Angel & Faith, Issue 14
"Family Reunion, part IV"
Script: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy (Comicraft) 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 into the fiery hells of Quor'Toth with Connor as their guide.
Page 01: We open in Quor'Toth, where Willow has just started a turn for the darker (again). Everyone else is still recovering from the demon, Quor'Toth's attack on them.
Angel mentions that he's never seen Dark Willow, but he's heard about it and Faith confirms that things just went to a bad (more than already) place.
Commentary: I like the little artwork detail of turning the Scythe from red to black while Willow is holding it.
Page 02: Willow has the presence of mind to understand what is happening to her. She tells the others that everything she'd said before was wrong -- Quor'Toth is affecting her and they need to get out NOW. She's willing to forget all about opening another portal to continue her journey at this time, and just do a retreat back to Earth.
The Kobolds who were freed from their imprisonment/slavery by Connor, and worship him as a god, have been waiting at the portal entrance to Earth for his return. They tell Connor that he must feel free to exterminate any of their slow and stupid who get in the way -- which obvs is not Connor's style. He tells them that they just need Willow to jump the line.
But the thought of Willow leaving before them makes Angel realize that leaves them to hold off Quor'Toth-lord themselves, which seems unlikely.
Page 03: Meanwhile, that Lord of Quor'Toth is busy vomiting a never ending waterfall of black goo over the land and threatening to eat all of their souls for their trespass.
Page 04: Angel grabs a hold of the now-panicked Semi-Dark-Willow and talks her down a bit, but she tells Angel that she can't trust herself this way....
Page 05: He sends Willow to hold off Quor'Toth for the next minute or so, while they usher out the Kobolds, Faith and Connor.
Page 06/07: Willow and Quor'Toth fire mega-blasts at one another.
Meantime, Angel orders Connor to lead the Kobolds through the rift to Earth so that Gunn can be forewarned that their friends, while he and Faith will do what they can to shield their exit and Willow keeps the Old One's attention.
The problem is that Willow decides on a sudden change of plans. She blocks the rift from entry and tells the others that she's calling the shots, now.
Commentary: First, kudos to the callback to Season 3 of BTVS and Faith's mention of her own dark turn and how minor it was compared to what Dark Willow can do. Second, I love that Faith recognizes that Willow is taking a liking to the dark power again -- a) because it's consistent with Willow for her to embrace that power, but b) because it really underscores past-Faith again... our current Faith recognizes the signs of someone getting off on their own power, because she's been there. Finally, I like Willow sabotaging Angel's plan by insisting that she's the one in control now, as that too is consistent with Dark Willow as seen in BTVS, S6.
These two pages are full of callback and reference to our earlier characters.
Page 08: Semi-Dark Willow wonders what she was so afraid of. Rather than fighting the Hell-power of the Quor'toth dimension, she channels it - blasting that dark power from the Scythe into another energy burst against the Old One Quor'Toth.
Unfortunately, this isn't a good thing: She decides that in this place, she can do anything -- including becoming the new god of the realm.
Page 09: As Dark-Willow sends the Old One crashing into a dark sea with a cliff on top of him, she says that she's liking it there.
Commentary: And, a kudos to the artwork for pages 08 & 09.
Page 10: With Willow continuing to trip, she turns her attention to her grand plans for the new Quor'Toth dimension.
She tells herself she could really have a future in this realm with the ready-made worshippers already there. But, more problematic, is how she's already imagining how she'll be able to expand her influence by opening portals to practically anywhere on a campaign of domination.
She levitates Connor, telling him that he was made for this place and if he plays nice, she won't have to execute him.
But, she's not nearly as confident about Angel. She tells the floating Connor that his dad is never going to understand, and will have to be dealt with. She asks about where the big-bad-wannabe disappeared to in all of the commotion.
Page 11: Angel and Faith had used the commotion to duck behind a rock cropping out of sight. Now they discuss Angel's plan to stop Willow, with Faith repeating her worry about when they'd arrived and Angel's losing control of himself, too.
He points out that if he does or doesn't, they're all dead if they don't stop Wills. Faith launches Angel into the air behind Semi-Dark/Goddess-Desiring Willow, and sinks his fangs into her neck!
Page 12: Willow, after threatening to burn him to ash, suddenly changes her tune. She finds being bitten feels nice and it sends her into a stupor. Angel drains her to unconsciousness and they fall back to the ground.
Faith and Connor run up to them, with Faith telling Angel to back off. He gives both of them predator-glare instead.
Page 13: Faith realizes that now he's also lost control, just as she feared he would. She grabs up a sword to engage, while Connor tries to tell her to back off.
Angel, meanwhile, is struggling to stop himself from ripping them apart. He gives the go-ahead to Faith to stop him, as the Hunger has become to overpowering for him to stop himself.
[As is his wont -- really, Angel is always two baby steps away from making a grand sacrifice of his life. It makes me suspect that he has a real death-wish thing plaguing him, no doubt wanting to fulfill the death=redemption trope.]
Before Faith can decide whether she can really behead Angel, Willow recovers enough to grab Angel's wrist. She tells him that she trusted him when he told her that it would be okay. She tells him that she needs him to make it all okay.
Page 14: After struggling his demon back down, he and Willow stare at one another -- connecting over their respective inner monsters. It ends in a huge hug.
Page 15: Willow smirks at Angel's big plan being getting all bitey. He tries to explain, but she understands why he had to do it to get her to back down. She also recognizes that there are sometimes no good options left to take.
Conversation turns to doing what you think is right, but she tells him flat out that she knows he thought he was doing the right and necessary thing during his Twilight phase, but it doesn't change the impacts of his choices. She tells him that though she is grateful of what he did for her just now, things will never go back to being what they were between them. She can stop hating him, but she'll never really be able to forgive him.
It's going to have to be enough.
Commentary: So, I have to admit that at first, it bugged me that Willow recovered so quickly from her vampire bite just so that she could be the one to talk Angel down, rather than having it be... y'know... Angel's SON and currently CLOSEST FRIEND AND CONFIDANT. It felt too conveeeeenient. And I was a bit turned off by the big-hug-heals-all, but then they undercut the sap by having Willow still turn away from Angel despite all that just happened and I feel much better about it.
I think that Willow and Angel's relationship works much better this way, after everything that he's put Buffy through and of course, the whole Twilight thing that led to her powers-strip. It makes much more sense for their friendship to not be healed because he continues to make choices that seem to lead to bad ends and the Willow of Season 9 has been much more harsh toward her circle for their errors -- especially where the Twi-debacle and the Seed-shattering is concerned.
I still have a quibble or two about the way this was written with the Big Hug Of Redemption, but I'm much more okay with it, due to where the writers have left this strain on these two characters' relationship at the end of it.
Page 16: Having gotten over her Darkness, again, Wills opens a new portal from Quor'Toth to the Land Of Peaceful Acres for the Kobolds. Connor declines their invitation to choose a bride from among them. He also tells them that he cannot join them in their new land, but that they won't need him. He pulls out some final advice about being good to each other, doing unto them what... etc., and that the force will be them.
Finally, it's time for our gang to separate. Wills has to go with the Kobolds on her dimension hopping journey, while the other three need to return to L.A.
Page 17: Willow fist bumps Faith, which may be one of the most awesome panels in the issue. She tells Faith that of them all, she's the one who has grown the most. She wishes Connor goodbye with a hug and a thanks for believing in her when everyone else was doubting the changing state of the world. Finally, she honors the deal with Angel and holds out the Scythe for its bit of Giles.
Page 18: As the energy is transferred, Willow feels Giles pass through her. She believes that Angel might actually pull off what he says he can, but warns Faith to be on guard all the same.
The goodbyes have to end there as there is a giant noise from off-panel.
Page 19: It would be Quor'toth Lord coming around and deeply pissed by his dunking and rock thunking.
Faith, Angel & Connor barely make it through the portal in time to avoid another blast. We leave without knowing if Willow makes it [as if].
Gunn mentions that they've barely left, due to that time-dilation effect.
Page 20: Gunn asks after Willow, and we're assured that she's "on her way", as we see her floating through the Land of Peaceful Acres.
While Gunn patches up Faith's latest wounds, Angel and Connor talk and reconnect. Angel promises not to cut him out again.
Page 21: Faith brings up to Angel the risk he ran trying to bite Wills into submission, but he points out the pleasure principal of a vamp-bite. Though he does state that if Willow had fought back instead, he'd have killed her - just as he knew that if he lost control, Faith would have done him for everybody's good.
Angel also brings up that he knows that is what Willow meant for her to do by looking out for him. Faith tells him that she's getting sick of the responsibility of looking over his shoulder, but he promises that it's almost over. He tells her that the rest of Giles' soul-bits is located in one place and then they'll be ready to make the attempt to restore him.
Faith has surprised, worried face... big time.
Page 22: Meanwhile in London, the Slayers have convened to mourn the loss of one of their own to Drusilla's hands during their recent encounter.
[This apparently happened off panel, because I can't find where the Slayers tangled with Dru but they mention the riot and fire, which would have been the end off issue 9.]
But worse than that, the London Slayers are in shock as they report that not only was Angel in the city and "helping Dru escape" and fighting the mob... but Faith was there too and fighting WITH him back to back!
The Good: There is some excellent artwork in this issue. No effect on scoring, but kudos.
I liked the way that Wills [who became something of a Sue in S8, in my opinion] falls to the darkness of Quor'Toth, and Angel's neat solution.
I really liked that the relationship between Willow and Angel isn't all better at the end. And I like that both Angel and Faith are still confronting the reality that powerful friends may need to be put down if they go bad.
The Bad: Nothing.
Other Thoughts: The Big Hug Of Redemption was a little much.
Once again, Connor is underused where he should be front and center.
At this point, I'm still not fully on board with Giles' resurrection. I strongly believe if you kill a major character, they should stay dead in most cases. I'm not hating it... but I'm worried about it.
I do like that Faith's secret from the London Slayers has come out. That should be interesting... I just wish that the Slayer contingent weren't all so anonymous. Nadira is the only one that has been developed at all, and I'm not all that engaged with her as a person.
The Score: This is a really solid issue that had me happy reading it. I gave last issue a 4-star rating. I think this one is equally enjoyable.
4.0 out of 5 stars.
Next Review: We're going to review Angel & Faith #15, since it's a stand alone story for Whistler and the Evil Twins. Then, we'll change gears by taking on Buffy #14 through 19.
I'm still considering some movie reviews as well from online viewing... but... *shrug*. I'll get around to getting the DVD drive replaced [my computer needs a hardware upgrade anyway so I can play Europa Universalis 4] next month.
The reviews may be paced irregularly again this month... more overtime, but it shouldn't be as bad as this month.