Angel & Faith
"In Perfect Harmony"
Script: Christos Gage, Art: Phil Noto, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Rebekah Isaacs, Dan Jackson
Blurb: Twilight is over. Magic is gone. Giles is dead, and Angel killed him-- that is, the possessed-by-mystical-forces Angel. Now his need for redemption is greater than ever, after Buffy and everyone else have turned their backs on him -- all except one rebel Slayer with a cause, Faith Lehane. Together, in the flat she inherited from Giles, Faith and Angel are living through the aftermath of Twilight, and keeping the London streets safe from the ever-present forces of evil...
Page 01: We open at Faith's flat, where she is sharpening a sword while Angel sits nearby studying more journals. He's continuing to pursue a way to collect the pieces of Giles' soul and to regenerate his dead body in order to resurrect him to Faith's continued deep ambivalence.
Angel is in a nostalgic mood for his PI days with Angel Investigations. His internal monologue rambles that he misses using his detective skills to help beautiful women in danger, rather than trying to rescue a man he shouldn't have killed.
They're interrupted by a knock at the door.
Page 02: Angel thinks that he remembers now why he quit being that sort of detective. The beautiful woman at the door requiring assistance is Harmony Kendall.
She's all squealing a hi and glomming him in a hug.
Commentary: And, before we even get into the issue I just want to bring up two points. One) I like Harmony in small doses, but her vapid comedy tends to drag on too long if she isn't used sparingly. Since she appears to be the guest star of note this issue (she is on the cover, after all), I'm already worried. Second) You'll note immediately that the artwork is different from issues 1-4. Rebekah has been replaced for this issue by Phil Noto. Now, a swap in artist can be interesting as they bring out a different focus on our characters. A different style can also be wonderfully appropriate for certain circumstances, such as a dream issue or an extended flashback. This is none of those, however. And, while I have nothing against Noto's work per se, I don't think it really matches this title well... even for an issue that is revolving around the cartoony-Harmony.
Page 03: As Angel invites Harmony in, Faith tries to get answers about her and Clem, since he's very clearly a demon. Harmony assures Angel that Faith knows who she is... being the vampire celebrity, after all (since BTVS, issue 21).
Faith actually doesn't, despite Clem's giving Harmony a glowing work history that should jar Faith's memory. Angel finally just points out to Faith that Harmony used to be friends with Cordy and got herself vamped (in BTVS: Becoming, Part II off screen -- we find out later when she attacks Willow). He points out how Harms used to be his personal assistant (AtS: S5) and that she dated Spike for a brief moment.
Faith mentions how she likes how she's supposedly the slutty one, when everyone on the planet seems to have slept with Spike.
Harmony interrupts with a plea to focus on her problem. Her career is in jeapordy, which apparently is the most important thing in the world. Who knew?
Page 04: Harmony has Clem pull out her laptop, upon which is a video that she received in an attempt to blackmail her. The video is a basic sex tape, though with a vampire twist, in which Harmony fed from the guy from somewhere not his neck.
Faith points out that sex tapes are supposed to be helpful for the careers of chicks with no talent. Harmony agrees that usually her tape would be hot stuff, but times are weird these days.
Angel points out the fallacy of showing him and a Slayer that she killed a guy and expecting help, rather than a quick staking. But, Harmony tells him to hold on a moment, and then shows him that she sired the guy.
Page 05: Faith points out to Harmony that showing them her siring somebody isn't exactly arguing for not staking her. Harmony argues that her killing ways were a long time ago. She also claims the guy was begging her because he was a cancer victim whose time was running out and she needed to expand her entourage. But, as Clem states, in the meantime, Harmony has become a leading public face for vampire reformism, in which feeding on the unwilling is verboten, feeding enough to kill is forbidden and siring is absolutely off the table. It would look extremely bad to Harmony's new image if her tape of her previous action were to get out into the public sphere.
Angel doesn't find any of this compelling enough to help her out, even for pay, but he and Faith both re-think when Clem points out that right now there is a debate going on, thanks to Harmony's efforts, among the vampire community. There are still the advocates for people only being meals on feet and if Harmony wasn't out there pushing for reform, it's very possible that the public vampires would go public by pulling mass slaughters. Things could quickly degrade into utter chaos between people and demons.
Harmony also tries to remind Angel that she stood by him when he was fighting the Apocalypse of W & H's, but he points out that she actually ran away. She insists she was the last to go, though. They both fail to mention that Harmony actually betrayed Angel first and it was simply fortunate that he knew she couldn't be trusted and was prepared for it.
Commentary: I've been bothered by Harmony's continued presence since BTVS' focus-issue on her. Harmony killed a Slayer on television during her reality show days, and even though the public was on her side as she was defending herself, it always felt completely wrong that Slayers weren't lining up to take her down. I could let this pass by if we'd seen her with heavy security, or mentions of several close calls she's had in the interim, but no... she's just walking around enjoying her stardom with apparently all of the Slayers... everywhere... just not minding. Huh.
Oh, I'm still vaguely disappointed in Clem being Harmony's personal assistant, rather than being one of Buffy's supporters. I always thought that he'd be great for a side character to continue hanging around with Dawn.
Page 06: Later, at Harmony's place in Kensington, Faith tries to narrow down suspects but Harmony just has too many people with access to her stuff where she kept the original of the video on her laptop. See, she'd actually filmed herself exactly for the notoriety, in case her career started to wane and she needed a juicy scandal to get her back in the public eye.
Unfortunately for her, she didn't erase it when she started her advocacy campaign. Clem brings a stack of Harmony's hate mail and Angel finds an un-postmarked envelope matching that which came with the flash drive in the blackmail letter. Angel decides to start with the vampire supremacists who consider Harmony a race traitor for her current public views.
Page 07: Later in a park, Angel points out two vampire buddies. They're part of the current crop of vamps who aren't on board with Harmony, one of whom has been busy siring, despite the fact that the newly sired are "coming back wrong". He warns his companions that the zompires acting as guards are stronger than the run-of-the-mill vampires, but they're all a lot more stupid, so they're easily manipulated.
Harmony is more interested in the "easily manipulated" part of that as she's interested in possible minions without the whining and snarky attitudes that she's run into before. Angel just saying her name in a warning way, and she "suddenly remembers" that siring is horrible and must be stopped.
In the meantime, Faith is complaining to Clem that he didn't really need to bring Harmony's dogs with them. He returns that since they mauled Cesar Milan, they haven't been able to find a sitter for them... and presumably, leaving them alone is simply out of the question.
Meanwhile, our vampire-bad guys have trussed up two guys to a swing set and are set to tap their arteries with a beer keg spike to store in their brought-along cooler for later.
Page 08: Faith tells him to just stay out of the way. In the meantime, she and Angel take on the zompires while Harmony is directed to subdue the regular vamps. She refuses at first, as she's wearing couture, but then one of the vampires... let's call 'em Rog and B.G. (beard guy)... so B.G. insults Harmony's ass for being fat, which she won't tolerate.
She quickly pulls out her vampire moves on the two half-wits.
Commentary: Yeah. They call Harmony a fat ass, and this is what it takes for her to help Angel and Faith help her stop her blackmail.
I'm sure this was meant as a comedy issue with satirical elements toward the whole reality star phenomena, but Buffy pretty much did this already with the mentioned issue 21... and better. I'm less amused by all of this, than kinda bored.
Like I said, I can deal with Harmony in small doses. She really doesn't need a second "day in the life" issue.
Page 09: As B.G. and Rog recover from Harmony's knocking them to the ground, B.G. notices Clem standing in the distance (and not even hiding behind the shrubbery, which seems stupid). He recognizes Harmony's beloved dogs from a US Weekly article and directs the zompires to stop facing Angel and Faith and instead tear the pups to shreds.
Faith tries to get Clem to run, but he claims he can't as he got his loose skin caught in a door at his stripperobics class and pulled a hammie. But fortunately, Clem isn't exactly defenseless -- in his folds, he hides several snake demons who are more than able to bite the heads clean off zompires with their oversized fangs.
Commentary: Because, as you know, if you were in this position you also would have directed your muscle to ignore the avenging traitor-vampire, the celebrity traitor-vampire who just knocked you on your ass to boot, and the SLAYER to focus on going after a pair of dogs.
Again, obvs we're supposed to find this all amusing, what with Clem's comedy stylings. Alas, it's lost upon me; I just find it to be odious komedy.
Oh, and the reveal of Clem's zompire killing mastery just makes me a bit more bummed out that he isn't playing bodyguard to Dawn instead, who generally needs to be guarded from kidnapping attempts every season.
Page 10: Well, with the remaining two zompires easily dusted by Angel and Faith, that leaves B.G. and Rog at their mercy. They proceed to interrogate them about Harmony's purloined sex tape.
But, it appears that they have no idea what anyone is talking about and aren't the culprits.
Page 11: It's also obvious though that B.G. was the one who was sending hate mail to Harmony. But Rog suddenly realizes he was only insisting on dropping it all off at her door personally because he was hoping to catch a glimpse of Harms in her underwear the entire time. He turns on him as another race traitor. Faith tells him to shut up and dusts him, leaving B.G. left to question. Meanwhile, B.G. happens to carry around a copy of Harmony's prior legitimately leaked sexcapades, and is hoping for an autograph.
Angel mentions the threat to release Harmony's siring a guy out onto the internet, but B.G. clearly would savor the opportunity to wank off to it, rather than using it as a blackmail tool.
Harmony has enough of being seen as an object by B.G. and dusts him next.
But, Angel did learn enough to realize that B.G. was correct in his assessment that someone could make far more money bootlegging the tape to the public than going the way of blackmail. Faith catches on that their blackmailer is less about the money than they are about something personal. Angel tells her they need to return to a list of suspects, focusing on those that have a personal hatred for Harmony. Faith lists herself, first.
Page 12: Back at Harmony's place (which has far too much pink to be tolerable, imo) she's listing people with a grudge against her. Angel tries to steer her toward families of those she killed before she started her new movement, but she blows this all off as not important as it was from before her conversion.
Angel points out that the families may not be ready for bygones. Harmony then tells him she didn't collect a list of names from her victims, which Faith (for reasons that are not sensible) finds shocking. Harmony turns this ignorance on Angel and wonders if he could name all of his previous victims, which he assures her he can.
She tells him that's probably his problems. Harmony has moved beyond trying to feel guilty about doing things previously and is living in the now.
"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be," Lao Tzu.
"It is so conceited and timid to be ashamed of one's mistakes," Brenda Ueland
"People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar," some Asian guy.
Commentary: I'm just gonna write off Harm's attitude as excuses, since she doesn't have a soul so I find her feeling loads of guilt anyway to be highly unlikely.
Also, I find it ridiculous to think that Angelus collected the names of every random tart or drunken lout he fed off of in the back alleys of the world or that Angel would even be capable of going back and finding out what they were. I can't even buy that he'd remember all of their faces, let alone their biographies.
I also find it even more ridiculous to suggest that Faith would be shocked that vampires might not have taken the time to learn who their random victims were before biting them. This whole page is stupid. Worse though, the artwork suddenly took a dive as well. Harmony suddenly gained about 50 pounds between this page and the last, and she's about to lose it again before she reaches the next page. Clearly, she should be looking for a mystic doctor to runs some tests!
Page 13: Harmony explains that she was a murderer, but the key phrase is 'was'. Unlike Angel, she's accepted her mistakes and has now moved on from them without carrying that heavy baggage around getting in the way of her personal growth. To help Angel she offers, in lieu of monetary compensation, to assign her PR person to come up with a campaign to restore his image among the demonic community, who seem far more bitter about the Twilight deal than anything he's done as a good guy.
She also offers a chance for Angel to "get caught" in a sex tape of his own with her to boost his popularity and sends Clem off to get the camcorder, which he does with some obvious reluctance. He needn't have bothered, as Angel is obviously not going to go there with Harmony. She puts this down to his fear of the perfect happiness clause.
Faith is oddly silent through this exchange, whereas I would have expected snark.
Page 14: As Harmony is distracted by Clem's showing her a cover for "I Am Woman" magazine, which she isn't pleased with, Faith feels out Angel on maybe trying a bit of PR thing to lift his self-image, if nothing else. She points out that Harmony seems to have zero guilt about anything she's done and she's also managed to make more of a difference than them by her public campaign, rather than the demon-slaying gig.
But, he points out that Harmony is a soulless narcissist and without a conscience, it's easy to let go of things you've done.
Page 15: Faith offers her point is maybe they could both use a little bit of letting go of the past. But Angel turns it around and asks her if she isn't more afraid of what they'd become if they forget what they're capable of, over that they cling to the past too much. Faith ends up agreeing.
But, with their leads at a complete dead end, Faith decides the only thing to do is do what they do best --
"When all else fails, bust some heads," Faith Lehane.
Page 16: Harmony and Clem accompany Angel and Faith around to some demon haunts, trying to threaten or beat any useful information out of somebody who may be able to point them in the direction of who wants to hurt Harmony's reputation and short circuit her crusade.
It doesn't seem to be adding up to much.
Page 17: At a popular club, Harmony flashes her boobs to get cooperation from the crowd. She also takes the opportunity to hit on David Tennant. In the background, Clem watches this with extreme mope-face, which Angel is obviously pointing out to Faith.
Page 18: Outside, Faith and Angel play up that their investigation turned out to end with no answers. They suggest to Harmony that she release the tape herself with a "I did bad things, but now I've changed" spin.
Clem panics at this, telling Harmony that the world loves her and she loves the world loving her. But, more to the point to confirm a new theory for Angel, he also goes out of his way to tell Harms that he loves her loving it loving her. He suddenly tells her that he can find the person doing this and pay him off to make it go away.
This confirms for Angel that Clem is her blackmailer.
Page 19: Harmony is at first heartbroken by the betrayal, but Clem proceeds to exclaim that he's fallen in love with her. His scheme was really about stepping in to play the hero and save her, but then she went and ran to Angel and Faith and that sent his simple plan spinning off its axis.
The blackmail was never a real attempt to embarrass her.
Page 20: Harms gives Clem a kiss on the cheek, assuring him they're still friends, but also letting him know that they'll never be anything further. As she points out, with her great fame comes the responsibility of only boinking people as hot as her. She couldn't possibly have People magazine including him on the cover if she expects to continue to be popular!
Harmony gives Clem a raise, since Simon's hired her onboard "Britain's Got Talent" as a judge. She tells him to just forget all of this happened.
Angel tries to step in to rescue Clem's pride, but he leaps at the change to remain in Harmony's shadow as the unrequited love and abused assistant.
Page 21: To Angel's shock at this ending to the case, Harmony simply says that he should try letting go of things, too.
"The only reason to look back is to check out your own ass," Harmony Kendall.
She also gives Angel a packet as his payment with the PR proposal created by her public relations assistant.
Commentary: I will say though that I like them giving Harmony this new outlook and cause to go with her fame. It helps to alleviate the fact that Buffy has never tried to hunt down Harmony after she publically killed a fellow Slayer. Maybe she spread the word to the Slayers who still support her that Harmony isn't to be taken down, unless she falls off the wagon?
I also like the point being made about Angel learning how not to obsess over everything Angelus did, but I found this story pretty dull and I also don't agree with the suggestion that he should let go of everything, as Harmony has. Obviously, both he and Faith still have much to make up for and they should be angsting about it in their private moments [but I could stand them not bringing it up so much to us].
Page 22: Faith asks Angel about his takeaway from what Harmony was trying to share, but he claims all he got from it was that famous people are crazy. He throws the packet in the trash, and though Faith looks at it consideringly, she doesn't retrieve it as she follows Angel.
The Good: I like the fact that Harmony hasn't been allowed to walk around free attacking and killing people. It makes sense that after she tried so hard to live up to Angel's rules at W & H, that she may take that and expand on it in her own way.
The Bad: It doesn't impact scoring, but the artwork was pretty hit-or-miss, and it was downright bad on page 12.
Other Thoughts: Of course, Harmony's turnabout also further muddles the vampire mythos started with Angel, continued via Spike (especially), then really turned on its head with the bizarre inclusion of the friendship between Xander Harris and Dracula (!!) and now this. I'm not sure if this is a net positive making the Buffyverse further shaded, or if I would rather just have them focus on vampires being the unrepentent monsters they started out as.
I'm really unconvinced by this sudden revelation that Clem has super-monster powers. That seemed really convenient.
I was disappointed that so much of the dialog was just ridiculous and inappropriate to the circumstances. However, the story itself wasn't completely bad. Although, I have to reinterate that I was a bit bored. I don't dislike it as much on the re-read for reviewing as on my first read through.
Clem and Dawn would make much better best friends than he and Harmony, but I can see him falling into the role of assistant pretty easily. At least he's still happily around so we may get to see him again meeting up with Dawnie... maybe over coffee?
The Score: I'm not ready to score this issue as bad, but I wasn't really into it either. As such, I must grade it a bit below average, even though I like the central message of Harmony to Angel to move past the bad deeds he's done and stop obssessing.
2.75 out of 5 stars
Next Up: Ugh. I thought next was going to be BTVS: BECOMING and I was excited to get into it. Imagine my utter disappointment when I remembered that Go Fish has to come first. Well, I'm certainly not ready to have to spend time with that.
Let's see: X-Files is "The Jersey Devil" ... no thanks; The Walking Dead is "Tell It To The Frogs"... meh; Supernatural is "Hook Man"... meh; Buck Rogers is "Unchained Woman" ... which is... actually not bad, despite that title. Okay - next review will be Buck Rogers.