Spike, After the Fall
Issue 3 [re-reviewed]
Writer: Brian Lynch, Artist: Franco Urru, Colorist: Jason Jensen, Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Cover: Franco Urru, Paolo Ma
Blurb: Spike and Illyria are together in Hell-Angeles and both have now been taken prisoner from one of the infamous Lords of Los Angeles. This particular Lord, Non, has staked a claim in Beverly Hills where she's using her powers of life-draining and an Amazon Army to enslave or kill all who will not bow to her... including the vampire and old god.
Page 01: We open on Spike and Fred in a department store shopping. Spike wonders where he is now.
As Fred is prattling on about a waffle-maker that is half off and shapes the waffles into kitty-head shapes, a store clerk wearing a Bed, Bath & Beyond shirt asks if he can assist. This turns out to be Angel.
Spike mentions that they don't need any help, as he's just trying to distract himself from the pain of his current torture.
With this realization, Spike leaves the fantasy with a mention that this one was a short one. He's still trussed up in Non's torture room, where he's being whipped raw. In addition, his torso is rife with puncture wounds.
Page 02: Spike hears his name being called over and over. It's the life-drained who weren't killed completely that have been locked in the room with him.
He tells us that on good days, he can lose himself in a delusion for hours. Beyond this mention, we don't know how long he's been kept here.
His memories include being beaten to a pulp by Drill Sergeant Nasty, digging graves for those drained who didn't stay alive, being mocked, being fed rats to keep him going...
Page 03: ... and the torture by Non, who enjoys red-white hot branding implements.
There is banter, in which Spike angers her by referencing people she doesn't know - which is rude. Once she's sizzled his groin [through his jeans] and across his chest, she turns over the heated iron to Maria the Spider Legs Girl to continue as she has an appointment to run to.
Commentary: Once again, I'm going to give kudos to the artwork. I'm less inclined to compliment Non because like I stated in last issue, she talks too much.
Page 04: Spike nags at her for having washed her hair, buffed her arm-spikes and put on perfume. Clearly she's headed out for a rendezvous and he snarks at her that he hopes she gets laid to take some of her edge off. She orders Maria to burn Non's name onto his face.
Maria over-enthuses that she'll have so much fun, but as soon as Non leaves, she drops the Hot Whisk of Suffering.
Commentary: At first, I was ready to complain how the powerful telepath totally doesn't sense Maria being a big ol' liar... but actually Non makes it clear later that she was aware of Maria's not being dedicated to doing what she's told.
Page 05: Maria Spider Legs asks Spike to stop pushing Non's buttons because she's having a tough enough time keeping him alive. It turns out that she's helping him out of a sense of honor, however warped. Despite the fact that he defeated her in [untelevised] battle, he didn't torture her and he ended up bringing her home. She states it's the nicest anyone has been to her in a long time.
Plus, Spike is hot and she's horny... apparently even with burned jean crotch.
But, Spike isn't at all interested. His mind is only on Illyria/Fred-persona. Maria is a little snippy about it.
Page 06: Maria tries to get Spike's mind on seduction, but he's not having any of it. He offers that if she helps him and his surviving group to freedom then he'll do whatever she says to. She's too afraid of the consequences, especially if she has to hide her intentions from Noelle.
He offers that she's surrounded by the Amazon Squad and he can convince them to join with them if she'll lead them one by one to talk to him. He's very confidant in his ability to persuade. But Maria is convinced that they can't take Non.
Spike is left disappointed and wondering just what Non has that makes everyone so worried about her. He's sure that in a one-on-one he'd take her down without a problem.
Page 07: At that moment, Non is in a basement with three Slayers [the Survivor Slayers in Gunn's HQ with the timey-wimey reset thingie]. She's just finished murdering the lot of them, though it is obvious from the sharp weaponry embedded in her skin that they gave a good fight. But all three have been life-force sucked and Non wonders what the big deal was with them, anyway.
Page 08: Gunn walks in. Non prattles on about how the Slayers weren't anything to write home about, but Gunn assures her it's only because they're so new to their abilities. He also doesn't like her disrespecting the dead, but she points out in return that she respects him.
She's there to make a deal in which they can partner up in whatever nefarious plan that she's heard he's building. He's less than interested. In fact, he accuses her of not wanting to partner up, so much as wanting to protect herself because he has her scared.
Commentary: This is mildly interesting, but mostly because Gunn-as-vampire is interesting. I like that he's just as annoyed with Non as I am.
Page 09: Non tries to barter by mentioning having Spike as a bargaining chip. Gunn is more interested in Illyria/Fred. Non offers that she does indeed have her as well.
Page 10: This pisses Gunn off a little bit. As Goon grabs Noelle and asks if he should crush her, Gunn offers no, while being punched in the gut by Non.
Noelle is able to use her limited telekinetics to blast the Goon off of her, while Gunn recovers quickly to grab Non by the throat and wrist.
Page 11: Vampire!Gunn snatches a crossbow bolt and uses this to stab Non deep in her side. He drops her to the floor and tells her just how much he doesn't care about Spike, her or Illyria.
He goes on a tirade that she can't hurt Illyria because of her place in the Grand Prophecy that he's following. As for Spike, it turns out that in all of the visions Gunn is following, the vampire hasn't appeared even once. As far as he's concerned, his former teammate is irrelevant... and so is Non, as she hasn't shown up in them either.
He tells her to get the hell out and she's left to be helped by Noelle.
Commentary: This is another tidbit from the series that feels like a diversion to fill up page space. There is literally no reason for any of this scene to occur, since they have Gunn Vampire shrug it all off... which is weird, considering how pissed he got that she had Illyria in her custody. Pick one, Gunn... you're pissed at her putting her skank hands on Illyria/Fred or you don't care because Illyria isn't going to be felled anyway until the Prophecy fulfills.
I do like how we get a peek into Non's psychology: She mentions that before The Fall, she subsisted on dogs and hobos despite her energy powers being capable of killing anyone she wants... police, restaurants full of people, etc. Clearly she's not confident in herself or her ability and Gunn had her sized up entirely. He was making waves, and she got scared because vampires are immune to her primary power.
What I don't understand is why they didn't incorporate her into Angel: After The Fall a little more by having her in this series working in the background on alliances with the other Lords to undermine Gunn's base of power... except of course, that she's so unimportant to anything.
*sigh* I sort of get why this series exists... other than the money grab, I mean. We're getting the back story on how Spike will end up being the Lord of Beverly Hills that Angel will run into in Angel: After the Fall, issue 2.
But... I don't think we've gotten anything that couldn't have been incorporated into Angel's title. After all of the fartin' around they did over 16 issues, what difference would it have made to condense Spike's history in Hell-Angeles into a flashback story? The only thing that we'll get from this series is how Spike is leading the Amazon Squad, and considering how they'll barely be used... so what?
They can't do anything big with this title, because no one can know yet that Gunn is a vampire and the big bad within W&H's hell. And at $4 an issue, that is maddening.
Page 12: Out on the streets, Non plans on killing Spike and Illyria as a recompense to her disappointing day and the horrible way that the meeting she'd been waiting a month for panned out. Noelle points out that Gunn's prophecy states that she won't be able to kill Illyria, but Non isn't interested in that mumbo-jumbo from some vampire.
In the meantime, Gunn is equally frustrated by Non's annoyance. He turns his rage against the Survivor Slayers, who have timey-wimied back to whole and hardy.
Commentary: Because W&H are just the type that would allow a time reset to be hanging around not under their control... amiright.
Page 13: Back at Non's compound, she has sent Noelle to drag Spike's ass out into the courtyard for her special evening festivities.
Page 14: Spike has been dragged out into the courtyard in order to watch Non execute Illyria for Gunn's rejection of her offer of a trade.
Page 15: In addition, Maria Spider wasn't nearly as clever at hiding her relationship with Spike as she thought. Non informs her that she knows about her trysts with the prisoner and since she's pissed off now, she's going to dust Spike after she's done with Illyria and then she's going to put Spider herself to death.
Maria tries to plead, but she's summarily punched out by a double team of Amazon Guards. Non is not in a mood to listen, anyway. She raises her huge, heavy axe and let's swing onto Illyria.
Page 16: Spike, left on his knees, looks away. But when he glances back, he finds what he should've expected.
Illyria is fine. Actually, this is to Non's pleasure as she wants it to be difficult. Unfortunately, she's now upset the primordial god who doesn't want to play these games anymore. The Amazon Squad holding her down suddenly find themselves completely overpowered.
Page 17: Illyria rages at Non. Not for keeping her confined in a small cage for the past month, she's cool with that. Not for the poking at her, she can respect that. Not for the prodding at her, that's okay. She's not even bothered by the attempted decapitation - she did lose their fight after all.
No, the straw that broke the camel's back was placing Illyria on her knees for her execution attempt. Being made to kneel before her was completely unacceptable.
Which she shows with another one of those face destroying fists of rage.
As Illyria starts to toss the Amazon Squad around like ragdolls, they call for a human to be brought for Non to feed on to restore her beauty.
Commentary: Of course, this is all to explain away why Spike was being tortured for a month while Illyria didn't do anything. It's stupid. Would the god-king Illyria really have allowed herself to be confined anywhere, let alone a small cage?? I think not. It is mildly amusing how Illyria lists off her indignations and waves them all off as something she can respect until it came time to the kneeling before Non but it shows a real lack of understanding of the character we've seen that she'd put up with any of this.
It would've worked better if it had been explicit that Illyria was being complacent in exchange for Spike's continued existence because of the Fred-echo driving her to. It'd been an even better twist if Non and Noelle had been able to seduce Illyria into playing on their team by playing to her ego... allowing her to believe she was being treated as the god she is, while continuing to run things from behind the throne.
Then have Illyria come to her senses when Spike is dragged out before her and Fred-echo sees what they've done to him in the meantime. At that point, Non could've tried to kill Fred while Illyria was vulnerable, Spike shouts a warning as he's being pummeled, Illyria responds by reassuming control and the the issue goes forward basically unchanged.
The way they made Illyria a non-player for the last month just doesn't make any sense for her. It's bad plotting.
Page 18: With Illyria now raging about, Spike uses the distraction to break free himself. He's also very concerned that Illyria will see somebody Fred knows and change back to her vulnerable form, getting herself killed.
He fights to make it to her... so that she'll see a familiar face... and turn into her vulnerable form... um. And to make it all the more likely that she'll be struck down before he can reach her to play bodyguard, he yells Fred's name a lot before he actually gets to her side. Um.
Commentary: Oh, god, whatever. Just kill Non, already.
Page 19: Incredibly, even when Illyria does see Spike this time, she doesn't alter her form. It turns out that the god is annoyed that Spider revealed they'd had sex. In Illyria's mind, that means that Spike had intercourse with a lesser. To correct this, she grabs Spike and lays a deep, rough kiss on him.
Page 20: After the manhandled kiss, she tells Spike that she is now his priority again. She goes back to brawling with the Amazon Squad.
In the meantime, Spike sees Jeremy still alive. Though since he's in Non's hands, it won't be for very long... which Non generously gives time to Jeremy to articulate.
Page 21: Non allows that she only kept Jeremy around this long because he seemed a good way to keep control of Spike and Illyria. But now that they don't matter [since Gunn wasn't receptive to a deal], he's twice as much of the doesn't matter.
She lets Spike and Illyria get within a few footfalls so they can watch Jeremy just out of reach, dying.
But this plan is also undone. This time by a spear that impales her back.
Page 22: Our spear-thrower turns out to be Connor!
The Good: This is another issue where I liked the artwork [though I still don't include it in scoring].
The Bad: Gunn's role in this issue felt useless. In fact, it struck me as more of a cameo extended only to stretch out the comic. His role would've worked better if he'd actually sent in a vampire team to "rescue" Illyria [he couldn't go himself, because his existence hasn't made the big reveal yet in Angel: After the Fall], ending with Illyria, Spike and his regular people teaming up with the Amazon Squad and the death of Non and the telepath. His only role in this one is to give Non the impetus to try to kill Illyria and so get defeated but it takes up more pages than necessary for that.
Other Thoughts: My biggest problem with this issue is really a problem with the series, but it isn't enough to get listed in "the bad": Non is an uninteresting character after she's used in more than a few panels and nothing that happens here feels like it makes any difference. For the expense of the comic, it just isn't doing enough for me.
Another annoyance I have is Gunn's Magic Time Reset Room -- it's just way too convenient, and it doesn't make sense for it to be here without W&H being all over controlling it.
I also don't buy that Gunn wouldn't have killed Non in order to get himself another telepathic slave... or conversely, that he wouldn't have made it a priority to kill the Sadecki as a possible problem later and then let Non go with a severe loss going forward to just rub salt in the wound of how much she doesn't matter in the scheme of things.
Illyria's handling is also awkward - I'm not buying that she would've put up with Non's crap for a month, while not even worrying about Spike being locked in a dungeon of doom.
The Score: This issue has the elements to be good, but everything is so awkwardly handled, that it impacts one's enjoyment of it. But, the dialog is good and things are moving toward Spike escaping and taking the Amazon Squad with him to show up in Angel: After the Fall, so...
3.0 out of 5 stars [average, but it should've been more fun]