Writer: Bryan Edward Hall, Artwork: Gleb Melnikov & Roman Titov, Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Goñi Montes
Page 01: We open with Spike balancing on the edge of a ledge at the top of a multi-story building. He's still in a bit of a huff that Dru both stabbed him, and then left him behind to go off to the Hellmouth.
He plays a round of "she loves me, she loves me not" before stepping over the edge to plummet to the ground. On his way, he hopes to hit a Benz.
Page 02: His aim is a whopping success, so good for him.
Page 03: A police officer comes to his aid, but Spike naturally just gets up on his own. The cop pulls a gun, as he walks away, trying to get him to stop - though he's clearly nonplussed by the suicidal young man not being a broken bag of bones after the swan dive.
Spike tells the officer to piss off. He also warns as he vamp-faces that he's not the evil thing to be worried about. He throws over his shoulder the fact that the Hellmouth is opening, and far worse than he will be coming through.
Commentary: Heh. I liked this bit. It was a bit sad, a bit amusing, a bit chilling. Nicely done. And in keeping with Sunndale not being nearly as small as the talk suggested in the show, the high, dense buildings again suggests a moderately sized city for alternate Sunnydale.
Page 04: Back in Los Angeles, Gunn is feeling out Angel's place and his new co-worker. Gunn is still trying to accommodate the surealness of being in a vampire's house, actually maybe fighting at his side.
He asks why Fred trusts him, and she replies simply that he saved her life. And rather than judge him on what he is, she's willing to judge him by his actions.
Gunn guesses she wouldn't be there if evil hadn't touched her life, the way it had his. He asks her where her scar is.
Page 05: Fred explains her bout of insanity brought on by her exposure to magick. And that she was helped by Angel and by a primordial demon named Lilith.
Despite Charles fighting vampires, he's taken aback by any other demon-things being real. He offers that maybe he doesn't need to meet Lilith.
Their conversation is interrupted by a knock at Angel's front door.
Commentary: I'm glad that Bryan at least nodded toward Gunn feeling awkward about taking up Angel's offer, considering that last issue it felt to me like he'd been recruited a little too easily. It's still all being glided by a bit too quickly to build out Team Angel, but at least the speed of it all is being acknowledged.
Page 06: The knock is, of course, Lilith in the flesh.
She breezes into Angel's home, apologizing to Gunn on her way for not being able to save his childhood friend. Gunn fears he may've offended her, but she assures him that he didn't. Compared to men saying that among her tactics is killing babies and seducing their souls away, being unsure he wanted to meet her is no-big.
But she's not there just to meet Charles, but to share some unpleasant things that they'll need to know to help Angel in the coming battle(s).
Page 07: But first, she checks in on Fred's state of mind. Winifred tells Lilith that she's becoming clearer as time passes, but there is still so much in her mind that she doesn't understand. Lilith tells her that every gift is a curse.
But she's there right now mostly for Charles. She tells Gunn that she knows the vampire that victimized him. And, she's going to help him get his revenge, but first she has something to show him.
Gunn's eyes fill with spectral light, as Lilith touches his forehead with her fingertips.
Page 08: Lilith shows the true identity of the vampire that Gunn has been hunting, Okasa. Describing him as a Moor who was changed by The Master. She points Charles in Spike's direction as the one who can put him back on his target's trail.
Commentary: Um. Okay. This felt a bit random to me. Lilith should surely be able to just tell Charles the answer he needs, being connected to the Dark Things, as she is. I suppose an argument could be made that she's assuring that Charles sticks around to help Angel, by giving him an incentive.
Yeah, okay, I can buy that. A bit of unnecessary manipulation, as far as I can see, but we haven't dove into Gunn's thoughts, so maybe his were still wavering on helping a vampire.
I'm gonna share at this point that I was left mildly disappointed with this whole issue, so commentary may be slight. Of course, as this one shows, I can always come up with something to blab on about. But so much of this is set-up for Angel's team, and it feels like all of this should've been covered before the Buffy crossover event with the Hellmouth.
It feels like an interruption with the b-team, when we should all be focused on Sunnydale's danger.
Page 09: Lilith offers that she's going to put them in touch with Spike, but warns them that he's a vampire, too. They'll need to avoid killing him, because he has a part to play in what is happening, now. She also shares that Angel won't be able to assist with Spike, due to his being walking into a Gateway to Hell at the moment.
Page 10: Back in Sunnydale, Spike is hanging around a busy dance club. He's drinking only water, shockingly, and sulking in self-pity; Something he's fully aware he's doing.
Page 11: Lilith has escorted Charles and Fred to Sunnydale and to the club. She doesn't stick around after she gets them through the doors, and points out Spike to them before vanishing to leave them to it.
Page 12: As Charles leads Fred toward Spike's seat, in a back hall, a woman speaks to someone over a cellphone. She tells her mysterious cohort that she has spotted "him". After she gets orders from the unknown contact, she ends the call with "Hail, Baphomet".
From a slender case, she pulls out a dagger that she annoints in blood from her palm. She promises to make the world Baphomet's throne.
Commentary: So, we don't get any explanation yet for how Baphomet does or doesn't tie into Dru's cracking open the Hellmouth. This could just be a small-time player looking to take advantage of the situation, for all we know.
But the point is that this is just another side-quest that interrupting the actual Event that this issue is supposed to be a part of. It's bugging me that we're introducing these storylines now, instead of going into the Hellmouth Event with all of the players already explained to focus on the action.
Especially, since we're now in Sunnydale, and though I'm trying not to slight Angel's creative team, this should really be Buffy's big arc. Everything should be circling around the Slayer and her journey to stop Drusilla's apocalyptic plans, with Angel's title and side-characters subservient to that big event.
It just keeps leading me back to the Hellmouth Plot having been put into play much too quickly. They really should've teased it out, while all of the eventual players were being moved into place.
Page 13: As Charles leads Fred toward Spike, he warns her that the vampire has made them. Gunn draws a stake, despite Fred's repeating the warning that Lilith doesn't want them killing him.
Before a confrontation can take place though, our mysterious girl screams from off panel for a sacrifice.
Page 14: It turns out she's also interesting in a close encounter with the vampire.
She jumps at Spike, and manages to stab the dagger through his hand, as he tries to block her sudden attack. The dagger is clearly mystical, as it causes a smoking hole through where he's stabbed through.
Commentary: The comic art here is a little too comic-superhero/villain for me here. Her ridiculous horizontal leap through the air would've only caused her to belly-flop onto the floor. It works for the superhero genre, but unless she's revealed to have super-powers, it's just silly looking in this setting.
Page 15: She follows up her stab-strike with a left-hand punch, that sends Spike reeling to the floor.
Lilith reappears at Gunn's shoulder and tells him to protect Spike.
Our attacker calls out to Baphomet to see her, as she readies to bring down the dagger into Spike's chest. He appears to be stunned by the uppercut to the jaw that she had delivered [so, maybe she is super-strength empowered, making her leap into panel a little less ridiculous... it's unclear, as we'll see in a moment].
Before she can deliver the presumably fatal strike to Spike's shriveled heart, Gunn steps in with a left cross of his own for her. [And again, the artwork is too comic-booky. Now, Charles Gunn is delivering blows that is sending people across rooms! It's way too much!]
Page 16: Our assassin recovers from Gunn's [stupidly powerful] punch, warning him that Baphomet will claim him also.
Gunn taunts her to fight, rather than talk and offers he doesn't want to hit a lady [despite having just done that, with zero hesitation].
She bares the dagger at Charles, who is unarmed. But Fred has managed to get behind Baphomet's disciple, and uses a handy wine bottle on the back of her head. At the same time, Spike has recovered enough to protect his own ass, and uses Charles distraction to roundhouse kick her into her face.
Page 17: Between the bottle to the back of the head, and Spike's kick up into her jaw, our assassin who wanted Baphomet to take note of her actions, fails to the floor unconscious.
Spike quips a bit, but tells our two that it appeared they were there to kill him too, so....
He takes off running through the stunned crowd of onlookers, before Fred and Charles can make their not-staking-him plans clearly understood.
Page 18: Spike is brought up short in the back alley though, when Lilith performs a little personal intervention, appearing in her fully demonic form. It allows Charles to catch up with him, and tackle him to the ground.
Page 19: In a mound of trash, both boys look up at Lilith who tells them to play nice, before taking her leave again.
Spike asks Gunn if he's there to kill him or not. Charles replies he's not sure, but he'll try not and see how it works out.
All of this is enough for William to pause, and he asks what Charles is stalking him for, and where the girl with him went. Gunn swears as he realizes that Fred didn't follow him out.
Commentary: Hmmm. Okay. I'm a little put-off by Lilith's role in this issue. Either she needs to be integral to things, or she needs to stop conveniently popping in just to be the deux-ex-machina. There was no reason that Bryan couldn't have had Gunn catch up with William on his own, and relate that he's there on behalf of Lilith and isn't trying to kill him, except maybe our writer is a little too in love with Lilith, too.
But she's a character that needs to be all-in, or a manipulator/contact that sets things in motion but can't directly interfere. Having her continual showing up and disappearing from panel to panel is just too easy a shortcut for the writer(s).
Page 20: Out front, Fred has been nabbed by another group of Baphomet's sycophants, referring to themselves as The Black Circle.
A woman tells someone over her cell that they've gotten the Oracle, but the Poet has escaped them for the moment.
Commentary: And... why doesn't Lilith just appear now?
The Good: I continue to like this ambivalent relationship with Spike and Drusilla.
I really liked that single panel of Fred and Spike both attacking Spike's would-be assassin.
The Bad: Nothing was bad enough to put here.
Other Thoughts: Let's see: One, the artists need to pull back on the comicbook hero posing and action-stereotyping when their characters aren't explicitly super-strengthed. It's silly looking.
Lilith's "truth" shared with Charles over the identity of his vampire foe didn't amount to anything. It didn't require a dramatic vision just to share that the guy is old and what his name used to be as a human. The tie-in with The Master could be interesting, if it's going to be used to tie Dru, Spike, Okasa and Angel together, but that's unclear at this point. They could easily change The Master's character and backstory from the main Buffyverse.
The Baphomet and Black Circle arc could turn out interesting, but this seems like a bad place to introduce it. In fact, that is my real problem with this issue: The Hellmouth is opening! That should be a really big deal to every single thing that is tied to the mystic in or out of Sunnydale. But this whole issue has one mention from Lilith, and then we're on a completely separate arc, when the Hellmouth Cross-Title Event should be dominating all issues with the Hellmouth logo attached.
Lilith, despite my taking a shine to her right out of the gate, is being too overused as a crutch already. Bryan needs to establish some rules about what she can or can't intervene in, and he needs to have her conveniently overseeing other matters so she isn't just popping in randomly to be the easy answer out of predicaments. Otherwise, it's going to quickly become apparent that she doesn't need an Angel Team and that they have no risk of failure because Lilith will just fix it.
The Score: It's not a bad set-up the team issue. It's not a bad Fred & Gunn first partnership assignment issue. It just isn't an urgent issue to deal with the mouth of Hell opening, and that puts this in the wrong place and time.
3.0 out of 5 stars