Angel: Blood and Trenches #2 (of 4)
Story & Art: John Byrne
Letters By: Neil Uyetake
Edited By: Chris Ryall
Where We Are: Angel is living in
There, he meets pretty Aid Station worker Lady Margaret. But, he also runs afoul of some grunts who find him suspicious. A Colonel arrives by the name of Wyndam-Pryce who wishes to eradicate the supernatural menaces plaguing
Page 1: Angel, his arms bound via strait-jacket, bursts out of the window of the room he’s been held in.
Page 2: With some fancy footwork, he manages to get a canopy of snow onto his back in order to smother the growing flames (as an aside, it’s difficult to imagine he’d have time to do all of this… on the other hand, Spike managed to walk miles covered in nothing but a little blanket after an RV crash in BTVS: S5). One of the soldiers manages to shoot him in the back.
Page 3: The snow pack doesn’t smother the flames for long and Angel is again burning. He makes it to a river and throws himself through the ice to make it to the waters below.
Page 4: The soldiers fire blindly into the river until ordered to stop wasting precious ammunition by Col. Wyndam-Pryce. An alert is sent downriver to all allied positions to be on the look out for Angel.
Page 5: It is evening again, and Lady D’Ascoyne has spent a grueling day tending the wounded (she has red blood all over her black and white apron). At first, she is a bit ‘stand-off-ish’, but he quickly charms her with real tea. The privations of war, you know.
Anyway, he informs her that he works for an organization dedicated to the eradication of the vampires. And although Angel has escaped, he’s somewhat mollified by the fact that if he’s managed to drift downstream far enough, he’ll become the Kaiser’s problem.
Page 6: Angel is indeed traveling along the river bed. Sensing that darkness has fallen, he again breaks through the ice. He’s weary, freezing and injured.
Page 7: Entering a zone of shattered and burned trees, he realizes that he has crossed the front lines in the war. A German patrol quickly surrounds him, but he’s able to convince them that he’s not an enemy combatant (the trace of Irish accent helps, everyone knows the English don’t appreciate the Irish). The soldiers on this side of the line also give some indication that they’ve been beset by “them”.
Page 8: We get a quick flashback to three days ago when the German squad were nearly decimated by human looking creatures… vampires, of course.
Page 9: They’ve been hauling one of their comrades who had been bitten, but he is dead now. He has fang holes (with oddly fresh looking blood). Angel breaks the news to them… he was left just alive on purpose so that he’d be moved to a evac center where he would die, and then come back…
Page 10: … In order to ‘recruit’ more blood-suckers. It appears the Kaiser isn’t using the vampires (which I stated in issue #1 review) but is actually losing troops to them, as well as the English. As Angel prepares to be-head the corpse and tries to convince the squad it needs to be done – Mueller re-animates and puts the bite onto Schultz, the squad’s leader ‘til now.
Page 11: Schultz won’t be coming back, however, as Mueller rips his head off of his shoulders (with a spray of red in the black and white panel). The surviving squad men and Angel begin fighting the new vampire.
Page 12: One of the soldiers draws his pistol and shoots Schultz directly in the forehead, but this doesn’t do much good (it does give us more splashes of red color, though). Angel takes care of the problem with an improvised stake.
Page 13: Angel returns with the men to the site of their days earlier battle against the vampires in order to find and destroy their comrades corpses. They find them all missing and very little blood left behind, naturally.
Quick note – in both BTVS and AtS, the amount of time it took for re-animation seemed to change with the episode’s plot, circumstance and how quickly they needed them to attack. For Byrne’s story, he’s chosen the ‘3-Day Rule’.
Page 14 & 15: Those missing bodies? They pop up out of the snow. Angel demands that the soldiers with him stop thinking of the re-animated as their friends and start finding some wood to use as stakes. They soldiers go on the offensive – probably for the very first time – against the fang-gang.
Page 16: The battle is brutal, but Angel’s new allies are out-numbered. The battle is interrupted by the arrival of more vampires. The new group of demons is lead by someone which Angelus knows… Crixus.
Page 17: Angel tries the ol’ “I am still evil and I claim these humans” thing. Crixus doesn’t give an inch however, pissed that ‘Angelus’ has killed his own kind. Angel’s got a stake to his chest by a pawn of Crixus when he changes his mind off-panel voice shouts to ‘STOP!’
Page 18: Crixus decides that though he doesn’t trust Angelus, it’s up to their new leader to decide his fate. Crixus gives us a quick history lesson of what has been happening in
Page 19: The huge castle like structure is striking in the blowing snow. Naturally, all of the nuns who used to reside there were slaughtered by the vampires now using it.
(Aside – What is it about nuns, anyway? In ‘Spanderverse’ I also had a nunnery attacked and wiped out by Glorificus – not that monks seem to fair much better!)
Page 20 & 21: Angel spots a huge plane and asks about it. Here we find out that the Kaiser is at least somewhat involved with the vampires, after all. He’s given it to them as a ‘gift’, but it’s unclear whether he realizes they are preying on his own men – or if he has tacitly approved of them growing their vampire army. Angel and his new friends are led deeply underground to meet Crixus’ new master.
Page 22: An obviously old vampire makes his dramatic appearance. He’s tall, built like a block engine and has huge clawed hands. And, he still looks an awful lot like Kakistos, but he’s not named here. He threatens ‘Angelus’ with a staking if he can’t adequately explain the “stench of a soul” coming off of him.
The Good: Again, the artwork is top notch in this second issue. The black and white panels are beautiful and the splashes of red blood throughout made a dramatic choice.
Angel’s break-away from the English soldiers was well-handled, for the most part. It was certainly better than Spike’s ratty blanket hike across the desert in BTVS.
The main vampire bad-guy is suitably threatening.
The plot is still interesting and the pace is good… nothing gets belabored, drawn out or repetitive (a problem which the first issue of Spike: After the Fall suffers).
The Bad: Only the highly convenient and clichéd “I have the hero just about dead, but I change my mind and not kill him so that I can be defeated later” trope. Crixus had Angel dead-to-rights, but suddenly decides he can’t kill him without the master’s approval; Even though he’d already made it clear in dialog that Angel had to die for killing his men just a few panels earlier.
It remains unclear (especially between Issues 1 & 2) what the German Kaiser’s role is in all this. Is this an official program to use vampires as instruments of war (which it seemed like in Issue 1 – before German soldiers were the targets)? Is the Kaiser unaware that his own men are being recruited into the demonic force? Or, did the Kaiser expect them to limit the demons’ damage to enemy troops? Some of Crixus’ explanations to Angelus could have made the point clearer.
The Scoring: The plot continues to hum right along with excellent pacing. The artwork remains excellent throughout. The obligatory bad guy shows up and is suitably vicious looking. The only problem is some muddling of how these German vampires fit into the larger war effort – especially with the vampires attacking German troops and then finding out that a plane was a ‘gift from the Kaiser’… though that could have been said sarcastically, I suppose: 4.25 out of 5 stars.