Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Angel & Faith No. 2

I was very impressed by the introductory issue of this series, but does the second issue live up to the standard set up by the first?  Answer:  it totally does!  These issues read great separately, but I have a feeling that this story is going to be fantastic in trade.  We are still very much in the set-up stage of this story, but it's done in such a thoughtful and interesting way that I am not complaining one bit.

The difference in tone between this series and Buffy is, honestly, a little jarring.  It is probably to be expected: the title characters are very different, the setting is completely different, and the themes being explored are very different.  Where Buffy seems to be about trying to move ahead and looking to the future, A&F seem to be much more about overcoming the past.  These two themes are actually wonderfully related and I hope that we might get some thematic interplay between the two series.  However, they are very distinct ideas and it makes sense that the books would feel so different.

We begin issue 2 with some slayer vs. vampire action.  Faith is fighting a horny demon, and the fight clearly resulted from an interrupted business dealing of some kind: hence a briefcase full of money and another briefcase filled with some assumed illicit substances.  At first I thought that this was another example of how mundane demon activities have become since the fall of magic, but it becomes obvious that it is far more interesting than that.

Nadira, the slayer we met in issue one, runs off to take out the vamp that took the briefcase, against Faith's cautions.  I love that Faith basically describes her younger self when she is describing Nadira.  Of course, as she points out, she can still be like this sometimes, but that fact that she recognizes the flaws in this type of attitude is really nice.  How our girl has grown.

I was surprised that I was seriously worried Nadira would die here.  After all, she was only in... what?  One scene last issue?  I already like her and I am glad it looks as though we'll be seeing more of her.  The vamp she chases pulls out a gun and mocks Nadira's medieval weaponry, which I cannot help but relate to the Simone story over in Buffy.  Is this a hint towards the nature of the first crossover between the two books? Anyway, the vamp is taken out by a "mysterious" figure who has hair that "goes straight up."  Hmm.  Wonder who that was?  The comment about him using a broadsword a little later clinches it.  I actually really love that Christos Gage is making it a point to reference little details like Angel's preferred weapon.  Little touches like that really make this feel like it belongs in the same universe as the series.  This isn't the only example of that either, there's a big one later in this issue that I will discuss.

So the fight ends, Horny-demon makes off with the money, and the girls try to figure out what was being dealt.  Faith bails when Nadira asks if she knew the guy with the broadsword.  I'm wondering at what point in the series we can expect to see this foreshadowed confrontation between Faith and Nadira with regards to Angel.  I'm simultaneously looking forward to it and dreading it.

Faith and Angel have a rooftop conversation where we get a little bit more details on Angel's plan to resurrect Giles.  Again, love the reference to the series with Cordelia and Wolfram & Hart.  Nice continuity. Faith seems to think that Angel's plan is both far-fetched and dangerous, and I have to agree with her at this point.  Though I understand why Angel feels he needs to do this, and as much as I want Giles back among the living, this just SCREAMS bad idea.

Still love the setting.  London at night is just really really beautiful, and Rebekah Isaacs takes every opportunity to show that off.  This panel for example.  Not going to see that in California.

Faith has a minor crisis at this point.  She realizes that the reason Angel is so full of life again is because of this idea, not anything she did.  I feel kind of bad for her when she realizes this actually.  She then can't decide whether or not she should encourage him by coming along on his "crazy train."  In a really nice moment for the character, she thinks about how he was there for her when no one else was and decides to go along with him, because he needs her to.  I really love this.  I love that you can feel the history between these two characters, and I love that this is pretty much a direct callback to some of my favorite episodes of Angel: Five by Five and Sanctuary.  The relationship between Angel and Faith and their separate quests for redemption are clearly at the very heart of this book, and that is simply fantastic.

So Angel takes Faith to a demon fight club, where we learn the interesting tidbit that vampires are suddenly very high on the totem pole now that there's no magic.  This seems strange to me.  After all, aren't there plenty of demons that don't use magic that are still stronger than vamps?  Oh well, I'm not going to argue.  It seems like this info will become important at some point.  We shall see.

Angel and Faith get into a fight with Angel's source, a demon named Kurth.  Kurth works for a demon mobster named Mal Fraser as part of some organ harvesting ring.  Angel rips off Kurth's third arm and proceeds to get into an old-fashioned bar fight with everyone else as Kurth runs off in pain.  Faith questions this, but Angel insists that it's part of the plan.

They track Kurth across town, while Faith worries aloud about Angel's lack of emotion.  The see Kurth talking with the horny-demon, who we learn is named Baphon, about getting a dose.  The drug turns out to be Mohra demon blood and heals Kurth's arm.  This is simply a fantastic callback to the Season 1 episode: I Will Remember You.

The fact that a minor macguffin from a much earlier episode is brought back to be such a major plot point is really cool.  It just grounds this whole thing and makes it feel like it's own fully realized universe.  Fantastic!  I was actually kind of concerned with how quickly they skated over the fact that Angel chose to be a vampire again and didn't discuss the issue further.  However, it seems after having read the issue that this is not the end of this idea, so I will reserve my judgements for now.

There's a really cool fight scene that ends with Angel getting the information he needs out of the horny demon.  However, Faith has a flashback that casts major doubts on Angel's current mission.  This is a scene between Faith and Giles sometime earlier, and this is probably my favorite scene of the issue.  I think that a lot of very important stuff is said here, and I think that a major theme of this series is spelled out to us through Giles's voice.  Faith brings up her murder of Professor Worth, the vulcanologist (oh my God, I totally meant VOLCANOLOGIST.  I might be Andrew.) from season 3.  I really like this callback, because I had forgotten about it as well.  But of course Faith remembers, and she makes us feel bad for forgetting him in a wonderful panel on the bottom of page 20.

Giles then states what I think is a big theme of this series, if not THE theme in a wonderfully Giles-y monologue that I will quote in it's entirety here.
"Faith... I could make excuses.  Say that you were mentally unstable when you killed him.  But it wouldn't change the fact that you murdered an innocent man.  It likely also will not help to know that there are others who live with the same guilt.  There are things we can't undo.  Mistakes we can't unmake.  We can punish ourselves for them in pointless, indulgent ways.  Acts that serve no purpose beyond wallowing in self-pity.  Or we can try to atone for them.  Not to erase what we did.  Not to justify the unjustifiable.  But to counter the evil we've done with a lifetime of good."
Man.  He could be talking directly to Angel there.  LOVE. IT.

Faith goes on to say that she thinks Angel has done enough good already to make up for the bad, and that the only reason he hates himself so much is because he's a vampire with a soul.  I completely disagree with her on this, but I think I'm supposed to.  I can understand why she would think that, but I think she missed something integral about redemption that Angel told her in AtS season 1.  That it never ends.  There is no point when the cosmic scales balance out.  It doesn't work that way.  I think Giles was kind of getting to that too.  But nevermind because what she says now is completely insane holy crap!

SHE WANTS TO MAKE ANGEL HUMAN AGAIN!  Holy crap!  Doesn't she see!?  This is the same as Angel wanting to bring Giles back.  It's just as misguided.  There are no quick fixes.  As Giles said, you cannot erase the evil you've done or "justify the unjustifiable."  I love that this book is making this distinction and I love that there are so many parallels between Angel and Faith right here.  They are both trying to avoid the hard parts and trying to take back what has happened.  But you can't undo the mistakes you've made.  I love this!

But the issue doesn't end on this high note.  Instead we get a quick coda with Kurth.  Nash and Pearl find him and question him about the Mohra blood in a very violent and not at all polite manner.  Gotta say, these villains still aren't doing much for me, and their really cheesy last lines aren't helping.


  1. Great review. Loved your thoughts on how a minor plot point many seasons ago becoming a major player now grounds the entire universe.
    And I don't disagree with your interpretation of Faith's motivation at the end... while I don't think it'll do any good to make Angel a real boy, I agree that Faith thinks that it's because he's a vampire with a soul, and therefore by changing that, she can save him.
    It won't work, but as you said, it's misguided. Either way, it'll put her in the path of Nash and Pearl, with probably dire consequences, seeing what they did to an entire Slayer squad.

    Oh, btw, pretty sure that it's "volcanologist" not "vulcanologist"... unless you're Andrew. :)

  2. Haha, I can't believe I made that mistake. That's really funny.

  3. Great review. Love your parallels between Angel's misguided attempts to bring back Giles and Faith's misguided attempts to fix Angel. I gues by the end of the season Angel will be more or less okay while Faith will fall to pieces again.

  4. Late to the party - but still want to say how very much I like your review - excellent.