Writer: Zac Thompson, Artwork: Hayden Sherman & Roman Titov, Lettering: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Gleb Melnikov
Page 01: We open in the midst of battle between Team Angel and Team Werewolf. They've apparently been battling for a while, as Angel thought-bubbles that they've only to hold out for four more minutes, and then the wolves are back to people.
Page 02 & 03: Angel is on the back of a werewolf, saving a pinned down Spike. Gunn is trying to block a werewolf's bite with a metal bar. Oz is starting to change back toward human as dawn is quickly approaching. Kate raises her arms in victory as the morning sunlight shines down on her through a hole in the roof of the building they're fighting in -- just before wondering idly if she might have actually died... the light does look a little celestial, the way it's spotlighting her.
Page 04: With the wolves as one becoming human, the battle would seem to be over. But one naked man isn't ready to call it.
Spike tries to tell 'man-bun' that he isn't all that tough anymore, as he easily dodges a punch. He also monologues in his thoughts about why he's even there in the first place, wasting time with Angel's quest for redemption. He points out to himself that he doesn't have a soul and has no interest in the greater good, after all.
He punches the 'top knot tech bro', knocking out his teeth for him.
Page 05: To a threat with vampire fangs, our werewolf quickly folds and tells Angel and company that they were deliberately turned into werewolves in order to 'clean up the neighborhood' before their new tech campus opened up. He gives the name of the CEO behind the bloodletting as Clive Bliss, but now worries that he'll kill them all when his legal team discovers that he's said so much.
Commentary: Holy-moley. That was really anti-climactic. It doesn't solve the werewolf problem at all - now they'll just scatter, or return to their company for the next diabolical bloodletting mission, and how is every other guy in the place unconscious, except for the conveniently blabbie one? It also doesn't help that this entire side-quest is about Oz, not Angel & Spike or the mission to FINALLY find Fred... which -spoiler- will way-too-conveniently come into play, anyway in a moment.
Page 06: At Clive Bliss' mansion, they find a demon [if I'm not mistaken, it's of the sort that Doyle was half-of]. Kate uses her LAPD-voice to get entry to the team. For reasons unexplained, Angel is wearing a metal facemask to hide his features, while nobody else is, so....
Page 07: Angel questions Bliss, but Spike tells him that nobody can understand what he's saying through the mask.
Oz takes over and asks Clive who ordered the culling of the homeless, who incidentally, almost killed him a little while ago. Mr. Bliss is unaccommodating, especially since he seems to have a stick up his ass over anyone not with wealth. He tells Oz he can smell the homeless stink on him, and refers to him as a peasant.
His uncooperativeness causes Kate - who already is having some issues these days, what with all of the memories and feelings of Mara coming to the fore - to flip out. She grabs Clive by the throat and promises to tear it out, to Gunn's total shock.
Commentary: I'm still vascillating about this whole Mara-reincarnation thing. I may like what it is doing to Kate, but anytime she starts that Mara-Angelus/Kate-Angel lovey-dovey crap, I just wanna vomit. Especially, since I'm having a hella trouble seeing Angelus as the loving paramour type to somebody not his sire.
To Oz, I'm fine with what they're doing with his new characterization - I'm just not sure that this side-story should've come here, when the focus should've been exclusively on locating Fred. And that shouldn't be so difficult, if know-it-all Lilith is so concerned with Fred's fate. She should've just told Angel that Fred needs to be saved from W&H's L.A. office and been done with it.
If fact, I would've liked to have seen Lilith in direct confrontation with a recalcitrant Baphomet, before she has to turn to Angel to do the dirty work of liberating Fred. Some verbal smackdowns between the two could've had some great dialog moments, and it would've heightened the tension to find Baphomet unable to be cowed by Lilith, whatever her attitude - the way she was immediately able to get Spike's cooperation by just getting a little miffed at his disrespect.
Page 08: Before things can escalate further however, a quartet of lawyers suddenly appear at the Bliss residence. They order the immediate cessation of unlawful questioning, and ask Detective Lockley if she's currently engaged in excessive force against their client. They introduce themselves as conveniently from Wolfram & Hart.
Angel asks after Fred, and they refer to her as Baphomet. One of the lawyers also tosses out Lila's name, giving Team Angel - conveniently, again - what they need to finally locate Fred's location.
Page 09: One of our lawyers insults both Angel for fraternizing with William the Bloody again, and for Spike as somebody beneath Angel. Spike takes it badly and sends the lawyer out a window to plummet to his death from the cliffside of Bliss' mansion.
With this show of force, and the fact that W&H's very name isn't inspiring the fear and dread it was meant to, Angel demands the lawyers' briefcases and business suits. Apparently not one person of the four remaining lawyers, or Mr. Bliss bother to use their cellphone to call in backup from the demonic law firm. And for worshipping a powerful demon, they sure are cooperative and meek awfully quickly.
Commentary: Yeah. I don't like this at all. It's poor storytelling, as far as being way too convenient to get Team Angel to Fred's location. And the ties to Oz's werewolf side-story was blatantly convenient, too - and shabby plotting. I don't like Angel's basically ignoring Spike and Kate being borderline uncontrollable and impulsive, nor do I like how often he's resorting to threatening to murder people to get what he needs. I don't know what Oz is doing here, unless he suddenly displays some fighting skills as a person - because he seems like baggage when he isn't wolfed out, and there isn't a romantic/friendship vibe going on to hold him to the group (like with the Scoobies in prime-verse).
Page 10: So, Team Angel arrives a W&H, introducing themselves as from the Vancouver branch and looking for Lilah's office. Which should quickly go nowhere when they can't find an appointment, and can't confirm their identities with the Vancouver office, but fortunately for them [and another convenience] it turns out that Harmony Kendall is already hired on as receptionist, and her history with 'blondie-bear' comes intact!
With Spike vouching for Team Angel, Harmony is only too happy to share right where to find Lila and to buzz them up.
Page 11: In Lilah's office, a hologram figure is informing her that Angel has arrived and that she's going to be killed. Ms. Morgan objects that her death wasn't part of the plan, but she's informed that orders have come directly from the Senior Partners. She's to tell Angel exactly what he wants to know, and then push them to kill her.
When Angel arrives, Lilah tells the team that they're too late, informing them that Winifred Burkle has died and been replaced by Baphomet. She also evinces no alarm at Team Angel as having tracked her down, telling them that they were maneuvered to come to them now. She tells Angel that he's been played step-by-step... he and Spike, from Angel's losing Helen to his arrival in Sunnydale to Spike's entry in L.A.
All a grand plan.
Commentary: Now, I wouldn't exactly put it past W&H to play a mid-game this way. If there was an intricate conspiracy, that's fine. BUT. But, it seems awfully random to set up Helen to become a protégé of Angel, and then kill her off quickly and easily. What exactly did that get them?
It also throws a massive wrench in things to have Lilith's involvement in sending Angel to Sunnydale, unless Lilith is actually involved with W&H in a grand scheme -- not necessarily on their side, she could still be in opposition, but that she's in a play and doing her part as some sort of larger production of which W&H is a co-actor. On the other hand, it would be a real twist here if the hazy figure instructing Lilah was, in fact, Lilith and she hasn't been on Team Angel's side this entire time.
See, Lilith is just too much for the narrative. She has the same problem for storytelling that the Angels have in Supernatural, including Castiel - as much as I love him. They are too outsized for human stories, without some serious artificial and ridiculous plotting to keep them out of the way, or from simply snapping their fingers to short circuit every threat against the good guys/bad guys.
I also want, now, to understand the relationship between the Senior Partners and Baphomet.
Page 12: Lilah goes on to confirm for Kate that her memories of Mara are true, and advises her to give in to her past counterpart. She tells Gunn that the vampire Lucas he's been hunting is a lawyer of theirs and they've been protecting him all along. She tells Oz that though she doesn't know him, he should look into representation. And then turns back to Angel to twist the knife that another innocent young girl has died under his supposed watch.
Spike suggests to Angel that Lilah is trying to get into his head, and he should just 'put her down'. She suggests to Angel that he should just tell Spike how he really feels about him, and informs him that killing her isn't going to change anything.
Angel, having had his buttons expertly pushed (or this current Angel is just closer to psycho than we're used to seeing) decides to kill her anyway! He slits her throat for her with his nails.
Commentary: Okay. Didn't see Lilah dying so soon, or at Angel's hand - quite literally - but okay. I'm not exactly objecting, and I'm trying to let go of what I think I know about Angel and remember that this is a different elseworld version of him. I don't like NOONE objecting, though. Charles? Kate (or wait, Kate is practically psychotic too)? Anyone??
Page 13: While Lilah is meeting her mortal end, upstairs Fred/Mura is busy battling with Baphomet.
He is expelled from Fred's body. He tries to warn Mura that she doesn't understand what she is about to do, but she responds that Baphomet never belonged in this dimension, and his time there is over.
Page 14: She gives him a 'goodbye', and blasts him out of existence, leaving Fred in awe of the power coursing through her.
Page 15: Fred wonders if she's no longer human, but Mura tells her that she never was. Mura tells her that she is only one of many vessels, and Fred is in awe at sensing so many versions of herself. But before any more understanding of what has happened to her can come, they're interrupted by a warning alarm throughout W&H's office building.
Page 16: Team Angel breach Baphomet's office to find him a pile of goo on the carpeting, and Fred relieved to see her friends again. Over the intercom, everyone working at Wolfram & Hart-L.A. are informed that the Senior Partners have condemned the branch.
Spike wonders what that's supposed to mean, but he doesn't have to wait for an answer.
Page 17: W&H decide to shut down the branch with extreme prejudice, as demonic invaders begin slaughtering the staff.
Team Angel is faced with a tsunami of demonic entities rushing down on them from the hallway outside of Baphomet's office, but Fred/Mura tells then that she has this. Everyone suddenly 'pops' out of existence.
Page 18: Our team find themselves lying on the floor of the Hyperion Hotel, though they don't recognize it, of course.
While they try to pick themselves up, and figure out why they're there, instead of - say, Angel's - he is busy deciding that NOW would be a great time to confab with Kate about her Mara-reincarnation status. [Because, yes. Now would be a great time with everyone else present and having just escaped a major battle by being transposed to a completely unfamiliar place by a woman who is looking utterly unlike herself and displaying wild powers she didn't have before to have a chat about how he and Kate are drawn to one another because in one of her past lives they were evil, bloodsoaked lovers. Totally understandable.]
Commentary: May I pretty please just slap the shit out of Angel? And possibly out of Zac, also?
Page 19: As Gunn and Spike size up where they've found themselves, and Oz tries to determine if Fred has become some sort of god, she explains that she's transported them via an interdimensional rift. She also tries to warn them that 'the end' is happening, but everyone is distracted by the sudden dislocation yet.
Spike complains that they're locked in. Charles shouts for anyone else who may be in the building.
And he's answered...
Page 20: ... by another Angel and Spike!
That-Angel tells them that they've figured out interdimensional travel about 10 years early, but welcomes them to the wider multiverse. That-Spike warns them that they're about to get some head-spinning information, so maybe want to sit down while they're brought up to speed on something ongoing.
Boom!Spike is outraged to find his counterpart is wearing a 'man bun'.
The Good: I liked the shock of Lila Morgan's sudden death. And I liked how W&H 'shut down operations' at their L.A. branch, although I'd have liked to have seen if Harmony is also now dead -- and to have confirmed if she'd been a vampire in this 'verse.
I did like that the team are transposed to another reality, where there is already an Angel and Spike waiting. And I like that Mura's stating that the end has begun is tying into Buffy's also having hinted that the Hellmouth's opening has kicked off a greater disaster that is slowly building. It all weaves together the "Ring of Fire" over-title that has appeared on both title's covers suggesting that there is something more happening underneath any individual issue's story.
The Bad: This plotting is a mess of convenience and is just shoddy as hell. I wasn't happy.
The entire Baphomet plot was anti-climactically ended.
Other Thoughts: Angel wears a mask for one scene, only for a very lame joke. Harmony Kendall arrives for one scene, only as a convenience for Spike. WHY? What was the point??
The fight against the werewolves was anti-climactic, and nothing was actually solved with their defeat. Ditto to Team Angel's assault on Clive Bliss -- they leave with W&H's lawyers (minus one) there in their underwear, and demonic Clive alive, well, and able to continue clearing out the homeless in bloody ways to continue his business plans.
I don't even know what to do with Kate right now. Is she even still in the police department? Shouldn't we be getting some sort of scene of her co-workers or superiors being worried about her sudden change in personality, or her missing a lot of work recently?
How convenient (everything is convenient this issue) that the lawyers' business suits exactly match the sizes of Angel, Spike, Oz, Charles and Kate. Oh, yeah -- thankfully there were five of them with one being a woman, too. And the one that flew out the window to a messy death wasn't needed for his suit, too-too.
The Score: "This is a fuckin' mess." - Me.
2.75 out of 5 stars