Angel & Faith
Season 02, Issue 18
"Those Who Can't Teach, Teach Gym" part III
Writer: Victor Gischler, Artwork: Cliff Richards, Coloring: Michelle Madsen, Lettering: Richard Starkings, [Comicraft's] 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 with Drusilla lying in bed and dreaming of kills past. She describes the dreams as wonderful worlds of searing pain that leaves us wanting the dream to be real upon awakening. On the bed she seems to be hovering, and smiles savagely in vamp!face, but this could be part of her dreaming...
Page 02: ... for we next see that Drusilla is meeting with Archaeus in a realm of fire. She's ecstatic to meet him, as she describes that he makes her feel special, and belonging to his new world image.
Commentary: I'm so pleased that the Archaeus crossover with Buffy is including Drusilla and that Faith and Fred's investigations into St. Cuthbert are being directly tied into the larger Archaeus plot. I was afraid that Angel's side characters were going to have little to do as the Buffy story took all of the air out of the room, so to speak. And it looked pretty iffy going into this story of St. Cuthbert's and the vampire outbreak there, especially with so much attention being paid to Mary and her classroom squabbles. But now we can see that everything is definitely tied together with the big grandsire of Angel-Spike-Dru's lineage.
Page 03: Mary, who arranged to meet up with murdered Meredith's boyfriend to let him know she didn't just "have an accident" the way Inspector Brandt said, finds herself in his embrace. Except this isn't at all like her private fantasies because he's already been changed into a vampire like her popular-girl nemesis, to her horror.
Also there with Shane is the vampire who has been turning students around school... Drusilla!
She tells Mary that she's been chosen to join the St. Cuthbert's clique, which Mary strenously objects to.
Page 04: Dru goes on to tell Mary that she'll be the last recruit from St. Cuthbert's because of her restless "babies" who have been leaving bodies lying around to be found by police and Slayers. And she's also not pleased with the Alpha-Trio picking fights with Slayers in public restrooms, either.
Not after they've gone to so much trouble to keep a low profile while expanding their ranks.
Page 05: Mary cries that she doesn't understand why her, but Drusilla assures her that a "new strong and clear voice" has told her how helpful she'll be to creating a brand new world for them all. She tells Mary that she needs this, too, because let's face it -- she's got nobody and is nothing currently.
She tells her that it'll just be a sweet, little sting and then it'll be over.
Shane holds Mary's head by her hair and Drusilla leans in to take a bite.
Commentary: It's annoying me though, that Dru won't tell us WHY Mary is so frickin' important to anything. There must be a reason to make her character such a focus for this arc, but we're playing coy about it. Unnecessarily and irritatingly coy about it.
Page 06: Before Mary finds her inner fang, the gym door is kicked in to reveal Faith.
Drusilla isn't all that put out about her arrival, thinking it "precious" that Faith believes she's arrived just in the nick of time.
Faith's answer is to flying kick Shane in the face, and knocking Mary from his grasp.
Commentary: Far be it from me to intervene in one of Faith's dramatic arrivals, but it did seem a bit lame of Dru's other recruits to let Faith run across the gym and perform this flying leap kick in the first place. Obvs, whichever of them aren't dusted at the end of this issue should really get an ass kicking for standing around gaping instead of intercepting.
Page 07: Drusilla, not shockingly, orders the other student-vampires to kill her, which... please....
In the meantime, Mary is shocked by being grabbed at the wrist by the lunch lady holding a crossbow and telling her to run if she wants to live.
Page 08: As Mary is rushed out of the gym, she exclaims whether she's seeing the gym teacher battling the vampires. Fred snarks that she now knows why tuition at St. Cuthbert's is so high.
Alas for both of them, they find their way out is locked and Mary has to tell Fred that all of the doors leading to outside are locked down after hours.
Behind them, Shane tells Mary to stop running away.
Commentary: I continue to like Fred's dialog when she's being smart-assey but I'm still on the fence about her inclusion as a regular character. It still feels like there wasn't a reason that Fred/Illyria needed to be brought back at all, but especially so soon after Illyria's "death" against Simone and Maloker.
Page 09: Shane swaps back to human!face and tries to convince Mary that they can be "together" just as she's been wanting if she'll just give in. She tells him to get stuffed. He switches back to fangs with a growl.
Mary and Fred dash down a corridor with Mary wondering if antagonizing him was the wrong move, but Fred tells her to second-guess less and run more.
They make their way to a classroom.
Page 10: Meanwhile, Faith is still taking on Drusilla's recently put together army. Because they're new, and dumb, they don't do all of that shape changing and misting that they can [despite Dru herself not being able to access those powers], so they get clobbered a lot.
Drusilla tells Faith it's so nice to see her again. Faith pulls out a stake and tells Dru that her being staked has been a long time coming.
Page 11: The "kids" though mob Faith from behind, grabbing at her and keeping her from getting close enough to Drusilla to stake her. Dru tells Faith that according to Spike, there is no tastier treat than taking down a Slayer.
Faith's response is that Spike would know, since he's "taking Buffy down every night". Dru is distracted by rage.
Commentary: It was a nice callback here to Spike and Dru after Spike killed the Chinese Slayer and told her about the aphrodesiac power of Slayer blood, as well as Angel commenting to Faith about Buffy and Spike seeing one another last issue. I liked the snark from the defiant Faith, but I wish that she, Fred and Dru didn't all look so much alike in the artwork. This is especially true of Drusilla, who isn't looking very much like Juliet at all.
Page 12: While Faith is looking like things may go bad for her in a moment, back in the classroom, Shane barges through the door. Fred tries to crossbow him, but he snatches the bolt out of the air, laughing at her. He picks her up by the throat and demands to know where she's hidden Mary.
Page 13: Mary herself didn't go far, and grabs up the bolt he threw to the floor. She hops on his back and attempts to perform her first staking. It doesn't go well, and she gets slapped across the face hard enough to send her crashing to the floor. He shouts at her for being mousy and a git. He also expresses his displeasure at Mistress Drusilla wanting her for anything.
His disgust toward having to take Mary alive though has caused him to forget about the other woman in the room. Fred comes behind him with a Union Jack on a flag pole. She shoves the pole through his back.
Page 14: As we'll recall however, the new vampires have stronger bones which makes staking them in the heart much more work. Fortunately for Fred, she's able to jab Shane deep enough to momentarily stun him, which gives Mary time to lend a hand. Together, the girls shove the flag pole through Shane's back, sending him to Dusting.
Commentary: I liked seeing Shane done away with, and of course you just knew that Mary would be in on staking him but this is again one of those situations where Shane could've survived, if he'd only remembered he CAN TURN TO MIST. I guess we have to put it down to teen!stupidity and newly turneditis. It's a bit irritating though, that the fight wasn't a bit more drawn out and Fred and Mary weren't much more hurt.
It's also annoying that Fred and Mary feel the need to stop and gab, when they know that Faith is trapped with a roomful of new vampires and Drusilla.
Page 15: Back in the gym, Faith is being held by the minions while Drusilla goes on a mini-rant about how surly Faith is and how her words that she thinks are such clever insults are barely bee stings. She asks if she has any other petty insults, or maybe she'd like to try some begging before Dru drains her.
Faith tells her to look behind her. Drusilla grins how amusing Faith is being to the end... before she gets a flat look on her face. She spins around...
Page 16: ... to see that Faith wasn't kidding. But it isn't Mary or Fred returning to help her out. It's Koh!
Eldre apologizes for being late, as he'd only gotten Fred's message. In addition, he questions whether she actually needs his help as it appears or if he's misreading her predicament. She tells him to just get over there, already.
Commentary: I really like Eldre Koh as a character, so I'll admit that I *almost* may have made a noise of excitement on seeing him standing there instead of Fred. I'm still a little bit on the fence of his being in Angel's title, rather than Buffy's, but I'm making my peace with that.
Page 17: Koh's arrival creates the distraction Faith needs to shake off the vampires glomping onto her. Her and Eldre Koh go on offensive against Drusilla's high school vampires, making quick work of them.
Of course, Dru doesn't stand around waiting to be next and disappears during the fighting. [Crazy ain't the same as stupid.]
Page 18: Sometime later, Brandt has arrived with some uniforms. He reports to Faith that it appears all the vampires haunting St. Cuthbert were taken care of, though he and his men will search the building again to be sure. Faith complains that the worst of the lot got a clean getaway, but he reminds her that she managed to save Mary. Faith asks if she can speak to her.
Page 19: Sometime later-later, Faith is sitting on her balcony having a glass of wine. She's been joined by Fred. Fred asks about what Faith learned from Mary, but other than "something special", Mary has no idea of why she was of such interest.
Fred tries to relieve Faith's worry by pointing out that Dru is crazy-cakes after all but Faith feels like targeting the high school for vampire recruits had a larger purpose. She suggests her belief that Dru was staging something... laying the groundwork... which leads both her and Fred to conclude that she was definitely working on behalf of Archaeus.
Fred is relieved that Angel will be back soon.
Page 20: Faith turns attention to Illyria, and Fred offers that she thinks for now they're okay on that front. She says that she felt her briefly when she was battling Shane, but otherwise she seems to be under control.
Page 21: Meanwhile, we join Mary. She's being dropped off at her father's house and we find out that her parents are divorced. But apparently he's an active co-parent and the divorce seems amiable enough.
In her father's home, she complains that he was supposed to have been retired from the museum and he tells her that the staff knew he'd be very interested in their recent find. The statue is quite baffling to everyone... including him... but he's enjoying trying to unravel the puzzle.
Page 22: Mary clearly takes after her father, as he can't wait to show it off to her. She remarks it's rather fearsome looking.
The statue is of a demon warrior in full armor with a huge, two-handed broadsword... and very clearly implied to be why Archaeus wanted Dru to get Mary cooperatively to come around to their team....
The Good: I definitely like that Drusilla has been pulled into the Archaeus plot, and without a soul, she's unable [even if she were willing] to resist his charms.
I have reservations yet about Fred's inclusion, but I do like her snarky dialog with Mary in this issue.
I also got a kick out of Faith sharing with Drusilla that Spike is sexing with Buffy as a snide dig at the vampire.
That subtle callback to Dru's deadly fingernails was a nice bit [she uses her pinky nail to slice Faith's face, as she used her nails before to slit Kendra's throat].
The Bad: There was a little too much of the newbreed vampires forgetting that they didn't have to get staked. A few of them, sure... but it was like a collective amnesia that they could mist, rather than get dusted so easily.
Other Thoughts: The ending showing us just what Dru may have wanted with Mary was a nice bone to us, but is still felt like this arc was too much about a side character and it doesn't in any way offer why Dru was so reluctant to just bite her and be done with it. I get the "low profile" thing, but that doesn't justify the amount of tip-toeing around getting Mary turned that happens.
Artwise, there is also an issue with Fred, Faith and Dru all looking a way too much alike. This is especially bad when Fred and Faith are alone and talking, but only one of them are on panel. It can be easy to not know which one of them we're currently seeing.
As mentioned, I'm still wondering why exactly Fred needed to be "saved" or Illyria returned. Why are their characters needed in this title?
The Score: 3.50 out of 5 stars
Up Next: Angel & Faith, Season 02, Issue 19
BTVS, Season 10, Issue 19
Supernatural, Season 1's "The Benders" [Which yes, I've finally started it and I should have it posted Monday or Tuesday]