Spike: After the Fall
Issue 2 (review redone)
Written by: Brian Lynch, Art by: Franco Urru, Coloring by: Art Lyon, Lettering by: Robbie Robbins
Cover B: by The Sharp Brothers, Charlie Kirchoff
Blurb: Spike has been swallowed into W&H's created Hell along with the rest of Los Angeles. As he attempts to secure the safety of regular folks he's taken into his charge, he is visiting W&H HQ in hopes of securing a safe place to hide the non-combatants.
Page 01: We open on a quick flashback panel of Spike in the rain as the W&H evil army comes for him and the others in Team Angel. Angel himself is standing with his sword and tells the others that personally he wants to fight the dragon.
Return to present, where said Dragon Named Cordelia, guards the entrance to Angel's HQ/W&H jail cell, that he never stays in despite the evil firm's threats. Cordelia is staring down Spike.
Commentary: The one thing that I want to compliment this issue on right off is the artwork. Urru and Lyon do some very nice work on this issue and Robbie Robbins on lettering is also crisp, clear and creative.
I also really liked the first few pages of this one, storywise and dialog-wise in Spike's thoughts. But then....
Page 02/03: We have a two page spread next of the huge Cordelia towering over Spike as she inspects him. He's going through possible responses, each of which get more farfetched as a possibility of not being turned into a pile of ash.
Page 04: With the dragon hesitating in its attack, Spike chooses to "spare" her and walk away quickly. This doesn't actually happen though as Cordelia blocks his path. He complains at the dragon, but then realizes that she's not toying with him. She actually wants Spike to hop aboard for some purpose.
Spike decides that if a fire breathing dragon wants you to take a ride, you should just take the ride offered.
Page 05: Cordelia delivers Spike toward the top floor of W&H/Angel HQ, but she can't explain why she wants him there.
While admiring the same desk that all demons seem to admire who see it, he hears someone in obvious suffering. Is it Angel? Wesley?
Page 06: No. It isn't.
Spike finds somebody in a random room who appears to be enveloped, or made from, energy. The figure is humanoid, levitating just off the floor, his back is arched in agony. The figure continues to plead to himself/W&H/God/Invisible Lost Love that he just wants out and that he's ready to be what he should be. He's being held by some mystic symbols on the floor, so clearly is another prisoner of W&H.
Could this be a captured Gunn, who over in Angel is still plotting?
No. It is not.
Cordelia is hanging outside of a huge hole in the wall and Spike asks the dragon what he's supposed to do with the energy guy. Whatever the dragon's intent, the energy-guy ends up electricuting Spike before the vampire can figure out Cordelia's desire.
Could the figure not be a man, but actually be Gwen with her electricity out of control?
No. It isn't her, either.
Page 07: Spike recovers on the floor, knocked flat by the electric blast of the prisoner. Spike suddenly understands the guy's agony.
Then he leaves. He's wasted enough time there and realizes that he can't hide out his human-cargo in this building and should just avoid it from now on.
Cordy looks after him in disappointment.
Commentary: And this is what pissed me off the first time around. This sequence leads up to... NOTHING. Spike doesn't find anything that is needed for his adventure, he doesn't run into Angel, he doesn't meet Wes, he doesn't interact with W&H, he doesn't run into Bruge looking to payback Angel for killing his son... the entire exercise is completely empty! SEVEN FUCKING PAGES FOR NOTHING.
This little interlude could've been easily made into a neat, one-time encounter thing without dragging Angel into it if they'd just had Spike checking out the HQ as a possible refuge, only to run into Matthias Pavayne, now freed from his entombment.
Or since they'd already had him thinking about the issue of Illyria, they could've had Spike reminiscing on his relationship with Fred using flashback, and then decided he couldn't stay there for any length of time remember what they'd lost [which also would touch on the resolution coming in Angel: After the Fall].
Instead we get a third of the issue tied up with what amounts to a walkabout with a mysterious energy guy that doesn't impact the plot in any way and will never be seen, heard from, or referred to again throughout either Spike or Angel. WTF, PEOPLE?
So, yes... I'm still angry if not livid this time around, too.
Page 08: Spike frets that he's been away too long and rushes back to the amusement park where he's left Illyria, Jeremy [who he continues to call Jerry] and the others. He finds them missing. As we saw in last issue, they've been waylaid by a new faction fighting for territory in this new landscape.
His primary worry is for Illyria, and at first it appears that he fears she's gone off on a mad-god rampage.
Page 09: Spike realizes that he's picking up some scents that don't belong to his people. As he's arming up with enough weaponry to get bogged down and tripped up once the fighting actually starts, he meets somebody who wasn't there before with his group.
She's collecting knicknacks and complaining about how the others are always leaving her behind. Her thoughts indicate she may not be as she initially appears, but is actually wearing somebody else's body.
Page 10: Spike and the new girl stare at each other in surprise, before girl springs spider legs from her spine and Spike pulls a knife.
Page 11: Meanwhile, Jeremy and the others are in a compound with their abductors. A Drill Sargeant Nasty type is telling them all the rules as they stand at attention. The rules are basically contradictory because the humans are in Sucksville.
Unfortunately, Illyria has once again slipped into Fred's skin and is therefore worthless as far as breaking them all out of there.
Worse, she gets caught whispering to Jeremy which is one of those rules not to break.
Page 12: Drill Sargeant Nasty introduces Fred-persona as their example to the others about what happens to rule-breakers. Jeremy tells Illyria to hulk out and kick her ass, but Fred-persona has no idea what he's talking about.
Before Nasty can proceed, however, a new player enters. It is obviously the Big Boss because Nasty acts quite unnerved... as she should judging by "the rules", which sound more like there will be no pleasing Ms. Thing.
Ms. Thing [who we'll find out is named Non] orders Nasty to stand down in annoyance.
Commentary: And Non will be our spoiled, rich princess so naturally she's also the Lord of Beverly Hills. I'll leave it to you to decide if 'tropes are not bad' or whether it's just a boring cliché.
I'll just say here that Non quickly becomes annoying because she insists on talking a lot.
Page 13: The Lord of Beverly Hills can discern Illyria's true power under the Fred persona and suggestively tells her that she'd like to pull her tab, but Fred-persona is still clueless.
Non takes this a playing coy and allows her to amuse her further by turning her attention away from punishing her for talking and going on to describe the new fates of all of them under her command now. Most will end up killed sooner, some will die later after back breaking and exhaustive work details.
Page 14: Non is interrupted in her Lordly blathering by Noelle, a high-powered telepath who acts as her right hand gal. Non recognizes the return of Maria's truck [Spiderlegs] but Noelle tells her that may be but Maria is currently unconscious in the passenger seat as the truck continues barreling toward them.
Page 15: Fred-persona recognizes Spike in the driver's seat. Jeremy cheers. Non glares at him, so he claims to just really like trucks. Non also sees Spike and recognizes he's a vampire. She thinks he's there to join her team but then notices that the truck seems to be aiming for her at some significant speed.
Commentary: I want to compliment how Jeremy is written in this. He's actually a pretty amusing guy. I'd wish that we'd seen more of him in Angel: After the Fall, but there were so many more important supporting characters underused already as it was.
Page 16: Noting that Spike is apparently attempting to pancake her, Non grabs Fred-persona to act as her human shield. Spike notices, but it's far too late for him to swerve or stop, despite his best effort to do so.
At the moment of impact, we hear the horrendous sounds of a crash as Non cheerfully shouts out a "Woooooo, goddamn!"
Page 17: The aftermath is Spike and Maria sitting in a truck with its front end caved in. There stands Illyria. Spike is momentarily relieved and happy, before the air bag deploys a little late into his face. He's then manhandled from the truck by the Amazon Squad of Non.
Commentary: One of the issues I also have with the entire 'After the Fall' run is how Illyria/Fred gets handled. They try to give us some angst occassionally and there is some discussion about what to do about her off and on but really it feels pretty obvious that the entire point of her losing control of which form she takes and giving her Fred's weaknesses is convenience.
They want Illyria to be a badass when they've written our other characters into a corner, but they don't want to keep finding creative ways to get her out of the way when she's inconvenient to the plot... so Fred-persona suddenly takes over. There really isn't any logical pattern to when she'll be Fred or Illyria, except "as plot demands" and it's really irritating.
Another common thread that I found throughout the 'After the Fall' series is Brian Lynch setting up compelling scenarios but then lacking any creative directions to take them. Everything seems wandering, confused, and stretched out farther than the original scenario can support.
The Illyria-Fred dichotomy falls into this pattern.
Page 18: As Spike goes fist to face with the Amazon Squad, Illyria smashes Non's face in - clearly breaking her jaw into pieces and mutilating her [in some really great looking artwork]. She berates Non for falling on the first strike, despite all of her grandstanding earlier.
Page 19: But the Lord of Beverly Hills didn't earn her position by being pretty and witty [clearly]. She talks through her smashed jaw that she isn't folding yet.
With a glow-eye effect she draws the life forces out of those humans nearby, leaving dessicated rotting bodies behind. She is almost instantly healed from the grievous wounds to her face. And... she's suddenly able to grab Illyria's fist and stop her in mid-punch.
Page 20: As Jeremy is suffering a momentary mental breakdown at seeing the condition of the people he'd gotten to know, Non curb-stomps Illyria. Meanwhile Spike has been bum-rushed by the Amazon Squad and is quickly being rendered unconscious so he can't intervene.
Commentary: Just a few things here: I like Non's powers -- they're appropriately gruesome and since we are in a Hell, we should've gotten more of this sort of grue throughout the series. But, like with Connor, it feels like Illyria gets her ass kicked much too often and quickly for being established as a tank. I understand that they need her to be defeated but it's used a little too often for my taste as a "look how tough our bad guy is, he/she beat up Illyria!!" thing. But, because that is how she's being used so often, it just stops making the bad guy look superstrong and starts making Illyria look like she isn't what she's been built up to be through previous repeated dialog.
I'm also failing to see how human batteries could provide enough energy for Non to basically knock Illyria out in two blows and it ignores that Illyria -- again like Connor -- is supposed to have mad-warrior-skillz that are independent of her strength and toughness. But like with Connor, we tend to not see that.
Page 21: Sometime later, Spike is woken up by Non clawing marks into his chest. She points out that she can't drain him or Illyria's power but she's decided to keep him alive for a while longer in order to use his connections in some unspecified way [to provide control over the humans? Illyria? To lure Angel?].
But she tells Spike that she's not all bad, if he's going to be stuck with her for awhile in his dark cell...
Page 22: ... the least she could do is keep him with some of his friends.
These turn out to be the energy drained humans he was protecting. They're not dead or rotted, just skeletal, too weak to do anything but crawl and stretch their hands to him and plead.
The Good: As per usual, there isn't an impact on grading, but I want to give KUDO to the artwork/coloring team-up.
I did like the dialog throughout. This is especially true of Jeremy.
I also like the gruesomeness of Non's energy-suckage powers and the way [again] that the artwork depicted the effects.
The Bad: That first seven pages that ends up not contributing a single thing to the narrative, the character development or the plot entirely pissed me off. ONE THIRD OF THE COMIC, WASTED! This title is too damned expensive to pull that shit on us. Every panel should count toward something.
Relatedly, it annoys me that Spike's trip to W&H/Angel's HQ didn't have anything to do with either one or with Spike interacting with anyone that we'd seen before or would see again.
Other Thoughts: Non is really a less-is-more kind of villain, and I'd have liked to see less of her ranting in order to check out Spike's battle with Maria so we could see what sort of powers her Spider-ness is giving her.
Noelle could be interesting, and is her purple hair supposed to be a shoutout to another company's powerful telepath with purple as a color theme?
The Illyria/Fred swap needs to have some sort of definitive pattern. It doesn't make sense to me that she would have allowed herself to be taken into custody by the Amazon Squad in the first place for this entire second issue to actually have happened.
The Score: This issue isn't bad once we join our group enslaved to Non, but that wasted third of the issue is really ridiculous and that is really what causes the hit to the scoring. It is too much of the issue taken up for absolutely nothing. You can forgive a page or two, but a third of the issue?? I just cannot abide it.
2.50 out of 5 stars