Season 09 (not 11), Issue 01
"Out of the Past", part I
Writer: Corinna Bechko, Art: Geraldo Borges, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Scott Fischer
Blurb: When young Liam was turned into a vampire, he became incredibly good at being exceptionally bad. Under the name Angelus, for hundreds of years he reveled in killing and left horror in his wake. In 1898, he received his comeuppance through a gypsy curse that returned to him his soul and his conscience. Now known as Angel, he has been trying to make up ever since for all that he did as a soulless, evil monster.
Among Angel's friends is Winifred "Fred" Burkle, a brilliant and quirky physicist who has been through her own series of mystical events and works with Angel to make the world safer. Fred shares her body with an Old One, a goddess named Illyria; it's weird, but it seems to be working out.
Right now, Angel and Fred are visiting Ireland to perform a small exorcism...
Page 01: We start with Angel sitting in brooding mode and staring at a beetle crawling across the large glass window of the hotel room he's in.
Someone calls his name, pulling him from his thoughts. It's Fred, traveling with him. And they're currently in Dublin, Ireland.
She's arrived to point out that the sun is about to go down, and they should get to their task.
Page 02: Fred can sense that Angel is preoccupied on this trip. They're there to help a friend of Angel's to get rid of a haunting that has been scaring off customers. But he admits to her that he's been bothered by intrusive thoughts since their arrival.
Page 03: Despite Angel's attempts to get them back on track for their tasks, Fred won't let go of Angel's telling her what is bothering him.
He argues to let it go, but then he jerks suddenly into a seeming vision...
Page 04: Angel sees himself reading on a bench. He surrounded, unconcernedly, with dark beetles and wasps. His vision focuses on a flower sprouting from the ground which looks like a rose.
Commentary: Uhm. Okay. I'm not sure why Angel would be having visions or why Fred - I should say - would think that Angel is having a vision. I don't recall anything that would have given Angel vision powers that have never been mentioned before, except one or two isolated cases by Cordelia handing him something she saw or possibly when he was Twilight/Possessed-by-Twilight.
It's a weird line for Fred to immediately jump to the conclusion he's having a vision they need to know about. And it this is a vision, it's weird that Angel would have one without a set up/flashback to remind us of why he'd be getting these now.
Am I not remembering something? [Completely possible with Angel's long and convoluted history.]
Page 05: Angel goes on to see himself tearing out the throat of a woman, more flying bugs (dragonflies?), more bees, millipedes, and flying ants. In the midst of all of these insects is the budding rose, which opens to reveal a mouth, from which blood flies.
A voice/thought warns that there is no space or time left and he mustn't let "them" through.
Commentary: Geraldo's penciling is going to take some adjustment after so much time with Rebekah Isaacs, and while I like the affect of Angel's vampires eyes glowing in the gloom in his vision, I'm not crazy about his face. Although, I am only assuming this is Angel in the vision. I could be mistaken.
Page 06: Angel comes out of his vision, shaken. Fred asks him for what he saw [again, where did Angel start having visions that Fred would be aware of enough to recognize when he's having one... I don't recall Cordelia passing the visions on to him permanently, and we didn't see any of this over the past several "seasons"... I'm confused where this is coming from].
After he gives her the highlights, and tries to shrug it off for the moment, Fred worries that his having it now could be related to their exorcism, but he tells her it wasn't a vision so much as a memory of the past [okay, that's better... I can live with a suppressed memory... we've seen that before in regards to Jasmine's Beast & Angelus' interaction with it].
Fred tells him that his having this vision/memory now means something. He warns her it involved Angelus and so he'd rather that she stay out of whatever it is.
Commentary: Okay, obviously we're setting up the first story arc and as the cover indicates, this'll take Angel back over his history as Angelus again. That's okay. But this introduction feels clumsy, like there is some information here that we don't have, but probably should.
This is especially true with Fred making assumptions as if Angel has been having visions now for awhile, but we didn't see this happening [that I can recall - unless it's tied awkwardly to his having faced Archaeus].
Page 07: Fred assures Angel that she's there to help, but Angel asks if they could talk about it later, as over her shoulder he sees a manifestation of the ghost they're supposed to be exorcising.
She doesn't notice, until she's suddenly thrown across the room. The haunting follows with a very physical punch to Angel's jaw, before slamming him into a wall.
Commentary: Okay, yeah... so this artwork. I don't like the lack of lines on Angel's face. I know vampires are supposed to look perpetually young and such, but Angel looks all of seventeen on this page. He looks like a 50's greaser, somehow, which is just not right.
Page 08: As they start their battle to exorcise the haunting, both are taken aback that its physically manifesting as a smoke person, with much more physical power than they'd thought coming into this.
Page 09: Fred starts to chant to force the ghost(s) into a containing box, but finds them resisting far more than expected. From the smoke apparition, forms a beatle shape, just like from Angel's vision. Fred spots it as well, but they can't deal with that part now, as they're still struggling to get the haunting force contained.
Fred points out that the box should've already pulled them in, and Angel assures her he recognizes that something isn't right with all of this. He points out that the haunting shouldn't even be visible, let along putting up the kind of resistance it's showing.
Page 10: In the midst of the excorcism, Fred is overtaken by Illyria. She makes quick work out of banishing/destroying the haunting forces in the hotel.
Angel questions why she's there, and that Fred and he weren't in danger by a few poltergeists.
Commentary: Which was, uh, kinda belied by the fact Fred was dashed across the room and shouting about how this was way harder than it was supposed to have been. But okay - whatever; I'm sure that he'd rather just not have Illyria constantly materializing since she's a complication with no easy way to deal with.
But I'm surprised he didn't get a bitch-slap for telling her "you aren't needed", as if she's supposed to wait on his deciding he wants her to show up before she does so. He does remember that she pretty much does what she wants, right?
Page 11: Illyria tells him that she had to come, because he's denying what he already knows: That something big is coming, and he is the nexus around which it is organizing. Illyria tells him it's something from the past, but its exact nature is lost in the swirls of time, but it is something he did long ago coming back to haunt him.
And whatever it is, it was the cause of the entities haunting the hotel. The spirits were desperate and afraid of what they could sense coming.
Page 12: Illyria in a sudden teleport-jump move Angel outside. She shows him a red rose like flower growing up between a sidewalk and the asphalt of the street. It looks very much like the monstrous plant in his vision.
Before he can ask any more questions though, Fred is suddenly in Illyria's place. He explains about Illyria being able to eavesdrop on what Fred experiences, and that she brought him to show him this flower, explaining its link to his vision.
Fred says it'll be easy to just kill it now, before it grows larger and turns into a monster, but Angel stops her. He wonders if killing the wild growth is exactly what will set off whatever is coming.
Page 13: Fred tells Angel that if they need to know what happened in his past to get insight into what is going on now, then they need a way to communicate with the past. Angel suggests a mirror that was supposedly buried with a saint. According to local myth, the saint was able to see visions through it when he was alive.
Page 14: The next stop is the catacombs beneath John's Street Church, where they start opening up sarcophagi to find in which one the saint is allegedly buried, though Angel is skeptical about this leading anywhere useful.
Fred seems more determined to get to the bottom of this, while Angel seems oddly reticent about pursuing the matter.
Commentary: This is interesting, and is setting up a mystery involving Angelus, no doubt. But some of the dialog feels like it's trying to hard to fill up panel space. It's almost like Corrina is afraid of dialogless scenes in this first issue. Like she has to fill nearly every panel with *something*, when a lot could be communicated through the artwork.
I can also say, I'm unsure of Angel and Fred carrying the book alone. I'm hoping that after this mystery arc, that Angel will be back in Magic Town with his support characters. It'd also be really nice if Connor or Gunn dropped by for a guest spot.
I'm really missing Faith, although she needs the right writer, so maybe it could either be good or bad that she's absent this season.
Page 15: After searching and finding nothing, Fred broaches the idea of asking Illyria to travel to the past to gather what they need from Angelus, himself.
Angel strongly objects to both summoning Illyria, but more to confronting Angelus in any form.
As they discuss, Angel notices something odd above them, which hopefully will mean not playing in the past.
Page 16: Angel spotted a spider crawling into a crack in the wall, suggesting there is a hidden cavity where a saint may have been hid. He stands on a high stone to reach for the crack the spider disappeared into. But the block is actually a trigger, which opens up a space in the wall near the floor.
The crawl space is dark and cramped, but also a place where a saint may be hidden.
Page 17: The space is far too small for Angel to fit, but Fred is slim enough to wiggle her way into the enclosed passageway with an LED light from her smartphone.
She reports that she sees many more spiders. As Angel suggests maybe she should back out, she exclaims that she sees something.
Page 18: Fred crawls out, reporting that she thinks the alcove she found herself in was a reliquary. She left some bones undisturbed in a box, but this item she did retrieve was sitting above them.
It looks more like a bowl than a mirror, which Angel mentions as not what they were looking for. Fred jokes that the next time he can go spelunking, then.
Despite looking more like a bowl, they take it with them since they spent so much effort retrieving it, anyway.
Page 19: As they head back for the hotel, dawn is rising. Angel suggests calling Giles' great-aunts to see if they can identify what they have, which they do via Skype.
But Lavinia insists on talking to Fred over something urgent.
Commentary: I immediately suspect some sort of comedy-relief thingy because that seems to be the entire point of Liv and Sophronia. They're not quite as irritating as Harmony, but they're trying...
Page 20: So, Liv is going on complaining to Fred about the dress she bought just for her now-cancelled date to Fred, while Angel tries to get them back on the important subject at hand.
Unexpectedly, there is a rap at the door.
When Fred goes to answer though, there isn't anyone there.
This is because the rapping [No, not the music form! Although that would've been funnier than Liv. I mean knocking...] was actually from the ceiling, as despite Illyria's previous destruction of the haunting spirits, a solid black mass now starts materializing.
It forms into the shape of a giant beetle crawling out of the wall.
Page 21: With the poltergeists back, Illyria takes over from Fred again. She explains to Angel that the entities usually exist in the spaces between our world and the world of the dead. But now, they're so terrified of what they feel coming from the Land of the Dead, that they're tearing open a breach in order to escape it.
[I suddenly have images of 'The Walking Dead'-verse intersecting with the Buffyverse, in a far more detailed way than could be done with YouTube-manipulated-vids. But I somehow think that won't be taking place... but it sure would've been neat if it did.]
Illyria tells Angel that the trinket he retrieved will not stop what is happening, and the breach between the next world and this one will not be easily sealed.
Page 22: Illyria rashly starts time-shifting with Angel to his past so he can stop whatever happened that will now be coming to a head in the present. He shouts not to do that, as he hasn't revealed everything about what occurred.
But we can already see the past forming around them. It involves a ship, and what could be a giant squid/Kracken.
The Good: I do like the sense that Angel is already subconsciously aware that something is off by his distraction by the beetles on the glass, and then later the visions of bugs, and then the smoky poltergeists forming into a giant version of the beetles from the first page.
The Bad: I won't put anything here.
Other Thoughts: The vision thing really had me confused, because I don't remember Angel ever receiving that power in past issues. But I think that this is less a "vision" and more disjointed memories returning to the surface. That would work better, anyway, but it's not clearly articulated.
It doesn't affect scoring, but I'm going to have some issues with the artwork for Angel. Artists should at least try to capture something of the image of the actor, and Geraldo isn't doing it. It's jarring, especially since Scott does so very nicely on the cover. And I don't know what his deal is with eyebrows. It looks like Angel needs to have Fred take a pair of scissors to them.
I also feel like the issue was filled with unnecessary dialog, where a quiet panel would've been sufficient. And Illyria is, of course, talking in an obtuse manner for no reason than that we can't know what is actually happening already.
The Score: I wasn't captured by the storytelling to set up this mystery, and feel like maybe two or three pages were not helpful to the tale, but was a stretch of the story to keep anyone from spilling secrets that we have to hold off on revealing.
I'm also having trouble seeing Fred as interesting enough to carry a book with Angel alone, and Illyria is going to continue showing up as convenient to the script, which is fine-ish, but not if she's going to babble in unclear terms just for the sake of putting off a revelation until an issue to follow.
3.0 out of 5 stars