Monday, December 29, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x20: "After These Messages We'll Be Right Back"

Written by Jeph Loeb
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Joyce: “Buffy! Are you listening to me?”
Buffy: “Okay, now we’re just being cruel. Dream, dream, go away. Come again another … never.”

Following the end of the somewhat disappointing, “Time Of Your Life” four parter, the last release of 2008 certainly sees things go on an interesting note with Buffy continuing her demon slaying.

In fact for the first three pages she’s warning various nasties not to come near her and when they fail to listen she just kills them. Well, she was going to do that anyway but it’s a nice opening scene and it sets the mood for Buffy to then take a nice relaxing moment to sleep off her blues.

The only problem is that if you’re going to sleep in your smelly clothing, then it’s best to make sure that you’re sleeping in the right bed. Buffy learns pretty quickly from Xander that she’s planked her smelly self on his bed but instead of actually getting off the bed, she just drifts to dreamland.

This is also the place where the action of this issue takes place. In her dreams, Buffy is sleeping in her own bedroom back in Sunnydale and she’s a teenage girl. However what really ignites the alarm bells is the fact that she hears Joyce’s voice and thinks that fate is being cruel to her yet again.

Having recently lost my own mother, I get where Buffy is coming from with this one. The death of a parent is something that you can never get over and Buffy’s mixture of fear and joy upon hearing her mother’s voice is certainly potent, even if she knows that this is simply a dream she’s having.

It also doesn’t help Buffy that while Joyce is insistent on her getting ready for school, Dawn is also there being a general nuisance in the way that a young sibling can be. For anyone else, it’s just amazing to see a Dawn who isn’t a giant or a centaur at this point in time.

Buffy also manages to get her own back on Dawn by simply hugging her and naturally enough, Dawn thinks that her big sister is on drugs. Given that magic was used as a very bad analogy for drug use in the sixth season, Dawn should be lucky her sister isn’t hooked on such things.

More importantly we get a nice choice scene between Buffy and Joyce. Buffy almost lets slip that she’s a slayer but then realises that she’s in a time period when her mother knew about her erratic behaviour but not the cause of it. Of course, there’s also the excitement of a party to attend as well.

Being in Buffy’s dream world also means being back in High School and while I’m not overtly nostalgic, this does actually work very well to the comic’s strengths. For those of you who missed the unbridled mean spirited Cordelia, you’ll be delighted to catch up her with her.

Within seconds, she’s happily dithering on about her cool party and then she’s having more fun at Willow’s expense. Given that one of her first insults to Willow had been about the ‘softer side of Sears’, telling the red head that she should get a haircut so everyone can see just how hopeless she is completely in character for the woman.

Of course Buffy plays the good friend part by reassuring Willow and Xander nearly flattens the pair of them with his bad motoring skills on a skateboard. Xander falling flat on his ass is one thing but Snyder surfacing only moments after this just screams typical. The guy could sniff out disaster frequently and he’s not exactly shy in robbing Xander of his skateboard.

School stuff aside, we do get a trip to the graveyard and while Buffy, Xander and Willow are primarily in party mode and even the arrival of Giles isn’t going to put a dampener on such things. Of course, Buffy already knows that it’s around this time that slaying usually did tend to get in the way of having fun.

Monster wise, Giles certainly finds an interesting group of vampires called the Disciples Of Morgala. Personally, I thought they meant Morgana but its Morgala and these vampires are unique due to the fact that they’re worshipping something called Morgala but while Giles might be eager to outline the danger, the rest of the Scoobies are distracted.

A bunch of sixteen year old kids being distracted by the idea of a party isn’t something that should be a major shock to Giles but having Giles trying to be sarcastic about it certainly didn’t work in his favour though. That being said, it did manage to get Buffy’s attention long enough for him to continue discussing the dangers of the crazed disciples.

Given a two page spread, we get to see Buffy slaying the three Morgala worshipping vampires in such an impressive feat. Plus if the Strictly Come Dancing team need a new judge, then perhaps Xander should apply. His acerbic judging of Buffy’s slaying prowess boasts some of the best dialogue I’ve read in a comic.

Overall Buffy’s little victory makes her one hell of a content slayer and because of that, she’s back into party mode. It doesn’t take much of a genius to realise that what with everything that has happened this season, all Buffy wants to do is enjoy simpler times. It might not be a realistic option for her but she shouldn’t be begrudged for wanting to feel normal either.

It also leads to an argument scene between her and Giles in which for once, I can actually side with Buffy. Given that this time last year in “No Future For You Part 4”, it was Buffy who was behaving unreasonably, Giles is the one who does seem a little unreasonable by accusing her of not taking her slaying more seriously. That being said, maybe Buffy didn’t need to yell at him quite as fiercely as she did.

Still, prior to the party side of things, the comic does leave room for one more scene between Buffy and Joyce and it’s just as poignant as their first one. Maybe at this point in the story, Buffy’s craving for a simpler life are beginning to get too relentless but she’s still got my sympathies.

However if there was one meeting I’m sure many people were looking forward, then I bet it’s the one with her and Angel. Now I was never an obsessive Buffy/Angel shipper – I loved them as a couple but felt it made sense when they split and I became something of an Angel/Cordy shipper later on but seeing them together is nice.

Sexual tension in the air, Angel’s pretty quick to congratulate Buffy on her victory against the Morgala worshippers. Buffy on the other hand is a bit more snappish, more eager to get to her party rather than talk to Angel. Heck, she even tries to take his ego down a few notches when he notices that she’s wearing the necklace he got her all those years ago.

More importantly her encounter with Angel raises two interesting points. First off all, if you something about another person’s future, do you tell him? In Angel’s case, should be told that by sleeping with Buffy, he ends up losing his soul, murders Jenny Calendar and nearly destroys the world? I think in cases like this, you should tell.

Of course the other point is Buffy then realising there were five worshippers and not three. Her bad math means leaving the party she obsessed about going to in order to stop Morgala from being raised. Only problem is that she’s naturally too late and the creature reawakens.

I suppose Morgala could’ve been any kind of a demon but a dragon is pretty cool to me. It looks better than the ones we’ve gotten in the Angel comics and it certainly gives Buffy a decent enough shock when it takes her out for a flying lesson. First Willow, then Twilight and now this? Buffy really should try keeping her feet on the ground.

Still dragon slaying is always fun, especially if one of your shoes can somehow come into contact with Cordelia’s head and by getting rid of the diamond from its head, it’s not like Morgala the dragon actually got to cause any real terror. It also means that by defeating the dragon, Buffy snapped out of her nostalgia laced dream almost as quickly as she fell into it.

When she does wake up, her odour is still rip discussion (I’m sorry, I know it’s a terrible pun) by Xander and Dawn. However Buffy seriously comes across as a super hugger when Willow enters the room. I suppose this means that Buffy didn’t enlighten Willow that she killed her 200 years later.

More importantly Buffy did explain to her friends and Dawn that she enjoyed her little trip back to the old days and as reader, I have to admit that I did too. It’s not something that could’ve been done earlier in the season but it did work beautifully here though.

Also in “After These Messages We’ll Be Right Back”

The cover for this is utter genius with Buffy, Xander and Willow viewing an animated Buffy on a TV screen.

Buffy (to a variety of demons): “Can’t say I didn’t warn you! Can’t say I didn’t warn you! Can’t say I didn’t warn you! Can’t say I – oh, grr, I guess I can.”

The demons Buffy slayed in the beginning of the story were all in bad weather conditions. One of them was a vampire though.

Buffy: “Xander. Puh-lease. I’m all stinky. I’m still in my stinky clothes. In my stinky bed. So go away from my stinky bed and I can get some stinky sleep!”
Xander: “But … that’s just it, Buff. This isn’t your bed you’re making all stinky … it’s mine.”

Buffy: “And Dawny! You’re not a giant or a centaur or a monkey robot! You’re just little. Really, really … when were you ever this little?”
Dawn: “Mom! Buffy’s on drugs! I learned about them in school.”

The idea for this issue came from the aborted animated series. You can catch a three minute scene from that on YouTube.

Cordelia: “Just cutting it shorter or even giving it a perm. This way, we could see more of you.”
Willow: “And that would be a good thing?”
Cordelia: “No, but you’d get a clearer picture of exactly how hopeless you truly are.”

Snyder: “Xander Harris. That wouldn’t be a skateboard you’d be riding in my hallways, would it?”
Xander: “Technically speaking, Principal Snyder, “no”. I wasn’t riding the skateboard as much as it was riding me.”

There was an ad for The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray DVD release with this issue. I got it for Christmas but have yet to sit down and watch it again.

Giles (to Buffy/Xander/Willow): “Oh, oh, I can’t wait. It will be such fun. What do you suppose Harmony is going to wear?”

Xander: “This is Xander Harris at the Bufflympics and it’s a beautiful night for slaying. Buffy cart wheeled that last coffin and really did nicely on the dismount. Uh-oh, Vamp #2 is going for the chokehold and that’s going to cost him some points. Actually, that’s going to cost him some flesh. Two down and – the Armenian judges might take a point for that last move, but I’d give that gal a “10”.”

Throughout the story Buffy mentioned Ethan, Willow being gay and super powerful, Snyder getting eaten by a snake, becoming a general among many things.

Giles: “Now not to put a damper on this evening’s good tidings …”
Buffy/Xander/Willow: “Who … you?”

Joyce: “You’re going to graduate high school eventually. Go to college. Maybe meet some nice boy. You have your whole life ahead of you. But yes, you can always come home again.”
Buffy: “Right.”

This issue is also dedicated to Jeph Loeb’s son who passed away back in June 2005 and was a friend of Joss Whedon’s.

Buffy: “If you knew something about someone’s past … and … future … would you tell them?”
Angel: “Probably not. You can’t change a person’s past. And just by telling them, you’ll change their future into who knows what.”

Buffy (to herself): “Oh I love that song. I could even dance to that song. Three. Five. What’s the diff? Maybe Angel can’t count. Maybe …”.

We see that Buffy and the gang have moved into a manor. I assume they’re still in Scotland though.

Buffy (while on top of a dragon): “Oh, come on. Is this the best you can do? I’ve been on better rides at Disneyland and I’m talking teacups!”

Buffy: “Xander, look at you! You’re all patchy-eyed!”
Xander: “Yes, I know. Girls find it dashing.”
Buffy: “What girls?”
Xander: “Can you get out of my bed now?”

Continuity wise, in Buffy’s dream, this must have taken place after “The Puppet Show” given that we have Snyder.

Buffy (to Xander/Willow/Dawn): “All I kept thinking was how nice things were back then … when it wasn’t so complicated … and yet, it was just the same as now, only different. I guess it really doesn’t matter … whatever it was, it’s over now and we’ve got a world to save.”

The next issue, “Harmonic Divergence”, the start of a five part arc is released on January 7th. I’m pretty sure Harmony was with Cordelia during Buffy’s dream.

While a lot of reviews online have been somewhat negative, I’m going to go against the grain by saying I utterly enjoyed “After These Messages We’ll Be Right Back”. Maybe we didn’t a trip to high school Buffy but it certainly didn’t deter my enjoyment for the issue and given the suckiness of the Angel comics, I actually was glad with the Angel/Cordy representation we got here.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Lost – Season 4 Review

US Airdate: January 31st-May 21st 2008

In the fourth season of the hit series, the islanders are getting closer to home but with new enemies and more divides, things aren’t as straightforward as they were hoping for them to be.

Remix – You’ve really got to hand it to this show. After eighteen months of listening to viewers endlessly complain (I’m not excluding myself from that generalisation) about the lack of answers and the dangers of things becoming too formulaic, the fourth season actually decides to remedy these problems more head.

To be fair the third season was doing a pretty good job in giving us some answers about the series but this season went a little further by proving that some of our heroes aren’t going to be rotting on the island for the rest of their lives.

The introduction of flash forwards meant a revamp for the series and Hurley is the second person to experience them in the opening episode, “The Beginning Of The End”. Given his previous mental problems, perhaps it’s not too much of a shock to the system that back in the real he would be one of the Oceanic Six to really crack under pressure.

The Hurley we meet in the future is one desperately trying to get himself sectioned and even having moments when he’s talking to Charlie when he’s not having a hostile confrontation with Jack or talking to the mysterious Abbadon bloke.

On the actual island itself, we’re still dealing with the consequences of Charlie’s death, Locke murdering Naomi in cold blood and the arrival of the freighter crew. While many people wouldn’t want to believe a word that comes out of Ben’s mouth, his warnings about the freighter people isn’t without justification. Upon meeting Daniel, you just know that something isn’t right with these people.

Daniel doesn’t exactly come alone as “Confirmed Dead” introduces his team-mates, Charlotte, ghost whisperer Miles and Frank, all of whom in flashbacks are selected by Abbadon and Naomi and once they meet up with our divided gang, there’s more hostility. Charlotte finds herself nearly killed by Ben on Team Locke, while with Team Jack, Juliet is nearly placed in danger when Frank realises that she’s one of the Others.

For a while in the season there does seem to be that divide with the newcomers and “The Economist” might see Charlotte being traded for Miles but it also shows us a bleaker version of Sayid as his future self becomes under the employ of Ben of all people. Trust Ben to find an opportunity with a broken man. “Eggtown” is a little better, mainly because we finally see Kate exonerated for all of her crimes and also because it eliminates the pregnancy by revealing that her future kid is in fact, Aaron (which obviously can’t mean anything good for Claire, right?).

The best episode of this season however belongs to Desmond with the mind bending, “The Constant”. It’s in this episode that sees both Sayid and Desmond investigate the goings on of the freighter but it’s also the genius use of flashbacks and flash forwards as well as the further strands in Desmond and Penny’s love story that keeps this episode at such a riveting level. The same can’t be said about “The Other Woman”, a flashback episode focusing on Juliet but it’s nice that we got some confirmations here. Ben’s unhealthy obsession with her was keenly addressed as are her feelings towards Jack – the two of them even get to share a kiss while Charlotte and Daniel even stop the island from destructing at one point.

Along with Sayid, Jack, Kate, Aaron and Hurley, Sun is then revealed as the last of the Oceanic Six in “Ji Yeon”. As a fan of the character, the episode certainly doesn’t disappoint, what with her and Jin having it out over her former affair and of course, in the real world, Sun giving birth to a daughter and her and Hurley possibly attending Jin’s funeral. In other words, both Jin and Claire don’t seem to have rosy futures ahead of them.

Speaking of unpleasant, the return of Michael in “Meet Kevin Johnson” really should have more of an impact but it feels like the character is wasted. Basically he’s on the freighter to sabotage things for Ben and via flashback, he seems to have suffered for killing Ana-Lucia and Libby (the latter appearing briefly in the episode) but overall it’s the arrival of the murderous Keamy on the island that has the most problems. In the space of two minutes both Karl and Danielle are killed and by the time “The Shape Of Things To Come” airs, Alex also kicks the bucket at Keamy’s hands. If ever there was a time in which some sympathy could be conveyed for Ben, I guess it’s now. Still he does vow to get Widmore back by putting a bounty on Penny and you just know that Keamy is a dead man walking anyway.

Flash forwards might have shown that Ben lives to manipulate another day but they haven’t done wonders for Jack. “Something Nice Back Home” briefly teases the idea of happiness between him, Kate and Aaron because his deep seated obsession to go back to the island tears them apart yet again, while “Cabin Fever” delves more into Locke’s specialness, gives a return from Richard and has a gloriously creepy moment with Claire and Christian.

The three part finale, “There’s No Place Like Home” is certainly the series at its best. Seeing the lies the Oceanic Six have to come up with in order to survive being back in the real world certainly doesn’t put them in an enviable position nor can the moving of the island indicate anything really good. There are some moments of satisfaction, namely in Keamy’s death and the reveal of Locke being the man in the coffin that Jack saw back in the third season finale. Overall though, this is one season that despite its reduction in episodes delivered the goods in a big way. Looking forward to see how the fifth season keeps the balance between island and real world stuff.

EXTRAS: There must be something weird in the water because we’ve actually gotten some better commentaries compared to previous releases and on important episodes too. Evangeline Lilly and Jorge Garcia are on fine form on their chat track for “The Beginning Of The End” while Mark Goldman, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse aren’t too annoying with “The Constant”. Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim and director Stephen Semel provide one for “Ji Yeon” and Lindelof and Cuse are back again for “There’s No Place Like Home Part 2,” though why commentaries for parts one and three couldn’t have done is a wonder. The fifth and sixth discs are littered with extras ranging from the usual array of deleted scenes and bloopers and behind the scenes filming on key episodes. There’s a wonderful set of other features however – “The Right To Bear Arms” delves into the show’s various use of guns while “The Freighter Folk” pretty much does what it says on the tin. “The Oceanic Six: A Conspiracy Of Lies”, “Soundtrack For Survival”, “The Island Backlot” and “Offshore Shoot” all add to the fun here.


4x01: The Beginning Of The End = 9/10, 4x02: Confirmed Dead = 8/10,
4x03: The Economist = 6/10, 4x04: Eggtown = 8/10,
4x05: The Constant = 10/10, 4x06: The Other Woman = 8/10,
4x07: Ji Yeon =9/10, 4x08: Meet Kevin Johnson = 8/10,
4x09: The Shape Of Things To Come = 9/10,
4x10: Something Nice Back Home = 8/10,
4x11: Cabin Fever = 9/10, 4x12: There’s No Place Like Home Part 1 = 9/10,
4x13: There’s No Place Like Home Part 2 = 10/10,
4x14: There’s No Place Like Home Part 3 = 10/10.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x15: "After The Fall Part 15"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Franco Urru

Betta George (to Gunn): “You forced communications with Illyria! Well, I got her talking and she doesn’t wanna stop! She wants – it gone. She wants it all gone.”

I never thought I would say this but for once I can actually relate to something that Illyria wants. Given that by early next year, we’ll be moving into an “Aftermath” of this crap, I would really like to forget all of this ever.

Since reading the latest issues of Angel, I’ve actually felt like I should be on Grumpy Old Men because despite this issue being eventful, I’d still rather focus on the negatives of it. I know that’s probably not going to make me popular with certain readers but if it helps; I’m usually a lot more positive in real life.

Picking up from the last issue, Illyria’s morphed into her true form and let’s face it, she looks hideous. On the plus side, she’s as desperate to get out of hell as the rest of us and at least takes matters into her own array of tentacles. By that, I mean she’s destroying everything in sight.

Angel broods about this and for the last few issues, his brooding has become somewhat repetitive but at least I can still sympathise with him. Yes, Wolfram And Hart have screwed him over but if doing nothing is as damaging as trying to do something, then what the hell is the point of this whole arc anyway?

Someone more sympathetic than Angel is Betta George, who now has to endure Illyria’s thoughts as well as her insane ranting. Gunn’s little to no use either as he just moans about what Illyria’s screeching. It seems that Illyria is going for the slowly in her bid to decimate everything.

Groo on the other hand leads a series of deaths that befall this issue. Given that Cordy, Wesley and Fred are dead forever and that Spike and Angel died, only to be brought back, I do wonder if Groo’s fate is just as severe as this issue would like readers to think it is.

With Spike’s harem and Groo all failing to best Illyria, the debate of whether or not there’s some Fred left in her is resolved – there ain’t and that to me only fuels my desire for this character to be done with, once and for all. Wesley however seems a tad sympathetic to Illyria’s desperation for wanting to have a bit of Fred inside her.

Its part of this desperation that has Wesley deducing that Illyria is acting out in a destructive manner because she thinks it’s what Fred would do under the circumstances. Shouldn’t this only go to prove that Illyria doesn’t actually know Fred as well as she thought she did? Fred would never advocate this level of destruction, that’s for sure.

Still at least Angel’s wise enough to make with a plan to destroy Illyria, even if it is the simple approach of beating her to death. Getting past Gunn’s irritating groupies however is a bit of an imposition until those captive slayers are actually put into good use by making dust of Gunn’s lackeys.

It also gives Angel the much needed chance to take care of Illyria once and for all and there’s a brief time slip where it looks Angelus is enjoying the slaughter of dozens of dead folk, only for Angel to realise his dark future is his own doing. With more allusions that Illyria’s doing good than bad, Angel still prepares to take her down.

At least he’s got Spike, Connor and Nina in his fighting corner and there’s even a delightful moment from Spike where he lays into Wesley’s need to whine about Fred’s death. I have to admit that Spike’s inappropriate humour in all this angst is exactly what is needed of this series right now.

That and Angel’s continued devotion to protect Connor, which means a scene where he tells his son that he needs to last as long as he can. Unfortunately Connor doesn’t even get that far when an irritated Gunn decides to stab him with Groo’s fire sword. If I hadn’t come to loathe Gunn as a vampire before, I certainly have now.

Even more annoying is that Angel doesn’t dust him there on the spot. Given that Gunn has caused things to get worse, I wouldn’t have thought any less of Angel for ending his existence there but the problem is the writer think that by not killing Gunn, we’re still seeing Angel’s compassionate side.

The death of Connor feels like a last straw and like Illyria, there’s no vestige of Gunn’s humanity left. He might be deluded enough into thinking that his actions are heroic but there has been no evidence to back that up I’m afraid.

All I hope that within the next two issues that the writers just kill of Gunn but it won’t be by Angel’s hand because he thinks it’s exactly what Wolfram And Hart want. If that’s the case, then maybe for once Angel should give the evil law firm what they want because it’s not like refusing them has done him any favours so far.

Angel leaves off killing Gunn to sort out Illyria and it’s no surprise that once again, Betta George pops up to be useless. Needless to say that Spike’s history with the fish is also briefly alluded to. However Angel’s idea of Betta using Fred’s other memories from Wesley and Spike is clever, I’ll give him that.

Fusing Illyria with more of Fred’s memories has the desired effect. She’s unable to take it all, making herself vulnerable. More importantly, it’s enough for Wolfram And Hart’s dragons to go in there and finish her off. Well while her death isn’t as blatantly obvious as either Groo or Connor’s, I really do hope she’s finally gone.

As for Connor, the poor lad might be dead but he held on long enough to leave his father a little parting gift. Okay so its just him telling Angel to defeat Wolfram And Hart but it’s a poignant scene and it sucks that we’re getting another death with this series already.

Also in “After The Fall Part 15”

The cover I got was with Angel, Spike, Wesley and Connor amidst more destruction in hell.

Angel (to himself): “And just when I think they’ve sunk as low as they can go, they turn one friend into a vampire bent on killing me and saving the world and push another into killing the world altogether. It all ends with a girl.”

Funny that Angel should say the last thing as his mission originally started because of a girl.

Groo: “Oh this looks insurmountable. This death is hardly glorious.”

Angel (re Illyria): “Okay, best way to stop a ten story Godlike monster from destroying existence? I’m gonna go with hitting, you have anything?”
Wesley: “You took mine.”

Buffy was briefly reference when Angel talked about the slayers being trained well in battle.

Angel: “Are you okay?”
Connor: “I’m good.”
Angel: “You’re bleeding.”
Connor: “Everyone’s bleeding. What’s the plan?”

Wesley: “It’s hard, I know-”
Spike: “I didn’t say it was hard. I’m dealing with it. We’re all clear that’s not Fred, Fred’s not homicidal, Fred’s shorter. Bloody hell, do you have to whine about everything to be part of this club? Let’s make with the brawling.”

Angel found out in this issue that Cordy the dragon was killed. We still don’t know if Gwen’s definitely dead either.

Angel: “We don’t have time for this. You fancy yourself a hero, you say you haven’t changed, you help us. And then, if the smoke clears, you can still air your grievances with knives, swords, lasers, your pick. But not now, Gunn. Not now.”
Gunn: “No Angel. Now would be good. You don’t tell me how it’s going to go! You’re weak! You’re nothing! And that’s for the window, kiddo.”

Angel (re Gunn): “You heard him. Do it. Not because it will save the day. Not because it’s right. Do it because he just mortally wounded your son. So help me … I could become what they need. It’s in me. Kill Gunn, kill Illyria.”

There are some ads in this issue for the comic version of the episode “Smile Time”. I think I’ll just stick to the Season Five DVD thanks.

Connor: “No matter what happens, Angel, don’t let them win. You’re a good man. Vampire or not, you’re a good man.”

The next issue should be out the second week of January 2009.

Yet another mind numbing frustration of an issue, I’m not sure I want to continue with this comic series. “After The Fall Part 15” may have been eventful but I’ve got so jaded when reading it that Connor aside, none of the deaths actually elicited a real impact for me.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x14: "After The Fall Part 14"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Stephen Mooney

Spike: “I’ve bounced back from worse. Did I ever tell you about the time I was burnt to a crisp saving Sunnydale?”
Connor: “Very often. But he’s not … he’s not going to bounce back like before, Spike. Angel’s human, Gunn’s a vamp.”

After something of a lengthy disappearance, the opening page of this comic sees that Groo hasn’t perished in the midst of all the hell that has been unleashed. I’m sure there are many readers who are either very relieved or less enthused with such an outcome.

Of course Groo is also in the midst of an air fight with one of the many dragons that have appeared out of nowhere but thanks to his own little weaponry, he’s in no immediate danger. Unfortunately he does remind us of Spike’s little harem and let’s be honest, we could do without seeing these particular groupies for the time being.

Elsewhere while Angel’s monologue dithers on about the powerfulness of Wolfram And Hart (tell me something I don’t know), some of the fighters down below are curious as to how they can’t enter Gunn’s apartment block. Would the fact that it has magic all over it be a possible clue?

Inside the building itself, Angel’s still broken and Connor and Wesley are determined to get him out of the building. Spike makes the usual bout of insensitive comments while dredging up the fact that he burnt for Sunnydale before Connor’s forced into admitting that Angel’s human.

While Spike’s reaction to such information is hardly the most mature, it’s a lot better than I was expecting of him. Angel on the other hand just detects that Spike is nervous upon hearing such news. Seeing Spike in a somewhat flustered mode is amusing, even if the Shanshu prophecy is still heavily on his mind.

More interesting than Spike’s nervousness, is his condemnation of spoilers. Wesley’s prepared to fill him in on some recent developments but Spike seems to be no mood to hear it. Given that this hellish place is living up to it’s namesake, I wouldn’t be so hasty to dismiss any advanced information if I were Spike. I’m just saying.

Gunn on the other hand is semi-apologetic mode. Personally I’d care more if the person he murdered was Fred but seeing as its Illyria, I’m less enthused. Obviously I want to know why Gunn decided to kill the destructive Hell God but listening to Gunn make with apologies isn’t interesting.

Fortunately he gets over that stage quickly enough and demands that Illyria should use her true form and stop using Fred’s visage. This I can empathise with but Gunn is seriously deluding himself if he thinks that he’s still the same guy he used to be. The Gunn we know certainly wouldn’t have pulled off all this crazy shit that’s gone on in the last few issues.

Cruel jokes about Angel losing another girlfriend aside, Gunn is determined for Illyria to take her own form. There’s another time jump where Gunn talks about having a breath but it doesn’t add much except that he obviously wants to become human again. I also want this plot to make sense.

Some dragon attacks later and Gunn is dragging Illyria’s body to Wolfram And Hart. I’m not exactly sure how Illyria is supposed to get the gang out of hell but once again, Gunn seems ridiculously convinced that she will. Never mind the fact that Gunn has been pretty much wrong about everything else so far in his insipid scheme then.

Below the apartment blocks, you’ve still got Angel, Wesley, Spike and Connor on a mission of their own. Spike’s convinced Angel can be saved. It seems that Gunn is using the time slips for training purposes on the captive slayers, which also explains why Spike survived the last issue as well.

When Wesley asks why Spike seems to remember about the time slips, the special comment is just him being egotistical but the fact that Spike might have ruined the seal does seem more likely. His joy for thinking he might have a spare cigarette stops him being insulted by Wesley’s neat deduction.

The bad thing is that the seal only fixes things within a five minute period and Angel’s been broken for a lot longer than that. Connor’s naturally pissed off that his opportunity to save his father is down the tubes. He’s also less thrilled when Spike suggests siring Angel again.

Connor’s against the idea of brining back Angelus and honestly, who can blame him? Then again, it is an option that they might have no choice in, even if it is giving Wolfram And Hart what they want. However the one thing I wasn’t banking on was a horde of demons coming in and snatching Angel from everyone.

The demons are revealed to be conduits for the senior partners and they seem determined to raise him from the dead. After all, a dead Angel is useless to them and Connor and Spike aren’t able to put up much of a fight anyway. We should happy that Angel is being raised from the dead but I’m too annoyed and confused with this arc to be so.

Even Gunn’s reasons for wanting to use Illyria are annoying as is his need for George the fish to help with the ritual. However the conduits interrupt the proceedings by tossing Illyria out of the sacrificial spot and adding Angel instead into the mix. The saddest part is having the confirmation that there is no part of Fred left in Illyria.

While Angel might be raised from the dead, Illyria’s decided that she’s had enough and morphs into that lovecraftian formation of hers and decides to end all of reality, something that only Gunn seems to view as a good thing while everyone else looks appropriately worried.

Yeah, I remember Davros failing to do a similar thing in the Doctor Who episode “Journey’s End” but at least I was gripped by that. Here, I just want to see Illyria destroyed, everyone out of hell and for this plot to make some actual sense because right now, I’m really getting fed up with this arc.

Also in “After The Fall Part 14”

The cover I got were various guises of Angel that we’ve seen through the past 14 issues.

Wesley: “It’s not Shanshu but, um. We’ve been told how that will go.”
Spike: “Don’t tell me, I hate hearing the end of a book before I get there.”

The other girlfriend that Gunn alluded to was the death of the Cordy dragon. We don’t know if Gwen’s definitely dead though.

Illyria: “I enjoyed sparring with that dragon. It came close to being an equal.”
Gunn: “There it is! Now that is un-Fred. Go with it. Channel your inner monster. Trust me, it’s not that hard. Sooner rather than later because as much as I’d like my friend back – I need Illyria.”

Spike: “Quite frankly, I think it’s because I’m special. The thrice-saviour.”
Wesley: “Could be you created a hiccup when you broke the door. Ruined the seal, that sort of thing.”
Spike: “Exactly. Takes someone special to kick a door down. If not, every sod would be doing it. No need for knobs.”

The other cover for this issue has Angel trapped with the Lovecraftian Illyria.

Spike: “Kid, I’ve fought alongside Angelus. Not a bad place to be as long as you watch your back. Nothing’s going to happen to you, I’ll make sure of that and then Wesley can figure out how-”
Connor (re Angel): “He’s rather die. He turns into Angelus, that’s how they win. That’s how he brings about, the, um-”
Wesley: “The fall of all that is good. Only it’s not Angelus. He’ll have a soul. It’s Angel’s hands that are bloodied.”

Vampire: “Do I have to come in here with him or I can just toss ‘em? The room creeps me out-”
Gunn: “You’re making the moment of truth all kinds of annoying. Get the damn fish.”

I think I briefly saw Nina in this comic, which means that Lorne is the only other regular who needs to resurface soon.

Illyria (to Wesley, re Fred): “Her memories haunt me. I see what she is to you and I want it. But she’s not part of me. No matter what time I bring us to, no matter the reality I mould, she’s not coming back and worse, you aren’t coming back. I’m the most powerful being in hell and I can’t have what I want. I can’t even have what Fred wants. There is no order here.”

Betta George (re Illyria): “You’re not getting it. She’s going to end it all. Underline, bold-face. She’s collapsing time. She’s had it with existence.”
Gunn: “That’ll work.”

The next issue is out on December 31st, two weeks after Issue 20 of Buffy.
At this point in the comics, the tedium is setting in and I’m not loving where this arc is going. I like dark material as much as the next person but this is too nihilistic and worse still, doesn’t seem to be making any sense or progression at all. Please sort this out because this is one seriously bored reader.

Rating: 5 out of 10.