Writer: Bryan Edward Hill, Artwork: Gleb Melnikov & Gabriel Cassata, Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Dan Panosian
Page 01: We open in a flashback to Angelus, and the warrior Mara. She has been vamped, but she's not taking it very well.
Angelus has her in a dungeon cell. He tells Mara that the pain she's going through is the hunger. He tells her that if she believes that by denying herself blood, she'll just die, then she should know that vampires don't starve to death that way.
He sympathetically tells her that he knows she feels like she has a soul, but she doesn't. It's a memory of the person who used to inhabit her body. And it is continuing to fade from her.
Mara complains that he's damned her, but he counters that he set her free [& conveniently forgets that he offered a choice, and she took it of her own free will].
Page 02: Angelus brings in a small, captive girl. He tells Mara that all she is now, is the need to feed. He tells her to do so, and to serve him.
From the blood flying up from the bottom panel, we have to assume that Mara feeds... and desperately and messily.
Commentary: Boom!Studios has chosen to interrupt Angel & BTVS to put out "Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Angel - Hellmouth #1" ... which will hopefully be Mara-centered since we're spending so much time with her here. And hopefully, "Hellmouth" will NOT be an ongoing regular series, but will be reserved for "end of the world" specials -- because I'm going to be annoyed if this is a 3rd title I now have to shell out money for, when they have two titles already that could handle these stories.
Anyway, I'm annoyed. That is what this comment was about. Comics are expensive -- stop leeching us.
But back to Mara, I like the depiction of her pretending she has a strong will, when really she doesn't. And I like (if this is what we're doing) that we're setting up a warrior/Angelus' creation to challenge Angel. It would be more interesting to me, if she retained her resentment toward her 'master' for destroying who she was [again, forgetting all about that choice thing he gave her].
Page 03: Angel pontificates over their being the darkness that hides the stars [Oh, Jeezus, Angelus... have you watched the show? Vampires are crap].
He asks how she is now, and she replies that she feels strong and free. He replies that she is free... so, now stand and belong to him -- without any hint of irony.
Commentary: I could've done without Angelus' florid speech, but I did find it darkly amusing that they talk about freedom in the same conversation where he tells her she belongs to him, now... like an object. And neither of them notice the contradiction.
Page 04: Angelus goes on to tell Mara (a little haphazardly) that they continue their ride. But that this isn't a war on the humans, who don't matter, but against the other creatures of darkness.
Angelus shares a vision he had from someone he calls The Master, who forewarned him of a coming war for domination of the earthly realm. Humanity is unimportant in this coming warfare. He offers Mara a throne at the end of all & the beginning of forever.
Page 05: He rechristens Mara into Marius, The Axe.
Page 06: In the present, Angel has come to his friend's, Francis who was killed in a murder/suicide by fire from his daughter. She was influenced by the demon that 'Fee-Fee' sent him to stop.
Angel reflects on the losses of friends, and how Sunnydale will pretend that this tragedy never happened, because that is what towns like Sunnydale always do. They think that makes them safe, but it only protects The Darkness.
His ruminating is interrupted by a voice from off-panel.
Page 07: This is Lilith, again. She's come to help him with the current problem.
Angel tells her that she knows what influenced his friend's daughter to burn herself and her family alive, and Lilith doesn't deny this. She hands him an apple, spiked with blood and tells Angel to see the world as she sees it to gain insight on his foe.
Commentary: Y'know, after I read this and while I was thinking on the review, I actually changed my mind just slightly on Lilith being a factor here. I feel like this biblical being should've been more than a drop-in for the beginning plot arc.
This story feels to small, and having Angel already be familiar, and having an ongoing working relationship, with The Lilith was a bad way to handle such a character. I wish they'd just had something else take this role... maybe just have Fee come with Angel for this mission.
Then they could've really thought about how to introduce Lilith and her own desire to banish her children and build up an epic storyline around her. The idea of her character is really good and interesting, but her introduction is too matter-of-fact and mundane for such an important figure.
I would've preferred they'd kept her in dark shadow with teasing hints across Angel and Buffy for a year. And then have a special BTVS-Angel Hellmouth special issue which would bring the character out from the shadows and make her a major component of stopping the Hellmouth from opening for her own secretive reasons.
Page 08: Angel sees flashes of Humanity's growing self-obsession with itself. In voiceover, Lilith narrates how humans have always used images to visualize what they feared, capturing it. But with the ability to begin capturing its own image, that wrestling to contain its fears, instead turned into vanity.
They've birthed a new obsession through their development of technology, and his foe feeds on the envy that comes with vanity and the judging of others and themselves based on the lives of others.
"Share to live. Live by judgement. Die by judgement." Humanity did that to themselves, but also opened a door to being fed on by manipulation of that envy.
Page 09: Angel spits out the chewed remains of the bitter apple Lilith served. He doubtfully asks if she's trying to tell him he should kill social media... quite the task. Lilith tells him she doesn't have a dog in the fight, really, but he keeps seeking redemption through vengeance for the dead. Well, there is another monster and he has friends to avenge.
Angel tries to cut through Lilith's (also) florid speech to get to the root of what and where his foe is, but Lilith is not to be pushed.
She shows her true under-her-human-skin self, and shouts at him that a vampire does not command her. When she has gotten control of her own darkness again, she apologizes for losing her cool. She tells Angel that he already knows how to catch a predator: Beat it to the prey.
Page 10: The following day, talk is about the classmate nobody seemed close to, though they knew her from around, who burned down her house.
When they're not busy taking self-pics to post.
One of the girls is invited over later by her friend, but declines to do volunteer work that evening. Her friends can't believe that she's still working at a crazy house. They talk about going to their classmates funeral, but our volunteer says she can't go to funerals.
After she's gone, and let's call her Brewster... so after Brewster walks away, her two friends talk about her turning a bit weird about the funeral, and one of her friends tell the other that it's because she lost her mother -- funerals are hard for her.
Page 11: Meanwhile, Brewster receives a text from somebody she's been chatting with, who complains that she hasn't reached out in two days, and mystery-texter thought they had made a connection.
We can see that mystery-texter is, of course, the envy-feeder.
They chat a bit about the girl who burned down her house.
Page 12: Brewster is at her volunteer work, and looks in on a woman who has covered her walls in mathematical graffiti.
At the same time, she's continuing her text convo with envy-feeder.
Page 13: The conversations turns creepy for Brewster, as envy-feeder compliments her for being a beautiful person for her volunteer work in a madhouse. She insists on calling it a hospital, not an asylum.
He points out that it's the type of place that her mother went to, when Brewster was still a kid.
She's startled by this, but he smoothly assures her that he knows many, many things. And there is something that he wants to show her.
Page 14: Envy-eater tells her that to show her though, she has to ask him. He assures her that this isn't a nude-pic thing, but it's important that she ask to be shown what he wants to send her.
She says fine, but if this is a gross thing, she'll block him.
He sends her a photo, and when she clicks the link, a white light fills the room. We see Brewster jerk, and her eyes turn black.
Commentary: I really liked this bit. The whole texting/conversations with strangers who act like you know each other & the entire continuing a conversation, even after things veer off into creepy felt pretty true. And I like that envy-eater continues to be smooth and at least sounding caring, and Brewster comes off as someone who understands the stranger-danger, so she isn't an idiot.
It was all well written, and I liked that we got a sense of who she is before her unfortunate fate.
Page 15: After looking at envy-eaters photo, Brewster shoves her face into a bathroom mirror, breaking her nose, and smears her face across the glass, slicing. She black-eyed smiles into the broken mirror shards, as envy-eater reiterates that she's beautiful.
Page 16: In the meantime, in the hospital room with the math on the walls, the woman counts to herself obsessively.
Lilith appears before her. We find out this is Winifred Burkle. Lilith tells Fred that "when it comes, you have to scream... scream so he can find you".
Outside of the room, a bloody hand unlocks Fred's hospital room door.
Commentary: Interesting. To tie Lilith with Fred -- I'm left curious about why Lilith is taking a special interest in our math prodigy/physicist. I hope it isn't just a random save, as it's heavily implied that Lilith has appeared to Fred before now, so that is a dangler, I'd like to see explored in future.
Page 17: Brewster, her face a mask of self-inflicted wounds and blood, shouts that "He" wants Fred. She's carrying a shard of the broken mirror.
Page 18: From outdoors, Angel dramatically jumps through a window -- unnecessarily, smashing part of the wall in, and risking Fred's being cut up from broken glass, and pummeled by masonry.
[But it looks cool... /s.]
Page 19: Angel spin kicks Brewster into the face, sending her tumbling out into the hallway and slamming into a wall.
He tells Fred to stay where she is, while he takes care of her attacker.
Commentary: So, this is a bit clumsy. Not only Angel's entirely unnecessarily destructive, loud and ridiculously close entrance but also, it leaves us wondering just how Angel knew to come here, when Lilith presumably only told him to go where the prey is.
You could consider the entire town of Sunnydale as prey, so what made him think of this hospital, this evening. We can presume that Lilith stopped being vague long enough to get him here, but then why not just tell him about Fred, specifically, so he could stalk quietly through the hallways [as per usual, this hospital is dimly lit, providing many inky shadows for such activity].
Why have Angel hanging outside waiting for some clue of who was in trouble, Lilith? Or, if you didn't specify where Angel was to go, as implicated in your conversation with him, then how would he think to come here... and be on the correct side of the building to intervene in time?
No. This is all very awkward, just to have a visual we've seen dozens of times before of The Avenging Angel Shattering Through A Window.
Page 20: Angel goes out into the thickest-darkness hallway in creation, having called out to his foe to finish this.
Angel sighs as he realizes that the demonically-possessed girl is probably right behind him. We see he's correct, as a pair of hands comes out of the inky blackness about to grab him by the shoulders....
The Good: I really liked the scenes with Angelus and Mara-cum-Marius, The Axe. They don't have anything to do with this issue, though, so it feels a bit misplaced. Eh, forget that -- these were good flashbacks.
I'm starting to like the Envy-Eater's modus operandi. And I like Lilith... mostly.
The Bad: The only weakness here, is Angel's pointlessly-overly-dramatic introduction to Fred. Not only for the repetitive-posed panel artwork, but more because the logic of Angel's being in this place in this manner is confusing without reading into why and how he came to be here for the last minute save.
[Also, but this has no impact on scoring: I have no idea what this cover was supposed to be saying about this issue, or the Angel comic or character. It appears to be utterly random.]
Other Thoughts: So, I continue to like Lilith. But, as mentioned already, it feels like her introduction was botched a bit, when she should've had a longer build up, and dramatic entrance into Angel's life. This feels like a story that could've used the flashback scenes given to Mara and would've actually been germaine to this issue.
I like the way the characters are introduced and developed here. Much more than the haphazard introductions in its sister title. This may've been more necessary, since Angel wasn't starting with the awkward phase of BTVS (tv show)'s S1 beginnings, but none the less, the characters are being better handled here.
The commentary on today's youth's obsession with posting their every minute online was less obnoxious here. That's a good. Too heavy handed and it comes off like the old people who just don't understand shouting at the wind. Yes, there are real problems with online culture and toxic trolls, etc. etc... but the kids coming up now have a world that I (and I suspect the writer) didn't grow up in. Complaining about it too strenuously just comes off like our grandparents complaining about that rock music noise, or my parents complaining about... whatever they were complaining about that I ignored.
The Score: 3.75 out of 5 stars