Sunday, November 25, 2007

My review of Angel's 6x01: "After The Fall Part 1"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Franco Urru

Angel (to himself): “I don’t tell them they’re here because I took a stand. My friends stood by me. Wolfram and Hart sent an army. There were losses on both sides.”

Eight months and eight issues after the successful launch of Buffy’s eighth season in the comic format, it was inevitable that fans of Angel were going to get the same sort of continuation from the series. Low and behold it’s here but as a hardcore fan, even I had reservations about this comic.

First off I loved the fifth and final season and absolutely detested the WB and their bullshit reasons for cancelling it. However I do have some hang ups that over three years have not gone away. I may be in a minority but I hated the writers for adding Spike into the mix and the contrived way they tried to fit him in with the gang and although Illyria had her uses, she was something we could’ve done without too.

The biggest problem I had with Season Five was the beyond idiotic decision of Joss Whedon’s to kill off 80% of his core characters. Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn and Fred were every bit as vital to the series’ success as Angel and I still can’t rack my brains around why Joss would do such a thing.

Season Six’s opening issue however does kick into the action rather speedily as we see a girl in a clearly near devastated LA trying to escape the clutches of a savage demon. In the first page Angel muses about some of his crappier decisions, the biggest one being insane enough to join Wolfram And Hart. Yeah, there’s nothing like losing your friends and hell on earth to come to that conclusion.

Fortunately Angel does what he does best and slays the demon determined to kill the unfortunate lady. Even better is that the dragon Angel wanted to slay is actually helping him and there’s nothing more impressive than seeing Angel’s new pal scorch an entire army of demons. Yeah, now that we’re in comic land we’re getting to see things that you would die to see onscreen.

Funnily enough Angel then shifts his attention on the girl and two of her mates doing a bit of looting and scolds them. One of the pals is quick to point out that they’re stealing for survival. LA really has become quite the hell dimension but Angel just gives the girl and her friends an address for a place for them to hide before taking off with the dragon.

The girl is quick to wonder why LA has become the way it has over the last couple of months and it’s not much of a surprise that Angel has heard this time and time again. He points out that he’s responsible for how badly things have shaped out. Wolfram And Hart weren’t best pleased with Angel’s attempts to take them down in “Not Fade Away” but even Angel couldn’t have foreseen the evil law firm seeing LA quite literally to hell.

Concept wise, this is pretty damn cool. Compare this to any classic apocalyptic going and that is the rumoured outline to what a televised sixth season of the series would’ve been like. Angel’s also quick to point out that it took the humans longer to figure out they were in deep shit while many of the demons took advantage of the misfortune and carved out their own territories.

Angel’s heroics at the start are then challenged by the revelation that not only is he still living in Wolfram And Hart but he’s set upon by the surviving demons’ leader and the leader’s father Burges.

Burges is established as the lord of downtown LA but it’s his bratty son who wants payback for the scorched army and smacks Angel around as a means of getting even. To say I didn’t want this demon killed there and then would be an understatement but mouthy demons are nothing compared to Wesley stepping out of a white room.

I know the last time we saw Wesley he was dead but here he seems to breathing and cool. He’s not exactly jumping up to save Angel’s life in the physical sense but he does get Burges’ annoying away from decimating Angel, so there’s points there. Wesley even makes a sarcastic crack about denying Angel his TV privileges to which neither Angel or Burges’ brat find particularly. Too bad because I could imagine Alexis Denisof delivering that line quite well onscreen.

Now before you ask, Wesley hasn’t been miraculously resurrected (which sucks because no matter how cheesy, I want Cordy, Gunn, Fred and Wesley back and breathing). Instead his ghost is legally bound to Wolfram And Hart and he’s now the liaison between them and Angel. Well anything is better than Eve or Hamilton I suppose.

Still while he’s forced to help out the evil law firm it doesn’t altogether mean that Wesley is evil as he does ask Angel what happened to the people Angel rescued. Please tell me there’s some nice plotting against Wolfram And Hart because I’m not too thrilled with the idea of Angel and Wesley being total pawns for them.

The people themselves have managed to get as far as Santa Monica in their quest for safety. Between some quips about Angel being hot but untrustworthy, the bigger issue is to whom Angel has sent these people to. I was kind of hoping that perhaps Gunn would factor here but it’s mainly a hotel full of a human/good demons and then there’s electro girl Gwen Raiden.

Last seen in Season Four, Gwen is the first familiar face to see if the distressed people are good guys but it’s werewolf Nina Ash’s tactic that’s more interesting. If you can’t get enough of the gay subtext between Faith and Gigi, then Nina coming up to a former lawyer and licking her face is quite erotic if creepy.

Interestingly enough both Gwen and Nina have a leader and it makes sense their commander happens to be Connor. He saw the carnage that LA was heading for and it makes sense that he would want to help. Also can I say that a Connor/Gwen/Nina team is a good idea? Angel needs as many decent allies as he can get and we need decent characters to.

Back in Wolfram and Hart, while Angel is getting healed up by a mystic spider of sorts, there’s a very interesting exchange between him and Wesley that not only could be a reflection on the bleaker elements of Season Five but also of what this season could have in store for us too.

Wesley challenges Angel about both of them being unable but also he expresses some disapproval of Angel’s decision to save civilians and put them under Connor’s care. He’s also quite negative about the idea of Angel still trying to defeat Wolfram And Hart. I don’t want to sound overtly romantic but I’d like to think there will be some form of a happy ending in this season.

I like that Angel is still determined to try and fix this mess. Regardless of what Wesley is saying (or perhaps being forced to say by the senior partners), there’s something that has to be undone about this mess. It’s also alarming that the ever useless Powers That Be aren’t making some effort to help Angel. They should be via the use of Cordelia/Fred.

Still there might be some flicker of hope for Angel as while Wesley is telling him to get some control, there’s an image of a sphere. It’s the same sphere that’s also stuck inside the skeletal demon KR’PH who has taken over a stadium and is forcing those he’s kidnapped into a battle of his own.

Surrounded by a hoard of scantily clad women, other demons and would be warriors, the thing that stands out the most is a telepathic fish in chains called the Splenden Beast. Then again anything is slightly better than the humans talking about their former occupation.

When I first heard that a telepathic fish was going to be a canonized character in the sixth season, I slightly groaned. I really shouldn’t have because the fish in question is actually quite cool. Visually he’s one of the best drawn things in the entire issue but also I liked his resentment in being forced to brain yell at the hapless humans to fight each other. Plus he gets a witty comment or two in his short sequence.

KR’PH might like to think he’s a big bad in the making but as the Splenden Beast points out, there’s some humans who are more angered rather than scared of him. KR’PH learns that the hard way when a gang lead by Gunn storm into the stadium and not only do they slaughter his arm but they kill him on the spot and steal the sphere. Surely Angel should be pleased about this development but then him and Gunn haven’t interacted in this issue.

Gunn’s a bit more flirtatious and cocky here than I remember him last but it’s not a bad thing. He’s got a neat little gang and he even frees the women. However the biggest shock of the entire issue is that Gunn also happens to now be a vampire and ends this issue by feasting on one of the women. It’s incredibly given what happened to his sister and how much he hates the blood suckers himself. Not altogether sure I like that particular development.

Angel on the other hand gets a little bit of a zest by killing that tedious brat of Burges but it also means he’s officially declaring war on the demon kind of LA while Wesley walks cryptically back into the white room. If Twilight is a foreboding sense of danger in Buffy, then this hell on earth and the further evil machinations of Wolfram And Hart could very well beat it. That being said I dig that Angel isn’t prepared to totally surrender even he has been massively losing this battle so far.

Also in “After The Fall Part 1”

There are five covers for this issue with two of them being the same. The one I bought was Angel in prayer mode.

Female Lawyer (to Angel): “One minute everything was fine and then … I didn’t deserve this! I’m a good person! I’m a lawyer.”

This issue opened with Angel saying the same thing he said in “City Of”. It started with a girl. Only this time, the girl has changed.

Angel (to himself): “Go against their rules, the punishment would be worse. Not sure how but they’re Wolfram and Hart. They not only know of places worse than hell, they have timeshares there.”

Burges: “So vampire how was work? Slaughter lots of big bad monsters?”
Angel: “It’s not work when you love what you do. Always a pleasure Burge.”

Wesley is dressed in the way we met him back in Buffy’s third season. Parts of that personality are also surfacing too.

Angel: “They were trying to kill people. Right under my nose. Can’t help but notice your grip is getting tighter.”
Wesley: “Now Angel I’m sure they weren’t trying to kill the humans. They were trying to enslave them.”

Angel: “I don’t even know why I carry one with me. Haven’t had to use one for months. Remember when vampires were our biggest problem?”
Wesley: “Only when you went bad.”

Someone online said the hotel where Connor, Gwen and Nina were staying was the Hyperion. Not entirely sure if that’s true but it would make sense.

Gwen (to civilians): “Chill out hotshot, just wanna see if you’re on the up and up.”

Nina: “No it’s the sun/moon situation. They’re both out at once. Do you have any idea what that does to a werewolf?”
Female Lawyer: “Makes you hungry?”
Nina: “No.”
Female Lawyer: “Makes you bi-curious?”

Angel mentioned a female’s death being the reason behind his decision to take on Wolfram and Hart. It has to be Cordelia and Fred. Because of W&H, at least one of them is dead.

Angel (re spider creature): “Do I feel it? This thing is alive?”
Wesley: “Something in this room should be. It’s not capable of emotion.”

Cop: “Warrior? I was a cop.”
Bouncer: “I was a bouncer. That’s kinda like a warrior, I guess.”

What exactly does that neat little orb do that both Angel and Gunn were in pursuit of it?

KR’PH: “A gaggle of mongrels die for every second you don’t brain yell.”
Betta George: “Man, does everyone hate you?”

Gang Member (re KR’PH): “You hear that Gunn? Man wants to help us get what we want.”
Gunn: “Oh, I know he can. He’s just not going to be the biggest fan of how.”

Because this is IDW comics, there’s a promo of their upcoming Doctor Who comics featuring The Doctor and Martha.

Gunn: “You may have been a team before I joined but I trained. Plus I co-ordinated the outfits.”
Gang Member: “You made us wear these.”

Angel (to himself): “I was told not to leave this building, not one step. I was also told that everything I was doing was wrong. A friend said it, face to transparent face. Thing is … everything’s different and I don’t know who told him to say it.”

No Spike, Illyria, or Lorne in this issue. None are referenced by either Angel, Wesley or Gunn.

Angel (to himself): “It all begins with a stake to the eye. Of course this might be exactly what Wolfram and Hart wants, that’s fine. Let them think they’re in charge. Wolfram and Hart have taken away everything I had. Everyone I cared for, everything I was. But that’s how I’m going to win. They think they’ve changed me.”

Chronology: A few months since “Not Fade Away”, possibly around the same time as Buffy’s “The Long Way Home”.

Well this surreal. In a lot of way the maxi-season (12 issues) of “After The Fall Part 1” captured a lot of interesting angles. The cruel fates handed to both Wesley and Gunn certainly up the ante and the lack of Spike and Illyria certainly helped proceedings. Looking forward to the next issue. The artwork however in some places is a little on the iffy side.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x08: "No Future For You Part 3"

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Genevieve (to Buffy): “Have you forgotten your manner, colonist? When in the presence of royalty, you belong on your knees.”

By any chance would Gigi have a bit of class discrimination issue with Buffy as well as that little desire of her to dethrone the girl and lead the slayers into her skewered version of glory? Only in the same way as the writers are currently striking in America of course.

Fresh from finding out that Buffy is on Gigi’s hit list, Faith then has to endure listening to the bitch showing her every bit of surveillance she’s acquitted of Buffy from the last couple of months and Faith then comes to the conclusion that perhaps killing Gigi is less to do about saving the world and more to do about saving Buffy’s ass instead.

Faith may not be able to mask her horror over the idea of her new pal revelling in the idea of murdering someone to gain leadership but Gigi is more than happy to point out that Buffy is a misguided leader worthy of being killed. Buffy has had her crappy moments when in came to leadership and newbie slayers in Season Seven but killing her might be a tad extreme.

Not that I’m convinced that Gigi will actually be successful in pulling off her overly ambitious mission. Buffy’s pretty seasoned as a slayer whereas Gig is still quite the newbie. Buffy might have her faults but so does Gigi, especially given the fact that Roden is pulling her strings a lot.

Getting back to the issue of Faith’s opening monologue – did Giles send her on this dangerous mission just to protect Buffy? If so, I can’t blame Faith for being a tad resentful for this. Not that saving Buffy’s life isn’t important or good but it sucks that Faith is still an outsider with the Scoobies and yet Giles will still given her a dangerous job, like that power unknown slayer who got slaughtered by Yamanh in “The Chain”. Compared to them, Buffy’s having a cushy time of it.

However when Giles is in the forest trying to communicate with Faith via the walkie-talkie, you do get the impression he does care. He got in a dwarf called Trafalgar in order to try and break whatever barrier Roden has installed over Gigi’s residence. I want Giles to care about Faith’s wellbeing. No-one in the newly formed Scooby gang should be a spare part, except maybe Andrew who I still loathe and all.

An interesting thing that’s mentioned by Trafalgar during the Faith search is that he thinks Faith might have switched allegiances. Maybe it’s not an irrational fear and Giles’ lack of a response could be telling because for all the good that Faith is attempting to do now, that dark side of hers still isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

She may not be convinced of Gigi’s master plan but she certainly enjoys the create comforts of her new pal’s life and sharing a bath with Gigi could be seen as a bit homoerotic. Some of the stuff Gigi tends to say in regards to Faith could be construed as going beyond sisterhood.

Gigi’s lived something of a sheltered life and when she and Faith agree on something as innocent as a coronation band, Gigi admits to seeing Faith as a kindred spirit. One thing that seems consistent with Faith is that when someone gives her a sincere compliment or displays any sign of genuine affection she has to downplay and telling Gigi she needs to get out is probably her most subtle method to date.

Listening to Gigi ramble on about home schooling and pervy tutors is hardly exciting but hearing her talk about how she met Roden and the fact that he knew of her slayer like nightmares only emphasises that she’s clearly being used by the Irishman and the fact that he’s telling her that Buffy’s death would solve some of her anxiety is also interesting. Roden seems powerful enough to snuff out Buffy himself. Why go to all the trouble in getting a newbie slayer to do the deed?

Faith fortunately still with her brain intact does her real attempt to get through to Gigi by challenging Roden’s intentions towards her but Gigi is clearly not as smart as she likes to think she is and downplays her concerns. The fact that she even asks why Roden would lie directly to her face shows that he might not have had to do much manipulating after all.

Faith uses her bad experiences with men and presumably her rough surrogate father routines with Mayor Wilkins and Giles (remember she’s still convinced this is all about Buffy) to further try and get through to Gigi but that girl is so damn stubborn Faith might as well be talking to a brick wall. Clearly Gigi is going to have to find out the hard way that she’s no more a means to an end. I actually pity her in some ways, even if she is a total bitch.

She’s also rather sly in telling Faith that she has no intention of actually travelling far to get to Buffy. This then cuts to Buffy commending Willow about the new security system which if I remember correctly, Willow nearly bit Renee’s head off for suggesting.

Still there’s a nice moment between Buffy and Willow where the former compliments her witchy pal on making the place just a tad safer than it was five minutes before. Any scene that has an underlying reminder of the closeness of certain Scooby members is going to be a winner for me. Plus we haven’t had much stuff between Buffy and Willow as well in this comic book season.

However friendship stuff aside, Buffy isn’t entirely convinced the place is and asks Willow about sonic sonar and the castle’s moat. Willow isn’t getting Buffy’s need for the concern despite the fact that Amy was able to kidnap her and Warren had some fun torturing her. Maybe Buffy has a point to go overkill on the security but Willow raises the question of who exactly is funding the Scoobies to which Buffy is a little reluctant to divulge.

I assume the newly reformed Watcher Council is the primary benefactor but why the others would want to remain anominous is up to them. However why Buffy isn’t keen to tell Willow is annoying. Buffy has to realise that she isn’t responsible for every demon that attacks, it’s nearly everyone’s burden now. Basically anything that Buffy doing that isolation slayer crap is going to annoy me.

Then there’s also the thorny issue of human villains. Oblivious to recent threats like Yamanh and Gigi, Buffy is more focused on figuring out what she has the right to do in regards to General Voll. The guy happily admitted to stopping at nothing in order to take her and the slayers down but Willow raises the issue of killing humans being bad.

Much as I love Willow, she certainly didn’t take that piece of advice into account when she flayed Warren. While Buffy might be jumping the gun with the “kill kill” stance, do you honestly see someone like General Voll actually backing down or listening to reason?

Still Buffy gets to be at justified in her argument for stronger security when she finds herself being teleported away from the castle. Poor Willow for thinking she might actually be responsible for Buffy’s sudden disappearance.

Of course Willow had nothing to do with it as Roden was the SOB responsible for Buffy out of thin air. He did mention a battle that Gigi had to take part in for the evening and Gigi did tell Faith about not having to travel in order to kill Buffy. It doesn’t take much to figure out that Buffy had better in her best fighting stance.

Buffy’s quick to make with the threats when she isn’t decorating Gigi’s floor with puke and Faith is pretty horrified when she realises what’s about to go down. Gigi’s quick to tell Faith to enjoy Buffy’s imminent death as she greets her nemesis with a swift kick to the jaw.

In case it hadn’t been pointed out before, I’ll make it clearer now – Buffy doesn’t know a sodding thing about Gigi’s campaign to kill her and she’s not impressed when she finds out that Gigi’s a slayer. Come on Buffy this isn’t a unique experience – slayers are every bit as capable as going bad as are vampires going good. The girl needs to get out her castle a bit more.

The witty banter between the girls however is great. Gigi’s every bit as smug in person to Buffy as she was beforehand and Buffy doesn’t exactly slack on her quips either. More importantly Gigi’s actually able to belt her around the place a few times but mentioning that she’s slaughtered slayers before really rubs Buffy up the wrong way.

Only a few pages ago Buffy was showing little reservation in killing humans if needs must but hearing Gigi brag about slayer killing does bring out that righteous indignation of hers. Even more so it reverses the tables between Buffy and Gigi in terms of battle.

Thanks to Roden about to pull one of his tricks, Faith decides to make an appearance by throwing herself and Buffy out of a window. Once again, Buffy didn’t see that coming and Gigi’s pretty shocked when she learns the real name of her friend. Better brace yourself rich girl when you find out your pal is a commoner too.

You think that after getting transported to a mansion by a warlock and almost killed by another slayer, Buffy would be grateful for anyone who would bother to help her. Sadly Buffy chooses to jump to conclusions and instead of a decent thank you or demanding an explanation, Buffy just attacks Faith.

Maybe it’s not smart on Faith’s part to tell Buffy within a reasonable listening between them and Gigi and Roden that she’s doing undercover work for Giles but Buffy just beating the shit out of her annoyed me greatly. I even cheered when Faith lost it and nearly drown her. If Buffy gets to behave unreasonably why shouldn’t Faith?

Luckily though, despite her demons, Faith is still able to get a grip and let go off Buffy before telling to go away. Why is it that it’s acceptable for Buffy to forgive Angel and Spike and yet, it’s almost inconceivable of her to do the same with Faith? If anyone can give me a reasonable answer without using the soul crap, I’d appreciate it. Faith helped every bit as much in “Chosen” as anyone else. Buffy should’ve cut her some slack.

One big problem however is Giles. Bad enough that he and Rona sent a random slayer to pose as Buffy and then get her killed by Yamanh but the suicide mission with Faith and Giles couldn’t be bothered to tell Buffy? How are the Scoobies going to make any real difference if they can’t even alert each other on various problems? Buffy’s got a right to be mad at Giles, as does Faith and the former expresses this when Willow teleports her back. Giles has got some major explaining to do.

As for Faith, well this puppy’s been kicked enough so it doesn’t help when a visibly upset Gigi gets a little axe crazy. Gigi feels betrayed by the only person she’s probably ever felt a real connection to and Faith is emotionally drained. This cannot end well.

Also in “No Future For You Part 3”

Cover for this issue was Faith drowning Buffy but I hated that white background. The other cover had photos of Buffy, Faith and Gigi.

Faith (to herself): “Giles sent me on this suicide mission cause he said it was about saving the world but really it was just about saving his girl.”

There’s a flashback to a Season One episode of Buffy staking a vampire on the first page for some strange reason.

Genevieve (to Faith): “Buffy has forced our kind to be the serfs of this world when we should have been lording it over the masses. Once she’s gone we can finally lead her brainwashed slayers out of the shadows of servitude and into the light of.”

Trafalgar (to Giles): “I don’t mean K.I.A., Rupert. This target of hers, the one that’s gonna bring the end of all things, she must be living the high life, no? What if your girl has gone native?”

Giles mentioned that Faith was born for this mission. Why is that exactly? Maybe Faith has another connection to Gigi beyond slayer hood.

Faith: “Split the difference maybe.”
Genevieve/Faith: “Stone Roses.”
Genevieve: “See I told you we were kindred spirits. I knew that from the first moment I looked into your eyes.”

Genevieve: “The trick is to make them feel like they’re exploiting them when in reality we’re exploiting them.”
Faith: “Unless that’s what they want us to think. Gigi, please. Don’t go after this girl.”

Gigi seems to be a fan of the Arctic Monkeys which are a band I can take or leave. Brian K Vaughan does like his British music references a lot.

Genevieve (to Faith): “I appreciate your concern for my well being love but what makes you think I’m going anywhere?”

Willow: “Not killing humans is what separates us from the bad guys.”
Buffy: “No, not being bad is what separates us from the bad guys.”

Who else is donating money to the slayer cause? Seriously I’m curious.

Buffy: “You better have a kick ass reason for bringing me here or I’m gonna do worse than honk all over your floor.”
Roden: “As a matter of fact the guidebook says you’re about to bleed all over it as well.”

Buffy: “For the people who invented girl power your sense of sorority sucks.”
Genevieve: “Brilliant.”

Gigi is left handed showing by her sword attack. Great, another left handed/evil stereotype (I’m left handed too).

Faith: “I’m on your team.”
Buffy: “You have a hilarious way of showing it.”

Faith (to herself, re Buffy): “Do it. Whenever she’s around, you’re the villain. But as soon as she’s gone you’re the hero. That’s right. Never forget how deep she cut you. Never forget how deep.”

I’m actually surprised the cover of this issue with Faith drowning actually happened in the story. Can that be a recurring trend from now on?

Faith: “Please shut up.”
Buffy: “Who are you talking to?”
Faith: “I wish you’d just go away.”

Willow: “What happened? Who did this?”
Buffy: “Get me Giles.”
The next issue is also out on December 5th. Also Buffy doesn’t react well to being teleporting whether it’s passing out in “Two To Go” or puking twice in this issue.

Faith (to herself): “All alone. Same as always. Whatever. Too tired to fight anymore. Too tired to -”
Genevieve (re Buffy): “You let her go, didn’t you? I thought you were my friend.”

No Xander, Dawn or Andrew in this issue. Also the lack of Amy/Warren discussion is a bit grating.

This was another easily engrossing issue. “No Future For You Part 3” did feel a bit faster than the previous issue but this entire arc is more along so much stronger that you don’t care. I can’t wait to see how this whole thing gets resolved. Don’t let me down, Brian.

Rating: 9 out of 10.