Angel & Faith
Season 02, Issue 24
"A Tale of Two Families" part IV
Writer: Victor Gischler, Art: Will Conrad, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt [Comicraft]
Cover: Scott Fischer
Blurbs: Somewhere in London, Big Bad Archaeus is in residence with Drusilla and a growing number of vampire minions. Having failed to bring both Angel and the strange magical entity of Magic Town into the fold, Archaeus is moving to plan B and trying to lure the magic with the gift of a physical form... But Angel, Faith, and their allies aren't giving up the fight...
Page 01: We open in Magic Town with Angel and Faith asking around for Nadira, who has disappeared since her rescue from Archaeus.
The search is interrupted with a huge clue in the form of a large, blue-white FWASH from blocks over.
Page 02: It turns out the FWASH is Illyria unloading against the Giant Bronze Statue which the Magic Entity has taken up residence within.
Nadira shouts at Illyria to stop, as she's frightening the Entity and provoking a response. Illyria's answer is to start complaining about how she's always expected to stand down, when she's the one that is constantly being attacked and harrassed.
She only gets partway through her rant though, when Bronze Statue Fist knocks her across the street.
Page 03: Illyria plows through the truck of the men who nearly got crushed once already by the Entity. Being an Old One, this is nothing more than annoying. Illyria responds by picking up the truck and sending it flying toward the Entity's new body.
But the Sentient Magic hasn't been cut off from its powers just because it has relocated. It waves a hand with flashy light powers in the direction of the truck.
Page 04: The truck flies apart into small bits. The Entity stands under the raining bits, like a child discovering rain drops.
Illyria berates that It's using parlor tricks and warns that won't save it.
Before she can zerg rush the Entity though, Koh yells at her to stop.
Page 05: While Koh is intercepting the angry Illyria, the Entity starts its own rush at them. But Nadira runs into the Sentient Magic's path and pleads with it to stop things, as well.
She sympathizes with the Entity's confusion, but warns that part of maturing is to learn restraint of our impulses. She tells the Sentient Magic that the steps it takes right now will determine what type of being it is to become forever. She tells it that she needs to give people a chance to become friends over foes.
Finally, she asks the Entity if it doesn't still trust her.
Commentary: I liked the few pages of battle scenes, as I often do in this comic. But, I also really liked Nadira's tack here - especially her bringing up that the Entity is about to meet new friends, but only if it gives the beings around it a chance by not attacking.
It was a nicely scripted bit of dialog.
Page 06: Unfortunately for Nadira, Illyria thinks her advice is rotten. She tells the Sentient Magic that it needs to count only on itself. Koh tries to tell Illyria that isn't true, but she points out that Koh attacked her. He disputes this in that he was only trying to get her to pause the escalating situation.
She tells Koh that the Statue was the one attacking, but he tells her that it attacked Fred because Fred attacked it, thinking that it was trying to hurt Nadira. The whole thing was a series of mistaken first impressions.
Illyria doesn't buy this, and accuses him of wishing to kill her if only he could for his revenge. But he tells her that was how he used to think, but now he realizes that his thirst for vengeance is no longer driving him.
Page 07: He goes on to tell Illyria, while she's holding him precariously just off the ground completely at her mercy, that he no longer wishes her harm. He tells her that Fred is a part of her now. The being that he wanted vengeance against no longer exists, and the man who thought he needed that vengeance is likewise gone.
Koh offers that she has no enemies here.
This is enough to affect Illyria, driving her into sublimation again and returning Fred to control.
Commentary: Hmmm. I'm not buying Eldre Koh's complete 180 turn here on his bitterness. I get the message that is being preached, but his change of heart has come far too fast over a few issues for me to be on board with it.
And I find it far more interesting for him to continue to wish a way to seperate Illyria from Fred so he can kill one without harming the innocent the Old One is bound to. I'd like to think that his words here are only words to calm the immediate situation, and isn't heartfelt... but I have a feeling he's meant to be taken at his word.
Which makes me fear now that he'll be a generic, superpowered good guy and his interesting character will turn bland. I'll not be happy if this is all there is to the revenge plot against Illyria.
Page 08: With Fred returned, Angel and Faith rush up now to find out what is going on.
Page 09: Nadira explains about the Sentient Magic Entity inhabiting the Bronze Statue. Faith asks where the statue came from for it to inhabit.
He explains to Faith that he presented the statue to the Entity because it was specifically designed to be a container for such energy. Which is now able to act as a focus for the Entity.
Page 10: Angel tells Archaeus that they know all about his plans to take over Magic Town and they're not going to allow him to recruit the Magic Town Entity to being that about.
Archaeus calls Angel a hypocrit. He tells him about the Nitobe's pretty speech about trust.
Page 11: He tells Angel that he's presented a gift, freely given, to build a bridge of trust between he and the Sentient Magic. He offers the scattered consciousness something to allow it free agency.
Nadira shouts that Archaeus is a liar and offering something not real to the Entity. But Archaeus counters that he's allowed the Entity to touch the world. And he does this with no expectation of a quid pro quo.
He offers that he only asks for a request, and if the answer from the Entity is no, then so be it. He says he only offers a free choice to the Sentience to join his crusade, and asks who are they to deny the Sentience such free choice.
Commentary: I wasn't as thrilled with this scripting, as with Nadira's speech to the Entity. It was a bit clumsy to get from Koh's speech about trust, to this argument for freedom of choice but it's servicable. And though I'd never believe for a second that Archaeus would "respect" the Entity's choice if the answer were no, I do like how it puts Nadira on the defensive.
It's not clear whether she could force the Entity to stay away from Archaeus... her own thoughts about the nature of the Sentience suggests that she couldn't, but trying to could make her look untrustworthy and controlling to It. On the other hand, they can't really just let the Entity join forces with Evil Old One Incarnate.
It's a clever bind that Archaeus maneuvered the good guys into, with both choices being wrong.
Page 12: Nadira shouts that she's the Sentient Magic Being's friend, and Faith opines that sometimes friends have to step in and make a tough call for somebody that needs help. But Archaeus tells them that is what tyrants always say too, that somebody has to do as they say for their own good.
He speaks directly to the Sentience and offers it the choice to join him as an equal, implying that Nadira, et. al. consider it some type of pet.
Nadira apparently senses that the Magic Entity is swayed by Archaeus' words, and responds first with shock...
Page 13: ... and then anger. Rushing Archaeus she orders the demon away from the Sentience. But as he already proved, he's more than a match for the Slayer. She takes a back hand that sends her sprawling.
Which is Angel and Faith's cue to start the battle proper.
Page 14: Angel arrogantly tells Archaeus that they're ending this now...
Which involves Koh and Faith having their asses handed to them without effort.
Page 15: Angel is next, as Archaeus uses his bony spurs from his back to spear Angel through his limbs. Archaeus tells Angel that he agrees that he's spent too much time as it is playing games with his decendant.
Faith asks Angel if he's like to rush in again, or if he'd like to try a little strategizing. She calls over to Koh to focus on the back spines. Koh immediately sees her strategy and approves.
Commentary: One of the most interesting things about Angel & Faith as a title is the growth that Faith has gone through when it comes to team work and leading. I love seeing her coming into her own when it comes to doing more than rushing in where angels fear to tread, but actually successfully commanding a squad's resources.
Now, having said that... it's also a bit annoying to me when Angel continually fails to do the same thing. After leading so many fights in charge of Angel Investigations with that crew, he and Faith working together should be even more effective when it comes to strategy in the midst of fighting than Buffy and the Scooby Gang.
I like the generally more serious tone that Angel has always taken compared to BTVS, but I wish that Victor would also write Angel as if he's actually had all of the experience the character has had. It feels too often, lately, like Angel is being made to 'screw up' or act impetuously as a way to highlight the changes in Faith, rather than both characters being equally insightful and commanding.
Page 16: While Angel, Faith and Koh are pulling themselves together, Archaeus sidles up to the Entity and whispers sweet nothings in its ear about how they're the aggressors, while he only comes in peace bearing a gift they obviously don't want It to have. He asks if the choice to make isn't a bit obvious.
Nadira, still on the ground, shouts to the Sentience that there are people in Magic Town who cares for the Entity, while Archaeus is a user.
Archaeus offers Nadira that she would be the primary one to deny the Sentience its own agency, and offers maybe it'd be better if she never spoke again.
Page 17: Before he can act on the implied threat though, a crossbow bolt comes whizzing in to bounce off his shoulder - distracting him.
This turns out to be the Fairweathers and Fred who've retrieved weaponry from the car. Weaponry that appears to be quite unlikely to do more than annoy, but they tried.
Which gives Koh the distraction he needed to leap onto Archaeus' back.
Page 18: Koh grabs Archaeus' bone spikes, keeping them under control while Angel rushes Archaeus with a sword. Not that it does him any good. Archaeus just uses his regular arms to snatch up Angel and hold him above the ground, also threatening to rip him in half, lengthwise.
Which is what Faith had planned, in so far as the Archaeus is now out of arms to deal with her. She rushes low and slices him across the abdomen with her sword.
Page 19: The Demon Lord reacts by swiping at Faith, giving Angel the manueverability to bring his own sword back into play, jabbing him beneath his shoulder bone armor. But the injury is nothing more than another irritant, and Archaeus not only throws Angel hard to the ground, but also frees his bone protrusions by flinging Koh off of his back.
Meanwhile, the Sentience is taking all of this in....
Page 20: Angel acknowledges that Archaeus is powerful. He isn't a Demon Lord for nothing. But he offers that Archaeus will ultimately lose because he's alone. Even when he has minions around him, he's alone because minions can never be family the way that Angel, Faith and the others are.
This gives Archaeus a good, uproarious laugh. He tells Angel that he's learned very well the strength of family and shouts for Drusilla, who had been waiting in the wings. Her and her army of Archaeus' newly created kin.
Page 21: The Demon Lord tells Angel that he could've been with them, playing an important role in what Archaeus and his family is building. But he chose foolishly. He promises that one way or another, Magic Town will be his.
Page 22: He berates Angel for helping him by showing the Sentient Being how sincere he was being about giving It a free choice, while Team Angel only wants to force the Being to comply with what they want of it. He reminds him how he started this first official greeting with the Entity by not using conflict to get his own way, but now that Angel has brought the conflict to him, he'll just have to show him what sort of power a Demon Lord comes with... and by the way... his army is also a lot bigger....
Commentary: Hmmm. These last few pages feels like we're dragging things out a bit and Archaeus, I think, is supposed to be coming across as some sort of manipulative genius. It doesn't really read like that, though.
I think only something as innocently naive as the Sentient Magical Being wouldn't be able to tell Archaeus is evil and not to be trusted, just from his blatherings alone.
I wish they're been less blah-blah at Angel and company and more of his sweet talk to the Entity, and doing this now by barging onto the scene, instead of having Drusilla quietly meet the Entity later and invite It to a private meeting with her Lord was just brash and stupid. It really undercuts the attempt to present Archaeus as some type of mastermind, and he's really just continuing to come across as a brutish thug.
For trying to 'seduce' the Sentience into joining him, he's coming across as particularly ham-handed and insincere.
The Good: I did like Nadira's dialog to the Sentience in trying to convince it that choosing violence out of fear will make a lasting impact on the type of individual it will grow into, and convincing it to choose to take the risk of trusting.
The Bad: I'm becoming bored with Archaeus. He's just not coming across as the sort of built-up threat that he started out as and I wish that he'd been given much more time to slyly plot and manipulate, rather than being just another thuggish big mouth. Maloker was far, far more interesting and threatening than Archeaus has managed.
Other Thoughts: I liked the implication of a Battle Royale between Illyria and the Magic Sentience, but in practice it was a bit too quickly interrupted. And I really didn't buy either Koh's change of heart in punishing Illyria or in her suddenly listening to his claims that he is no longer after vengeance. It feels too much like getting Fred back in charge before Archaeus showed up so that Illyria wouldn't dominate the battle scene leading to this issue's cliffhanger.
I really liked when it looked like Archaeus was using a little strategy and mind games to bring the Entity on board his wishes, instead of the blunt force tactic. But then it's all undone for me by his basically doing everything but mockingly twirl an invisible mustache to show his evil ways. I find it hard to believe that even the Inexperienced Sentient Magic Being isn't thinking that It's being fed a shovel of bullshit.
As I stated in the review, I really like the character growth Faith has gone through in her leadership role through the past two seasons, but it's undercut by the way that Angel is now always blundering into situations to show up her new maturity. I don't like when one character becomes a dimwit in order to make another character look better, and that's what I feel has happened in this title.
The Score: This started off so well, but then it just petered out and left me "meh".
3.0 out of 5 stars