Season 9, or 11
"Dark Reflections", part IV
Writer: Corinna Bechko, Art: Geraldo Borges & Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Scott Fischer
Blurbbing: 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 with connections to his past, Angel has been traveling through time with the help of Illyria, hoping to stop the coming disaster. But all of their efforts on history seemed to be making the future worse; and so, the trio has returned to the present, where things are not what they were. They have a battle to win against an incredible, tangible force that they still don't understand...
Page 01: Around Dublin, chaos is currently reining, as biting insects and a giant, multi-mouthed vine-creature target everyone in their path. Both were foretold in Angel's vision, but Fred and Angel are still unsure of what exactly the creatures are - though they are aware that they may've caused their appearance by interfering with past history.
Currently, Fred is tangled up in the creature's vine-tentacles, while civilians and emergency services are either being tossed around by the creature, or swarmed by the insects.
Page 02: Fred is about to be shoved down the vine-creature's gullet, when Angel uses a shovel strike to sever the tentacle holding her suspended above the ground.
Page 03: As she's falling toward the ground, not looking forward to her landing, the creature makes another grab for her. It snags her suspenders, but that snap, allowing Angel to drag her away. The suspenders themselves end up in the vine creature's mouth.
Page 04: The vine extension that ate the suspenders undergoes a dramatic reaction to swallowing them -- it very suddenly and spectacurlarly implodes - disintegrating into a pile of dust!
Page 05: Fred quickly speculates that the suspenders are acting as a sort of anti-matter to the creature, because they were an impossible anomaly. If they hadn't been brought forward through time by Fred's wearing them, they wouldn't still exist. They'd have fallen apart years ago. They're being destroyed by the vine-creature forced that mouth/stalk to vanish from their reality!
Angel and Fred begin divesting themselves of anything they may've brought with them from the past. For Angel is means hay from his father's barn, but because hay gets everywear and is in his coat pocket, he decides to just feed the beast his whole jacket.
For Fred, it's her whole outer wardrobe, which was obtained onboard a transport ship, which had sunk.
Commentary: Okay, I do like this. I thinks it was a clever way of undoing the unfolding disaster caused by the time shenanigans.
The only thing I'll quibble with is the notion that the vine-creature is also impossible to exist in our plain, so that is why there is a reaction. There are much weirder things on Earth, and from other dimensions, so that seems like a leap - but I can let it slide that this part is only wild speculation and theorizing.
It also doesn't really help explain the insects, or how to get rid of them, too. Unless they're intimately tied to the vine-creature in some way that hasn't been adequately explained. Perhaps they're being born of the vine-creature itself in some way? That could work to make sure that they are also disintegrated when the creature is defeated.
It still leaves a gaping hole in Arev, though. He still shouldn't exist, and he's not in Dublin to throw into the vine-creature.
Page 06: With Fred having to disrobe, Illyria returns in her stead. She tells Angel that her and Fred have reached a state of sympathy with one another's moods. Fred was uncomfortable, so Illyria returned for her sake.
Angel mentions that this is a new twist, but Illyria doesn't want to discuss it further.
Page 07: Angel throws his jacket, and Illyria throws Fred's borrowed clothing down the gullet of two more vine-heads. Both also immediately discorporate into ash.
Page 08: Illyria and Angel believe that Fred was correct in her strategy... but then from the ashes the vine-creature begins to grow again, whipping out another tentacle at a nearby officer, and more of the attacking insects spring up from it.
Illyria confronts Angel, guessing that he must still have something that he brought forward through time and must now let go of.
Angel's hesitation, and look of guilt is enough to confirm Illyria's speculation.
Commentary: And, even though it frustrates me that again, Angel is screwing up by having his own way - I do find this very much in character, as well. And in a moment we'll find out why Angel hasn't divested himself of everything immediately, and it's sympathetic.
Throughout this arc, I'd say my biggest complaint has been in the story's structure, and some of the space-wasting discussion panels to rehash the same point. But I do like Corinna's grasp of Angel's weaknesses as a character, and how that plays out consistently from writer to writer in his actions.
Page 09: Angel complains that he kept such a small thing, and expects that he and Illyria could fight the creature now that it's smaller and win. Illyria questions the wisdom of trying, when they have a permanent, easy fix that they know works.
Angel pulls the object from his pocket that he doesn't want to let go of, and it is the ring that Kathy gave to him.
One small thing, but a powerful pull on him.
Commentary: See, I can certainly sympathize with wanting to hang on to this one small bit of what he's lost with Angelus' rise. Of course, it has to go back, but I can appreciate Corinna not making it an easy moment. And I like that Illyria actually spends the time to talk to Angel, when we know that if she wanted to, she could've just backhanded him & snatched the ring away at any time.
Page 10: As Illyria offers that Kathy is dead, and therefore cannot die again but that there are people in the here and now who will, the vine-creature has exploded in new growth, and the swarm of insects become ever more aggressive.
Page 11: Angel angsts that somehow throwing the ring away will erase Kathy forever. Illyria tells him that his sister believed him to be a good man, and that will always be, unless he now proves her wrong.
Commentary: And in keeping with the rest of the issues, this conversation is now moving into maudlin and I no longer buy into Angel's "how do I know this won't make everything worse" argument. I can't see him buying that argument, but more to my objection is that this is filling a page with unnecessarily belaboring the point, when we know Angel is throwing the ring back to heal the damage to space-time.
This could've been better spent on an emotional breakdown and comfort by Fred afterward, which could also have been used as a way to help Fred over the awkward, bitter feelings of what Illyria and Angel did with her body.
Page 12 & 13: Angel does as he must, tossing the last vestige of the past away and down the vine-creatures throat. And in a dramatic (two page spread - image is from pg 13, only) display, the vine-creature fully implodes, destroying the flying insects at the same time.
Commentary: Although, I'm not convinced that this plays by the rules as speculated by Fred. I suppose she could've just not grasped the full point, or the rift was just bad enough that everything had to go back. She explicitly stated that her clothes and the hay had to go back, because they shouldn't exist still after so many years and that was the anomaly. Surely Kathy's ring would still be somewhere - unless maybe it was made of a rustable metal. Anyway, whatever - I can just accept that the rift was bad enough that everything needed to go.
Except that still leaves the dangling problem, which nobody is mentioning, of Arev and his whole species who should've gone extinct! Surely if a ring that has no reason to not still exist is keeping the anomaly open, then a whole demon species who should be extinct would have the exact same affect?!
Page 14: With everything reduced to an ash heap, Illyria says the crisis has been averted. [AREV!]
Page 15: Angel immediately takes the blame, of course, and Illyria doesn't disagree though her judgment is tempered by the fact that he couldn't forsee what was going to happen anymore than she could. And she tells him that it was really more her fault by taking the trip into the past, and then not leaving things as they were [WHICH HASN'T BEEN FIXED, YOU COCKA-DOO-DEE CHEATERS! Ahem..., I may be getting a bit stuck on that whole Arev point, a little. My inner Annie Wilkes is showing].
She also points out that ultimately, it was Angel's choice to heal the rift over holding onto a valued possession.
Page 16: Illyria tells Angel that even lacking the sight of Prophecy doesn't strip Angel, and the mortals surrounding them of Agency.
Page 17: Angel is surprised by Illyria's sudden pep-talk, and she informs him that if he is to accept blame for what happened, he must also accept praise for fixing what was done.
He offers that she is full of surprises these days, but she - suddenly uncomfortable with this show of humanity - reminds him that she is still a Goddess, even if she's shackled to a mortal form. She warns him that he best not forget that, let he find she has other surprises less pleasant.
Commentary: I do like this struggle, and I hope it'll be carried forward, of Illyria struggling with very human insights and perspectives that she isn't used to fully feeling. And, hopefully, we'll start to see a playing with Fred's character taking on some of Illyria's imperiousness and sudden bouts of inhumane coldness toward people as the two beings continue to become more merged.
Maybe not next "season", but maybe in S11, I'd like to have Illyria/Fred become a threat that Angel has to call in reinforcements to fight as Fred slowly loses her humanity, and Illyria becomes unstable because she's becoming too human.
Page 18: Illyria takes a powder, and Fred tells Angel that she's become so touchy about her more human feelings she's dealing with.
She tells Angel that she thinks Illyria forgets sometimes that Angel used to be mortal and it's uncomfortable for her that she could feel such respect for one.
Page 19: Angel apologizes to Fred about not foreseeing how difficult it would be for her over his and Illyria's impulsive moment. Fred describes things currently as complicated, which Angel can fully agree with.
Page 20: Angel tells Fred that he doesn't want things to ever not be okay between the two of them. And Fred admits that they'll probably continue to have unintended consequences of her and the goddess sharing a body. But she also tells Angel that they've both learned that if one of them is entirely against something, the other isn't able to force the issue.
Which indicates that some part of Fred may've entertained the idea of hooking up with Angel... so, yeah - Complicated.
Commentary: I like the idea that either of our body-sharers has an ultimate veto, but I don't really like how we're gliding over the consent issue for Fred. Like I've stated before, Illyria does have the right to claim that the body is just as much hers and it is Fred's at this point, and ergo, she can use it as she wishes when she's in residence. But this feels like there should be a two or three page epic argument between Fred and Illyria over it. Instead, we're getting a handwave to return to the supportive status quo between Fred and Angel. It feels too clean and convenient, and I'd have much rather this been a dangling plot thread to explore more in S10.
And I REALLY wish Fred, the physicist, would mention effing Arev's race being out of time. Damn stupid plot hole.
Page 21: Fred tells Angel that "okay" is a moving target, but she and Illyria will adapt.
But for now, Fred isn't holding what happened between he and Illyria in the past against him.
Angel asks what they do now.
Page 22: Fred says a hotel would be a pretty good idea right now, and Angel has to agree since the sun is coming up.
He asks if Fred has any preferences, and she offers as a matter a fact she does. Any place that isn't haunted.
The Good: I liked the solution in how to stop the invasive vine-creature and its insects from overwhelming Dublin.
I'm also liking that unfolding intermingling of each others thoughts and feelings between Fred and Illyria that is being hinted at.
Throughout this arc, I've liked Corinna's grasp of the inherent flaws in Angel as a character.
The Bad: No, I can't let it go - not after all of my bitching: AREV and his race is a HUGE plot hole in the tidy resolution, that nobody -- and it really chafes in Fred's case -- bothers to think about at all.
Other Thoughts: Once again though, we have what should be a moment of indecision and angst being stretched out too long, with repetitive dialog. Corinna really needs to learn 'economy of storytelling' and use the extra page or two for something else.
I'm really liking the hints of Illyria having to really struggle with Fred's humanity 'infecting' her, and her resentment of those moments. But I'm also afraid that it's all just going to sit here in this issue, when so much could be done with it. Especially if the next arc writer also begins playing with Fred being unduly influenced by Illyria in turn.
I'm not wild about how Illyria using Fred's body (as Fred sees it) inappropriately for her own desire is just glided over to return Fred and Angel's relationship to status quo. This really should've been left as a dangling thread to be picked up and played with by the next arc writer. And what we should've really had is a knockdown, dragout argument in Fred/Illyria's shared mindscape over whose body they're in, and what is acceptable. I think it'd be much more interesting if Fred and Illyria weren't getting along in their forced connection.
The Score: I want to like this conclusion more than I do, but it isn't a bad wrapup ... some things are just a bit too conveniently neat, though. And the whole pointless Arev thing is really grinding my ass. But I'd still say that overall this is a bit better than 'meh', so I'll give it:
3.25 stars out of 5