Whedonverse comics roundup: Angel & Faith

by Gabby

I was never a huge fan of Angel, the TV series, as a whole. However, I believe that it is made up of amazing moments. One such moment that stuck with me happened in the Season 1 episode, “Five by Five”. Faith had just run away from Sunnydale after body-switching with Buffy, and she was wreaking havoc in Los Angeles. She’d been hired by Wolfram & Hart to kill Angel, so she kidnapped and tortured Wesley to lure Angel. When he got there, they got into a huge fight, with Angel mostly blocking her shots, acting on the defensive. Then, this happens, as the rain is pouring down on the two anti-heroes:

Angel: “I’m not gonna make it easy for you.”
Faith: “I’m evil! I’m bad! I’m evil! Do you hear me? I’m bad! Angel, I’m bad! I’m ba-ad. Do you hear me? I’m bad! I’m bad! I’m bad. Please. Angel, please, just do it.”
Faith, sobbing: “Angel please, just do it. Just do it. Just kill me. Just kill me.”
(Angel wraps his arms around her shoulders and pulls her against him. She over balances them and they sink to their knees, Angel still holding her as she cries.)
Angel: “Shh. It’s all right. It’s okay. I’m here. I’m right here. Shh.”

Thus began the rehabilitation of Faith by Angel, which ends with her accepting her fate: jail. Nevertheless, she always maintained a close relationship with Angel, as he was “the only one in [her] life who’s never given up on [her]”. Now, in a post-Buffy: Season 8 world, where Angel must atone for his sins (of becoming Twilight and killing Giles, that is), it’s Faith’s turn to return the favor.

I will be reviewing the first “season” of Angel & Faith by story arcs, like I did for my Buffy: Season 9 review. Onwards and forwards!

LIVE THROUGH THIS, parts 1 to 4

My three first impressions about this new title were (1) Rebekah Isaacs is an amazing artist, (2) the characters’ voices are genuine and (3) I love the attention paid to the continuity and history of the Buffyverse throughout the issues, like this little bit here:

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

Storywise, Angel and Faith are now living in Giles’ old flat in London, and they have decided to read his “Watcher’s Files” to pick up where the Watcher left off. This means that they follow up on his old cases, making sure that the people involved are safe. Faith notices a change in Angel; he’s invigorated, as if the Files give him a purpose.

What Faith hasn’t realized is that Angel is still reeling from the aftermath of Twilight and the guilt he feels about killing Giles.

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

How does Angel plan on making everything better? By resurrecting Giles.

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

Faith thinks he’s crazy (and so do I; move on, Angel! You saw what happened to Buffy in season 6!), but she sticks with him because, again, she can’t turn her back on the only person who believed in her. So they take off on a search for the blood of a Mohra demon, a substance that can revive necrotic flesh. Angel isn’t quite sure yet how to retrieve Giles’ soul, but with the Mohra blood, he thinks he can put his body back together. They enlist the help of Alasdair Coames, an old friend of Giles’ who is an expert on demon biology. He confirms what the pair thought: a Mohra demon is most probably held captive, while low level demons are bleeding him dry to sell the goods on the black market.

There’s another thread running under the main one, where Faith is acting as a “slayer social worker” to some Slayers who are dealing with their own post-”destruction of the seed of wonder” troubles. I must say this is not my favorite thing about this series; I feel for these ex-slayer soldiers like I did for the Potentials in Buffy’s seventh season. That is to say, nothing. The main slayer with a problem, Nadira, is not fleshed out enough to make me care about her fate. So I don’t.

As the search for Mohra blood gets them closer to their goal, Faith is still second guessing Angel’s action. She’s certain there is no way to bring someone back from a natural death. When they finally find the blood, she grabs a vial and promises herself that instead of giving it to Angel, she will smash it over his head, rendering him human (reminder: Mohra blood is what made Angel human in the gut wrenching episode “I Will Remember You”). Suddenly, they get attacked by Nash and Pearl, who are also after the blood. In fact, they are executing orders from Whistler (http://buffy.wikia.com/wiki/Whistler). At this point, I have no idea if this guy is considered “good” or “bad”, but I have a feeling he’s nursing some hurt feelings that Angel didn’t go through with the Twilight plan. I’m rooting for him, because I always did. I remember my giddiness when I watched the episode where Whistler and Angel witness Buffy being “chosen” at her old L.A. high school. I want that Whistler back, but I’m afraid he’s long gone. Angel and Faith fight it out with the twins and get away. Then, Angel smells something, so they decide to follow the trail. Faith, still thinking about forcing the blood on Angel, is just about to perform the act when they stumble upon citizens who had ingested the blood to cure their various ills. These people are grotesque, tumors growing all over their bodies. The blood changed, when the world lost magic: it’s now useless, and what’s more, dangerous. Faith has to deal with the guilt of almost maiming Angel, and Angel has to deal with the disappointment he feels. They need to find another way to bring Giles back.

The arc finishes with Faith telling Nadira she knows that Nash and Pearl are in London, and Angel acting bizarrely like Giles…

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

IN PERFECT HARMONY

Clem and Harmony pay a visit to Angel and Faith in this stand alone issue. It’s basically a feel-good story about Clem wanting Harmony to recognize the hard work he is doing for her as her life manager (ever since she became the world’s most famous vampire). Oh, and he’s in love with her.

The most interesting thing about the issue is that Angel and Faith are confronted with the fact that Harmony knows how to let go of the past, while the two of them cling to it, letting it guide their lives. Harmony peps talk Angel into letting her PR person write up a campaign to clear Angel’s name in the Supernatural community because, in her words, “[...] in our circles? Right now you’re lower than Buffy”. Here is the exchange Faith and Angel have following this:

Faith: [...] maybe we should think about letting go of the past a little.
Angel: What scares you more? The idea that we might be thinking too much about what we’ve done? Or what we’d become if we forgot?

When Harmony hands over the PR dossier to Angel, Faith asks him what he’s going to do about it, as he sacks the dossier in the garbage. Angel is aware that people hate him, and I think it is a huge part of what fuels him. I know Angel gets a lot of flack for his “broody vampire” act, but I’m intrigued by it. His history is so rich, and his heart is in the right place, so no matter how many times he’ll fall, I’ll be there to watch him claw his way back up.

I’ll leave you with Harmony’s wise words:

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

DADDY ISSUES, parts 1 to 4

This arc is all about, well, daddy issues, though they are in all shapes and form.

Firstly, Giles is back! In flashback form, anyway. I like to think this is a part of the “Ripper” series that never came to be. These flashbacks are what make Angel & Faith. Though Giles is dead, I feel like he isn’t gone, and that soothes my aching heart. We find him as a young Watcher’s Academy student, sent on an assignment to kill a vampire in a cemetery with a bunch of schoolmates. Unfortunately, the vampire turns out to be a Lorophage demon; a demon with needle-like fingers, he feeds on trauma from his victim’s brain. Giles has to witness all of his friends’ death and is finally rescued by adult Watchers.

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

Furious, he confronts his father. How dare he put them through this? Giles didn’t even want to be a Watcher! But his father is adamant; it’s his destiny. We are then told that Giles walked out on his “destiny” of being a watcher. The scene ends with an intriguing excerpt from his diary:

Giles: And with the righteousness of youth, I walked out on the life of a watcher… Though I was hardly done with dark magic and death. But those events, I will recount in due course…

So excited to read more about that! I think I would faint if we finally got to see the “real” Ripper in action.

Secondly, Faith has to deal with her father coming back to town. And I must say, I didn’t see the unfolding his visit eventually took coming. At first, we think he’s seeking out Faith for all the right reasons; he’s finally sober and he misses his little girl.

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

We quickly learn that this isn’t the case. He’s running away from the Boston Irish mob, and he ran to Faith because he deduced that she was a slayer, and worse, a slayer who has killed humans. He wants her to kill the mob boss. As if Faith needed another reason to hate the world! Poor girl can’t catch a break, and I really hoped that, for once, a male figure (other than Angel) in her life hadn’t deceived her. Understandably, Faith is shaken to her core about this, and these events will dictate the actions she takes at the end of the arc…

Lastly, Angel is chasing the lorophage demon, as he was alerted that it feeds on a cycle and this time period coincides with the last time he was around: when Giles was a student and the demon killed his friends. He’s also heard about someone called “Mother superior”; now who could that be? It turns out to be a sane Drusilla, Angel’s “daughter”. She’s using the lorophage demon to feed on people’s traumas, but not too much, just enough to erase the pain they are feeling. Angel finds this, predictably, preposterous, since pain is what fuels him. Faith, however… after what her father does to her, she seeks out Drusilla and asks her to take the pain away. Angel is not having any of that. He turns the demon’s claws on itself, sending the pain right back into all of its victims, including Drusilla. It was great to see the different Drusilla; so on top of things, completely aware of her surroundings. I could see the Spike in her, and I do so hope we get to see more of her. Her backstory as a clairvoyant nun has always peaked my curiosity, and I loved that these issues delved a little into this. Angel and she have an encounter, where she tries to force the lorophage on him as she thinks she’s doing Angel a favor. It doesn’t work, but she figures out what Angel is up to. He is wearing the “tooth of ammut”. It looks like a nipple ring, and it is a magnet for fragments of the spirit. Giles’ spirit, that is! The pieces of Giles’ soul, once Angel finds them, will go into the tooth and merge with his flesh. This explains why he sounded so much like him in the last arc! Interesting…

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

But, eventually, Drusilla gets back to her normal self, and she leaves us with a view of the future:

Drusilla: There’s not enough help for you. Now I’m myself again, I’ve skipped ahead in the book. And oh, the awful pictures. It’s coming, you see… For both of us. The pieces come together in your heart. Too many voices. All the broken children, cutting each other like shards of glass. Oh, oh, oh, the places you’ll go. The ghosts of the past come visit you again. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men. Together in the bath… The drake in the field and the white coach…

I can’t really decipher it, other than I think the “pieces” are the pieces of Giles’ soul, and the “ghosts of the past”, well… I know who they are, and I’m excited to get to that arc in this review. In the end, Faith figures out what Angel is doing with the tooth of ammut, for she saw his new “piercing” glowing when they killed the lorophage demon and the first demon from Giles’ diary. The good part of this is that now that he has a tangible plan, Faith is on board.

WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE

In which we meet Giles’ “aunties”.

Two striking young women await Angel and Faith in Giles’ manor, and we learn that they are, in fact, Giles’ great-aunts who have used magic to stay forever young. In flashbacks (yay! more flashbacks!), we also learn that they were the one to awaken magic in Rupert. Before they showed up looking for the shard of Stronnos, Giles was a little boy who played with planes. But the aunts had wanted to bring their ex-lovers back from the grave with the shard, and a light demon showed up. Rupert picked up the shard and transformed the light into matter so that his grandmother could kill it. From that point on, his father was strict about him getting the “proper” training at the Watcher’s Academy.

Back in present day, Lavinia and Sophie, Giles’ aunts, are aware of Angel’s plan, and they want to give him the shard which they think possesses Giles’ innocence. However, I’m thinking they have other plans. Firstly, because magic has now disappeared, they are rapidly growing older. As the vain, shallow women that they are I would imagine that they’re not quite fond of this turn of events. Secondly, Lavinia tells Angel that he simply must go through with the plan, while Sophie tells Faith that she needs to stop him if things get out of control. Whatever their motives, they provided much appreciated comedic relief, gave us another glimpse into Giles’ past and it is clear that they dearly loved him.

 a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

The stand alone issue ends with a knock at the door: it’s Willow, holding the broken scythe. I basically jumped out of my chair from sheer excitement the first time I saw that panel!

FAMILY REUNION, parts 1 to 4

What does Willow want? Well the return of magic, of course!

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

And she’s ready to barter for it; if Angel helps her convince Connor to help her get to Quor’toth to get her plan moving, she’ll give him the scythe, containing a piece of Giles’ soul. At first, Angel is furious that she would even consider putting him in danger like this, but he changes his mind when they bump heads. The tension between these two is palpable, even in comic form. Willow is also really angry at Angel; he killed Giles, and rid the world of magic. But Angel and Willow both want crazy things, so Angel decides to let Connor choose if he’s up for it or not.

I loved this arc; going back to L.A., seeing Connor and Gunn and glimpses of the Hyperion. I loved how focused it was on character dynamics, how real and thoughtful the dialogues were.

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

I especially loved it because, and I’m bracing myself for tomatoes here: I’ve always loved Connor. I don’t like most of the things he did, but I always loved the idea of Connor. I feel like, finally, his depiction in Angel & Faith gives him his due. He’s a social work major at university, and sensible about how the loss of magic has affected the world. He’s honest, intelligent, and feels really human. I’ve always looked forward to moments between him and Angel; that’s why I was so angry when Angel erased his memories and planted him with a muggle family. But, in these issues? I feel vindicated. With the loss of magic, the memories of his fake family have been erased.

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

Predictably, Connor’s on board with the plan, so off to Quor’toth they go, as the scythe and Connor are both powerful enough to open a tear to access that world. There, he is revered as a God (the Destroyer) by some natives, and the power gets to Willow’s head, as she turns into Dark!Willow for a spell (teehee!). After much fighting, they finally get want they want. Willow used Quor’toth to recharge, and now she’s off to other worlds on a quest to find magic and restore the earth. Her adventures continue in a mini-series, in stores now. For his part, Angel gets the scythe, and another week in L.A. with Connor.

Meanwhile, Sophie and Lavinia are still staying at Giles/Faith’s flat, and decided to skip on the housesitting to attend a Morrissey concert. They realise they have gotten robbed when they get back, as Whistler, Pearl and Nash are loading bags full of Giles’ magical family heirlooms. Whistler seems to still be on his path to Twilight-ville, righting what he thinks Angel wronged. I genuinely feel he thinks he’s doing the “right thing”, trying to create another world where balance can be restored. I just think he’s a little off his rocker.

And I’ll think I’ll stop the review here! There’s a stand alone issue on the shelves right now, “The Hero of his Own Story”, that I haven’t read yet, and the next arc, “Death and Consequences”, starts on November 28th. I’m beyond thrilled with how they’ve handled the series so far, and how they’re really focused on the “family” aspect of Angel I loved so much. Now that there’s only one piece of Giles’ soul missing, I’m excited to see what comes next. I highly recommend it. And I mean, if these don’t make you want to read this series? I don’t know what will.

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

a panel from the comic Angel and Faith

  • CalvinPitt

    I started reading this for Faith, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Angel is still hit-or-miss with me (I’ve always preferred Spike, just like I’ve always preferred Faith to Buffy), but he does just enough stupid things I don’t have to root for him all the time.

    I loved the “Daddy Issues” arc, except for the bit where Angel seems to suggest Faith has to keep feeling bad about what she did forever. I get that’s Angel’s bag, as you noted, but it’s an extremely limited and annoying viewpoint.

    I sort of agree with you about the other Slayers. I don’t care about any of them as individual characters, but I do care about them because Faith does. Because it’s important to her to try and help them, protect them, guide them, I want to see them turn out alright. Because that means Faith succeeded, and she so rarely gets to succeed at things that aren’t killing.

    Isaacs art in particular has been great, and I like that Gage has structured things so there’s a sort of breather one-shot issue in between arcs that a guest artist can handle so Isaacs can maintain her quality of work on the 4-issue arcs. Doesn’t hurt the guest artist have all be at least solid (though I find Phil Noto’s art stiff, but it’s not bad).

  • http://twitter.com/GloryisBen Gabby Ross (@GloryisBen)

    Dave — I love your assessment about the Slayers; I must say I hadn’t thought about it like that. Maybe it’s because the writer hasn’t made me feel like Faith cares all that much, though now I see that it’s probably the point. I will be paying more attention from now on!

    Also, thank you for your comment! Very thoughtful.