Angel, S6 I40
'The Beginning of the End'
Writer: David Tischman & Mariah Huehner, Artwork: Jason Armstrong, Coloring: Brian Miller, Lettering: Chris Mowry & Neil Uyetake
Cover: Elena Casagrande, Ilaria Traversi & "after Alvin" [Lee?]
Blurb: Future L.A. is turning out to be way worse than Angel thought. He discovers humans have become a complete underclass and are hunted as food. Struggling to figure out what W&H really wants from him is the least of his worries, as he discovers what James is up to with his demon portals. Meanwhile, Connor is putting Angel Investigations back together, with no sign of James and no help from Angel.
My Blurb: All online sources I've looked at give credit for the cover to Elena Casagrande, solo. But the cover itself indicates credit to Ilaria Traversi as well, so that is what I've done here. It also states "after Alvin" with a signature 'Alvin'. I'd like to credit this properly. Is this Alvin Lee, or another artist?
Also, I like this cover not only for the future L.A. artwork, but with the 'movie-type' credits, it is also a clever homage to "Blade Runner". *Nice*
Page 01: We rejoin Angel immediately after his dramatic swan dive from the W & H L.A. office building. Darrow yells after him that this isn't the way it was supposed to have worked out.
Angel, who couldn't return to Darrow on the rooftop if he wanted, has time to think that launching himself into the air is giving him time to think. Darrow has claimed he wants to help Angel save the world from James' success, but anytime Angel has tried to save the world it doesn't work out the way he thought it would.
He also thinks on how much hitting the street below is going to hurt, if he can't manage to land on the giant statue hand he's coming up on.
Commentary: As we know, 'saving the world' isn't the only thing that never goes quite right for Angel. Saving Buffy doesn't work out too well either (Twilight).
Page 02: Angel does grab the statue arm, but it isn't strong enough to take the hit. He continues falling... right into a cesspool. Hah.
He also discovers the statue was of Holland Manners, which tells him what sort of trouble this world is in.
Commentary: Oh, is that who that was. Huh. Okay. (statue-art fail)
Page 03: Meanwhile in L.A., Angel Investigations is in an apartment due to a tip from Kate. They've found a body that is basically gelatinized, which we know, but they don't is what happens when one of James' hellspawn are born.
Commentary: This scene from a logic standpoint bothers me. How is Kate being made aware of a body in a weird state of decomp, when the cops haven't been there yet (as we'll see)? Would a Detective just show up to investigate a weird smell call? Wouldn't the cops already be on scene with a coroner either there or on the way and then the Detective who catches the case? Wouldn't Angel Investigations have to check things out after the cops cleared out and then hack into the Coroner's report later (or break into the ME's office)?
I went back and looked to see if this body might be the bald guy that Lissa drained in order to gain access to A.I., and that they were at the Hyperion checking out his remains, but no... that doesn't appear to be the case... and still wouldn't make sense.
Plus with the LAPD on board with the whole supernatural thing now, why does this matter. Wouldn't they defer to Angel Investigations in this case, anyway? Especially if the detective on the case specifically called them in?
Page 04: As they discuss the situation, Laura goads Charles and Connor about their ongoing feud for no gain. Connor suggests that they need to be extra careful in trying to track down James with their heavy hitters on leave. Charles takes this as insulting them as the "B-team".
They find an obvious clue, which Charles points out is too convenient. But, Mr. Polyphemus supports Connor's contention that James may simply not be careful because he isn't used to navigating the human world. The Ball suggests that James and most POWERFUL beings think in two-dimensional terms.
Commentary: This is another movie shout out to ST: The Wrath of Khan, in which Kirk - whose ship has just had the crap beaten out of it by Khan's - manages to beat him anyway because he has experience in thinking three-dimensionally. I really need to start reviewing the ST series/movies....
Page 05: As the cops arrive, Connor orders a withdrawal. Charles argues that the cops might be able to help them if they call Kate instead, but Connor slams the LAPD for their history of racism (Gunn being found over a badly decomposed body of a white dude), and Charles agrees they should get outta there.
Page 06 & 07: In the future, Angel is wandering the street level. Demons, humans and vampires are all congregating in a future!dystopia setting. The skies are so choked with smog, he can't tell if it's day or night (which seems fortunate, actually, or he'd have combusted on the roof). Hemoglobin has been turned into a cola and sold in pop machines on the street, if you have enough change, which Angel doesn't.
On the streets, a demon looking suspiciously like Lorne's species and a vampire chase a human.
Commentary: Note the ATARI sign, that has been turned upside down for the panel. Somebody is a fan.
Page 08: Naturally, Angel steps in when it looks like the human is going to end up being a chew toy.
Page 09: The streets are however under constant surveillance, as you'd expect in Dystopia (Beware Citizens!), and the disturbance is quickly relayed to James in his penthouse, with nice clear shots of Angel's presence (or 'Our Little Destiny Boy').
Page 10: As Angel is fighting, the Dystopian Cops arrive. Angel is shocked that there is some sort of Law Enforcement. The demon and vampire take off running, clearly afraid of the future!LAPD.
Angel checks on the human, but he was stabbed with shards of glass from his trip into the Hemo-Cola machine. All that bringing attention on himself was for nuthin'.
Commentary: I'm sorry, but why is there a whole 'humans on the street' thing going on anyway?? I thought the whole plan was to turn Earth into a breeding ground. Humans don't need to be free for that. In fact, it sort of makes everything more difficult. Why aren't we being warehoused, bred, cloned and stored in conveniently unconscious states while we're infected to use as breeder vessels.
And why is there a whole demon underclass going on?! Shouldn't these things be working in the factories, sold off as soldiers, or otherwise being squelched by James as being nuisances? What is he doing?
Y'all are lucky I'm not in his position. I can think of far more efficient and brutal ways to manage this endeavor. And I think I'm much more interested right now in how W&H managed to agree to co-exist with James, while stabbing him in the back than I am in Angel.
Page 11: As James is following the progress of his police intercepting Angel, he gets a call from his demon-stormtroopers. They report that one of his gates is opening and something is coming through unauthorized, but they can't shut the portal down.
Page 12: When James and, presumably his personal minion, arrive they find nuthin' but bodies. The Personal Minion asks if he smells something, which James does. He reports that it smells like smoked bones. And, we know who likes to smoke bone from a previous issue.
Page 13: James follows a blood trail to his bedroom, where he finds a severed head. And his beloved rival/sister/apparent lover ... since she's naked in his bed waiting for him. EWW.
Rowant has come calling to see "what you've done with the place".
Page 14: In the meantime in the present, we see the very demon-types that serve as James' personal demon servants in L.A. And judging by the pointed ears, the horns and the tails, these would be the very creatures that the cutie-pie demon infants grow into. They're less cutie-pie now, but the armor is snazzy.
They're chasing a girl who you might think is Buffy... but alas, no. It is however Anne. She has made a daring escape. What we don't know is if she made her escape before being infected.
Commentary: The issue is with the artwork, which is more 'cartoony' than usual for this title, due to the change in artist. Anne in a few panels looks uncomfortably like Buffy in her dream-sequence issue (S8, I20). Also, Laura Weathermill was looking extra-Willow like in this regard as well.
Page 15: Anne runs up a flight of stairs and is met by Gunn, who fires a crossbow bolt right into one of her chasers. They retreat. Anne is able to tell Gunn, while on the run, enough for him to realize that she's met James and what he's up to. Then she faints... in quite the stylish repose... but Gunn looks really distorted!
Commentary: Y'know, it strikes me that if another artist had handled the Angel part of the story and Jason had drawn the Anne bits, this would have been a nicely bleak development. Anne could look like cartoon Buffy, and coming up Laura could be replaced by 'special guest' Willow because Anne is in fact infected and she's suffering a delusion of her last minute rescue.
I think that would have been much more realistic then her actual escape. Ah, well... that's not what is happening.
Page 16: Turns out Anne had retreated to the Hyperion, where the gang is currently -- still moving things? I don't know. It's confusing why'd they'd happen to be here for Anne's convenience.
Anywho, in the lobby Laura and The Ball with Connor are fighting more of Anne's chasers. They manage to win the battle.
Page 17: Anne comes around enough to reveal more about James' actions that resulted in the deaths of 'her' teens at the center, along with others that were rounded up from the streets. Anne reports also that though they started at the youth center, James wasn't satisfied with the amount of room he had to work with and moved them underground, but she can't say where exactly.
This starts another argument between Gunn and Connor over the latter's decision to not hunt down James as Angel Investigation's first priority, despite only being three people and a Magic Ball.
Laura berates both for bickering. They're interrupted by a call to Connor over his cell. It's Kate.
Page 18: She's called Connor because they've found Angel's car wreck. With the eyewitness accounts saying he was driving and with the massive fire from the crash, it is assumed that he was killed and ashed by the accident.
As Connor is trying to process this, Gunn is continuing to complain that Angel would never had let the James matter sit. Connor hangs up with Kate and yells at Gunn that Connor isn't Angel, and if Gunn can't handle him being in charge, then he should just leave because he's done having this argument. He storms out of the Hyperion.
Commentary: Which, what the F* is going on with the sign on top of the Hyperion in that last panel. That looks like extra-crappy and HOTEL and HYPERION are mashing together, and one is spelled backwards but the other is forward... ugh, just don't bother.
Page 19: Meanwhile, at future!L.A.'s Wolfram & Hart, Angel has decided to return to the office because... well... there isn't a lot of help to turn to where and when he is. He's dictated a new contract, making him a client of W&H in an attempt to keep them from screwing him over as they team up to stop James.
Page 20: Angel demands that Darrow sign it before they proceed, which he does without any argument. As soon as Angel has it in hand, he punches Darrow out.
Page 21: Angel demands to know all of the details of W&H's plans to stop James/Myr, but Darrow won't spill until Angel also signs the contract which he hasn't done yet. Angel refuses until he knows the 'Grand Plan', as W&H has managed to kill just about everyone in Angel's life at one time or another and now they went ahead and let James succeed in the first place to create this future.
He tells Darrow he isn't signing the contract without knowing the details of The Plan in advance of his signature.
Page 22: Angel storms out into the rain, without W&H's help... again.
Commentary: SO... the point of that confrontation was...?
As he goes down an alley... very much calling to mind the last time he went up against the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart in "Not Fade Away" he catches a scent that he thinks is familiar. He decides it can't be who he thought and continues on.
We see a shadowed figure watching his progress. From the boot, it is apparently a woman. She utters vague threats.
Angel mentioned that the scent he caught contained too much JASMINE.
The Good: I like the beginning, starting at the moment the last issue ended with Angel's backward fall off the highrise roof.
The Bad: I'm very confused about the body that Angel Investigations is checking out, and how exactly Kate would have tipped them off to it without the place already swarming with cops and the coroner.
I'm also left very confused over why humanity has been turned into living beakers for demon production, and yet humans would be running around free in Dystopia-L.A. Shouldn't everyone be restrained and serving as breeding stock/demon generating incubators?
Other Thoughts: I just don't buy Anne's survival in this scenario. But, I do look forward to more interactions between Myr and his even more destructively evil sister, Rowant.
Anne's having retreated to the Hyperion, just for the gang to be there after they've already relocated is not explained at all. It's really clumsy storytelling and much too convenient.
The Score: I mostly like this issue, though the artwork takes a bit of adjusting to. But, there are some real logic problems that drag the score down a bit.
3.25 out of 5
Next up: Spike #1, in which he and Illyria end up in Las Vegas after they both leave Angel Investigations after that 'soul-thing' aborted plotline.