Angel the Series
Season 9 (or 11), Issue 02
“Out of the Past”, part II
Script: Corinna Bechko, Art: Geraldo Borges, Coloring: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft’s] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Scott Fischer
Blurb: When young 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 seems to be working out.
Having been plagued by a vision of impending doom that is somehow connected to his past, Angel was reluctantly working with Fred to decipher the prophecy when they were interrupted by Illryia, who impulsively transported them into the past…
Page 01: From his Dublin in the present, Angel and Illyria are time stream shifted….
Page 02: Angel demands to know where they are, but Illyria clarifies that it’s more like “when they are”. But a moment later, Angel can’t be bothered with the intricacies of language, because they’ve shifted into the daylight, and right now his hand is steaming!
Jumping back under some convenient, jungle canopy… because, yeah, this isn’t looking much like Dublin, either, he again asks for where/when they are.
Illyria apologizes for her “rounding error” that transported them into evening, rather than full night. But before she explicates further about why they’re surrounded by thick jungle, Fred makes a leap back in.
Commentary: I wasn’t particularly thrilled with Illyria being brought back so soon [though I didn’t buy she was forever gone when she got disintegrated in the Deeper Well … comic book people have no idea how to leave characters good and dead]. And I have to say that her being back hasn’t been all that well used.
This popping in and out with Fred is feeling too similar to IDW’s having done the same thing in “After the Fall” (so at least they can get an appreciative nod to continuity). And what I mean by that, is it’s going to continue to be random, which is going to come across clumsily as “Is Illyria too convenient here? Insert Fred. Is Fred too vulnerable and would sure be killed? Or is just too brainy, and we need to stretch out a mystery? Hey, Illyria - come back, now.”
Page 03: With Fred back, Angel points out that he really needed to get some answers from her counterpart, but Fred tells him it was exactly her choice to pop in, Illyria is too strong for Fred to control her comings and goings with her body.
With sun not yet beneath the horizon, it falls to Fred to climb up a rock escarpment and try to get the lay of the land, so they maybe they can figure out when Illyria has brought them. Whatever she sees, it’s shocking enough for her to forget about the dangerous rays and tell Angel he really needs to get a look for himself.
Page 04: When Angel peeks up over the rock face, they’re looking down into a valley. The valley has humanoids, but they’re wearing bone armor and skulls (or possibly, they have their skeletons partially outside of their bodies). And they have goat-like legs.
Angel worries that Illyria jaunted them trans-dimensionally, but Fred tells Angel that this feels too familiar to Illyria for her not to know wherever/whenever they are well. She suggests that although she may’ve meant to send them to Angel’s past, Fred believes that they’ve traveled into her own, instead.
Angel immediately worries that being in Illyria’s past could mean running into past Illyria, when she was still a God-King.
Page 05: As Fred and Angel are wondering what to do about this shift in priority, they’re nearly taken out by a passing flying reptile.
They start making their way back down to the jungle floor, with Fred telling Angel that this place is stirring up strong feelings within Illyria. He guesses that this must be her Kingdom in particular, then.
Fred wonders if they’re in her Kingdom, where the Old One version of Illyria may be wandering.
Page 06: The answer is not long in coming [because you NEVER, EVER ask a question whose answer you don’t want to know, in fiction], as from out in the jungle, Angel sees Illyria levitating over the jungle, now all tentacles and armor.
Page 07: Seeing the true form of the It that is sharing her body, knocks Fred for an emotional loop. But Angel points out that they don’t really have time to dwell on that, as they need to figure out a way to bring Illyria (the humanoid) forth, or find an alternative way to figure out why they’re there and what it has to do with his vision - or just to get out of there.
He suggests maybe they can convince the Old One Giant Illyria to transpose them back to where/when they belong.
This is enough to force Humanoid Illyria to take over, but only long enough to call Angel out on any foolish attempt to speak to her older self. She angrily tells him she wasn’t called ‘The Merciless’ in jest. But other than that, wherever they are is causing erratic and conflicted feelings in the goddess, and she quickly vanishes again. Fred complains that she really needs to be given a warning, if Illyria is going to be popping in and out of their body.
Commentary: See what I mean about this Illyria/Fred swapping? There isn’t any reason that Illyria needed to pop in, just to warn Angel off from contacting her true self, here. Especially if they weren’t going to have her give some significant dialog about what the purpose of being here is right now.
Fred could’ve easily handled this scene, by having her warn Angel that Illyria is strongly opposed to any contact with her Old One True Form… enough that she’s angry he’d even suggest it, and that maybe they could find a prophet or seer among Illyria’s flock, instead, that could give them an alternative way to understand whatever Illyria is unable/unwilling to discuss.
Having them swap places for no story reason is annoying, and too random. It would also be much better if swapping between them was much harder on Fred’s physical body, giving everyone a very good reason for not swapping all willy-nilly.
Page 08: Angel starts heading off in the direction of giant Illyria, to Fred’s confusion. But he points out that they need to see what Old One Giant Illyria is doing at this time and place, that has Humanoid Illyria so preoccupied… enough to have brought them way off course while trying to figure out the current Bugpocalype that Angel’s vision showed.
Page 09: The noises of something approaching has Fred and Angel ducking behind a tree. While they watch, they see the old, the women, and the children running in obvious terror for their lives.
And whatever they’re running from is headed in our explorers’ direction.
Page 10: Behind the fleeing people, marches Illyria the Merciless. Angel tells Fred that Illyria is pure evil in this time, but Fred tells Angel that Illyria is coming through again… and considerate enough to give a warning first.
When Humanoid Illyria arrives, she informs Angel that her followers aren’t fleeing from HER.
Page 11: Illyria leads Angel up into the jungle canopy, telling him that in this time and place, she made an error that is always on her mind. She confirms that she goofed during the time travel, and for a moment, she must’ve thought of herself - breaking her concentration on Angel’s past.
But she tells him that she can’t leave until she fixes the regretful mistake that preys on her mind. And damned be to future consequences of mucking about in her own history.
Commentary: Angel takes this disconcertingly well, I have to say. I would really like to see a connection, something that Illyria didn’t realize, between whatever this error is and how Angelus or Angel interacted with it an eon later that is bringing about this disaster unfolding in the future.
But this, instead, feels disconnected to me. It feels like putting off an arc story to fill out the season. I hope I’m wrong, though, because we haven’t even gotten a chance to start the arc and it’s already interrupted with a side quest?
Page 12 & 13: Illyria tells Angel that in this time, only the strongest demons held dominion, but unlike some of her cohorts, Illyria was a just - if brutal - ruler. She didn’t burn the land just because she could do so. And she treated her subjects as resources to be managed, guided, and jealously protected from external influences.
But the day came - today - when an interloper invaded her lands. He had no respect for her holdings. And he consumed everyone who he could catch up with, even those who’d been obviously marked as a sacrifice to herself later in the year.
The monstrosity was powerful - her equal in strength. As they battled over the next day and night, Illyria realized that they were causing as much destruction to her lands, as the monster was by himself. Realizing that it meant falling back, or destroying everything, Illyria chose the latter. She unleashed the powers of the land itself, raising volcanoes to destroy everything across her land to ensure that the monster trespasser couldn’t have it.
Page 14: Angel is appalled that she’d killed everybody and destroyed everything in her selfish desire to maintain ownership, even though there was nothing left behind to own. Illyria confirms that her ploy did kill the interloper, but in hindsight she’s been able to recognize that she’d overreacted, and brought about just as bad an outcome as the interloper’s attack.
Now, she has a chance to change things - to defeat her nemesis before her Old One Giant Self is pushed to such a devastating and short-sighted act.
Angel tries to warn her off from trying to take on this monster -- possibly an Old One, itself -- in Fred’s body, but she isn’t listening.
Commentary: Uhhh... I don’t know about this. I haven’t read Illyria’s solo tales, but this is feeling like a whitewashing of her former character. “Illyria was an Old God, but she wasn’t like THOSE Old Gods… she was just a big, fluffy rampager, who really CARED about her worshippers.”
I don’t know, maybe it isn’t a stretch. But this particular incident has plagued her since she was returned from the Deeper Well? I suppose, maybe, we could say that her second return from the Well after her self-sacrifice caused much more introspection about how she’s changed since she ruled over a Kingdom… Yeah, y’know, I think I can actually make this work if I try.
Page 15: As Humanoid Illyria goes on the attack against the pillaging monstrosity, Angel tries desperately to save her people [who somehow can speak perfect English - despite the language not existing now… and no mention of some magical translator ability in these people… I’ll just assume, since it can’t work any other way…].
But the individual that Angel unburies from a fallen rock doesn’t flee. Instead, being devoted to Illyria the Primordial, he rushes off to certain doom to defend her lands until she can arrive herself [obviously not knowing that Humanoid Illyria is Illyria].
Page 16: Angel tries to dissuade them from throwing their lives away, instead of letting Illyria deal with this invasion. But the warriors are devoted to their god, and won’t allow an outsider - that blue creature - to fight for Illyria, while they do not.
Page 17: Angel rushes up to Humanoid Illyria, instead. He tries to call her off, because she’s unintentionally inspiring a hopeless fight by her worshippers, instead of them fleeing as they may have if she’d not interfered before her Old God Giant Self had arrived.
At first Illyria is too into her battle instincts and punches Angel away for interfering, but he shouts at her to look at what her people are doing, by her example.
She’s shocked to see the people she wanted to save, actually dying sooner by throwing themselves at the monster.
Page 18: Seeing the unintended results of her trying to change how things went forces Illyria to flee with Angel. The monstrosity takes off to another of her lands, to face its already happened battle with her Old God Self.
Illyria despairs that it seems there is no way to prevent the disaster to come: She can’t fight it now, because her people feel compelled to not be shown up by the ‘stranger’ fighting for her other self. She can’t avoid the fighting, or the monstrosity will destroy everyone and get stronger than it should’ve managed. And she can’t do nothing at all, or Old Illyria will just destroy everyone, anyway.
Page 19: With this seemingly impossible choice, in which the outcome remains the same despite her will, Illyria retreats in favor of Fred.
Fred and Angel discuss how to resolve Illyria’s conflict, so she won’t be stuck in this past, leaving them stuck in this past with her.
Fred tries to suggest they could convince her worshippers to flee, but Angel explains their devotion to her - and the honor they feel at dying on her behalf by fighting.
They’re interrupted by a call to them from off-panel.
Commentary: And I’m failing to understand why Fred, of all people - being a physicist and all - wouldn’t be suggesting that they SHOULD NOT be helping Illyria at all.
For the integrity of the time stream, they should be trying to convince Illyria that what is done, is done -- in fact, this was the entire point of Severin’s arc that Illyria was intimately involved in over in Buffy’s Season 9! They can’t change the past.
And Fred should be the one to emphasize how dangerous any major changes in Illyria’s past actions could turn out due to the law of unintended consequences. She shouldn’t be immediately on board with Angel’s trying to convince Illyria’s followers to do anything different than what “history shows they did”.
I don’t understand why Severin saving Clare would’ve unraveled time, but Illyria’s interfering in the past would be fine. Either the time stream is supersensitive to changes made to a common past, or it isn’t. Pick One, Buffyverse.
Page 20: The one calling to them is one of Illyria’s worshippers. He was on a hunting trip when he heard the screams and rushed back to find the village burning and Angel and Fred standing there.
Fred and Angel convince him that they’re not the ones who did this damage, and try to explain about the invader to Illyria’s kingdom.
Commentary: Thank god for that assumptive, innate language translation ability. *cough-cough*
Page 21: The following day, they’ve convinced the hunter-warrior to at least hear out their claims. Fred presents themselves as Prophets, who have come from the future. Angel picks up on this by claiming they’ve come to share dire warnings, but also a message of salvation. But it requires his people, across all of their tribes, to stand down and let his goddess fight her own battle against this energy sucking, invading monster.
Angel warns that they must all keep this knowledge from Illyria, however. Hunter-warrior asks if her finding out that they’re not fighting to defend her lands might not make her…
Commentary: Which, um… first, wasn’t Illyria’s holdings vast? How exactly are they supposed to spread this message to all of the tribes, when the monster is right now attacking somewhere and Illyria should be en route to her big battle already? And if these demons aren’t wiped out as “proper history records”, aren’t they worried that a trip back to their here-and-now will involve finding these demons having the civilization and spread that humans were supposed to have had?
If they remain a viable, evolving civilization, won’t that bypass Illyria having wandered off with their extinction? Won’t she still be involved in shepherding them… possibly displacing man by fighting off the wizards who had turned the battle against the demons along the way?
Why is “brilliant” Fred not already asking these questions and playing ‘What If’ in her head over the possible ramifications of this sort of interference in Illyria’s past?!
Page 22: …very angry!
Looming up out of the jungle, Illyria gazes down on our worshipper, Angel and Fred…!
The Good: I guess I do like the implication that trying to reach a specific point in the past is more difficult than is sometimes shown, when it involves Illyria. I am happy with the implication that she has to be very precise and controlled in when she’s trying to go, and even stray thoughts can interfere with her travel.
I also enjoy revisiting Giant Old One Illyria, and some of her past. Especially with Humanoid Illyria having to confront what she was then, with who she has become now.
The Bad: The random switching from Fred and Illyria bothers me. They need to set up specific reasons why Illyria would suddenly shove Fred out of the way, or subsume herself for her and this issue has some spots where a reasoning isn’t given: It just happens between panels, because.
I also loathe how Fred is misused by not being the one who would be thinking through and afraid of the consequences of helping Illyria change the past. She should be counter-arguing Angel over making any dramatic changes to the timeline, no matter what Illyria’s reasoning may be.
Other Thoughts: I’m not completely happy with how Illyria describes herself here. I think we need to not take her “I was a pretty swell overlord, as these things go” as gospel. There have been too many hints over her backstory that she wasn’t all that much more sympathetic to her followers as any of the other Old Ones, and I prefer to think of her as just as ruthless and unfeeling as any of them.
The fact that Illyria’s followers can speak fluently a language that doesn’t even exist yet, is ridiculous enough to require an explanation about it. But we don’t get one. They just do.
I kind of wish we’d see Illyria appear in Fred’s clothing, and have Fred keep reappearing in Illyria’s leather-gear after she’s altered her clothes. It could be a mildly funny, ongoing aside between them.
The Score: I started out annoyed that we were so off-track with the point of the time travel attempt in the first place, but by page 22 I was okay with it. But, Fred is particularly badly used here, because they seem to keep forgetting she’s a scientist at heart -- not Angel’s cheerleader, though part of her character is to be that, too.
The story is alright, and I like delving into Illyria’s history a bit more. I just don’t like the timing of this side-quest, and I don’t like Fred just buying instantly that they need to help a bunch of demonic peoples without any thought to the fact that they’re interfering in (pre)history.
I have to only give this one a 3.0 out of 5 stars because of the character problem and randomness with Illyria’s vs. Fred’s appearances.
Next Up: Angel Issue 03