Angel & Faith
Season 02, Issue 17
"Those Who Can't Teach, Teach Gym"
Writer: Victor Gischler, Art: Cliff Richards, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Scott Fischer
Blurb: Called to the States to tackle a demon problem alongside Buffy, Angel asked Fred and Faith to join forces to investigate the real-world repercussions of his troubling nightmares - most recently, one that concerned the deaths of some students...
Page 01: We open at St. Cuthbert's Prepatory School where Faith has very recently walked in on Mary over the dead body of Meredith, the class Alpha Bitch who was not kindly toward our Mary.
Brandt is there and the body is being carted away as he offer Faith that they've swept the school. Meredith is the only victim found. Faith sarcasms that since only one person was found, it's a real win.
Brandt sympathizes with her but she's not having it. She tells him that she's supposed to be a Slayer and that means people aren't supposed to be murdered practically under her nose.
Page 02: Brandt tells Faith that right now, they're keeping Meredith's death hushed up and stating publically that there was an "accident". He tells her that should buy them about 24 hours to find out who the vampire is that presumably killed her and stop them.
Page 03: Faith isn't thrilled with not warning the other students of the dangers, but Brandt is afraid they'll shut down the school over it. Right now, they know the epicenter of the vampire activity, if the school is shut down the vamps will scatter.
Faith agrees to stay playing gym teacher, but she also says that she isn't losing any more kids over it and if she decides to pull the plug on the undercover work, she doesn't want any grief.
Commentary: I think I mentioned last issue that they had lost an opportunity of wringing some comedy out of Faith playing gym teacher, and it still feels that way to me. This issue just wasn't all that interesting to me and I think it would've played well if this had been more of a series of errors comedy with Faith and Fred rather than this dour story. This is especially so, I think, because I'm not convinced Victor actually knows what to do with Fred, over Illyria, and they haven't really done a good job with her portrayal thus far. Having this be more comedic could have helped by giving an excuse for both Faith and Fred to be a little bit OOC which would've covered Fred's wonky portrayal.
Page 04: That evening, Faith is on Skype with Angel so they can fill each other in. Faith is a bit floored that Spike & Buffy are a thing again, but Angel is trying to avoid that whole subject. He turns attention to Archaeus, his part in the nightmares he'd been having [which wasn't really given enough room to breathe and build up a mystery first] and their plans to get hunting in a few minutes.
Faith has reported in on her undercover work for Brandt.
Page 05: Faith wonders what Archaeus could want with St. Cutberth's and all Angel can say is that if the Arch-Demon was interested in spending time in London, it wasn't just to sire random vampires. He tells her that there is something bigger at work and he wishes he was there to watch her and Fred's back.
Faith isn't worried. Angel offers he has an idea about backup if she should need....
Page 06: The next morning, Mary has snuck out of home to return to school, despite her mother's wishes. She's there specifically to confront our Alpha-Trio of girls. She warns Annabelle to leave her alone, to her amusement. She also demands to know what Annabelle is playing at, but the girl plays dumb in anything having to do with Meredith's recent ex-living status.
Page 07: Mary calls them out directly on murdering Meredith for reasons unknown and storms away.
Blythe and Third-Girl worry over Mary's big mouth, but Annabelle tells them that she'll come around to their way of thinking one way or another and in the meantime, she won't talk.
Meanwhile, Faith is in the cafeteria where she meets with the lunch lady... who is a very displeased Fred in a plastic hair cap. She complains about the smell of grease and how much work it takes to make bangers & mash for 400 kids.
Page 08: Faith confirms for Fred that they're vampire problem is more than a few random pasty-skins and asks if she's heard anything in the scuttlebutt. Fred snarks that she'd be surprised how little you hear while washing dishes.
Commentary: This was actually pretty amusing, and I like the Fred/Faith dynamic. I'm hoping we'll continue to build on that with humorous snark back and forth between them.
Page 09: Across the lunchroom, Mary is wistfully gazing at Meredith's suddenly-available boyfriend. She's interrupted in her longing gazing by the Alpha-Trio again. They're there to let her know that she could have him, if she just became brave like they are. Annabelle tells her that soon they won't be asking her so nicely to join their clique.
But before that line of pressure can continue, Faith interrupts.
Commentary: Seriously. Please give us some names... like our Third Alpha Girl and Meredith's Former Boyfriend. And also? I'd really like to have some reason why Mary seems so important in this... any little hint will do.
Page 10: Mary still refuses to share anything of her problems with Faith, even after two more openings for her to do so. Instead, she runs out to return home, where she was supposed to be spending the day after her shake-up.
Page 11: Annabelle and her gal-pals discuss the situation while heading outside for a cigarette. Third Girl mentions how the boss wants them to recruit quietly, but there has been too much of a situation with Mary possibly going to somebody or spilling everything to that gym teacher. Annabelle finally tells her she's made her point, especially since there is already heat going on because of the idiot in the Bronze Age getting himself dusted chasing some old bird.
In the meantime, Fred is running a trash bag out to the dumpster. She takes the opportunity to give them a quick once over with a held up compact, and yep -- they're vampires alright.
Page 12: In the hallway, Meredith's former boyfriend finds a note tucked into his locker. It states that somebody knows the truth about Meredith's "accident". They've written for him not to tell anyone and signed it "A Friend".
Page 13: Outside of school now, The Alpha-Trio is sizing up Meredith's former boyfriend. Fred spies them and calls Faith on her cell. It turns out that Faith asked Fred to scope them out because she's been suspicious of them and Mary.
Faith decides it's time to insist on some answers that evening as the Slayer, rather than temporary Coach Lehane.
Commentary: Yeah, you'd think. But I really wish I was more involved in this mystery but it's all feeling like things are stretched out too far in order to save the big reveal for the end of this issue... if not the beginning of next.
Page 14: That evening, Shane! - Meredith's former boyfriend - calls out for whoever left the note for him. It was Mary and she wants him to know the truth.
But Shane already knows that Meredith is dead, taking Mary offguard.
Page 15: Meanwhile, Faith is dismissing the students for the day. She goes back into the locker room, where she hears somebody sneaking around.
Page 16: This turns out, unsurprisingly, to be our Girl Trio. And apparently, they aren't aware of Faith as a Slayer despite their vampire senses... but then it took Faith forever to twig onto them, too, so....
Our three vampires get the drop on our Slayer and beat her around the locker room.
Page 17: At least at first. But Faith isn't going down that easily, of course. Annabelle finds herself kicked in the stomach and sent flying onto her ass. In the meantime, Blythe gets a stake through her sternum. So long to her.
Commentary: That was nice, since our Trio are so obnoxious but the actions of our vampire girls just isn't making sense to me. They claim to want to know what she and Mary were talking about, but then are shocked that she's still conscious after they're tag team assault... so... were they going to tie her up and then get answers from her? Why? Wouldn't it just be easier to waylay Mary again and this time not take no for an answer. Then they could convince Vampire!Mary to make up a story to feed to the "gym teacher" that would put her off interfering any further... and all of that would keep things quiet they way they keep mentioning they're supposed to be doing.
Beating the crap out of the gym teacher in vamp!mode and ergo now having another witness at the school to kill doesn't seem all that low-profile now does it?
Arggh. Just get to the point already, so these stupid high schoolers can die.
Page 18: Annabelle and Third Girl make a race to get away from Faith, now recognizing that she must be one of the Slayers to so easily overpower them. But they're the new breed of vampires who have that irritating misting ability. More, they can mist solidify the mist enough to still inflict physical damage on their target.
Faith is stunned by a double punch.
Page 19: Third Girl solidifies completely since Faith is off-kilter. She shoves her by the throat against the lockers and offers that Slayers don't seem all that impressive. But new vampires should still be watching their backs.
Fred has returned from changing out of her lunch lady uniform and she's accessorized with a crossbow gun. Third Girl takes a bolt through the back and dusts away.
Commentary: Yay! Another one down!
Page 20: Annabelle chooses to get the hell outta there, changing into a bat to wing it away.
Faith tells Fred she told her to clear out while she went hunting, but Fred points out that she's not the boss of her and besides they're supposed to be doing the Girl Power Teamup while Angel's away. Faith thanks her for the save but also tells her she needs her to play errand girl.
Page 21: Meanwhile, in the darkened gym, Shane asks a series of questions of Mary - ensuring she hasn't been telling anyone what she knows. Mary, not the least bit suspicious, being as enthralled to our Boy Hunk as she is signs her own death warrant by admitting that nobody's been told anything.
Shane vamp!faces on her. He asks over his shoulder if somebody is sure that she wants Mary.
Page 22: And we see that our central London player is surrounded by eight other students who have already been turned. And it's Dru!
Commentary: I do so appreciate that Drusilla has been staying close by Angel this whole time and that she's being commanded by Archaeus, as is logical based on the bloodline. It's great that Fred and Faith will have to face off against Dru without Angel's being there to run interference, so I'm looking forward to that.
It'd also be nice if the Portal of concern over in BTVS is actually located here in London and that is what Drusilla's ultimate mission is about and why she's building an army of her great-great...however-many-times...sire.
The Good: I liked that Faith was making sure that Brandt knows who is ultimately in charge when it comes to the vampire fighting.
I also appreciated that Angel and she are staying in contact during his sojourn to California.
I enjoyed the mild humor that came from Fred about her role as the lunch lady in this sting operation.
I kind of liked the twist of Shane being turned by the time Mary meets up with him, but next issue we MUST have a solid reason for not just Dru's interest in Mary but why she just didn't attack the kid already and be done with it.
The Bad: It really annoys me when character's names aren't introduced soon after we meet them.
Other Thoughts: My biggest problem is the drawn out pacing on this one, especially when it came to the repetitive nature of the Mary/Annabelle conflict. It was the same scene over and over... "Leave me alone." "No." "Mary, let me help." "No."
I'm glad to see Drusilla brought into the Archaeus storyline because it makes too much sense for her not to be, but I'm worried that her ultimate inclusion won't actually be about a greater goal that makes sense for the Arch-Demon. I really want this to work out to be something critical to Archaeus' plans, rather than a time-waster to connect to Buffy's storyline in her book.
The Score: This one felt too much like we were strolling at a snail's pace, and coming on the heels of last issue...
2.75 out of 5 stars ... let's get to it, already!
Up Next: BTVS, Season 10, Issue 18.