"Roman a Clef"
Written by: Bill Willingham, Art by: Brian Denham, Coloring by: Alfred Rockefeller, Lettering by: Robbie Robbins,
Edited by: Mariah Huehner
Cover B: David Messina with coloring by Giovanna Niro
Last Issue Developments: With Angel missing, Connor has taken leadership of Angel Investigations. He's further gained an army of She-Warriors who insist that he is the savior that they've been destined to serve. The 'public vampire' menace has gotten a little out of hand, for you see, Angel isn't missing so much as being imprisoned. Some corporate yahoos have decided that they can make some great money by offering to turn the rich and vain into undead using Angel's unique status and ensouled. But the new converts haven't turned out exactly as planned. Instead of them being ensouled, they're basically just vampires anyway. Right Innovation Labs is trying to deal with a crisis involving one of their created vampires losing control of herself during a televised interview and killing the host. Spike was able to track her down first and has take her into custody as a clue to finding what Angel has gotten caught up in. Meanwhile, Illyria has located Angel, and the LABS are in a bit of a second crisis.
Page 01: Actress Felicia Valentine (she who eats hosts on tv) has been dragged back to The Hyperion by Spike. She's currently bound to a chair and Connor is arguing with her that Angel would never have turned her into a vampire, as she claims. She insists she's telling the truth and has the contract to prove it.
Page 02: Connor tries to explain that a simple transfusion wouldn't cause a transformation. Connor states that there has to be a prolonged contact between vampire and victim.
Felicia tells him that they drained her blood from her, infected it with Angel's sire blood and then pumped it back into her... and now, here she is.
Gunn and Spike have been watching the interrogation, and are just as convinced Felicia is lying as Connor is. They tell him that Felicia's just jerking them around using her natural movie star appeal to continue playing games with them all.
Page 03: Connor tells the other two to pipe down, as he was just about to get Felicia to tell them something. She's convinced that this isn't real arguments between them, but that they're trying to play good cop/bad cop on her like she played in Zombie Precinct Two. She warns them that as soon as she figures out how to change into a bat or a mist she'll be killing every one of them.
Spike and Connor are forced to tell her that she won't be doing either of those things anytime soon.
Commentary: I have to admit that this page actually did make me chuckle. There is a more interesting thing with this though, and that is the timeline. Now, it has always been really cloudy as to when Angel the comic takes place in relation to Buffy the comic, mostly because of the competing comic companies having the licenses on a stable of characters and ergo, not having to coordinate. I'd always assumed that Angel, S6 was taking place in the 18 or so months that Buffy and Giles were setting up the new Slayer Organization.
This actually works nicely here, since the way that Connor and Spike speak, it is as if Dracula is of the past. Probably, because Buffy reported him slain after BTVS, S5, E1. As we know, Dracula is still very much alive, though in seclusion. I like this timeline, because we know that Xander will be staying with Dracula for a while and forming one of the weirdest bonds in the Buffyverse in order to cope with Anya's death. Although, you could also argue that Buffy just didn't tell the Angel crew about Dracula, as well, I like it better personally if Angel and Buffy are keeping in contact off panel which doesn't really fit with what we'll see during S8 of Buffy.
In other words, I'm fruitlessly trying to keep Angel S6 and Buffy s8 in some sort of shared universe. So, I like that everyone here apparently thinks Dracula is in fact vanquished which we'll find out is not the case in "Wolves at the Gate" over in Buffy S8.
And, since I broke for a note, let me also say I really love the artwork for in this issue for everyone except Angel himself. He's a bit more hit-and-miss.
Page 04 & 05: Speaking of Angel himself, he's currently having a ball with wrecking Innovative Labs, though his priority is still to locate the remaining vampires that this upstart company has made by forcing him to be a donor. Illyria has the head of the company in custody and believes she can get any of the information Angel wishes if he'd just let her start pulling off limbs.
Commentary: This would be a prime example of the hit-n-miss artwork when it comes to Angel. His face just plain looks goofy as all hell. Nice cheesecake posing they chose, though. You might almost think that you could look up Angel's short-leg and peep his junk if you looked hard enough (no... you can't... not that I spent several moments staring to make sure or anything, 'cause that would be ridiculous).
Page 06: Innovative's head pleas to not allow Illyria to begin plucking limbs like daisy petals fall on deaf ears, as Angel plays up his vampire nature (though, this is pretty clearly an act... he doesn't even vamp!face), until he offers that he'll answer any demands Angel makes.
Commentary: And, this would be a decent example of the good Angel artwork.
Page 07: Meanwhile, back at The Hyperion: Felicia has revealed all that she can remember about how she became a vampire. Connor thanks her for this and offers to release her, which he directs Spike to do...
... Except, Spike and he intend to "release" her with a stake. She tries to play the "Wait, I just remembered..." card, but no. She's staked. He calls Gunn into a meeting between them.
Commentary: Actually, this was pretty damned cold. But, considering that this is Spike and Connor we're talking about, I'm glad that Ms. Valentine's exit was handled this way. Connor's backstory certainly suggests that he'd have no problem with eliminating demons, no matter what promises may have been made. And Spike... well, not exactly a saint either.
I've mentioned before how I generally enjoy how Connor is handled. There are still some problems that crop up, like his tendency to get his butt kicked whenever it is convenient, despite his entire life being spent fighting for his life. But, in general, he's a stronger character in Angel S6 than he ever was on the tv series.
Page 08: After Connor checks in with Kate for any information she can find on Innovative Labs and the promises of immortality they've been making, Connor proceeds to give a dressing down of Gunn for his interruption during the interrogation. He insists that he was gaining Felicia's trust and that was undermined by Gunn's remarks (Yeah, okay, Connor... shut up).
Charles reminds him that Spike was doing the same thing, but Connor tells him that Spike likes to remind everyone that he's a contrarion from time to time. But, when the chips are down and everything is going to crap, he can be relied on to come through for them... a history which Gunn doesn't have.
Page 09: Gunn immediately slams Connor for still holding the things he technically never did as a vampire in "After the Fall" against him, but Connor replies instead that this isn't about any specific incident. He states that Charles Gunn is a fundamentally weak ally and trusting him would be suicide if they were still in Quor'toth.
He goes even further, admitting to Gunn that everytime he looks at him all of his instincts are yelling at him to run a blade across Gunn's throat for the rest's safety.
Commentary: HOLY SHIT. That was so unexpectedly harsh, that it took me off guard. I'd literally given out shocked laughter over just how plain he makes it to Gunn how much he doesn't want him anywhere near Angel Investigations, and if it wasn't for his father accepting him back, he'd basically be killing him. WOW.
That was... awesome.... I like Gunn, and what happened in Hell-L.A. wasn't his fault. He was a vampire and was driven by those instincts, even when he wanted so badly to do the right thing. His story was poorly paced and stretched out to ridiculous lengths, which I complained about in those reviews, but I did really feel badly for what he'd become. So, even though I have to disagree wholeheartedly with Connor, because I know the Gunn he is as a human being, I also love that they chose to make Connor so anti-Gunn here after what had happened (vampire!Gunn killed Connor with a flaming magical sword).
Page 10: Well, Connor has had his say about Gunn, now Gunn unleashes against Connor. He calls him a little snot and reminds him of all of the times he betrayed his father, including that incident of sinking him to the bottom of the sea. He also makes the point I just did about being a vampire in the redacted timeline, giving him zero culpability in anything that happened there, which is an excuse that Connor never had.
Commentary: WAHOOOO! I love this confrontation. Gunn exclaims everything that any of us might have thought during Connor's tirade. Excellent writing, and I'm glad that they didn't forget that GUNN WAS A VAMPIRE IN AFTER THE FALL.
Page 11: Gunn's argument continues with pointing out that Connor has a habit of throwing deadly tantrums everytime his self-entitlement gets challenged in any way. He finally storms out, vowing to rebuild his own team and washing his hands of Angel Investigations, at least for as long as Connor is pretending to be the adult in charge.
Commentary: Gunn is AWESOME, here. And, I love that his own background of successfully leading a team hasn't been forgotten either. In fact, I'd agree with him here when he tells Connor that he's more qualified to lead a team than Connor is. He does go a little overboard with the threat, but he's pissed. Plus, despite what Gunn states, I believe he is still suffering from severe guilt over his alternate-self's actions.
Also, some absolutely stellar artwork on Gunn's face and his expressions, as well.
Page 12: Meanwhile, back at Innovative we rejoin Miss Weathermill (who has eliminated the newly turned vampires) and her partner, Mr. Polyphemus.
After assuring herself that whoever is causing the extensive damage at the facility isn't a direct threat to either of them, she proceeds with her own mission to shut down what the Lab is doing.
Page 13: This involves breaking into the VIP suites, where the Gypsies responsible for the attempt at soul transference are housed. Having access to magic doesn't make you bulletproof - in spite of what Dark Willow may have led you to believe. They're quickly executed.
Page 14: Back at the room where the newly turned vampires were waiting, Angel, Illyria and Alex Roman find only dust on the slabs remaining. Alex realizes that this was the fault of "that traitorous, Watcher bitch".
Page 15: Much later that day, Connor has loaded up the remaining Angel Investigations team along with Dez and James to storm Innovation Labs to get his father back.
Commentary: Nice to see that the two side characters are included in this scene, but it just keeps bringing back my problem with these two: What the hell is going on with the renegade, avenging angels of the Lord storyline, and why is it just sitting there dangling unresolved and more importantly, not even mentioned? And why is Dez still here??
Page 16: Meanwhile, at the burning Labs, Ms. Weathermill (typo... she's spelling her last name differently) meets up with Angel and Illyria. Alex Roman is less than pleased to see her.
Page 17: Ms. Weathermill takes the opportunity to offer herself and Mr. Polymephus' services. She points out that Angel's operation is reported to be big on muscle but not so much when it comes to intelligence resources.
Page 18: As Angel, Illyria and their new allies leave the building (WAIT, did they leave an unconscious Alex Roman in the burning and oxygen-challenged room??) they run into the 'rescue team'. Kate asks what happened to Angel's pants, which he amusingly ignores to introduce Laura... but the way it's presented is kinda funny.
Illyria shocks Connor by blurting out that she's secured Angel's permission to seduce him... which is coming out of nowhere from his perspective....
(We leave it here, because we have more of Eddie's story going on... which is getting annoying, actually.)
The Good: It doesn't impact the scoring, but the artwork is making me happy... especially the work on Gunn.
I liked the Felicia Valentine bits... especially her confusing Dracula's powers with every vampire being able to do those things.
That three-page argument between Gunn and Connor, ending with Gunn's quitting, was a real highlight.
The Bad: Hmmm. I don't seem to have any real complaints.
Other Thoughts: Well, there is those few panels where Angel's face isn't right, but that isn't a biggie.
I have to say that I did like Laura Weathermill more in this, too, now that her real game is out in the open. Her floating ball-of-convenience partner is still annoying, though.
There is still the problem, as mentioned, of James and his Avenging Angels storyline having completely run off the rails, into a ditch, and then ignored. And less aggregious, but still annoying, there is the question of Dez' continued presence.
The Score: This was a relatively good issue that was elevated by some great dialog, but that Gunn/Connor confrontation really gave this issue a huge boost in energy. I loved it just for that:
4.0 out of 5