Angel & Faith
Season 2, Issue 15
“Fight or Flight”
Writer: Kel McDonald, Artwork: Will Conrad, Coloring: Michelle Madsen, Lettering: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt [Comicraft], Cover: Scott Fischer
Blurb: Slayer Faith’s return to London’s Magic Town coincided with the appearance of Angel’s friend Winifred Burkle - a woman believed to be dead, her body emptied and taken over by the Old One Illyria. Angel and Faith, shocked that Fred was alive and aware that Illyria was still inside her and fighting for control, tried their best to find out how to keep Fred… Fred. Now, while Illyria is at bay, they still have no idea why, how, or when Illyria might come to the surface…
Page 01: We open in evening as a group of school children are traveling in a group toward home after school.
One of our kids is grabbed, despite being surrounded by his friends, by something which appears inhuman.
Page 02: This turns out to be Angel, who not only slaughters this kid, but all of his friends as well. He wakes up from having another horrible, slaughtering nightmare.
[Which is tied into what is happening with a big bad over in BTVS, Archaeus.]
Meanwhile, Fred is trying to get her bearings being back to life and is wandering around London. She notices two men behind her who may be following her.
Commentary: I am, as mentioned in BTVS, excited for the Archaeus plot because it started over here in Angel & Faith and is leading into a legitimate crossover between the two titles in which, hopefully, everybody is going to have to deal with the Twilight/Killing of Giles/Resurrection of Giles/Buffy abandoning Angel stuff.
I’m hoping for some interesting developments, especially with Buffy now seeing Spike regularly as her lover. I’m not actually sure how I want this to be dealt with as far as the two gangs… whether it’d be nice if they were able to deal with all of this, or whether I’d like to see them continue to struggle to stand united after everything that has happened.
What I don’t want, and the only thing I’m adamant toward, is not having Buffy ping-pong between Spike and Angel anymore. It appears she picked Spike, so just let that situation grow organically within her title and not fall back on the Angel/Buffy/Spike status quo we’ve been dealing with for years now.
Page 03: Later, Angel is visiting with Fred. She’s trying to find something for her to do now that she’s alive again and mentions how little of the world she’s actually seen. London has been reminding her of Wesley and she wants to get out of London for a bit.
She suggests going to Ireland and asks Angel to accompany her and show her the Ireland that is off the tourist routes.
He’s very ambivalent about returning to the country where Liam grew up and Angelus got his start.
Page 04: Angel tries to use his intense dreaming of killing lately as an excuse to stay in Magic Town for research, but Fred points out the wonders of modern technology where research can be conducted via laptop. She asks him if there isn’t anywhere he’d like to visit and the end up going to Galway, Ireland.
Fred tells Angel that it’s not quite the small village he’d described and he points out it has been a few hundred years since he’s visited the place.
Commentary: Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about this … I tend to agree with Angel about his not going off on holiday when he’s having these situations while he’s asleep. But that really isn’t the objection so much as WHERE he’s going to go.
It feels like if he’s dreaming of being Angelus-like in his strangely intense dreams, the last place he should want to go is where Angelus got his start. This just feels… a bit abrupt of a trip to revisit a past that he wants to avoid like the plague. It seems a bit of a clumsy development for this one off story while we wait for he and Buffy to start their crossover.
Page 05: While Angel is checking in, Fred goes through brochures. She selects a walking tour that celebrates a massacre that happened locally in 1753, kind of like a walking tour through Whitechapel to commemorate the Jack the Ripper mystery.
The brochure has a rendition of the monsters who supposedly caused the slaughter, which looks a little to close to Angelus and Darla for comfort.
This in no way suggests to Fred that it is an inappropriate tour to bring up.
Page 06: Angel tries to remind Fred that she’s supposed to be there to relax and going through a memory lane tour of his more evil deeds doesn’t sound like vacation fodder.
But Fred suggests that being reminded of his beginnings may help him connect some dots to whatever his dreaming is about right now. He finds that reasoning to be a stretch.
Page 07: It’s only moments after getting to Fred’s room before a bellhop shows up at the door to offer more information about the free horror tour that was brought up in the lobby.
Angel tries to beg off, but the bellhop is really insistent in his sales pitch. Weirdly too, he’s acting frightened when Angel continues to turn down the offer to join that evening’s walk.
Page 08: After getting rid of the bellhop, Angel tells Fred about how strangely fearful he seemed about insisting on the tour. He offers Fred that she should go. This surprises her, but he offers it’ll be “fun” and she could use that.
She decides she will go, while Angel does some work on probing these dream experiences he’s been suffering.
Commentary: UH. What happened to telling Fred that she shouldn’t go on a horror tour because it doesn’t sound relaxing and Illyria is such a worry? That was awfully quickly forgotten, especially in light of the bellhop’s weird behavior and insistence on them joining the touring walk opportunity.
This page really doesn’t work with what Angel just said only a page ago and I find it very awkward that Angel would send Fred off on her own when he’s already suspicious of the staff’s behavior right off the bat. It gotta call this out as being an “It’s in the script” moment, rather than logical story telling.
Page 09: While Fred is being led with a small tour of tourists, Angel has become suspicious enough to spy on the inn owner while she’s going about her business.
Page 10: The innkeeper’s daughter, Margret is leading the walking tour and she makes a leading comment that you never know what is lurking in the deep shadows of Galway. A moment later, and she repeats the line a little more forcefully while making it obvious that somebody is supposed to be jumping out of an alley to give the tourists a jump scare.
Meanwhile, in the inn, Angel finds a door that has been heavily chained. When he breaks into it, he finds more bellhops have been locked away in there, including the boy who had come to his room to entice Fred and he on the walking tour.
The five boys are reacting with horror toward him.
Page 11: With the tour, our made up monster reacts belatedly to his cue. The jump startle apparently has the reaction that Margret was seeking, as she fiddles with a pendant she’s wearing.
This ends up bathing the tour group in sparkly light, and apparently drawing something from the crowd. But Fred, having Illyria within her, seems surrounded by a field that renders her immune from whatever Margret is doing to the others.
In the inn, Angel has entered the captive’s room and is trying to assure the bellhops that he’s there to help, but the boys aren’t reacting as if they’re being saved. They all remain hunched in on themselves, terrified.
Page 12: Angel tries to get the bellhops to come with him, but they’re so traumatized that they refuse to even leave the room.
Back with Fred, Margret puts her pendant away again, while her tourists stand in a momentary daze. But she also seems to sense that Fred wasn’t impacted by whatever she was doing. She puts on a fake, strained smile and continues to lead her group on the rest of the tour, but takes an especial interest in Fred herself.
Page 13: When she gets back, she discusses Angel’s past a little bit and wonders if Angelus’ actions are what he’s been dreaming about lately. He tells her that is only half of it, mentioning the modern-day kids that he dreamed of killing.
He also tells her that he’s been busy trying to find out what could’ve happened to the bellhops, explaining what he found when he went poking around. Fred seems surprised to find him not needing her help to search the local news via the internet for any signs of other mysterious clues about town.
Angel explains that he had thought maybe witches had captured Gachnar and was using his blood to control the locals, but there isn’t the usual evidence left behind of people suddenly exhibiting reckless behavior that he’d expect to find.
Commentary: I found this page a bit weirdly written, with Fred’s reactions coming across as “off”, especially when it came to her commentary on Angelus’ carnage, and her shocked reactions to Angel not needing her help for a simple local web search.
I can appreciate the mention of Gachnar, which as we’ll remember was already killed by Buffy in S4 of BTVS. But this page really just struck me as… strangely presented of our characters interacting.
Page 14: As Fred and Angel discuss the situation some more, Fred describes the tour’s habit of having people jumping out of the shadows, which could provide sudden fear if Angel’s supposition is correct. And if the tour operators are only taking some fear from a group, instead of focusing on draining one person then that would explain why nobody is affected so deeply that they’re suddenly displaying aberrant behavior that would be reported.
Meanwhile, the innkeeper is in the basement below them with an old lady that I’ll may be her aged mother or could just be a fellow witch. Anyway, Margret comes down to report to them about that night’s “fear haul”.
Page 15: She tells the Innkeeper about how the new actor kept missing his cues and bringing about more laughter than fear on the tour, but she’s not interested in Margret’s excuses and chides her.
Margret breezes past this because what she really wants to discuss are the new visitors and how Fred struck her as a powerful figure while she was trying to absorb some of her fear into her pendant.
Again the Innkeeper chides her for focusing so much on small matters when they should all be concentrating on spreading their magical influence to control the rest of the town.
Commentary: Again, this page is presented weirdly to me: You’d think that Margret would be making the explicit point that Fred shrugged off her fear collection spell and that this would be of MUCH interest to Ms. Innkeeper rather than how she is responding.
More, her entire telling Margret that they should be focusing on spreading their influence instead of focusing on one anonymous guest doesn’t make any sense either when obviously their entire plan is about tapping their guests for their fear-powered plot. You’d think a report that Fred is more powerful than any of the other guests would be of intense interest for one. For another, if the plan is to spread influence throughout the town to bring it under this coven-lite’s control, then shouldn’t we be seeing that on the page.
So far, they seem to be doing little more than controlling teen boys to play bellhop until their “brains are burned through” which doesn’t actually appear to be doing anything useful as far as controlling the town’s resources.
This whole plan seems only half-baked at best and I’m not sure if it’s deliberate to show our witches are a major threat actually, or if the story itself was written quickly as a time filler until Angel is contacted by Buffy to kick off that arc. Either way, I’m finding things a bit dull and confused in the way its being presented to us.
It also feels like maybe the coven is focusing on spreading fear toward men, since we only see boys being controlled but this is never mentioned as a part of their focus or goal. Finally, the use of the Crone, the Mother and the Daughter has a classical “The Three Weird Sisters/The Fates” feel to it, but again this isn’t spoken of or referenced explicitly.
Page 16: Esme, the crone tells Innkeeper that they should investigate the girl that Margret found as their poor, little Gachnar isn’t going to be kept bleeding forever.
[This suggests that Gachnar is a species name, not an actual individual as the Buffy episode implied may be the case.]
Meanwhile, upstairs Angel and Fred are searching the lobby for anything that could be used to contain some of Gachnar’s blood.
They’re interrupted by one of our controlled bellhops, who attacks Angel suddenly from behind with a baseball bat. He’s knocked to the floor, leaving Fred to struggle against our attacker and another of the bellhops in thrall.
Commentary: Okay. How? Did one of our witches telepathically command the two boys to seek out and abduct Fred? Did nobody think that since Fred is traveling with somebody, maybe more than two boys should’ve been sent? Did one of our witches sneak back upstairs, considering that as far as they would know the door to the room where their enthralled are being kept is still being chained so the kids wouldn’t even be able to leave unless the witches can command the chains to unlock remotely as well.
What was the plan to deal with Fred’s companion after his brains were beat out right in the inn lobby where anyone could’ve walked in inconveniently for a room?
This whole scene required something else to have happened off panel and feels like a very clumsy shortcut which is just adding to my feelings that this story was very quickly thrown on the page as a time filler and it’s irritating me. It feels like there wasn’t much interest in actually telling the tale but rather that something had to be going on until Spike’s call to Angel and it was approached half-heartedly.
Also the guy who hit Angel seems to teleport around the lobby between Angel and Fred’s positions in basically an art-fail, rather than just using a third boy available to fill out the scene.
Page 17: Angel vamps out in the meantime and punches out the kid with the baseball bat.
But the boys aren’t interested in Angel and focus their attention [including the baseball bat boy who again is leaping all over that room] on restraining and dragging off Fred for their mistresses.
Fred tells Angel to let them take her so they can find out where their bad guys are operating from. Angel worries about Illyria ending up in the mix if Fred is endangered but she tells him to trust her as she’s being led away.
When she reaches the basement, Innkeeper tells Margret that Fred doesn’t seem like that much to her, but Fred doesn’t necessarily need superpowers anyway. She calls for Angel behind her and snatches Innkeeper’s pendant from her, tossing this over her shoulder.
Page 18: Angel first snaps the pendant that Fred retrieved, before joining her to take out the controlled bellhops.
But while this is happening, Esme the crone [and quite possibly the only actual witch among our women] summons Innkeeper and her daughter to her. Together they form a power circle so that Esme can command Angel and Fred to stop resisting.
Page 19: This doesn’t go as intended though. Since Fred is rendered compliant by the spell, Illyria takes the opportunity to make an appearance. And she’s pissed that these mortal women would dare to try matching their powers against her.
A table across the room very quickly breaks our witches’ power circle rendering the spell broken as well.
Thankfully for all, with Fred free of the mind-magic she’s able to suppress Illyria again before she can do any more damage or turn on Angel again.
Commentary: Or… I guess that is what is happening. The entire thing is so rushed in its presentation that I’m doing a lot of reading between the lines. Like with this whole plot, it seems to have only been done with half-a-mind while everybody is focusing on Spike’s call to Angel and the upcoming crossover arc.
The artwork is really good, but the writing is half-hearted and scattered.
Page 20: With the spell shattered by the women’s lack of concentration, the spell energy feedbacks against our coven-lite, swarming the ladies in uncontrolled magic energy.
This allows Angel to get close enough to snatch the matching pendants to Innkeeper’s from both Margret and Esme and bringing the entire half-baked plot to a resounding finish.
A bit later and police and ambulance services are cleaning up. Meanwhile Fred tells Angel that she really thought she had Illyria beaten but she’s always there just waiting for an opening.
The conversation is interrupted by Spike’s call to Angel’s cell, and Angel complaining that somebody would think he’d have blocked his calls by now.
Page 21: Spike asks after Angel’s having nightmares of killings that he couldn’t have done and informs him of Archaeus’ arrival and his mind games.
Angel asks how bad things are and Spike points out the obvious: Bad enough that he’s actually calling Angel for assistance -- Angel tells him he’s on the way.
Page 22: Fred has heard enough from Angel’s side of the conversation to ask Angel about his running off when they were supposed to be investigating his dreams, lately.
He reports on the link to that exact thing in San Francisco. He offers that he needs Fred to do some research for him on any recent vampire attacks around London with Sophronia and Lavinia, as well as a specific vampire named Parnell who may also be connected with what is happening. He mentions Faith helping her out while he’s gone.
Fred suggests she and the girls can calls themselves Angel Investigations….
Commentary: Parnell is the evolved vampire who could operate in daylight that Angel killed in “Old Habits”.
The Good: I like the nightmares being the linking leadup to the crossover arc and how Angel has been impacted.
I did like how the first bellhop was clearly hinting that things weren't right at the inn and how quickly Angel noticed.
The Bad: There were a lot of problems with the character interactions between Fred and Angel throughout and a lot of bad 'skips' in the plotting of the story. It really felt half-hearted in its presentation and by the end, I was feeling half-hearted about continuing to read it.
Other Thoughts: The use of Galway for what amounted to a throwaway story was disappointing. So much more could've been done with Angel confronting where Angelus got his start.
I found our villainous trio really uninteresting and their ultimate goals and how to get to them seemed ill-thought out. It would've been nice if Angel or Fred explicitly mentioned that for a coven of witches, our trio were obviously way out of their element.
The insertion of one page of Illyria was pointless and it would've been better if Fred and Illyria were battling in Fred's head while she was stunned, rather than have the Old One appear to throw a table and then just as suddenly be shunted back to her mind-prison.
The Score: The whole story felt like it was thrown together on the quick and left me annoyed over how clumsy it was written.
2.75 out of 5 stars
Next Up: BTVS, Season 10, Issue 16