Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Angel & Faith No. 1

And Season 9 begins!  Note: There will be heavy spoilers here for all of Buffy S8, maybe the IDW Angel series, and, obviously, this issue.  Read at your own risk!

This issue opens with a pretty cool excerpt from Giles's journal, discussing an event where he saved a little girl who was being possessed by a horrible red tentacle demon.  My first thought is a flashback to the Angel episode: I've Got You Under My Skin.  Both episodes involved an exorcism of a child by a former watcher.  However, while that Angel episode served to highlight Wesley's own personal insecurities, this flashback serves to show Giles's selfless nature and how much he has left behind in death.

In particular, it shows Giles's willingness to make sacrifice.  At first I thought that the mother would have to die to save her daughter, but of course Giles would never do that; he sacrificed himself as he did at the end of last season.  Again, I was mislead though.  When Giles said "The fabric holding the spell together was my life," I immediately thought of Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince and wondered if Giles had been waiting to die for all of Season 8.  But no.  The truth is worse.  Giles sacrificed his happiest memory.  :(

One thing about this section before I move on.  There was a very weird panel of Giles in here.  It's not that he didn't look like Giles, it's that he didn't seem to be making the right expression.  When Giles and the mother are in the bathroom, she grabs him and says "Save her.  I don't care what you have to do... just save her."  Giles responds "Very well."  In my head I imagine him saying this line with a british seriousness only Anthony Stewart Head could muster.  But the drawing makes him seem as though he is slightly amused at the whole situation.  It just doesn't really fit.

Moving on.

We flash cut from Giles explaining that the demon is only contained, not destroyed, and that someday it will need to be properly dealt with, to Angel and Faith fighting it.  This can't possibly be too long later because the girl seems to be about the same age.  The flashback with Giles must have occurred not long before Season 8.

I really like how we get to read the thoughts of both Angel and Faith here.  Very neat.

There's an interesting bit here when Angel decides to attack the little girl in order to get the demon to leave her.  He thinks, "Time was I would've agonized over this.  That was a different world."  This is interesting to me.  After all the horrible things he did as Twilight, drinking the blood of a little girl doesn't seem as bad?  Giles was talking about how he always had to think of "the greater good."  Angel here seems to thinking along the same lines.  By biting the girl he is saving her life.  So perhaps that's why he isn't agonizing over it?

I LOVE that Angel was given Giles's happiest memory.  And, in true poetic, heartbreaking fashion, it was of a day spent with Jenny Calender, the woman Angel murdered.  This is the kind of stuff you can only get with long form storytelling.  What better way to have to consider his evil actions than to suddenly see the consequences they had in such a brutal way?  Giles loved Jenny so much that his time with her was his happiest memory.  Angel killed her, leaving Giles heartbroken before eventually killing him as well, leaving the world with one less noble figure who would sacrifice the memory of his love to save an innocent child.  This is beautifully summed up in my favorite set of panels in this issue.  I particularly love how the top panel is blue and the bottom panel is red.

Anyway, Angel and Faith save the little girl and leave.  They talk briefly.  I have to say that I really love their chemistry.  I think the dynamic between them is going to be great in this series.

We meet a squad of London slayers lead by a girl named Nadira.  They go to a club and dance a little before Faith and Nadira sit down for a drink.  I gotta say that the panel of Faith dancing looked very strange.  I think the problem is that Faith looks like she is posing, not dancing.  There's no sense of motion at all.  It ends up looking very weird to me.
Faith and Nadira talk a bit and we learn about her past traumas.  Apparently Twilight had this couple of platinum blondes kill everyone in their squad.  Their names were Pearl and Nash and they seemed to really like killing.  They could fly and... apparently harness the green energy of willpower.  I wonder if they have rings.

Anyway, it seems that Nadira knows that Twilight is Angel and has vowed revenge.  This is mostly interesting because Faith is now put in an interesting position.  She can't betray her sisterly slayer feelings, but she also knows all to well what it's like to be where Angel is now: on a neverending uphill road to redemption.  This is a plot thread that won't be dropped anytime soon.  I have to wonder how many other slayers share Nadira's feelings, and how many of them plan on going after Angel.  Because, I gotta say, Angel doesn't really stand a chance if there's more than a few.

We then cut to elsewhere, where we see Whistler of all people.  He repeats the speech from Becoming.  You know the one: "The big moments are gonna come, can't help that.  It's what you do afterwards that counts.  That's when you find out who you are."  I have to wonder about this.  Was the Twilight fiasco who Angel was, or do we find out now, in the aftermath?  Seems like that speech ceases to mean much when your life is just big moment after big moment.  Which big moment is the big one?

Anyway, it turns out that Whistler is in league with Pearl and Nash.  Apparently he is behind their quest to make the world evolve.  Since they are clearly evil, I can't imagine what kind of horrible evolution to expect, but it probably won't be things getting more cuddly.

I thought that this reveal would be the end of the issue, but nope.  We get one more scene with Angel and Faith.  Faith is trying to find out if what Nadina said was true, and Angel more or less confirms it.  We also get a little bit of info on Nash and Pearl.  Apparently they feed off primal emotions, like fear, lust, and death.  (Since when is death an emotion?)  To be perfectly honest, I'm not that into Pearl and Nash yet.  I like that they answered to Twilight, because it allows them to play up that whole "past coming back to haunt you" thing and I think it's only appropriate for Angel's new foes to be representative of the horrible things he's done recently.  As Holtz once was representative of his crimes as Angelus.  However, on their own they have done little to make me interested in them.

Angel goes on to explain the things that lead him to being Twilight, citing the fact that he saw LA go to hell and that he thought that the whole world would go to hell if he didn't become Twilight.  Now, I take issue with this for two reasons.  First, I don't feel that this would be enough for Angel to justify all the horrible things he ended up doing as Twilight.  Second, and more importantly, they are forgetting that LA being sent to hell was Angel's fault.  He felt responsible for everything that happened in After the Fall because he had made the choice to kill the Senior Partners.  Perhaps you could make the case that Angel following his own agency lead to LA being sent to hell so he thought he might be better off following Twilight's orders.  I could potentially buy that (although I feel like it's a backwards step for Angel's arc of becoming a truly independent hero).  But that doesn't seem to be what they're going with here.  In any case, I like to see that the IDW comics won't be ignored, and I'm also glad that they aren't trying to rid Angel of any of the blame for what he did as Twilight.

Anyway, then we hit the end of the issue with the reveal that Angel intends to bring Giles back.  Now, I'm not going to comment on the logistics of this right now as that seems to be something to be examined later.  Instead, I just want to comment on what this means for Angel as a character.  It seems he has been somewhat obsessed with Giles's life, probably exacerbated by gaining his happiest memory.  Angel clearly feels like he cannot live up to what Giles was, especially not after being responsible for his death.  So instead he decides to try and bring Giles back.  I feel as though this series will deal with Angel finding out that he does indeed have what it takes to take up Giles's place and deal with all the things he left behind.

All in all, I thought this was a solid first issue and I'm excited to see where this goes.

One last thing.  The painting of young Giles on the wall has Giles and two older women.  Umm what?  Did Giles have two moms?

Final thoughts
  • I hope every issue begins with an excerpt from Giles's journals.  That'd be awesome.  It kind of feels like we are getting to see Ripper in comic book form.
  • I know that it's a first issue and that they probably want to bring in characters slowly, but I thought it weird that we still have heard no word on the fate of Connor.  You know, Angel's son?!  I mean, jeez. It's his son.  Is he even alive?  Where was he during the Twilight nonsense?  If he is alive, then why on earth hasn't Angel tried to find him?  For being the most important person in Angel's life, it sure is strange he hasn't mentioned him.
  • The London aesthetic really is perfect for this book.  It gives it an almost oppressive sense of history, which fits perfectly with the idea of Angel trying to deal with the leftovers of both Giles's past and his own.

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