Boom!Angel (& Spike)
Writer: Adam Smith, Artwork: Piotr Kowalski & Mattia Iacono, Lettering: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Ignacio Valicenti
Page 01: We open in a flashback to Hollywood, 1962.
Angel monlogues that after centuries, one may think that one Hell Town would bleed into the next. But, he finds Hollywood stands out.
Angel is inside a mansion that has been crime scene. We can see by the blood on the floor and part of a chalk outline, that a murder has been committed here. And judging by the prominent framed poster, the victim was successful actress, Jean Mitchel. You may've caught her classic movie, 'The Murder in the Marigolds' on TCM.
Page 02: Angel calls Hollywood ugly and cold. He also states that the city and he deserve one another, and references something that happened at some place called The Hyperion. Angel tastes the blood remains, and tells us that in addition to the usual metallic taste of blood, he could scent and taste honeysuckle. Angel tells us that someone had slipped a note under his door, reporting the incident as something he may be interested in looking further into.
He'd wanted the note-leaver to be wrong, but the honeysuckle was exactly as he experienced ten years earlier, when he'd met Jean Mitchel in person.
Commentary: Yes, I do remember 'Are You Know or Have You Ever Been' episode of Angel the Series. Yes, I remember why Angel feels like a heel when it comes to The Hyperion. But this is part of that short-cutting, depending on our knowledge of the television series of Buffy or Angel to fill in unexplained gaps in the writing of this series, that irritates me. Supposedly, in this 'verse, Buffy is starting at Season 1 - which means nothing happening in this interconnected comic universe includes television episodes. Except, that references keep being peppered throughout that relies on those episodes that didn't happen so that the writers don't need to explain/rehash/re-imagine those references.
Page 03: We flashback-within-a-flashback to 1952. Angel is at a party hosted by Jean for her birthday. How he came by being here isn't explained. But he's awkward and stiff around the other party goers. He accidentally breaks a tumbler.
Jean breezes up to him, telling him he's looking a bit wobbly in a horrible British accent, which Angel calls her out on. She tells him it's allowed to be horrible, since she isn't British, but for her party, she's decided to be for one night only.
She asks him to go along with it, and she'll keep mum on his being a vampire. Angel is taken aback, but Jean tells him that she's well-versed enough to know a scotch cut with blood when she sees/smells it. And the lingering, hungry look he gave her cut finger [she picked up the broken glass, and sliced her finger a bit], confirmed it.
Commentary: Jean's unusual amount of nonchalance with a vampire being in her midst is explainable, so don't roll your eyes too much over it.
Page 04: Jean reminds him of her supernatural picture, 'Wolves in the Willows' and explains it warned her to look for the signs of the hunger. Jean seems to have a penchant for taking life lessons from her own films a little too seriously.
Angel mentions the honeysuckle in her blood that he sniffed out, and she mentions that the rumors of people selling their souls for success in Hollywood are half-right. She implies that she's under a deal which has made her success possible, but doesn't seem too worried about the upcoming bill due.
She and Angel go outside for a break from the noise of the party, where the director of her latest film has arrived to privately screen the rough cut for her latest picture. The picture being the aforeseen Ms. Adelaide mystery. And he's carrying the poster that will hang above her fireplace.
Page 05: In present-flashback of 1962, Angel stares up at Jean's likeness on the movie poster. Angel resolves to find out what happened to Jean, and who did it. He again focuses on the honeysuckle in her blood, and then finds a small glass tube of smoke sitting in an incense burner, practically screaming at him. He notes Jean's telling him that everyone was half-in/half-out of something shady in Hollywood.
Commentary: For a one-off character, I kinda really like Jean Mitchel. I don't like what she's done - because clearly 'deal with the devil' for her films to hit big, but I did find myself charmed by her. [Actually this isn't true. Jean had another reason for bargaining that will come out later.]
Page 06: Angel now goes to/breaks into the local soul-bartering demon, Carnax. The demon seems a jolly, little non-man. With his being in the soul trade, he recognizes Angel straight off as the vampire walking around with one.
Angel accuses Carnax of maybe breaking a deal and taking the soul of a customer a little too soon. But Carnax asks why'd he do such a thing: After all, the longer that a soul is out there carrying a bit of his blight within them, the better they ultimately taste when he claims what he's owed.
Commentary: So, I'm going to go with Jean's talking about being half-in with a soul barter to mean that instead of being consumed at the paypoint of the deal, she's only going to lose a piece of herself. Which, I don't know... that is a much more enticing offer, than get some fame and money and then be utterly destroyed in horrific fashion. I could see the former deal being taken, whereas the latter never made sense to me. Of course, I suppose if you don't believe in a soul, then you could think you're pulling a fast one and getting what you want, without any comeuppance later. But I'm getting side-tracked.
And besides, I think I'm totally wrong anyway, because the rest of the issue makes it sound like Jean's payment will be her soul-in-full... which is even more disappointing, since it's such a shitty deal on her part.
Page 07: Angel asks Carnax how he came by Jean's soul, if he didn't send his henchman to collect it and the demon reports that Jean Mitchel isn't accounted for among his collection. He guesses to Angel that she's slipped by because of the vengeance clause. She may be out there wandering, trying to collect justice for being wronged. Angel clarifies that Carnax really has nothing to do with Jean's early demise.
The demon tells Angel that she made a deal, and he only wants what Jean owes him. He pulls out a lantern from his desk drawer, and shows him something else. He's also holding Jean's daughter's soul. How he has possession of it, isn't revealed. But he tells Angel he'll be holding onto her until he gets someone truly wicked as a replacement. He suggests that maybe he should start with a demon called Keteb. He also asks Angel to point out to Keteb just before he kills him, that Hollywood belongs to Carnax.
Now, Keteb's bag is as a supernatural drug pusher with his product being a concoction of human soul, vampire blood and traditional stimulants. Angel asks where he'd be found, but Carnax reports that if he'd known that, then Keteb would already be back in hell.
Commentary: I have just a little niggle about this scene. Overall, I liked it, but I didn't understand Angel's not asking specifically why Carnax has Jean's daughter's soul if she didn't deal it herself. Especially, if Jean knows nothing about it. Now, Carnax would've undoubtedly kept this confidential as related to another matter -- but it feels wrong that Angel wouldn't at least try to get an answer about it.
Page 08: As Angel leaves, he reflects on the underbelly of L.A. in general. He offers that the demons are always wanting more than they deceive, and that is what keeps them on Earth... that want. And it's what keeps Angel there, too. Want.
Page 09: Angel tells us that Hollywood is cold, ugly and hungry all of the time. But it also has everything that you want. For him, it has The Hyperion... the reminder he uses to flaggelate himself for his wrongs.
When Angel enters his apartment, he gets a smile. A voice from off-panel informs him that they shut the blinds for him, and suggests he board up the window for his own safety.
Page 10: The voice, of course, belongs to Jean Mitchel. Well, the transparent ghost of Jean Mitchel - her still being dead and all. And I notice that the blinds aren't actually closed, so that was a little joke to point out she can't touch anything. Jean's ghost asks Angel if he really thinks he can find her murderer. He says he believes that together they can, but he directs her attention to the vial he found in her home.
Page 11: A short time later, and Angel asks if Jean really can't remember anything about how she ended up without a body, or why a vial of illicit drug was in her possession.
She's adamant about knowing nothing about any drugs in her home, and all she remembers about the night of her death was coming home to a dark house after a rehearsal. Angel wonders at why whoever attacked her would leave it behind. All she can offer is that people would wander into her home all the time. She had a regular cavalcade of visitors, which is why she didn't even ask after who he was, or why he was at her party way back when.
Angel offers that they may not know why the vial was left at her place, but he maybe can find where it came from. He tells Jean they need to go to the docks, and explains what is in the drug in the vial.
Page 12: His contact at the docks turns out to be Spike. Angel introduces Jean to Spike, who offers that he loves ghosts. He asks Jean about her other-side experience and Jean describes a bright, bold light that felt like the way you think of your daddy's hands as a kid. But then she tells him she turned that light right off, and marched the other way. She tells him that she's been doing that to wrong-headed men her whole life, and wasn't about to stop now in her afterlife.
Spike likes her as clever.
Commentary: Interesting. I kinda like this sorta relationship between Angel and Spike. I do keep worrying about Spike's presence overpowering Angel's title -- and adding his name to the cover doesn't make me feel better about that, but I liked this scene.
Page 13: Angel hands Spike the vial and asks if he knows where the soul harvesting is coming from for the formula, if not from Carnax. Spike takes a hit of the drug, and offers that he knows where they can find some answers. Angel warns that he heard it's an Old One, but Spike replies the bosses are all old ones these days, and implies they're lesser for it. He describes the drug marketer as addicted to his own product, and a slug with too fat a head for the crown he's trying to wear.
Page 14: Spike takes them to the warehouse that they need. When they break in, however, they find a recent slaughter has taken place. And in the center of it, Jean finds her ex-husband!? Well, her first ex-husband.
Clive is carrying a blood-soaked blade of dark gray, and to Jean's inquiry of what is going on, he tells her that he just couldn't take all of the sin around him.
Page 15: While Angel is dispatching goons who are trying to kill Clive before he finishes his massacre, or dies without getting Jean any answers, she confronts the Old One, Keteb. She asks of the demon why he arranged for her death, and what makes possession of her soul so important. He proclaims ignorance of what she's talking about.
The convo is cut short by an enraged Clive, back on the killing spree after that little interruption of Angel's arrival. He mystic-blade stabs Keteb in the heart, and the Old Ones really aren't what they used to be. Keteb dies with no muss, no fuss.
Jean turns back to Clive for answers over what is happening. Her answer is Clive shouting at her about staying dead, as he tries to stab her in the chest, too. But being immaterial, she's not impacted.
Page 16: Poor Clive has done lost it. As Angel restrains him, Jean asks him what he's gone and done. Clive rages that the world is full of sin, and that she left him to become one with the debauchery and damnation. But Jean tells him that she left him so she could live. She reminds him of the cancer that was eating her away. She sold her soul to be rid of it, but afterward, she found their life too small for her to take with her renewed sense of possibility. And she tried to tell him in so many ways that she needed more out of her life, but he wouldn't listen to her.
Clive shouts at Jean that she's nothing but a sinner, and when The Lord delivered the dagger into his hands, he knew what he had to do.
Spike inspects the dagger, and tells the group that it looks Sumerian to him. Maybe a justice blade, even. Angel asks after who gave Clive the blade, but his only answer is The Lord. He describes himself as The Righteous missioned to kill The Beasts -- Beasts like Jean and their daughter, Penny.
It becomes obvs that after their daughter, Penny, left him following her mother to Hollywood, that Clive fell apart.
Page 17: Clive's mention of Penny has Jean afraid of the worst. She demands to know what Clive did to their daughter. Angel shares that Penny was at the mansion to suprise her mother after rehearsal - explaining why the house was unusually dark when she'd come home. The fact that Penny was in the care of Carnax suggests that she was also murdered that night [although still not explaining how she ended up in Carnax's care at all].
Ghost Jean grows to ceiling height in rage, as she turns on her ex-husband, and child's father. While Clive eggs her on to kill him and make him a righteous martyr who will be rewarded by being turned into a spiritual knight, Angel tries to call Jean down. He begs her not to become the creature of rage that Clive sees, and reminds her that he's been down that road of violence and she's seen what it had done to him.
It works, and Jean returns to her more human aspect ratio. But she's still seething with anger and pain at her killing, and the implication that her daughter is dead, too.
Clive, bless him, can't keep his mouth shut of course. He berates her for being so small again, and tells her that he's glad he kept their daughter from becoming the sinful, decadent woman her mother was.
Well. Jean isn't about to listen to another second of this self-righteous bullshit, especially when it comes to her kid. She snatches the dagger from Spike's grasp and plunges it into Clive [it's off panel, so I'm going with she stabbed him through the face].
Commentary: I loved this whole sequence. It was especially dark, having Penny's fate revealed to have been by her father, and I loved Jean's and Angel's interactions. It was also nice to have Clive's rant shut-off mid-insult. As to how Angel knew that Penny was at her mansion, and killed there -- I can only think that maybe he got that from her image in the demon lantern, or he's just guessing that it makes the most sense. I did wonder why Spike was so off-panel during this whole confrontation, but hadn't just left after showing Angel where to go.
Page 18: Jean looks down at the body of her ex-husband, and tells Spike and Angel that they need to find her daughter. Angel tries to interrupt, but she says she doesn't want to hear it. She goes on to tell him that men like Clive can't be reasoned with, and they can't be redeemed.
What Angel was actually bringing her attention to though, and why he didn't want her to follow the path of vengeance upon him, is because Clive reappears. Now, he's a ghost, too.
Clive promises that Jean hadn't suffered before, like the way he'll make her suffer now that they're back on equal footing.
While Clive and Jean are re-confronting each other again, Angel pulls Spike aside and asks if the drug recently discussed could be made with only one soul. Spike offers it'd work with one as dark as Clive's.
Page 19: A short time later, Angel and Jean are in Carnax's office. Angel offers the vial from Jean's house, but refilled. Jean asks for a deal where Penny is released in exchange for Clive's soul, as Carnax did lose some kin to her husband's killing spree around L.A.
Carnax doesn't say no, but he also points out that Jean still owes him for her own deal. Angel has thought about that, and in addition to the vial containing the cocktail of drug with Clive's dark soul, Angel had Spike create it using some of Angel's blood. That makes Carnax's possession unique -- he has the blood of the only vampire in the world with a soul of his own.
Carnax does find this a deal worth making, freeing both Penny from her imprisonment, and Jean from her debt.
Angel asks after what Jean will do next, and she responds that she wants to take Penny to her destiny, whether that is in the light, or somewhere else. Angel offers that if she needs anything, she can always slip another note under his door and he'll be there. Jean asks what note he's talking about, and Angel finds out that she didn't leave a note. In fact, she points out that she can't have a physical affect on real things, so she couldn't have left a note even if she had wanted to do so.
He points out that Jean grabbed the magic dagger just fine, but she retorts that she had divine justice on her side in that instance. Ordinarily, she can't just go around carrying notes. That leaves Angel with a dangling question as to who turned him onto the fact that she had been murdered.
Commentary: So, the only weak point about this whole thing is Penny. We don't see her released from the lantern, we don't get any indication of who she was, or how she feels about what has happened. She's entirely a prop. It also isn't explained how she ended up with her soul in Carnax's possession. The only thing that makes sense to me, is that Clive made a deal with Carnax for a means to kill his wandering wife and 'betraying' daughter but instead of offering up his soul, he offered up Penny's. Clive then gave him the dagger. But, Clive went way off script by going on a killing spree across all demons in the L.A. basin. Which would've been fine, if he'd not also included Carnax's associates/goons in his spree. Or... maybe after Clive killed Penny, Carnax somehow knew about it and lured Penny away from the light, to imprison her for insurance that the wandering and missing Jean would eventually find her way to him and agree to pay her debt in exchange for his releasing her daughter?
I find Penny's involvement as too vague to make sense, and suspect shoving her in was an after-thought late in the writing.
Page 20: Back at the warehouse of slaughter stands Spike with a self-satisfied smile. He picks up the discarded dagger and replaces it to its holding case. Spike sits with a large grin on his face.
Meanwhile, Jean posits that it was probably her manager, Benny, who was also aware of Angel's real nature. She offers to Angel that Benny had a way of getting people to do what he needed, even if he sometimes gave 'em a bit of a nudge.
But circumstances suggest that Spike also knows how to get Angel to do what he needs, even if he has to give him a bit of a nudge. And that he needed Angel's help to get that mystic dagger out of Clive's hands and into his own possession.
Which makes me wonder if this dagger is the very one that Drusilla needs to open the Hellmouth at the right time in Sunnydale.
The Good: I really liked Jean Mitchel, so her continuous appearance and involvement of her ghost was delightful.
I also kinda liked the personality and modus operandi of Carnax. I mean, I can't truck with dealing in people's souls, of course, but he wasn't "kill-crush-destroy" so I'm glad he made it out of the issue alive.
I liked the confrontation with Jean and Clive, and for her executing Clive ... and not being cosmically punished for it. I'm standing with judging killing your own murderer as a righteous action. And, I also appreciated that after the deed was done, and Clive's soul is being handled by Angel and Spike - we see an emotional impact on Jean's ghost for her daughter and herself.
I'm also fine with how they got Jean out of her contract at the end.
The Bad: The involvement of a daughter for Clive and Jean felt unnecessary to anything. And her use was only confusing, because there were no explanations to why she wasn't off to eternity upon her death, already. Jean never speaks to her so the whole thing is empty.
Other Thoughts: I don't like the off-hand mention of things that happened in The Hyperion, with zero details to elaborate on it. That feels far too much like we're just to assume it was the same as the Angel episode and move on, and that sort of thing - when dealing with an fully alternate take on everything/everyone else - feels lazy. I'm not putting it in the bad, because there is still hope that we'll see more flashbacks involving Angel's time at the hotel, and that it will turn out to be something completely different and I'm in a mildly-optimistic mood. If you're not optimistic, move this to The Bad for being so lazy.
I didn't like Spike's being included in this one, until the end which suggests Spike arranged for Angel's involvement for his own reasons. That was nicely played, and I withdrew my objections.
The Score: Not bad at all for a one-off untethered from anything happening in Angel's life in the present.
3.75 out of 5 stars