[DH-S11, My S9], Issue 06
Script: Corinna Bechko, Artwork: Zé Carlos & Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft’s] Jimmy Betancourt
Blurb: When young Liam was turned into a vampire, he became 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.
Winifred "Fred" Burkle is a brilliant and quirky physicist who has been through her own series of mystical events and works with her friend 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.
Plagued by a vision of doom that is connected to his past, Angel is traveling through time with the help of Illyria. Aboard a cargo ship in the nineteenth century, Angelus and Darla missed connecting with an artifact that Angel believes might be the key to saving the future; unfortunately, Angel and Fred have not been able to avoid Angelus and Darla…
Page 01: We open on Angelus, looking Angel-like, surprising Fred and Darla in the midst of their conversation about the beetle artifact that both are so interested in.
Darla tells Angelus to kill Fred and be quick about it, because there is something about her that is making Darla very uneasy.
Fred tries to tell Angelus about what a huge mistake that would be, considering she’s out of time…
Page 02: While Fred was referring to the change in the future if she should die here instead, Angel bursts in before she needs to share a little too much information. He’s wearing a scarf over his face to protect his identity from Angelus and Darla.
He shouts to Fred to get the artifact out of reach, while starting to engage in fisticuffs with Angelus.
Darla is all but snarling in frustration.
Page 03: Darla warns Angelus that something isn’t right here [I don’t know… I guess her vampire senses are trying to warn her. I can buy it, but this dialog feels a little too Dru to me…].
While Darla wants to know who the stranger is, Angelus lands a fist against Angel’s face, knocking off his scarf. He vamps out to Angelus’ vamp face, confusing and disturbing Darla even more. But Angelus shouts at Darla to go get Fred.
Commentary: I haven’t minded the artwork by Mr. Carlos for the most part, but his Fred is bugging me. He keeps adding these touches to her face that makes her look a bit too cartoony. I keep expecting her to burst out into a ‘Princess Song’ at any moment.
It’s especially true in the last panel on this page, with Fred daintily rushing away on what appears to be her tippy-tippy toes. It’s distracting because she’s the only one who really seems to be suffering this Disney-fication badly.
Page 04: As Fred leads Darla on a chase below decks, they run into the deckhand who’d acquired the box in the first place. Fred rushes around him, but he’s bumped into the path of Darla. She’s incensed, and immediately responds with a good bite.
Not a good idea. Whatever is going on, it becomes very clear that our deckhand isn’t a normal person. Darla immediately retches in revulsion at the taste of his blood, and what’s worse, she’s left unable to pursue Fred because she’s left woozy and sick.
Commentary: Of course, she kinda has it coming for not just barreling around him. Why she’s ‘eating’ [HAH!] up time with fanging this guy, I don’t know. Angelus, sure -- he’s undisciplined, but I see Darla as a bit more focused than this, I guess.
Page 05: In the meantime, Fred has ducked into the hold, where Angel finds her after breaking free of Angelus.
Angel checks that Fred didn’t lose the bug, and she happily replies they’re still in possession of it.
Page 06: Angel now also gets dizzy, but unlike with Darla, it’s a side effect of the time transition. Angel tells Fred about how his memories are changing as the two of them impact what had happened before by their presence.
It’s worrying, but not something they can do anything about, and there are bigger concerns.
Page 07: With Angel and Fred momentarily safe, Angel digs out the mystic communication dish and fills it with whiskey from one of the kegs. Fred suggests trying to contact Giles’ aunts again, but Angel focuses on their weird future flower to see if it looks different. He figures that if it has also changed, then at least they’re on the right track.
And it has… but not for the better!
Whatever tampering they’re doing now, the demonic-flower-monster hybrid has become even more savage looking.
Commentary: And artwise again, Fred is looking particularly Disney-princess with her wide eyes and wild hair.
Storywise, I’m finding this issue a bit tough to get through. I’m not really being engaged in the hide-n-seek, and the dialog between Angel and Fred has been plain and dull, and their priorities seem to jump around on a dime from panel to panel, so the main plot of the mystery has felt scattered and unfocused.
Page 08: Further discussion of what to do with the beetle, since they’re making things appear worse, interrupted by the box-owner. He bursts into the hold, because the beetle has been calling to him.
Angel warns Fred that their sailor doesn’t smell right, and Fred agrees from sight alone that there is something wrong with their seaman.
He rages at Fred to return the box, and she drops it.
The beetle inside the box is set loose, which surely won’t be good.
Page 09: The racket has called more unwanted interference for Fred and Angel in the guise of another sailor. He complains about stowaways, while our box-owner insists the newcomer help him find what’s missing.
Hunky naturally doesn’t know what is going on, but complains that box-owner has been acting weird, lately.
Alas for Hunky, the beetle targets him from a crate its watching from. It dive bombs him, landing on Hunky’s forehead. And immediately stings him deeply.
Page 10: Hunky is okay for a moment, if nonplussed about being stung suddenly. But then he yells out in pain.
It turns out the beetle’s sting was actually a ovipositor and an instant grow beetle was laid under Hunky’s skull. A pus weeping wound erupts from the man’s forehead, and then a second beetle bursts out, doubling the problem for Fred and Angel in an instant.
Page 11: The problem is made worse as the noise has drawn more crewmen to find out what is going on belows.
Fred and Angel try to warn them off, but they know box-owner who encourages them down to help.
In the meantime, Hunky is still on his feet, but looking decidedly zombied in the wake of birthing the second doom-beetle.
Things are interrupted again, but this time from outside of the hold. The whole ship shudders and everyone is tossed off their feet, as a thunderous sound of the hull cracking around them is heard!
Page 12: Angel shouts a warning to Fred that they need to get topside.
In the meantime, our beetles are targeting the other two random crewman who have come down into the hold. We find out that our original beetle is able to deposit more than a single egg - though it appears only one at a time.
Now both men are quickly infected, doubling again the number of doom-beetles to deal with.
Page 13: With four beetles in the hold now, and everyone zombied, Fred and Angel make their way to the ladder upward. Fred is targeted next, the bug flying by Angel while ignoring him.
But he’s able to snatch and squash the insect before it can dive bomb into Fred’s face.
Page 14: Up on deck, the problems aboard this doomed vessel continue to mount: In the original timeline, pirates attacked the vessel, and history is repeating itself now.
Commentary: Geez. ‘Voyage of the Damned‘, for sure!
Page 15: Fred barely avoids being shot through the face, as the pirate attack starts a fire on the deck. In the meantime, the Captain and Crew of our doomed vessel begin hand to hand against the invading force.
Angel and Fred flee, with her asking him how he survived the pirate attack the last time. He reports that Angelus and Darla escaped to the pirate vessel, and then dined on the ship’s cook until they reached landfall.
Fred decides they’ll come up with another plan.
Page 16: Angel and Fred start shouting for everyone to abandon ship, knowing from the first time this happened, that the whiskey catches alight in the hold, and dooms the vessel.
Captain is not happy about somebody else ordering abandon ship, considering it mutiny at a time when everyone should be mustering to fight their attackers. He’s not impressed when Angel plays Angelus and tries to use his purchasing an expensive ticket as an excuse for trying to call the shots.
Page 17: But below decks, the fire that has spread isn’t the only issue. Nor is the pirates on the top deck. The real problem are the quickly multiplying beetles, as both crewmen and attackers fall victim to the swarming insects -- each being stung in the forehead to birth another one, and then becoming zombies controlled by the will of them.
Commentary: I really wish they’d give us glimpses of Corrupt!Future!Earth somewhere in here, though, the pirate attack and sudden bug-splosion is adding needed action. And I keep looking for how the bugs are tying into the mutant plant, but that also isn’t being explained, yet.
Page 18: As the beetles pass by Angel, he grabs Fred to shield. The beetles seem only interested in the front of the heads as potential breeder sites, and so ignore Fred as they pass. Angel grabs his scarf to use as a bandanna to further protect Fred … possibly, anyway.
While Angel is worrying about Fred becoming infected, she worries about his habit - as a vampire - of very quickly going flambé when fire is involved.
Commentary: I liked this little comment, because vampire baddies do tend to go up like roman candles awfully quickly in the Buffy verse - especially early on, like in “When She Was Bad”. It’s a cute nod to the fact that no, people don’t actually turn into human torches that quickly and cleanly, and really there isn’t any reason for vampires to either.
Page 19: Further discussions of their plans to get Fred off the ship, and then for Angel to try to convince anyone still not dead or a zombie to also flee to the pirate vessel are forgotten as Darla and Angelus have finally made their way to the deck.
Their attention is completely on Angelus’ double.
Page 20: There is some snotty banter.
Page 21: Angel orders Fred to a lifeboat, but Darla suggests they share one, and leaps the short space to grab at her. Angel shouts a Darla to focus on himself, but as he’s about to intervene, he’s caught up short, and Angelus is shocked to find…
Page 22: That Illyria has made her reappearance. And isn’t amused that her host was being threatened by something as small as a vampire.
Darla is quickly punched overboard, and Angelus gets his ass tossed over and into the waiting lifeboat on the sea below.
Angel isn’t happy. He explains that she just threw his past self into an open-air lifeboat and in two hours, the sun will be up!
Commentary: He doesn’t mention the fact that the ship is still burning, and the infestation is still present, and they have no idea how far the beetles can travel over the sea - or if they can drown - or that they still don’t have the answers they need to ultimately stop whatever is going on….
The Good: I did like the action packed middle of the issue, with the beetles making their spread throughout the ship, at the same time that the pirates are attacking her.
It doesn’t impact scoring, but I do love this cover.
The Bad: Pacing is a minor issue, but it’s enough of a problem for me to place it here. Until half way through the issue, things are dragging along. And even after the action starts, many panels are wasted on Fred and Angel stating obvious things at each other and not figuring out anything that leads the story forward.
Other Thoughts: My first thought is that I didn’t really enjoy the dialog all that much. It wasn’t badly done, but it wasn’t snappy or witty or darkly dangerous … it was just mundane throughout with nothing attention grabbing. Which is probably why I found Darla’s dialog in particular so off … when she’s not channeling Dru, she’s sounding a bit like “Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest” Darla… which I suppose could actually be a bit of brilliance. But it’s just as awkward on the page. The Angel vs. Angelus dialog was also largely dull and disappointing.
Artwork doesn’t usually impact scoring, and it won’t here, but some of the closeups on Fred bugged me. She looks more like a Disney animated character, than a person in some of these panels.
The Score: I want to like this issue more, because the pirate attack and beetles breeding out of control are welcomed elements of action. But the beginning of the issue with Angelus and Darla are surprisingly lifeless (HAH!), and way too much of the dialog between Angel and Fred amounts to padding, because we still leave the issue with not knowing anything about anything that is happening. I had feared the score on this one was going to be lower, but the back half of the issue picked up the pace, so…
2.75 out of 5 stars