Spike, After the Fall
Issue 4 [re-reviewed]
Writer: Brian Lynch, Artist: Franco Urru, Colorist: Art Lyon, Letterer: Robbie Robbins, Cover B: The Sharp Brothers & Charlie Kirchoff
Blurb: Non, Lord of Beverly Hills has overplayed her hand. After her attempts to use first Spike and then Illyria as bargaining chips to make a deal with the vampire Gunn went nowhere, she decided to execute them instead. But her attempt to behead Illyria has led to the old god fighting back - she could appreciate Non's attempts at execution, she just didn't like her making the old one kneel first.
Now, Spike, Illyria and the newly arrived Connor are attempting to save themselves and the humans that Non hasn't already drained dry with her energy sucking abilities.
Page 01: Connor faces off against Non, but he doesn't realize that she can drain the life force of any human close by. Spike races to his rescue, all the while complaining to himself about Connor's ability to gab, when he should stab. Non tells her ladies to check her out as she's about to be the one to kill Angel's spawn.
They're a little busy with Illyria.
Spike leaps in before Non can get to her energy suckage and whips her in the face with the chains he'd been being kept in. Connor nonchalantly gives a "Hey, Spike" while wondering how everybody seems to know who his father is.
Page 02: Spike berates Connor for throwing himself in danger, but the kid doesn't know what Non can do. He's there because he'd been hearing about Non's raids on human settlements and was actually doing recon when he saw Spike was in trouble.
Their conversation distracts Spike enough to get punched away. Non grabs up Connor and yells at him to feed her, to his confusion.
Page 03: Connor, for some weird reason, thinks Non is hitting on him, but she's of course interested in draining his life force. Thankfully for Connor, being the product of a union between two vampires makes him immune to Non's abilities as is Spike and as Angel would be.
Spike tries to get Illyria to get Jeremy away from Non's influence before she can drain him instead.
Meanwhile, Maria uses her spider legs to attack Spike off of his feet for Non. It's unclear whether this is the telepath manipulating her, or if she just hopes to save herself by getting back on Non's side.
Commentary: At first, I thought Maria was just looking to get back on Non's good side, but the way that the telepath is hanging around in the background in deep shadow except for her glowing eyes makes me think that she's being controlled by the Sadecki.
But if this is Maria under control, I don't understand her shouting to Non that she has Spike under control... as if she wants Non to realize that she's being helpful, which I took to her trying to save herself from the pissy Non when she wins the fight.
Page 04: Maria continues with her split personality and my question before is answered -- the Sadecki Demon is influencing her to attack Spike. This is something that the vampire realizes....
Page 05: Spike shouts to Illyria to forget about Jeremy and to concentrate on taking out Noelle, instead. Noelle yells at Non for not killing Spike in the very beginning like she wanted, and it's obvious that she's scared out of her wits with Illyria charging in their direction. For some reason this causes her to stand there, instead of running away.
Non tells her to dig into Illyria's psyche and find her timeshare partner, though the Sadecki makes clear to her that there isn't anything actually human inside Illyria.
Page 06: As Illyria grabs Noelle by her uniform front, she warns Non that Illyria has been trying to force Fred to be existent but it isn't real.
Nevertheless, she is able to touch on the Fred-echo and draw her out by focusing on Illyria to sense her own fear of the god. Spike tries to shout at Illyria to kill her, but the Fred-echo that knows the sort of fear the Sadecki is feeling is stopping her.
Commentary: And this, I do find really interesting. I'm glad that we're seeing here that the Fred we have been dealing with really is just a projection of Illyria's own memories of her... it really is an echo. For a while this wasn't clear, and it made it look like they were flirting with the idea of reversing S5 of Angel and Fred's ultimately tragic fate.
Now, it isn't that I had anything against Fred but I'm a firm believer that if you're going to kill a major-secondary character then it should stick. If their name isn't on the title, then they're expendable no matter how much you as the creator may love that character -- don't bother to write the plot line, if you're not going to stick to the ramifications [obviously there are exceptions, depending on the story -- but this a generalized statement].
I "like" that Fred doesn't get an easy return to status quo just because her fate really sucked ass and was hideously unfair. I respect the spine it took to kill her character in the way she was killed and to make it stick [I know that Joss was playing with the idea of bringing her back, the same with Tara, but so far the comics haven't done it and it makes me respect them more].
In fact, just as an aside - it would've been interesting to me if they'd left Buffy in the ground for most of S6 as well and had Sarah in the show strictly as Buffybot or Scooby flashbacks. Then have Tara shot and killed, and have this be the impetus for Dark Willow to force Buffy's return for Season 7 with Buffy's depression arc being truncated to the first half of the season as we see The First slowly manipulating things for their final showdown during the second half of the season.
It would've done the Scooby characters good to have had to deal with Buffy's death and the struggle to live on a Hellmouth without the genuine Slayer for a year and would've allowed some character growth for them.
But... I've gotten really sidetracked now and it has little to do with this review: So, yay Fred is still really, really dead - no takebacks.
Page 07: Spike tells Illyria that no one there matters but her [which you can see as a foreshadow for Angel: After the Fall issue 16 where it comes to Illyria's motivations].
While Illyria is struggling to get past Fred-echo and she's vulnerable, the Sadecki uses her telepathy to command one of the Amazon Squad with super strength to crush Illyria. For some reason the command "crush Illyria" is translated as 'punch her in the back of the head, but not hard enough to cave in her skull instantly' rather than 'grab her around the chest and crush the life from her'.
For this reason the Sadecki dies, head torn off by Illyria's god strength.
Commentary: Yeah. Somebody played the "hero's death exemption card" at the right time... moving on.
Page 08: With Noelle headless, the Amazon Squad immediately stands down as none of them were actually fighting for Non of their own accord anyway.
Page 09: Spike tries to rally the troops to turn on Non, but they're less than helpful. Maria Spider Legs informs him in a stage whisper that most of them were bad before the Sadecki and they weren't really fighters without the telepath's pushing. They all seem to be comfortable with being followers and right now, Non still has their semi-loyalty after they've watched what she can do and her ruthlessness for months.
Spike goes with Plan-B: A one on one fight between he and she for the title of Lord of Beverly Hills.
Page 10: Spike engages Non in combat with a chain wrapped around his fist. At the same time, he berates her verbally to play Alpha-Male in a bid to get the Amazon Squad to continue to back him for whatever happens afterward [which, as we see in Angel: After the Fall #2 will work].
Round One goes to Spike relatively easily, but Non isn't down for the count.
Page 11: Spike realizes that Non is going to get a power boost by draining the nearest human's life force... which is Jeremy, still hanging around much too close to the battle site. Jeremy immediately starts to convulse as his body starts wasting from Non's power-suckage [but hey, at least Spike calls him by his actual name this time].
Spike shouts for Illyria to get Jeremy out of there, whatever it takes as he's backhanding Non with his chain-wrapped fist of fury.
When he glances at Illyria and Jeremy to check on his getting out of the way, he is shocked. Illyria says, "She was using Jeremy against us".
Page 12: "Now she cannot."
We see that Illyria has punched straight through Jeremy's chest, pinning him against a tree - killed instantly.
Commentary: I have to say, this shocked the crap outta me just as much as Spike. I just wish that we'd seen the impact of this more in Angel: After the Fall, which really failed to show this type of cold, calculating Illyria which would've been a far better use of her panel-time than having her standing around - conveniently turning into Fred-echo, as the plot demanded.
Page 13: As Spike is stunned into inaction, Illyria tells him that the human's absence will only make their team stronger. Non, rather than just giving up and running, taunts Spike on his hero complex and how he didn't see Illyria's absence of same. She tells him it's now wonder that he doesn't make it to the end, and references Gunn telling her that neither she nor the vampire are in the final chapter.
Page 14: Spike has had enough of Non's mouth [and so say we all] and lashes out, beheading her with the sword he was holding and not using in his other hand.
Meanwhile, Illyria begins to get confused and nearly pleads with Spike to tell him that she did the right thing by eliminating Jeremy.
Page 15: With Illyria realizing that Spike looks upset at Jeremy's death, she reminds him that he did tell her that she was the only one who mattered.
At the same time, she time-swaps between the future and past and ends up as the Fred-echo again, confused.
Commentary: I really liked how they made Illyria's action directly because Spike put it in her head that Jeremy didn't matter, only his absence from Non's influence did. I also like this particular transition between Illyria and the Fred-echo because it actually makes sense in this context for Illyria to be so confused at Spike's reaction to her killing Jeremy that she would turn within as she struggles to understand why he wasn't seeing the situation as she had.
The entire way that they handle why Spike is so concerned and protective of Illyria in Angel is nicely summed up in the last few pages. This conflict within Illyria, I think, really should've been more in the forefront of the entire series of After the Fall.
Page 16: Spike takes a minute to assure Illyria that she did the right thing in order to get her head stabilized. In the meantime, Connor comes around from his unconsciousness and Spike tells him that for everyone's sake he needs to learn how to take a hit.
He's still woozy and is asking somebody not there if she's seen Gwen or Nina.
Maria asks Spike what they're supposed to do now.
Page 17: The immediate answer is grim. It seems that while Spike was engaged in the battle with Non, his human flock were being rounded up inside Non's mansion. Somebody started a fire and the entire place is engulfed in flames with only the dying screams of the humans left wiping out everyone that Spike had wanted to save.
Next, he buries his friend Jeremy Johns with a hand carved tombstone.
Finally, he finds and establishes a rescue station as the new Lord of Beverly Hills [again, as we'll see him in Angel: After the Fall].
Page 18: Spike arranges a meeting with the other Lords where he issues the demand that they keep their squabbles out of Beverly Hills under penalty of Lord Illyria taking them out. They're not inclined to argue with the god.
Spike reflects on all of the blood they've left behind themselves... mostly on the humans... mostly on Jeremy. He officially retires from fighting against W & H and the rest of hell.
Page 19: He helps out Connor on the sly in saving people from slave traders.
Page 20: He tells Connor, while they're waiting for his backup that the kid needs to learn how to fight better [because apparently GROWING UP IN A HELL DIMENSION AND BEING CALLED THE DESTROYER DIDN'T TEACH HIM HOW TO FIGHT] and offers to show him a few tricks.
Connor grins like a dork and Spike tells him to knock it off as they weren't having a moment. Connor totally agrees and calls his grin a hardened grimace, not a smile.
Spike decides they need to get to the not talking and to the fighting, instead.
Page 21: He warns Connor though that the humans need to be shuffled off somewhere else. He doesn't trust Illyria around them, plus they'll draw unwanted attention to Spike's "retirement".
Page 22: As Spike and Connor head into the slave-master headquarters for their rescue, Spike thinks to himself that for the time being he's going to limit his attachments and stay out of the heavy Team Angel fighting.
Commentary: Obvs, this won't last.
The Good: First, I do like that Non wasn't able to affect Connor because it seems like a lot of times he's treated as human when he shouldn't be. This was a nice acknowledgement that he's not.
I really liked the one on one battle with Non, and the shocking bit with Illyria killing Jeremy as the most sensible thing to do.
I also really liked the writing for the Illyria to Fred-echo swap and the confirmation that they weren't cheating Fred's fate by making her existent again.
Finally getting rid of Non was nice.
The Bad: As per usual, Connor is ill-used and abused.
Other Thoughts: The Amazon Squad just isn't well defined which makes all of their characters fillers and unnecessary once the plot is wrapped up. This is true of even Maria, who is set up as some sort of secondary character, but never really gels.
I find the artwork in this one a mixed bag, but I did like the drawing of Noelle's head coming off and splashing blood on the Amazon Squad member and the way that Non's facial damage from Spike's chain-wrapped fist was depicted.
I also liked the way that Non referenced Gunn's pronouncement just before she proved him right by dying, but I have problems with it because it just didn't make sense to me that she'd stick around after her telepath was dispatched and it was obvious the Amazon Squad - while not turning on her - weren't going to continue the fighting. So while I like that she was written out because she was annoying, I'm also not buying that she'd stay so long as to get herself killed. It doesn't make sense to me that she wouldn't think Illyria would wipe her out even if she did manage to kill Spike.
The Score: So, overall I don't feel like this mini-series was actually needed and it just adds to the already overlong and stretched to breaking point "After the Fall" scenario. But, this issue wasn't badly written and it brought up some interesting things with Illyria and Spike's basically pushing her to think of herself as more important than anyone else that will end up biting them all in the ass.
3.50 out of 5 stars.
We also have a bonus cover for you, because I accidentally ordered a second copy of this issue:
Cover by: Franco Urru, Paolo Maddaleni