Writer: Bryan Edward Hill, Artwork: Gleb Melnikov & Roman Titov, Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Dan Panosian
Note: Even though this issue is coming after Buffy #8, it is taking place prior to the Hellmouth rumbling in that issue.
Page 01: We open on Charles Gunn, selfie-ing to fans. He assures everyone watching that they're not alone in the dark, and generally gives pep talks about following your dream, even if you have to do it alone.
Page 02: Gunn is standing on a rooftop as he records. He tells his audience to never let fear stop you.
Page 03: After he's done posting, Gunn rapples down the building into an alley.
Page 04: As Gunn is inspecting an alleyway, we skip backward in time to kiddie-Charles and his kiddie-friend. They've been up to no good, and are now fleeing from who-we-do-not-yet-know.
Suddenly a car screeches on the street nearby, where a buff man shouts out the side window to them to get in. The two boys do.
Page 05: In the backseat, Gunn thanks the man for helping them out. Our driver asks if they were running from the cops or the hood rats. Gunn's friend tells him it was the cops - just because they can hassle everybody, they do. Because our boys are no doubt utterly innocently running around in the middle of the night.
Our driver tells the boys that it's a merciless world, and everybody's gotta do what they need to survive [oh, oh].
Page 06: Our driver pulls off into a lonely alley, and locks the backdoors on the boys... [oh, shit].
Gunn nervously tells the man that they're within a few blocks of home, and can hoof it from there.
"Yeah?" our man replies, "I'll keep that in mind."
Charles' friend then tells him that the doors have been locked.
Commentary: Sooo... kinda heavy scene, because it's got child-killer all over it, if not rapist. But I like this reflection back on Angel over Buffy, in that Angel's series was always much darker in tone that its parent-show. It was one of the wise decisions they made when they chose to spin off. And, I appreciate the backstory of why Gunn is out there stalking alleys now.
I suspected this would be a demon-attack, probably a vampire, but the way the scene was approached gave me a touch of real-life heebie-jeebies.
Page 07: The driver turns around in his seat, to show off bumpy-face. He straight up tells the two boys that they're not getting out of the car alive. He reaches back before either boys can think what to do, and snatches up Charles' friend by the throat.
He's yanked forward off panel, and killed in a blood-splashing mess.
Before Charles can follow, he uses fear-enhanced desperation to kick out the back window of the car, and forces his little body through the broken glass.
Commentary: Also, liked this page for both the artwork, and for showing Gunn's strong will to survive. It takes a lot to break a car window out, and to crawl through glass. I liked this escape.
Page 08: As young Charles runs down the alley, the vampire shout back that he'll be seeing the boy again. His evil laughter follows echoes between the buildings.
Page 09: Charles monologues that the vampire's name is Lucas, and Gunn has been hunting him for years. No one else believes in the monsters, but Charles doesn't need belief, he has memories.
Some nights, like this one, other vampires find him, but not the one he seeks.
Commentary: Why is Charles monologuing in his head, in the way he is doing? He isn't talking to anyone, except us and presumably he doesn't have 4th-Wall-Penetrating powers. Omniscient narrator should've handled this page -- or have Gunn relate what he was up to and why when he inevitably is found by Angel.
Page 10: A random vampire attacks Charles, but he's made himself ready for a battle against his own personal demon, and he makes quick work of Rando. His weapon of choice appears to be a silver or metallic stake, by the artwork [my first thought was that maybe this could've been a small shoutout to SPN... it sure looks like an Angel-blade.. but probably not].
Page 11: After Rando is dust settling to the floor, Charles is confronted by three more vampires... all dressed pretty spiffy for hanging out in rundown, dirty back alleys and seemingly abandoned buildings.
Female business-vampire asks Gunn who told him that the dark was safe. [Which is a complete non-sequitor. And is dumb, since she just saw him dust off a compatriot. Her attempt to sound menacing was lame.]
The three former business people gang-rush Charles.
Commentary: The artwork is definitely showing off that Gunn is armed with stakes, but they're not wood. It's an interesting tidbit. I hope this isn't random, and we'll find out what these weapons are, that they're so effective even though they're not the vampires' usual poison. I'm gonna guess that either silver is effective in this 'verse against vampires, or that Charles has had these blessed. Although, I'm really liking the thought that Charles Gunn somehow got hold of two Angel-blades and the wider Supernatural-verse is taking place within the Buffyverse.
Because BTVS/SPN is my continued OTP.
Page 12: From out of nowhere, Angel suddenly drops down heavily onto the floor between the rushing vampires and Charles. The vampires recognize Angel on sight. Angel reaches out and snatches one of Gunn's silver stakes with a "borrowing this".
Angel quips to the attacking gang that at least they're dressed for funerals.
Commentary: Perhaps Bryan should avoid putting quips in his characters' mouths?
Page 13: To Charles' dumbfounded confusion, Angel dusts all three vampires in quick succession without any of them laying a hand on him.
He then hands the stake back to Charles with a "thanks".
Page 14: Angel goes on to rush through explanations, including the fact that he himself is a vampire, though not an evil one.
He tells Charles that he's bold, but dumb. He also tells him that he could show him a better way, and if interested, he'll buy him a burger to discuss it over.
Commentary: Huh. How to feel about this blatant data dumping, that at least is recognized and deliberately data dumping on Angel's part?
I kinda like the not-beating-around-the-bush of it, because Angel knows that Lilith has forseen something catastrophic coming, and she's chosen Charles Gunn for Angel to recruit. On Angel's side this makes sense, and unlike the Buffy writing, this is organic to the situation, rather then confused.
But on Gunn's side? That's where I have the issue. I don't care if Angel just wiped out three other monsters, Charles just shrugging that this vampire is saying "Hey, come with me, we'll chat" feel way wrong to me.
Obvs, Bryan wants to move things along, so we can get Angel back to Sunnydale for the Hellmouth arc, but this does feel clumsy.
Page 15: In a diner, Angel does bring up that Gunn didn't freak out too badly when Angel dumped on him that he was a vampire.
Gunn puts it down to growing up in rough neighborhoods -- it's given him a sense of the bad guys from the good. He does warn Angel that if he gets wonky, though, he'll have to stake him. Angel is good with that.
Page 16: Angel makes an offer to Gunn that he'll help him find and get his revenge on Lucas, the vampire if Charles will help him with protecting the world from other things as bad as him.
He goes on a quick version of Lilith, and what she needs Angel to do and offers that he doesn't need Gunn to believe any of this, except that the basic offer is sincere. Angel jots down his address and tells Gunn that he can crash there until Angel gets back from his trip out of L.A., if he's interested.
Charles points out that Angel is sounding a bit insane, but doesn't turn Angel's offer down out of hand.
Page 17: When Angel steps out of the diner, he finds Lilith waiting for him. She compliments him on his handling of Charles, and tells him that Gunn is a "good kid".
Angel asks Lilith to tell him about this Hellmouth supposedly in Sunnydale.
Page 18: Over scenes in Sunnydale of the Seal of Danthazar glowing hotly, Lilith tells Angel that she won't share all that she has seen in her visions. But, she will tell him that this is the age where he pays back on the debt he owes. And that there are children in Sunnydale who are going to face the same evils that created him.
She warns him that he needs to commit, because he's going to be hurt in ways that only love can cause. But he will stand with them - he will go to Sunnydale.
Page 19: At Angel's place, Fred is alone when a knock comes at the door from out of the heavy rain and darkness.
It's Charles, taking Angel up on his odd offer. Fred assures him that even though for the moment, they're just waiting, Angel is going to need them soon enough.
Page 20: In the meantime, we've flashed forward to Angel already being in Sunnydale (and he's holding the mask of the guy that met with Buffy on the bleachers, so it was him). This is moments after the gymnasium floor burst up with flames coming from under the school with the Hellmouth's starting to open up.
The Good: I liked Gunn's flashbacks, and the very uncomfortable tension building in the car before Lucas vamps out.
Some more nicely scripted dialog from Lilith.
The Bad: Hmmm... nuthin'.
Other Thoughts: There wasn't much to comment on, because overall everything was servicable. There wasn't any really high points, or low points to discuss. Although Bryan's quipping is below-par for sure.
There is some real clumsiness in cutting to the chase between Gunn and Angel -- especially in Charles' reactions toward Angel's just data dumping he's a vampire taking direction from a demon, but it's all fine because he's not an evil vampire. And Charles' thought-monologues to himself aren't scripted correctly, so it sounds like he's telling us things when he shouldn't know we exist.
The Score: It's okay. It's... workmanlike, which means it wasn't exactly riveting reading, but it didn't waste time either on getting our players into position.
3.0 out of 5 stars