Angel & Faith
Season 02, Issue 21
"A Tale of Two Families" part I
Writer: Victor Gischler, Artwork: Will Conrad, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt,
Cover: Scott Fischer
Blurb: With the Big Bad Archaeus in residence - somewhere in London - vampire strikes have increased in Magic Town as he and Drusilla grow their family. Determined to bring Angel into the fold, along with the strange magical entity of Magic Town, Archaeus and Dru have kept Nadira captive for her connection to both of those targets. But this isn't the only angle this pair has been working. Angel, Faith, and Fred have a battle ahead.
My Blurb: Hey, there is something funny about this cover. These dusting vampires look more than just a little similar to Age of Wonders III's Lost Souls monsters. Right down the purple coloring! Is/Are Michelle, Richard and/or Jimmy fans of the gaming franchise?
Page 01: We open at the residence of Nile Weatherford, who is currently on the phone with someone named Brenda.
He's excited because the museum which he works for has agreed to have a particular large bronze statue delivered at him home for further examination, as he's a bit of a recluse.
We'll know him as Mary's father... the young girl at St. Cuthbert's school which Drusilla seemed to be so interested in.
He's interrupted in his glee by the doorbell dinging.
Page 02: It turns out to be Drusilla at the door, but she's playing the damsel in distress in need of a phone for a misbehaving car. Alas for her, Mary's dad isn't the chivalrous kind. He tells her that he doesn't admit strangers to his home and directs her to the tobacco shop around the corner.
When Dru returns to her car, she's told my Beefy McHunkvamp that Archaeus isn't going to be pleased. But she tells him to just drive, while she figures out another way to their goal (which is, of course, that Statue of Ill-Tidings).
Commentary: I do like this plot point that there is a reason behind so much attention paid to Mary. But it still doesn't make much sense to me that she's being treated with such kit-gloves [as I mentioned in the review for the last issue where we saw Mary].
Simply turning Mary and having her drop in on her dad seems so much simpler than this elaborate game. And Dru's blaming Faith for being distracting [last issue ] doesn't really address this adequately.
Page 03: Elsewhere in Magic Town, a couple of vampires are out on the hunt and chasing down a young man. One of the vampires ... let's call him Old Man Dandy... gets a crossbow bolt in the back. This fails to bring him down, however, and we find that the shooter is one of the transformed humans making Magic Town her home. She's Tricia, the tentacle-headed young girl in a relationship with a still human-looking slacker-type. Both had been seen in an earlier issue seeking advice from Nadira.
Old Man Dandy tells his three compatriots to drain our teen lovers.
Commentary: Presumably since the St. Cuthbert's situation, Dru and Archaeus are not so worried about staying low, or this assault won't make sense. I also notice that Old Man Dandy is taking nail polish advice from Vampbruiser O'Manmountain as well.
Page 04: As our two heroes are being bum rushed, Faith leaps out from between two buildings, to nail Old Man Dandy with her boot heel to the face.
She points out to Tricia that if she's going the crossbow route, she needs to make her shots count, because the weapon is a slow-to-load bother.
Angel shows up now as well, and together he and Faith stake Old Man Dandy's companions. Angel makes a point of assuring Parker [not Buffy's Parker, thankfully] and Tricia that he'll still be around to patrol while they get up to speed on the vampire dusting.
Page 05: Old Man Dandy retreats, and Tricia is going to try nailing him in the back again when Angel intervenes. He tells her that seeing to it that one survivor retreats to spread the word is part of their plan.
The intimation is that he wants word to spread that he's back from San Francisco and he and Faith are once again teamed up to keep the streets safe and encourage the vampires to prey on some other part of London [eh... hold on...].
Parker complains that they tried to round up more recruits but everyone has been too afraid to fight. Angel blows it off as understandable.
Page 06: Later, Faith and Angel meet up with Soph, Liv, Fred and Koh. He basically explains the plan of making sure the vampires believe he's been successfully pinned down with guarding Magic Town from more hit-and-runs by Archaeus' forces, which will allow the rest of them to keep digging into where the arch-demon and Dru have set up their nest.
During this, there appears to be some tension going on between Faith and he, as she wants to skip the games and go straight for the Nadira rescuing by tearing apart the city until they find them.
Page 07: Fred offers that she and Koh can do some staying behind, too in order to give him time to go hunting but Angel shoots this down. He wants to be seen around Magic Town in order to establish that he's "tied down". He thanks her but insists that he's thought this through and decided already.
This sets off Faith, bringing out the tension between them, as she doesn't like that he's deciding courses of action for all of them and reminds him that nobody put him in charge. His retort is that he had to take control of the situation when his partner ran off to get herself together.
That comment doesn't sit well with Faith, either. Angel blows her off suddenly and tells everyone to take five and goes storming out. Faith follows.
Commentary: I liked this bit... it was a bit awkward and clumsy, but I've been in this situation where a comment is said and for whatever reason, it suddenly blows up into an argument and nobody actually knows why. It's obvious that Angel wasn't as understanding of Faith's choice to leave Magic Town as he was acting, and I like that it's his suddenly turning bossy like he's running AI again that chafes Faith.
Page 08: Meanwhile, over with Drusilla - she's being throttled by Archaeus. He's displeased because the Bronze Statue of Ill Tidings was supposed to have been waiting for him when he got back from San Francisco, and yet Dru still hasn't procured the desired object.
But, for reasons he cannot understand, he feels permissive toward her and offers her another chance to remain his favorite. But, he also warns that time grows short.
Page 09: Archaeus, in addition to the Bronze, etc. is also chomping at his bit to have Angelus and Spike rejoined with their family. Something which Dru wholeheartedly agrees should be a thing.
Archaeus offers that Angel will surely come for Nadira, and his attachments will be his undoing.
Commentary: One cannot help but wonder if Victor is setting up Archaeus to be undone by his own attachments. His insistence to Dru that he thinks of her as his wayward daughter who needs a little tough love, despite his not liking having to discipline her makes me think that either Angel will use this to fool him, or that Drusilla will come to a critical juncture where it's Angel or Archaeus and she'll choose Angel.
It's also interesting just how attached Archaeus is to the idea of his family being united again, despite the fact that Angel and Spike are carrying around souls now, and have already tried to kill him. I'm also curious about why he'd want to risk the wrath of the Magic Town Sentience by holding/threatening Nadira. It seems... short-sighted, if he truly does think that the entity has real power that could be brought to bear.
I've enjoyed Archaeus as the Big Bad, but right here when they're discussing their family, I really wanted Dru to mention The Master and Darla and how they should be there, too. With the vampire family history being such an integral part of this arc, it's a little surprising that especially Darla wasn't wistfully and sorrowfully mentioned by Dru.
Page 10: Back with Angel, Faith has joined him out on the stoop. He apologizes and Faith mentions thinking that they were good. Angel is forced to admit that he resented Faith's leaving with Giles, and she reminds him that he knows how lost she was without Rupert in her corner.
Angel admits it was stupid and petty, but also tells her that he'd gotten used to having a partner to share the burdens with, and when she decided to leave...
Page 11: ... everything felt wrong. He'd been spending all of this time pretending it was fine to be on his own again, like he has been before. But this time, it really felt the loss of a support system around him.
They clear the air and then Faith returns to business. She tells him that he has to go face Archaeus and that she believes that he'll be able to resist his siren's call. Plus, he has to trust the people he has around him to do their jobs, too and to save or stop him if it comes down to that.
Page 12: In the kitchen, the great-aunts are complaining about being left on the sidelines when they've been working on their fighting and shooting skills to a unsympathetic Koh.
When Angel and Faith return, Fred tells them that Brandt had just called with a lead.
Angel tells them that he's going to go after Nadira's trail. But he also tells them all that he can't do it alone, and doesn't want to try, because they're a team.
Page 13: Sometime later, back at the Weatherford's residence, Niles receives a call. It's from Brenda at the museum with apparent bad news in regards to that Bronze Statue of Ill-Tidings. She tells him over the phone that the Board has had second thoughts about what the museum staff allowed to happen to the object and he can't keep it for study after all.
While Niles is obvs disappointed that the Board has gotten involved, he's also understanding of Brenda's position. He's conciliatory toward the museum having to take his object of study back, over supposed liability reasons.
Page 14: A page-cut over to the museum however shows poor Brenda not being harrangued by the Board, but by Drusilla though.
The poor woman is tearfully, but steadily talking to Niles while her colleagues lie around her dead. Dru with her mouth gleefully full of blood stands over the poor woman with a hand on her shoulder.
Commentary: The panel, artwise, of Drusilla over Brenda's shoulder is absolutely chilling. Dru can often lose that sense of menace because her character is so mad, but every one in a while you're nicely reminded of just what a monster she is and this is one of those moments.
I absolutely felt horrible for Brenda suddenly and it's all down to this panel.
Page 15: With Angel, he's also gotten a late night call. This is from Brandt, who tells Angel that he may have a lead... thin as it is. He goes on to tell our hero that work crews have reported strange incidents at a tunnel project with tunnels off of sewers near Magic Town being reopened after the crew has sealed them.
Although it could be anything, the location and the sewer access raised flags. Angel thanks him, because any lead right now is a place to start.
After checking with Faith that she's on board with the plan they've hashed out, he assures Brandt that they're on it...
... Only for Brandt to be shown to us that he's already been turned!
Commentary: OH DAMN IT!
I really liked Brandt and I was getting into what looked like a flirty friendship thing starting between he and Faith.
Page 16: Sometime later, Angel has gone out to the northern border of Magic Town, which seems to be a run down neighborhood with a lot of abandoned buildings. The kind that have basement access to old tunnels, presumably.
[Why he's by himself is not explicated in his thoughts for us.]
Page 17: As it turns out, going off to abandoned buildings on one's own may not have been the best plan ever, since he's very suddenly [and suspiciously... oh, Brandt... damn it...] ambushed!
Thankfully, Angel can take care of two vampires relatively easily.
Commentary: Hey! Wait! Was that Hunky McVampface that just got beheaded?! NOOO... not my lust object.
Page 18: After Angel dusts his two suspiciously sudden attackers, we see Drusilla and Hunky McBruiserbod standing in the shadows [Oh, thank goodness... our beheaded wasn't my Hunk O'Hotvamp... although this is the second time that I've been misled into thinking he'd gotten dusted. I'm starting to think that Michelle has seen my commentary and is now just teasing me personally...].
Hunky starts threatening Angel that he won't be so quick to go down, but before the two vampires can start brawling, Drusilla calls off our Hooligan!Fang and sends him away. He's not pleased, but he complies with his mistress' command.
Dru, seemingly wants to talk to Angel, not fight him.
Page 19: Angel isn't in the mood for another wacky chat about Angel joining the new family, etc. ect. and warns her that this is going to be a short conversation if she doesn't start talking about where Nadira is being held.
But as we can guess, Dru these days is all about "father" so it's all Archaeus, Family, Being Together, blah-blah.
Angel allows himself to walk with Drusilla, even as he tries to tell her that following Archaeus is a trap, not belonging the way that Dru believes. She tells him that he's just gotten the wrong impression of what the arch-demon desires because of the way that the San Francisco Affair went down. She offers that she wishes Angel would just talk to their progenitor.
This is something Angel openly mocks.
Commentary: And by the end of this page, I was thinking "Why Angel? Why won't you just stake Dru? And why are you following along behind her when you know she's treacherous and under Archaeus' influence?!
And finally... Why, why, why are you there without backup?! *Sigh*
Page 20: Naturally, Drusilla isn't just there to randomly talk to Angel in his isolated random location. No, Archaeus is there in a side room, which Dru now leads Angel to.
Angel immediately goes into fight mode, but Archaeus seems reluctant to engage. He makes a point of telling Angel that he doesn't want to fight him, and defeating him was never his goal. He only wants Angel to come home, just as Dru wants.
Page 21: Angel unsurprisingly refuses the invitation.
He gets ready to fight Archaeus, despite the arch-demon pointing out that he's not there with Buffy and her crew to defend him this time.
But as it turns out, fisticuffs aren't actually necessary... not when Archaeus can use their family link to simply mind zap Angel from within. Which he does now, telling Angel that if the only way for him to rejoin the Family is for Archaeus to impose his will on him, then so be it, but he won't be denied.
Commentary: And right here, I started thinking... "Wait, this is way too lame and easy. This is feeling like less of a set up to capture Angel, than it feels like a possible sting operation of Angel setting up Archaeus." And where is Faith??
Page 22: Angel falls to the floor, grabbing the back of his head.
Dru tells him things are best this way, but she addresses him as Angel. He doesn't like this any longer. Looking up in fang-mode, he tells Dru that Angelus has such a nicer ring to it!
Commentary: This is my thinking here: Angel already knows how dangerous it is for him to face off against Archaeus alone. He's already been mind controlled through his link with his progenitor. And he made a special point of asking Faith if she's on board with their plan, even through the risks... risks which were mentioned earlier and involved his suseptibility to Archaeus' influence. Faith had expressed her confidence that Angel can handle it and they're there to back him up.
I'm thinking that this is a complete snow job on Archaeus [and us]. Angel isn't turned to Angelus [and this could be read as hinted at in San Francisco as Angel didn't become Angelus under Archaeus' influence before], but is playing the role as a way to both find Nadira and to uncover a way to defeat Archaeus from the inside.
I think the "plan" is Angel being undercover and getting information to Faith and Fred that will allow them to set up a final trap to send Archaeus to Ashesville for good.
The only wrinkle is the shock Angel is going to have when/if he meets the now-turned Brandt face to face. They're not exactly friends, but I think Angel respected the detective enough that seeing him now a vampire suddenly, may be enough to throw him off and either outright blow his cover - or at least have Dru notice something suspicious in his behavior.
So right now, I'm going solidly with Angel is still Angel here and is only play-acting his thrall.
The Good: I continue to enjoy my time with Jerky McHunkbite for reasons I'm sure I cannot explain.
It's nice that Angel is working on building an expanded network of patrollers for Magic Town, and I'd really like to see Faith reach out and welcome back one or two of the London Slayers in a more active role to oversee this new 'B' Team.
I liked that there is still tension between Angel and Faith, mostly on his part, over her leaving London right after Rupert was resurrected. And I like that Angel recognizes that he's being a bit childish about it.
That panel of Dru hovering over the horrified, but acting-for-her-life, Brenda was chilling.
Damn it, Brandt. I'm really sorry to see him turned.
The Bad: Nuthin.
Other Thoughts: I do have to say this issue was a bit clunky as far as dialog-bits. Some of the 'scenes' like Angel and Faith's convo and the planning in the Fairweather kitchen felt overwritten to fill space.
The entire "Oh, no... Angelus!" also feels really clumsy to me. Either Angel is an idiot for rushing off after Archaeus/Dru by himself or, this is a set up and Dru and Archaeus are idiots for so easily and quickly buying that Angel is "turned" to Angelus without wondering just why he doesn't have Faith at his back. If he and Faith had set up a public argument to give the vampires the impression that the division was far more serious in regards to her "abandoning" him before, I could buy it a lot easier that Drusilla especially wouldn't be on edge. It's not like she hasn't been betrayed by Angel before... even when he's being dark [like oh... that time that he set her on fire...].
The Score: Overall, I like the plot progression and some of the character bits but there were parts of this tale that felt alternately overly written to stretch a scene, or was just clunky.
3.25 out of 5 stars