it is in 'Mr. Smythe' specifically. I particularly like the shot of Angel staring at a stain glass window of an angel leaning on her broadsword.
Page 07: Later, around dusk, I think - Gwen has led Kate to the tenement where she saw Dez' weird play. Gwen shares the cell-phone pics (or most likely video) that she took earlier. Kate is shocked when she sees the man changed into a gorilla.
She hypothesizes that someone is changing people into animals, but that it takes more than one step - that is why they keep finding people acting animalistic... they're in the beginning stages of their changes. Dez was then hired to capture and complete the alterations, for reasons unknown. She tells Gwen that Dez must have helped them to catch one to get in their good graces, so that she could use them as a source to locate the others that her mysterious employers lost. She starts to tell Gwen that they need to find Dez...
... when the jaguar shows up. Gwen's hand starts to buzz with electricity... "Welcome home, Kitty," she says.
Commentary: I really think that I'm liking this professional/kind of friendship that is being developed between Gwen and Kate. Both of them are similar in many aspects, but with different personalities and both are facing an unreturned love from somebody in Team Angel. Kate has been hinted to have a least an passing crush on Angel, even though it hasn't been developed or gone anywhere and Angel has shown no interest in her. Gwen and Connor were a couple in HellAngeles during 'After the Fall', but this came to a crashing end when Gwen turned on them to help Gunn in his attempts to defeat W & H, so she'd get her working chip back in action. Both of them consider themselves as staunch supporters of Team Angel, even though both of them clash with Angel and/or Connor as much as they help them. And, it's interesting that the unapologetic thief would be friends with the ex-cop, who still holds the idea of upholding the law so dear to her heart.
Page 08: Dez smells the arrival of Gwen, but not soon enough to stop herself from being zapped down the flight of stairs into the tenement basement. Gwen checks on her, demanding that she wake up, or she'll get a 'wake up zap'. Dez isn't as unconscious as it appeared though, and attacks Gwen, grabbing her by the shoulder in her mouth.
Page 09: Gwen is thrown to the side, with the Dez-jaguar on her, teeth at her throat before she can recover. Thankfully, Gwen has back up from Kate, who orders Dez to release her at gun point. Gwen isn't one to be 'saved' though, and she launches another electro-assault on Dez.
Page 10: With Dez once again laid out, Kate demands she turn back to human for questioning, but the jaguar either fall unconscious, or is acting again like she has. Gwen isn't caring which it is. She finds a convenient floor hatch to a subcellar and decides they'll hold the big cat there until Dez is in a more cooperative mood.
Kate doesn't look comfortable with the amount of juice that Gwen sent into Dez.
Page 11: They drag Dez to the cellar and toss her in. Dez was either only stunned, or she wakes just before she gets tossed in, because her eyes are clearly opened as she's falling and she twists herself to ensure she lands on her feet. Gwen states to Kate that she knows the former detective thinks she's being too harsh, but she also tells her that Kate isn't a cop anymore and she needs to stop thinking like one.
In her completely dark cell, Dez - remaining in cat form - is dismayed at being locked up in the dark.
Commentary: This is the dynamic I mentioned previously. I like the Kate the Policewoman playing off of Gwen the Theif. I also like that Kate hasn't lost her sense of 'procedure', even though she is working as a vigilante these days. I hope that this relationship will continue to develop, as I think it could be one of the more interesting frenemy relationships in the Angelverse (and yes, I know it's about to go to DH - but they could build off of what IDW has started here).
And... I'm suddenly wondering if there is any Kate/Gwen fem-slash fic?
Page 12: As Gwen and Kate are in their confrontation with Dez, Angel is breaking into the hospital to locate 'Mr. Smythe'.
He finds him doing a crossword puzzle and the possible angel introduces himself as James. He already knows that Angel is there to 'break him out' of the place. Angel wishes to do so without bringing attention to themselves, but James simply walks out into the hallway, where guards are located.
Page 13: The guard doesn't seem to see either of them. James explains that he's cast a glamor spell to block sensory information from being processed by the human brain. It, in effect, makes them cloaked.
If James can do this, Angel wonders why the angel didn't just leave already. He explains that while his glamor works very well on humans, it is not very effective when it comes to the other things in the world.
Page 14: As Angel and James leave the hospital, they're surrounded by all manner of demons, all anxious to get their various limbs on the angel.
Page 15: Angel and James start to fight off the hoard, but Angel reports that his sword isn't doing a darned thing. James explains that the demons are only partially inhabiting our realm. He gives Angel his sword, which doesn't react well with the vampire - burning his hand, even as he continues to wield it.
In the meanwhile, James depends on banishing spells to reduce their attackers' numbers.
Commentary: James is pretty darned gorgeous, too, I must say. I love the vaguely Romanesque armor. I hate that he has referenced Cordelia, though, because anytime somebody claims to be bringing a message from a dear departed who could have shown up themselves (as Cordy proved when she appeared in W & H's Hell) makes me suspicious. If he is an actually angel of Heaven, this series could have just gone into storytelling far and away different from anything Buffy has attempted. I find myself fascinated by this development.
Page 16: Back with Dez in her cell, we get her history via hallucinatory memories. She was one of three cubs. Her mother was killed during a hunt. Whoever captured them used a ritual to give them human form. One of the siblings died during the mystical procedure.
Page 17: Dez and her surviving sister joined a legion of thirty-six jaguar-human warriors. They appear to have been around and waiting for the apocalypse, in which they're prophesied to fight, since the Aztecs. However, their 'master' is clearly not the Aztec Chief... and is probably of European decent, if human at all.
Dez is nearly immediately hostile to this foreigner and suffers beatings for her disobedience. The Warriors give their loyalty to this white guy because they've been told that if a ritual isn't performed every month, they'll revert and lose their humanity - something they apparently all treasure greatly. Dez is willing to risk it, because she's not confident that she's being told the truth, rather than having the ritual used to blackmail them all.
Commentary: It isn't stated here exactly how slow the Jaguar Warriors age, or if they're effectively immortal like Angel. The Aztec Empire reigned in Mexico and Central America until the early 1500s though, and unless the Chief is in control of a "lost civilization", and judging by the white guy's clothing, Dez appears to be several hundred years old.
Also, the Chief speaks in passing of the Warriors fighting in the 'End of Days', but it sounds like they're there to expand the Aztec Empire during this period, rather than choosing a side during this Apocalyptic event. Of course, his 'End of Days' could be referring to the Aztec Empire collapse, rather than the world's end, but considering James' presence, I think we're supposed to assume the biblical 'End of Days' in this instance. Which makes me dubious of any plans to expand the Empire... a world ending Apocalypse doesn't seem like the best time to try to grow a civilization, but what do I know about being Chief?
Page 18: Back with James and Angel, they've defeated the last of the demons. These are also cloaked from the people of Earth. James explains that his message from Cordy was more of an appeal. She'd like it if Angel will help James locate the rest of the Warrior Angels now on Earth.
Page 19: James explains that Heaven sent the angels down to help him fight what had been done to Los Angeles by W&H, but they arrived a bit behind. Though they were able to fight some skirmishes, Angel had already handled the big battle before they could make their presence known. Following the restoration of L.A., the angels should have been recalled, but possibly due to magical interference and possibly with intent, weren't. They've been stuck wondering what they're supposed to do and getting seperated from one another since.
James tells Angel that his employers (the city council couple from issue 18) are waiting for him in his office. He further tells him he has an errand to run and will meet up with him again later.
Commentary: I love James' eyes and the Warrior Angels' look. But, his story just isn't striking me as credible. I don't know if this is because we're being faked out, or if it is because the angels' involvement in 'After the Fall' is being retconned into place. James also states he'd been "captured" by the hospital, but that seems utterly ridiculous considering his powers, here. Something isn't adding up - but I don't know if it's deliberate as of this issue, or whether it is the storytelling (I DO know now, of course, but I'm not spoiling future developments here - I'd hope you won't in any comments, either).
Page 20: Back in Dez' flashback, we see that Dez and her sister spent a lot of time traveling. But something happened along the way (and obviously the "once a month" ritual wasn't necessary or Dez learned how to handle it themselves) and Penelope began to lose her ability to retain her human form.
Page 21: Dez set up the ritual to restore her sister's ability to shape shift, but something went drastically awry. There was a burst of energy and Dez found herself alone - her sister mysteriously gone and a fiery rift opened where the mystical symbol had been.
While Dez is in her flashback dream, Gwen checks on her. She tells the unconscious jaguar that her best chance to prove her new found loyalty to Connor is to get some answers out of her and promises that she is going to do so, one way or another....
Page 22: Back at Angel HQ, he's meeting with the city council representatives, but they're too cheery and cooperative. They give him a huge check, even though he's backing out of working with them to join in the mystery of James' presence....
Page 23: ... And what's more, they know all about James - how they identify as actually being named Jamaerah - his 'imprisonment' at the hospital, the demons they just fought and the fact that the warrior angels both exist and haven't been recalled.
They push Angel to ask James more questions about what he is doing there, blowing off the excuse that the PTB couldn't recall them home, if they wished. They tell Angel that Jamaerah and his ilk are on a mission, as they always are. They teleport out, telling Angel to give them a call when he's ready to speak again.
Commentary: See, I knew there was something off in James' story - and it appears to be deliberate, rather than clumsy retconning of 'After the Fall'. But, there is something equally fishy about these councilmembers, who are also immortal and obviously powerful magic casters. Considering Angel's relatively pessimistic outlook, it wouldn't shock me if we learn that both sets of actors are evil and working against each other, trying to put Angel in the middle of some sort of evil civil war. I imagine that there is quite a power vacuum to fill with W&H apparently having lost their hold on this reality.
The Good: The cover is certainly dramatic and beautiful... kind of haunting.
I like the artwork, generally, but the best of it is again the original characters, rather than the established ones. Dez and James are especially strongly drawn.
Dez' history is interesting and different and I liked her flashback origins.
I like the dynamic between Kate and Gwen.
I like the mystery being built up around James and the hint that his unconvincing story was meant to be fishy, writing wise.
The Bad: I don't think anything is badly done, but I will admit that the cheery councilmembers are irritating.
The Score: I like the way the mystery around the angels is shaping up. I also like Dez and wouldn't mind her sticking around after the animal-people mystery is wrapped up. I was surprised to find the most interesting relationship taking place in the book right now is Kate and Gwen, but this isn't a bad thing. I would have liked to see Connor get more time in the story - especially if it highlighted his own ass-kickiness, which seems to be forgotten a lot.
There isn't a lot drama-wise happening here, but the story is being built up around all of these new players in the wake of 'After the Fall' and W & H vanishing and I'm really interested in the angels' real story....
3.75 out of 5