After the Fall - Epilogue
"Become What You Are"
Written by: Brian Lynch
Art by: Franco Urru
Colored by: Paolo Maddelini
Color Assistance: 2Bstudio
Lettered by: Robbie Robbins
Edited by: Chris Ryall
Cover B: Nick Runge
Commentary: Nice cover, Nick!
Page 01: We join a nude Gunn lying on the street shortly after W & H returned Hell-Angeles back to real space/time. Looking down at him is Illyria. He has been healed of both his vampire-ness and his prior injuries from the alley. Illyria expresses remorse for his previous situation. He says thank you, but Illyria isn't finished:
"But what you did to me... she trusted you in the past, and it led to her death. I trusted you, and I almost fell. Her influence makes me want to protect you. But she is weak. That is why she died. I have to kill you, Charles."
He completely agrees.
Commentary: This is one of the best written first pages I've seen in quite a while for this title. While I wasn't exactly jumping for joy that we were re-visiting the unnecessarily drawn out 'After the Fall' story arc, again, my reservations were quickly allayed because of where the story takes us. The 'her' that Illyria refers to is, of course, Fred who had an independent personality that would surface in Illyria while trapped in W & H's hell dimension. Oh, and this first page is actually a flashforward....
Page 02: We skip back in time a little bit. Gunn lies in his coma following the return of L.A. to real space/time. We have a sense of time passing as he receives different visitors, while his mind is pre-occupied by his actions as vamp!Gunn in hell.
Groo reads a children's book that is written in Dr. Seuss-like prose (an obvious take on 'Green Eggs and Ham') and is way too amused. Lorne adjusts Gunn's blankets, as he wonders if Lorne was one of them he hurt.
He remembers that he hadn't, but does remember his shooting Fred in the chest with a crossbow (in order to bring Illyria back to the fore, so he could use her powers).
Gwen visits him, speaking aloud to herself that she doesn't know what to do (she's also dealing with her own betrayal of Team Angel and specifically Connor).
And speaking of Angel's son, Gunn also remembers how he killed the kid in hell, as well.
Commentary: I'm on the fence about Gunn's survival, here. I really feel like he should have died in that alley as basically stated he would in AtS: "Not Fade Away". It feels like a cheat for him to have been saved, but on the other hand I like the Gunn character. And since they haven't brought Wes, Fred or Cordelia back to life (even though all three have shown up), I'm of a mind to let them slide here.
Page 03: Gunn hears Angel visit him, who tells his unconscious form that what he did in hell wasn't him... including killing Connor, which strikes me as awfully big of Angel.
Commentary: He's correct, of course, but still... it's really big of him to make the effort to tell Gunn that, even though we don't know that Angel knows he can hear him.
Gunn remembers either way, though, biting into terrified women and feeding on them.
Later, Betta George (who I still find to be a ridiculous creation) visits him next. Betta George is highly telepathic, so can communicate directly with Gunn in his coma. He tells Gunn about a place that Spike helped him get in order that functions as a clinic for supernatural beings with emotional problems. He figures Gunn could maybe use the support when he's ready to wake up.
Page 04: While Betta's suggestion may be kind-hearted, Gunn isn't ready to stop torturing himself with his memories of vamp!Gunn's actions, including torturing a seer-demon and nearly killing the mortal, human Angel. In Hell-Angeles, Angel had been Shanshu'd as a punishment by W & H, where they figured he'd be powerless and made to suffer. They were wrong.
Page 05: Sometime later still, Gunn comments that the others have come less and less often to see him as they get on with their lives again. He's relieved by this.
In the meantime, a demon who witnessed his attempt to destroy everything as vamp!Gunn has come seeking vengeance on him. It is quickly killed by a spear thrown from the building across from his room by Illyria.
Gunn comments that she's the only one who has never left. She watches over him for reasons unknown.
Commentary: *hint* It's because she and Gunn are to be sent off on a road trip in their own limited series, which I didn't buy because I'm spending enough every month on this title and BTVS, S8. I simply refuse to buy every title they spin off.
Page 06: Another attempt is made against Gunn. He hears someone exclaim about a 'thing' and wishes he could get up to fight, but his body is still so broken. We see Illyria jump down from her roof top vigil to engage whatever is on the street in front of the hospital...
Page 07: ...which turns out to be the Tyrannosaurus Rex looking demon, which was also seen in W & H's Hell-Angeles. As Illyria is now distracted, we see a hand reach out for Gunn. The arm has bony protrusions. We quickly recognize the newcomer as Non ... another of the Hell-Lords that divied up Los Angeles after it went to hell. Non was showcased in Spike: After the Fall as the big bad of that title. She is a life-energy vampire.
Commentary: She was hideously annoying in Spike's title, but her powers were cool. I would have been fine if she hadn't made her return.
Page 08: Non talks to Gunn about their time in hell. She was a Lord. He was a bad-assed vampire who nearly destroyed everything (using Illyria's timeshifting powers) and now they've been reduced to a vagabond and a coma patient. She tells him that last time they met, they didn't get on so well due to her filching Illyria from him, but she misses him the way he was.
She crawls up onto his bed and hugs him close to her. We see her eyes glow, which is an indication of her powers being active.
Page 09: But, instead of Gunn withering into a husk, Non has different plans. She reveals that she is also able to boost someone's lifeforce, which she now does, awakening Gunn from his comatose state.
He snaps awake, tumbling from the bed with a yell and falling to the floor.
Page 10: On the floor, Gunn realizes that not only has he been yanked from his coma, but he's also been fully healed. He seems less than grateful.
Page 11: Non explains to him that she's healed him because she thought he was amazing as vamp!Gunn. Far from coming to kill him, she's come to entice him into a super villain team up so that they can re-capture their former glory.
Gunn's answer is to tackle her out of the window and send them both plummeting to the ground below. On the way down, Non tells Gunn to stop fighting her and let her absorb the impact. He wants to know what the hell is wrong with her.
Commentary: One of the irritating things about Non was how much she talked and how she thought she was clever during her banter, when she's actually a dullard. She continues that here, so even though her interest in Gunn is an interesting twist, she's still making me wish she'd just not shown up. And, why is it in comic books everyone can carry on these long monologues before they hit the ground. Seriously, Non manages to get in 36 words during her fall, with proper comma and period stops.
What's more interesting than Non, though is Charles. Between these two pages, we're getting some serious suicidal undertone to him here. First, he's angry that he's been healed in the hospital room. Second, his first act post-awakening is to leap through a window when he knows how high up he is. The kicker though, is Non's complaint that he's fighting her as she tries to make sure she's under him to take the impact with the ground. Vamp!Gunn has left a serious stain on him....
Non is able to get herself between Charles and the ground, allowing him to avoid being a splat (and no, it isn't at all convincing that he wouldn't have shattered some bones anyway... he isn't Faith after all - I have the same problem with Wes' walking away after he goes out a window and lands on a car with her).
Page 12: Out on the street now, Non nearly begs Charles to help her regain her position. She complains that before she wasn't hungry or homeless or constantly starving for energy. She pleads with him that he has to still be evil, he just has to be.
Illyria marches up to her during her rant and grabs her, roughly pushing Gunn to the side.
Commentary: Out of Non's entire existence, this page and the following are the only times when the character didn't irritate me. I'm glad though that her 'visit' is short-lived.
Page 13: Non, in Illyria's grip, complains to her dinosaur-like friend that he was supposed to have kept her occupied. He's lying on the street, showing he did try.
Now, in Spike: After the Fall, Non was able to overpower Illyria because of her energy feeding powers. She starts the glow-eyed act here, warning the god that what happens here will be permanent, unlike the things that happened in hell.
Illyria tells her to be quiet and throws her away... literally... Non's body goes flying off into the sky from Illyria's throw.
Next, the god turns on Gunn, repeating the opening scene on page 01....
Commentary: Illyria throwing Non away, bored with her, was funny and awesome. I wished she'd clearly killed her so she couldn't turn up later to annoy, but still - this scene was great.
Page 14: As Illyria strides up to him, reminding him of what he'd done to her-as-Fred, Gunn feels little but relief. Illyria is obviously going to kill him and he's glad this will give her closure. Her fist flies at him, similarly to when she put her hand through the wizard, Vail in AtS: Not Fade Away...!
Page 15: Gunn is suddenly lying on the floor of his hospital room, fully clothed.
Illyria is there as well and she's been scribbling disturbing things on the wall. She tells him that she restrained herself due to the memories that Spike and Wesley had shared with her about the sort of person her host was. She tells him that she's trying to live up to what her face demands. Fred wouldn't have wanted Gunn killed, so Illyria has stopped herself from killing him.
The scribblings on the wall were to pass the time. She's listed possible ways to kill Gunn later, if need be.
Page 16: Illyria complains about her infection by humanity. Gunn tells her humanity isn't an infection. He tells her about all of the time he's had to think about who he was as a vampire and all of the things he did.
Illyria accuses him of weakness, like Fred was weak. She tells him he is filled with guilt. He doesn't dispute this, but he also admits to her that he misses it.
Page 17: Gunn tells Illyria that he thinks that he has the metaphorial devil inside. He tells her he's suffering some sort of withdrawal for the freedom that came with the soulessness and the lack of guilt that he's feeling now. He wonders to her if it might not be better for everyone if she just killed him now before the evil that touched him can corrupt him.
Illyria offers to do so, if he tells her again he wants it done. She tells him that she'll be helping, so it would be an acceptable action.
Commentary: I have to admit, that Illyria's response surprised and delighted me. I like Gunn struggling with not only guilt for what vamp!Gunn did and tried to do, but that he's also, maybe, envying him a little. Vamp!Gunn was free to act without emotional consequences, but Gunn has to suffer the burden of regret and recrimination.
And, Illyria's response is perfect for her character, stuck as she is trying to follow the example that Fred would have set while also being herself.
Page 18: Gunn declines, stating that Fred wouldn't want that no matter what he requested. Illyria acknowledges this, claiming it is why she wants every trace of her gone. It is too confusing to the god to actually care about what Fred wanted or who she was to the others. She asks him where she is supposed to go and what she is supposed to do with herself.
Cut to Mosaic Rehabilitation Facility for the Supernatural....
Gunn has joined Betta George and the facility director for a tour of the place. He warns the woman that her new patient isn't predictable and she's powerful enough to end up killing them all. The director assures them that the facility is prepared.
Page 19: The facility has been designed to recondition the demons and supernatural entities to avoid harming people or giving into their lusts for death and destruction.
In order to make the transition from violently troubled to productive member of society, the patient Gunn brought in has been roomed with another patient who has natural power-muting abilities.
Page 20: We find that the patient Gunn and George were discussing wasn't Illyria, as we had been led to believe. They've retrieved, instead, Non - who alas, wasn't killed instantly when she landed whereever she'd landed after Illyria threw her. She did manage to dye her hair from reddish-brown to blonde, though.
She warns Gunn that she's giving this a try, but if it doesn't work she'll find him....
Commentary: Non and Gunn's relationship here is odd and unconvincingly portrayed. In 'Spike: AtF', she tried to forge a partnership with vamp!Gunn which ended abruptly when he stabbed her. Now they have her visiting Gunn and attempting to forge another partnership with him in order to return her and him to the powerful authorities they were in Hell... so far, so good, I guess. This again went nowhere, as Gunn made it clear he wasn't helping her. And then, Illyria showed up and threw her miles away.
So... how did she and Gunn get back together, why did she listen to anything he had to say, why is Gunn sympathetic toward her after he's seen her life-sucking innocents and why in the world would she agree to enter a facility for 'treatment', when there was no indication that she ever thought there was anything wrong with her feeding on people as desired.
The attempt at a bond between a Gunn who misses the freedom of being a vampire and the demon who misses her position as a powerful lord is an interesting idea. I'm just not convinced by the writing that led here. This feels like Non's character has had too abrupt a personality change and the circumstances around Gunn haven't been explored nearly enough to lead to this step for her, or even him, for that matter.
Page 21: Outside of the facility, which we'll learn from Illyria is in the middle of the desert, the godling waits for Gunn's return. She has apparently accompanied Gunn on his quest to help Non turn away from being a life-sucking demon. She isn't optimistic, as she warns Gunn that they're going to have to kill her.
Gunn admits that they probably will, but that they have to do what Fred would want... attempt to help others, rather than simply killing them.
Page 22: Gunn and Illyria get into a car together. The idea is that they're going to go in search of people to help in order to assist in Gunn getting back in touch with himself and so Illyria will get comfortable with her humanity.
Presumably, they head off into their limited-issue title I mentioned....
The Good: I like the way Gunn was handled. I'm not completely sold on the idea he could have survived his injuries, but since they went with that, I'd say they handled it well. I also like the way that everyone else is shown moving on from 'After the Fall', while Gunn hasn't been able to because of vamp!Gunn's key role in those events.
I also like Illyria struggling after her experiences shifting between Fred and herself and Gunn's actions against both in 'After the Fall'. It's an unusual buddy-story between these two, but I think the writers made it work.
The Bad: There are some plot shortcuts around Gunn and Non's relationship that hurt the plot progression for me, but that was the only real problem I had.
Other Thoughts: Non creates an issue for me, simply because I find her irritating. The fact that she isn't dead and that Gunn is trying to help her portends her coming back again, and that isn't good news.
I love the cover art... doesn't impact the scoring, but I wanted to give the shout-out somewhere.
The Scoring: Gunn's tale is interesting and I do find the buddy-relationship being developed between Illyria and him to work well. I also find a lot to like in their both struggling with their experiences in W & H's hell, after everyone else has dealt with it and moved on to other things. The artwork and writing were good through most of the issue. I wouldn't mind re-visiting these two on an adventure away from the rest of Angel's crew, at all - I'm just not spending money on a seperate title to do it.
3.75 out of 5