Angel & Faith
"Family Reunion, Part II"
Script: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: Willow joins forces with Angel (who is not exactly her favorite ally) in a journey that will fulfill each hero's selfish desires. For Willow, it's the restoration of magic, and for Angel it's another piece of Giles' soul. Ever the loyal friend, Faith keeps a wary eye on her comrades as they venture deep in the fiery hells of Quor'Toth with Connor as their guide.
Commentary: First, I'm glad that even the blurb is acknowledging that Willow's quest is largely driven by her own wants and desires, and not only about her concern for Earth. It is something I've been pointing out, and it seems that Willow has been completely ignorant of the fact that she isn't exactly being selfless in her mission. It's been really clear when she accuses Angel of being selfish and reckless, while completely ignoring the same about herself -- shown by the fact that she's willing to help him anyway, despite feeling like he's headed for another disaster, if he can help her get what she wants.
Page 01: Willow, Angel, Connor and Faith have just crossed over into Quor'Toth. It is a barren land with demon skeletons hung from trees as a message.
Commentary: The only thing I want to mention here, is that I would've preferred that they'd done the artwork a little differently for the tear in space/time allowing entry. It would've been better to nod at AtS by coloring the eldritch energy to match the show, rather than the blue/white they chose. It's very minor -- but it would've been a neat nod.
Page 02: Angel expresses amazement that Holtz was even able to survive, let along raise Connor here. But we know how determined a man Holtz was while pursuing vengeance on Angelus.
Angel tries to apologize for what Connor had to go through, but Connor forcefully pushes against this. He tells Angel that nothing that happened was his fault. He doesn't even have any bitterness toward Wes for abducting him in the first place, since he was manipulated into it. He doesn't want to have to deal with Angel's misplaced guilt while they're there.
Willow interrupts with a smile, as she's able to summon a ball of power -- her magic is back, as expected.
Commentary: I like the artwork here. Notice that to depict Quor'Toth, little burning cinders have been drawn in the panels to give a little extra hellish ambiance to things. It's easy to not really notice them, but your eye does note them. It's a neat, little extra.
Page 03: Angel tells Willow that is good, but he's ready to get home again. Will's all "not so fast", as the ball of energy she'd summon turns into a palmful of goop.
This causes another argument between Angel and Willow. He's pissed that she never mentioned that there would be a period of acclimation that would delay their exit from this realm. She shouts back that she told him she'd need to figure things out. She tells him that she needs to open another portal to a different place to continue her attempt to bring magic back to Earth (and to kick off her limited series) and that wasn't going to be easy under any circumstances.
Their fight is interrupted by a flying demon attack.
Commentary: I like the demon-design for these winged beasts, too. Very nice. But, I must once again object to Connor being the one to be knocked down. *Sigh* Even in his "home" dimension, and being written by a different company, he finds himself being a load. WTH.
Page 04: While Faith kicking one of the two attackers, Angel tries to get Willow to run out of the way. She refuses, now that she has magic back. She goes to cast a spell to summon a magic blast... but Quor'Toth twists her magic into a bunch of flowers, which isn't very useful.
Fortunately, Connor leaps in between her and the second attacker before she has to depend on her Broken-Scythe to Claw melee skills.
This causes a dramatic response, as the vicious and hungry demon suddenly reacts with utter terror and retreats.
Faith's isn't so lucky, thanks to her crossbow.
Page 05: The retreating demon yells that it is the Second Coming of the Destroyer. He is obviously sees this as some sort of doomsday scenario.
Everyone is impressed that Connor is so remembered, considering that centuries must've passed in Quor'Toth while Connor was on Earth. Faith is more interested in getting out of there before reinforcements are brought back, but Angel is afraid of demonic forces crossing the entry and invading L.A.
Willow says she can prevent that. Faith isn't so sure, considering her two previous attempts to manipulate the energy of this dimension, but Wills assures her that she's getting the feel for the place.
Angel isn't willing to accept her word. He forcefully throws the body of the Faith's foe at the rift to confirm that it won't pass through. It's destroyed. He coldly leads them forward toward a forest, with Faith shrugging at Willow over Angel's pissy attitude.
Page 06: As they enter the woods, and Angel and Connor are busy with killing the beasties within, Faith aside-talks to Willow and asks her to help with keeping an eye on Angel. She expresses worry that Quor'Toth may affect him in the same way as Pylea had, and she's really uncomfortable with the amount of secrets he's been keeping from her.
Willow calls out to Angel not to go bumpy-face, since new dimension-new rules.
She then tells Faith that they need to all trust each other. Faith is "right... five by five" as she pissily smashes a branch off a tree.
Page 07: Deeper in the woods, they run across an abandoned hut. Connor explains that some of the natives hide out for their own safety. Angel says they can all rest within, as it has been abandoned for a long time according to his nose.
Inside, the gang find a piece of artwork depicting Connor as The Destroyer, which Angel interprets as his becoming the locals' version of The Devil in his absence. Connor seems quite disturbed by the thought.
Page 08: Before discussions can go any further on that topic, their attacked again. This time it is an armored bear-like beast. Angel figures that he now knows what happened to the old occupants. Faith tells them that it's a tough one, as it shrugs off being shot by her.
For Connor though, this is one of the easier creatures in Quor'Toth. He has Angel and Faith rear the animal up off of its forepaws - exposing its stomach, where the heart lies.
He's able to kill the animal with a single punch into its abdomen, where he tears the heart of the thing out.
Commentary: Yay, The Destroyer! He doesn't get knocked down!!
Page 09: There is a moment of extreme awkwardness, as Connor stands there with a heart in his hand and blood running down his arm, while Angel and Faith don't know what to say or do. They decide they should move on, their hut not being as safe as they'd hoped.
As they walk ahead of Willow and Faith, Angel expresses gratitude toward Holtz for at least protecting Connor. He guilt trips a little bit that at least he'd never left Connor alone.
We've already seen that Connor doesn't want Angel feeling guilty, and he turns on him here. He shouts that Holtz was insane, and despite some twisted sort of love, the man had left him alone all the time in remote places around this dimension so that he'd have to find his way back or die. He tries to tell Angel how much he appreciates the memories of a happy childhood that Angel had given him, but Angel points out that those were fake magic ones. He tells him it's why he didn't want Connor to come back here, because he worries that they'll seem less real and all Connor will have left is his real childhood in this hell.
Connor points out though, that the implanted memories were magic. No magic on Earth, means no magic spell altering his memories [Which has significant ... very cool foreshadowing ... for BTVS' title, and I think you can easily guess why].
Commentary: I really like these Angel/Connor moments, and I like that Connor is way more forgiving off everything between them than Angel. I think what I wish though, is that they'd included some shades of bitterness with Angel toward Wes, since it really was him that caused Connor to be lost here.
Angel is great at brooding guilt, but on this one, he's being written a bit too heavily on his responsible-feels. It would have helped if he'd express some legitimate anger still over Wesley's part in all of this. Then, of course, he could go on brooding over his still having issues with a dead man, after all Wes did to make up for it. So, y'know, for Angel and win-win. ;-)
Page 10: Angel now angsts at not realizing that Connor has lost his pretend family, as they don't remember him any longer. Connor though is pretty fine with that. He tells Angel that he gave him what he needed until he was strong enough to stand on his own, something that he appreciates his father for doing.
But Angel says that Connor has been different since, presumably, tearing the heart out of a bear. He realizes suddenly that the very place is having an effect on them all. This is something that Willow confirms. She says that their darker selves are being brought to the fore, though she seems protected from it via her own magic.
Page 11: And Angel says that he's gotten so used to fighting his nature, that he's held it together. He tells Faith that she also doesn't seem impacted, but she says she thinks she is a little bit (the scene in the woods with Willow?).
Angel returns to the subject of getting out of the dimension. Willow tells him she needs a few more minutes to analyze the mystic lattices. Faith wants them to stop standing out in the open, which was a good though since....
There is a sudden fireball-splosion nearby that knocks them off their feet. The cool-looking winged demons are back en masse and they've got aerial bombardment on their side, now.
Commentary: Yah. I'm gonna have to say that the gang's "turning darker" could have been written much better with a few more examples of their fighting amongst one another to bring that out sharper in the story. For being affected by Quor'Toth, they seem a lot more together than they were in London and L.A.!
That point wasn't well handled.
Page 12: Our winged foes are smart enough to stay aloft, out of range of most of the heroes' weaponry. But Willow has been able to understand the magic around them by now, and she's able to zap one of them.
The squad leader points out that she can't get all of them, and prepares to mass bomb the area with the fireballs.
Things don't look promising.
Page 13: From the distance, there is a strange and high pitched buzzing which does something to the energy balls of the demons. Before they can get rid of them, all of the bombs go off at once over our heroes' heads, completely wiping out our flying brigade.
Page 14: The gang are left wondering what just happened. Connor explains that the bombs were the flame glands of a species of dragon. They're made of crystal and with the right frequency can be made to explode prematurely. He then asks Willow if she did something, but the answer is actually another group of demons which close in our group.
Faith gears up to start another fight, but the gang are shocked once again when this new group falls to their knees and calls Connor their master, instead.
Commentary: For those of you who've played D & D, our newbies look like Kobolds. For those who enjoyed Star Control III, you can think of 'em as Doogs.
It's also an interesting twist, considering that IDW had the Sisterhood of Jaro Hull also worship Connor in Angel, S6.
Page 15: Connor confronts the newcomers, not at all comfortable with their immediate worshippy-ways [which is a little too close to Glory's Imps in personality to be comfortable] and demands an explanation.
Our Kobolds tell their history of one braver-than-usual Kobold following The Destroyer, seeking to learn the source of his power. He spied on The Destroyer speaking to his mentor who expressed pride and love for The Destroyer.
Obvs, this was Holtz.
Page 16: The Kobold of Quor'Toth explains that before The Destroyer's lesson, none in the demon dimension could conceive of love, mercy, and compassion being a source of strength. The Leader explains that they've practiced his ways since his mysterious departure and a devoted flock now practice his lessons.
Faith calls out Connor as the new, hipster Jesus.
The Kobold Leader goes on to explain the problem with this philosophy in Quor'Toth... namely that scores of them were slaughtered as martyrs, since y'know... demon realm and all.
Connor is horrified. Angel tries to tell him it isn't his fault, but Connor just wants to know how many "followers" are alive at this point. Leader tells him somewhere in the vacinity of 40 (two score, a score = 20).
He then goes on to tell Connor that most of those were captured recently and are being held for execution, however.
Kobold Leader naively expresses joy that The Destroyer, Valuer of Life, has come and will shepherd them to a better place, where they won't be slaughtered by the denizens who don't have such values.
Page 17: While this has been going on, and since they're not under attack, Willow has been focusing on opening a portal away from Quor'Toth. She finally succeeds, revealing that their destination is an agrarian world without the nightmarish demons trying to kill her constantly. The new world has a magic type closer to Earth and will be her next step in trying to right what has happened since The Seed's shattering.
Angel directs Kobold Leader and his surviving group-mates through the portal to their new home. When they pronounce blessings on Connor's "friend", he explains that he's Connor's father. They immediately praise Holtz' name. Whaa-whaaaa.
Oh, we also get the running gag about shrimp, as the new world doesn't have any [possibly the same world that was referenced by Anya and Illyria... or a different one?].
Page 18: Alas, there is that complication of the rest of the Kobold's. One such member respectfully asks Connor about those who've been captured for torture and death at some feast to be held at sundown. Faith, Angel and Willow explains that they don't have the sheer power to take on an entire world bent on their destruction and Angel tells Connor to escort the survivor through the portal, where Willow can close it behind them.
Obvs, with Kobold's crestfallen-sad face in full effect, Connor decides that he can't leave. He instructs Angel and the others to go, while he stays behind.
Page 19: Angel tries to convince him it'd be a suicide mission. Willow worries about her not being able to restore Earth's magic and their homeworld rotting from within, while they get themselves killed trying to rescue the doomed, and Faith tells Connor that he wasn't trying to inspire a movement and that he's not on the hook for the Kobold's getting themselves slaughtered.
But Connor can't leave them to their fate, after he turns out to be their inspiration. He points out that he survived Quor'Toth before and can do it again. He again instructs the others to go through the gate.
Obvs, Angel isn't about to leave his son behind again. No way, no how. And when Angel is staying, obvs Faith isn't going anywhere. Which means that Willow kinda feels obligated to stay as well.
Faith grins at her that it's time to stage the great escape from Hell.
Commentary: So, obvs the great mission of Connor is really about stretching out the Quor'Toth "saga" another issue, but I do like the interactions of our characters here... especially between Angel and Connor, and Faith.
What bothers me just a bit, is dumping these Dog-Demons on an unsuspecting world. Sure, Willow says that there isn't anything special about the Agrarian dimension, but they don't know anything about the Kobold's except for what Kobold Leader says over a five minute conversation.
It all just feels too rushed for Willow and Angel to throw open a gate and tell 'em all to pour on over -- I mean, they're in Quor'Toth... whatever the Kobold's claim, they're still demonic. I wish they're had been a page devoted to an internal argument about displacing these demons to another world, rather than just the naive assumption that they're all just goodness and light and should be given a new world to colonize, without debate by anybody.
I do like the references of Connor's Destroyer persona being a big deal in Quor'Toth though, and it'd be nice if we saw a much, much more beefed up Connor-fight issue in this arc next issue.
Page 20: In London, Rupert's aunts return to his flat. They're arguing because Lavinia had a chance to finally bang Morrissey, something she'd been trying for the past 30 years and Sophie got in the way.
They find the door open when they return, and within, signs that Rupert's flat has been ransacked.
Page 21: The two Aunts argue further when they discover that Rupert's magical knicknacks are missing and it can be largely put down to neither of them making sure the security system was activated before they dashed out to Prague.
Page 22: They're interrupted by Nash, Pearl and a sack wielding Whistler....
The Good: I like the design for Quor'Toth and the spiffy-weird flying demons.
Also, liking the interactions between Angel and Connor over the kid's upbringing with Holtz.
I like the idea of The Destroyer legend growing after Connor's escape for Quor'Toth.
The Bad: Nothing too bad.
Other Thoughts: I liked the idea that Quor'Toth itself was influencing the gang's personalities the longer they stayed, but it was really not well established in the storytelling, and seemed to have no impact after being mentioned by Willow. It was poorly handled.
The Kobolds also seemed a little haphazardly thrown in there to cause a complication and be a McGuffin, easily shunted to the side when they should by rights be insisting on accompanying Connor on his mission to rescue the rest.
The Liv & Sophie Show... *sigh*.
The Score: I liked this issue as well, but it needed some tightening up in the writing. The artwork is really good and I liked the dialog between Angel and Connor. I was left glad that we're not leaving Quor'Toth quite yet.
3.50 out of 5
Next Review: Angel & Faith, #13