"Family Reunion, Part 3"
Script: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt (Comicraft)
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 into the fiery hells of Quor'Toth with Connor as their guide.
Page 01: Our gang have been led by a Kobold that is worshipful of Connor to where his comrades have been enslaved, imprisoned, and set up for execution deep in Quor'Toth.
We can see a variety of demons in the same miserable conditions. Faith can't help but point out that they have a huge task ahead of themselves. Kobold doesn't seem to understand sarcasm.
Page 02: Angel takes lead, as is his way. He outlines a very vague set of plans to strike at the prison.
Meanwhile Faith, is complaining in her head that he's always dragging her into a pile of stink, and she should lop off his head, quickly strike Connor unconscious, and then make a run for the portal to Earth. All of this while they strike down a set of demons fighting over scraps on their way to the imprisoned.
Page 03: Faith continues to ramble traitorous little thoughts in her head, but fights against them, realizing that Quor'Toth is impacting her... driving her to fall back on the darkness within her herself. She makes a parallel between herself and what Angel must go through every day, all day with Angelus in his mind, always looking for a way to come out and play.
Angel notices she seems to be having some kind of issue, but she blows him off that she's five by five, and they should get moving.
Commentary: Last issue, page 11 I pointed out that the "Quor'Toth is affecting our characters' minds" didn't seem to be written to show that very well. I'm glad to see that the concept was brought over in this issue, and that it's been shown much better through Faith. This is more "show, not tell" than the way it was brought up last issue.
Page 04: As the gang approach a bridge leading to the prison grounds, they're spotted and have to begin to fight in earnest. Kobold leaps into the thick of things, despite Connor's yelling at him to stay back. Kobold tells him there would be no greater honor than to die by his side.
This leads Connor into a mini-guiltfest over having inspired these followers to practice things like mercy and loyalty that only gets them killed in a place like Quor'Toth. He obsesses a bit on the thousands that could've been killed for these things while he was on Earth. Due to the time differential between this dimension and ours, it's been centuries of the Kobolds being systematically slaughtered.
Commentary: And weirdly, Holtz of all people - I would argue - is more to "blame" for the Kobold's spiritual changes. In this scenario, I'd call him more of the "hero" to the Kobold people than Connor, himself.
Page 05: With Connor's discomfort with what his example has wrought among the Kobolds, he also gets insight into his father's psychology... the pressures that drive him toward isolation in order to not place others at risk following him, the grabbing at slim chances and grand gestures to fix everything for others; Connor wishes the old man could give himself more of a break, but he gets why he's the way he is a bit more.
Page 06: With Connor feeling the responsibility for the group's danger... including especially the Kobold's who look up to him... he dashes forward.
Some of the enemy recognize Connor as The Destroyer and run away outright, and from Angel who is mistook for being Holtz.
Faith comments on what sort of obsessive Holtz must've been to come to this place, just to hurt Angel and he explains [doing that convo-while-fighting thing that always comes off just a bit cheezy] about why Holtz hated him so.
Faith recognizes the obsession-thing that both men obvs shared. Angel acknowledges to her about what his goals with Giles must look like from the outside.
Page 07: Faith reverses herself, admitting that though he can be intense, he's nothing like Holtz who was obviously looking for vengeance, where Angel is all about redeeming Angelus' actions. She points out how he hasn't tried to save the whole world with a crazy scheme in months.
When he points out that she's not really the "inspirational speech" type, she shrugs it off but tells him that whatever his faults are, she'd sell her soul if her own dad would love her as much as Angel obvs loves Connor.
Page 08: Angel tries to apologize to her for their spat back in L.A., but she blows this off as stressful times. She also humorously tells him not to get a big head over her compliments, as she still thinks he's crazy.
Meanwhile, Willow has been working on mystically opening a door to the prison yards.
When she succeeds, Kobolds rush out and fall to their knees at Connor's feet -- something he tries to stop, immediately. Angel turns to Willow to open another intra-dimensional gate to whisk them outta there, but she's a bit drained.
As she and Angel are discussing whether they're going to be able to make a quick exit back to the portal they came to Quor'Toth through, Faith notes that things just got a whole lot more dangerous.
She asks Kobold-companion just what he meant when he'd stated "fighting Quor'Toth itself".
Page 09: As it turns out, "fighting Quor'Toth" wasn't a metaphor for the dominion's various creatures; Kobolds don't use metaphors. Rather, Quor'Toth turns out to be an actual great beast... an Old-One... a Lovecraftian Horror, who gives the dimension its name.
Commentary: And horror show it is. They did an excellent job with designing this Old God. I especially like the way its flesh has been stripped from its back by the flock of demonic birds that hover over it. It's like those birds that pull insects off of elephants or hippos, when they surface. But, they don't stop.
It also has shades of the giant beasts in "The Mist" that wandered through after the disaster.
Page 10: Meanwhile, back in London, Sophronia and Lavinia are being menaced by Nash and Pearl. Sometime back in the past, the girls [both of 'em] were engaged to Nash, but ducked out and took the engagement rings with them... part of the entire "make promises, don't keep 'em for mystic artifacts/spells" things they'd been doing for quite some time prior to magic's collapse.
Now, Pearl is happy to see them, so she can make them a smear all over the walls.
Page 11: This is something that Whistler nixes, as he's got a message for Angel and wants them to deliver it for him. But, Nash and Pearl suggest that their bloody remains will be clear enough.
They also make the mistake of forgetting just whose party this all is. When Nash threatens to burn Whistler's hand off if he doesn't remove it from his shoulder, Whistler shows some truly awesome power with a dark-eyed, power-moment.
Nash and his sister are sent smashing into walls, caught completely unprepared, as Whistler warns he'll destroy them should they forget their place.
Page 12: Whistler points out quite strongly that he's trying to save the world, and Earth's future, and doesn't have time for the schoolyard crap of his companions, which they contritely apologize over.
He next gives a sorry to the Fairweather girls for stealing their trinkets, but informs them that he's trying to restore a balance between magic and science, good and evil. Whistler also claims that he's trying to usher the world into a better state of being by lifting everyone up to the next step in evolution.
[Draw the conclusions you wish, but obvs he's being set up as basically trying to do the same thing as Willow -- only in a more demonic way -- restoring magic to the world for its own good. But he's also got quite the shade of Twi-Debacle's plans to "lift humanity"... as Angel insists the actual plan was, now. Obviously, we cannot trust Whistler's attempts to fundamentally change the world to lead to anything good and we'll be coming down to an Angel vs. Whistler battle at the end of our season.]
Liv points out to Whistler that the last time he tried to elevate humanity [his part of the Twi-Debacle], he only ended up ruining magic altogether.
Page 13: After a short glare, he expresses his admiration for her moxie, but points out that last time it was about improving things, now it's a literally matter of life and death. And also, Angel went off script the last time out. To avoid a repeat, he's going to head up this project himself to make sure it ends correctly.
He gives Lavinia an address where Angel should meet him on "their anniversary" to talk things out.
After he leaves with the family heirlooms he came for, Liv mistakes what Whistler was going for with his anniversary talk, and her ego-pain over Angel's not having hit on her is assauged. Sophie eye rolls.
Page 14: Back in Quor'Toth, Quor'Toth the Elder is extremely pissed that his sacrificial feast has been pre-empted by a prison break. He's Kaiju sized. Things don't look so good for our gang.
Page 15: Everyone is nearly blasted out of existence by Godzilla-breath Weaponry, but Willow is there to block-shield. Alas, since she is saving them all from being disintegrated, she can't whisk them to safety.
Angel asks Connor about Quor'toth, but he claims ignorance, having believed the elder god was only a myth.
Kobold's relate that the great beast slumbered as the realm was utterly corrupted. But Connor-Holtz introducing things like love, compassion, etc. was as knives to its body. The gang's lack of corruption into Quor'Toth behaviors has awakened the god to blast out of existence their positive influences.
Page 16: As Willow is in a losing stalemate with the Old One, Angel tries a pep rally for her. Willow tells him that fuzzy feelings isn't going to allow her to beat back an Old One, and that altogether, they don't have enough energy for her to siphon to make a difference.
Angel plays on her insecurities and loathing of her powerless state on Earth. He suggests that right now, she's not any different.
Page 17: Well, that did it. Willow is able to summon her hatred at being powerless for a mega-magic-burst.
The magic is foreign to Quor'Toth, as it's coming largely from the re-powered Slayer Scythe. This blasts it into falling over.
Page 18/19: Quor'Toth reacts as one would expect a great, evil god to react to being hurt: He goes on a kill-everything rampage.
The gang run for it, as Willow explains that opening a new rift right now would require standing still, which would quickly end in death.
Faith warns they're not getting enough distance, as Quor'Toth lets loose with another mega-breath blast.
Page 20: This blast flies over their heads, fortunately. But there is a new complication in that Willow refuses to go back through the Earth-portal with the rest of the gang. She doesn't want to make her trip to Quor'Toth all for nothing by returning to a plain with no magic.
As they argue the point, Quor'Toth shouts DEATH - loud enough to make their noses bleed.
Page 21: He then, well it looks like vomiting up, pure blackness upon them.
When this clears, Willow is down on the ground and the rest are staggered.
Page 22: When everyone checks on Willow's status, she warns them they have a problem: Black Eyes & Veiny Face.
The Good: Obvs, I liked the call backs to Angel, Connor and Holtz's histories.
Quor'Toth, the Old One. Very awesome.
I liked the solid hint we're getting that Whistler may not be evil, exactly, so much as just insane. I do believe that is what they're getting at with his severe mood shifts.
I loved all of the action bits while the gang flee from Quor'Toth, the being.
The Bad: Nothing.
Other Thoughts: I liked Faith's inner monologue, wrestling with her selfish impulses, but again I wish that we'd gotten more of Quor'Toth - the place - playing on everyone's psychological chinks in their armor.
The Score: 4.0 out of 5 stars. This one was a fun read.
Next Review: Angel & Faith, #14