Angel (s9 or 11, your choice), Issue 09
"Dark Reflections" part I
Script: Corinna Bechko, Art: Geraldo Borges & Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Scott Fischer
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 impending doom that is connected to his past, Angel is traveling through time with the help of Illyria, hoping that his thoughts will lead to a point in history that holds the key to solving the coming disaster. Recently shipwrecked on a volcanic island fending of[f] zombies with Angelus (!) and Darla -- and the situation having escalated past reason -- Illyria called for a volcanic eruption, and has taken herself, Darla, Angel and Angelus into the time portal...
Page 01: Within Illyria's time portal, Angelus and Darla glare at Angel. Illyria, in the meantime, is obviously feeling the strain of maintaining the time skip.
Page 02: With the warp of space-time, Angelus tries to get answers from Illyria, even after she warns that the distraction is clouding her focus.
There is the sound of shredding, and Darla suddenly finds herself being ripped away from our group.
Commentary: I dig the last panel here being off-kilter, in order to represent Illyria's loss of control and the tilt in the 'frame' makes it look like the comic book is dumping Darla. That's cute.
Page 03: Angelus grabs Darla's hand, but this only causes him to also fly into the tear in Illyria's field. They're unceremoniously dumped in who knows where/when.
Illyria tells Angel that it was too much trying to transport four people, with two versions of the same individual.
She goes to correct herself that she didn't mean to imply Angel and Angelus were the same, but this only degrades her concentration even more... and she feels her portal collapsing!
Commentary: Hmmm. Okay..., I'm not terribly happy with this because it feels like a really convenient way to get the Angel/Angelus conundrum out of the way, and really, nothing was actually done with it. It feels like Angelus was brought in just to give the series the comic-equivalent of a ratings bump, rather than because they had a story to explore with him and Angel being able to speak to one another.
I'm not sure how else they could've handled it, because of the implications of too much interaction going on in the past between the two (and... Darla and Angel for that matter) but it feels now, like there was no effort put into doing anything interesting with this timey-whimey ball meeting between the two vampires.
Page 04: Illyria's time field collapses, depositing Angel and her onto another island. She tells Angel that they didn't travel far... a few degrees and a day.
Fred makes her reappearance now, and warns Angel that she's been thinking about things and she doesn't like where her theories are leading her.
Page 05: Fred tries to explain to Angel that what they're doing is unnatural, only made worse by the fact that he's now traveled with himself through the timescape. And they've made some huge changes. Angel tries to argue that they're making things better in their future-present, but Fred is suddenly unsure that the changes are a good thing, after all.
Commentary: YES, FRED!! Finally, you're starting to wonder about the long term implications of what is actually being impacted with this jaunting about. Something that should've been on your mind immediately from before Illyria even performed the first timeskip.
I feel like - but I could be wrong at this point - but it seems like we're going to be dealing with a recursive loop somewhere in here: There was forbodings about a disaster coming, the disaster had something to do with the past, Illyria travels into the past, and she causes the very disaster in the present that the cosmos was sending warning signs about.
But if she didn't go back, there would've been no warnings of impending doom, because nothing would've been out of the ordinary.
Which is where my temporal mechanics limits are reached... I hate time travel stories, because there can't be a satisfying resolution to why this would've happened.
Page 06: Fred points to a bird nearby, confusing Angel with her point. She explains that many of the animals they're surrounded by are probably extinct in their present. They could capture some of them now, and return them to the present, saving the species (like they've already done with Arev's...). That might seems like a good thing to do on its face, but it would create a paradox. The species went extinct/the species did not go extinct. Both cannot be true, but it can be because of the time portals of Illyria's.
Saving the species isn't the issue at all... it's the paradox being caused by the species being where it shouldn't be that is the real problem.
Angel seems determined to argue the point, not because he really believes that they're doing the right thing (I'm gathering), but because he has a bigger idea niggling at his mind...
Page 07: Angel spills that he's thinking that if Angelus is never created, they can stop everything else that follows, including their current ill-advised time traveling.
Before Fred can respond, Illyria surges to take control of the situation. She tells Angel that she senses the truth in Fred's words, and she wants to discontinue trying to resolve the present problem in the past, before they make things worse.
Angel won't let go of the idea that they're doing the right thing to prevent a disaster back home, and they shouldn't just give up on their plan until they can confirm that things aren't improving in the future, confirming Illyria's decision to bring them into the past in the first place.
Commentary: I don't really like the way Angel is coming across as a stubborn dullard here, but that is tempered by what I do like, and that is Angel thinking of stopping Angelus' creation. The man has got one hella martyr complex, and sacrificing himself in the past, to stop all of the suffering that Angelus will cause is very much in character. Even to the point of not considering just how huge a change that would be on a multitude of people, some of them like Buffy and Faith, who have larger impacts themselves on the world.
His plan is monumentally dangerous, and ergo stupid to even seriously consider, but I completely buy that Angel would do so anyway, and would ignore the dangers/convince himself that stopping Darla and his meeting would only be beneficial.
Even after EVERYthing... Angel is still secretly pining for a "Makes It Easyyyyy!" resolution to his very real existential crisis.
Page 08: Angel convinces Illyria to confirm that the future is actually getting better by turning to the seer bowl again [the fact he's been able to hold onto it at all is bullshit, but I've already whined about that], to contact the Fairweather sisters in the present.
The Fairweather's are out shopping with Arev, when the cross-time call comes through. From them, Angel discovers that the hotel in Dublin where this all started, has disintegrated.
Illyria takes this as proof that nothing they do in the past can lead to anything but horrible consequences.
Page 09: Illyria now wants to go to the present, and meet whatever disaster she's already caused, rather than continuing trying to stop it before it happens in the past.
Angel wants to stop at one more time, first, but Illyria refuses, convinced now that Fred was right about their tampering and creating a paradox that they now must stop where its effects are being triggered.
Page 10: Illyria creates another time portal, attempting to take them home, but warns Angel that he'll need to guide them as her powers are being stretched to their limit with a new portal so soon after the previous one.
Page 11: Angel apologizes, but won't be put off from his plan to go to the time/place where Liam became Angelus.
Page 12: Upon landing in Galway, Ireland, Illyria confirms that he's taken them... "where my biggest regret happened...," Angel responds.
Page 13: Illyria is incensed, but there isn't anything to be done until she recharges. Angel leads her to a tavern, where spying through the windows, they see Liam. A trader is trying to offer him a position away from his father (but his dialog is suggesting it's more about gaining access to Liam's father's resources, which you can't entirely blame him for considering), but Liam is intransigent that both his father would never allow it, and that he's not interested anyway.
Page 14: Angel suggests that Illyria could cause quite a stir if anyone should happen to see her, so Fred is allowed back. Angel tells Fred they're not home yet, but Fred is aware, as she and Illyria have started to communicate as they switch places.
Fred offers that Angel looks like he was sad and lost.
Commentary: Whereas, in BTVS, I'd have described Liam as lazy, a drunkard, and weak-willed. But that may be part of my heartlessness.
Page 15: As Angel and Fred rush away from the tavern, before Liam can catch a glimpse of his stalker-twin, Angel sees a young man walking through town. He tells Fred that he didn't really know him, but he does know that Darla is going to see to it that he never gets out of Galway, alive.
Page 16: Angel starts to follow. Fred tries to stop him from intervening, but Angel uses his physical powers to leave Fred behind, as he intends to stop Darla from killing the young man.
Commentary: *sigh* See, Angel is a dullard. I know, I know. It's trauma inducing to know that you're watching somebody who is going to be murdered, but this already happened. And after everything that Fred and now Illyria are afraid of, Angel still is going to rush off and interfere in history AGAIN, and this time over a death he isn't even responsible for, and probably wasn't aware of until after he'd been turned himself.
About this time, I was getting actively irritated with these side-jaunts in the story, but I have to admit that this is still well within Angel's character.
And I do like that Angel didn't just go back to the present, when he has a chance to see his family one more time.
Page 17: On a rooftop, Angel spies on Darla's clandestine meeting with the young beau.
Page 18: Angel whispers that it won't happen this time, but then he's flying tackled off of the roof and into some bushes.
Darla hears the commotion, and glances around annoyed.
Page 19: On the ground, Fred covers Angel's mouth as they both watch Darla leading the young man away for someplace more secluded.
Fred argues that Angel should let the man die, as tragic as that may be, because it's already happened. But Angel, again wanting to stop at least one horrible thing, disagrees. He strides off again to stop Darla's predation.
Page 20: Illyria interrupts Angel's hunt for Darla by telling him from behind that Fred may not be able to stop him, but she can.
Angel agrees that she could, if she really wanted, but dares her to. She folds.
Page 21: Angel rushes to a farm, looking for a quiet barn that Darla may've led her prey to... but he's interrupted in his quest again, by a very familiar voice. Not Fred, Not Illyria...
Page 22: ... but, of course, by Liam's disapproving and sourpussed father.
Under the harsh glare of his father, Angel offers that he and his dad have some catching up to do.
The Good: I liked the character notes of Angel's both being a self-destructive martyr-in-waiting, and his still looking (as he always seems to be) for an easy escape clause - for a noble & selfless reason, of course - from the Angel/Angelus conflict. It's a consistent use of his basic character.
I also like that Fred finally got a clue that messing around with the past might create paradoxes that can't be controlled and how she and Illyria are taking active steps to save the present from Angel's dogged short-sightedness.
The Bad: Nothing crossed over into the bad.
Other Thoughts: I really wish that either more had been done with the Angel/Angelus face-off, or that they'd just not bothered with it at all. It really felt like inviting a popular guest star, and then not giving them anything to do....
It's also continuing to annoy how often we're swapping Fred and Illyria, depending on whether Illyria's powers are needed for a panel, or we need Fred to make an emotional argument. They really need to control how they're using this gimmick.
The Fairweathers and Arev seem to be largely pointless, as well - it left me feeling that their involvement was actually only filler.
The Score: It was another alright issue, but some of the argument between Fred and Illyria's "we need to go" and Angel's "we need to fix things" was a bit repetitive, and just made Angel sound petulant and thick. But it wasn't painful to read through.
3.25 out of 5 stars