Giles and Edna
Are incredibly funny and yet touching as a team. I liked a few scenes in this series now and then, even a few individual issues - but this is the first issue of any BtVS/AtS comic that made me completely accept this story as part of Buffyverse canon since middle of S8. And that's mostly because of that little sequence between Giles and Edna in the old London Disco. Not only their dialog is funny and in-character -( if a bit sentimental )- it also gives me thrills to see my second favorite character in the series (and if you did not guess it already that would be Giles) at his most vulnerable and yet incredibly appealing. And the art here... I was not the biggest fan of Rebekah Isaacs - until this very issue. The look that young Rupert gives Edna in the second panel before last - when he is showing his Eyghon tattoo is just heart-breaking, and the look that she gives him back in the last panel is simply too much for me not to cry like a baby. Not to mention that the mere fact that gran Edna knew about Nikki Wood, and was keeping tabs on her is a wonderful new piece of canon. And the implied fact that Edna was the one to convince Giles finish his Watcher's training, and likely the one who was teaching him through his final years in the academy after his return ( as implied by Angel's mumblings in the end) - is another piece of the verse-lore that I was extremely happy to learn. Heck, if DH ever decided to do Edna-Rupert (mini)series I - I would be game. These two are awesome together in a way that the early seasons Scoobies were.
Angel vs Spike and the Slayerettes
Duh, but their dynamic in the issue beats even Giles-Edna, if only because Angel learns that Buffy 'gave Spike a brush-off'. And I loved the way Rebekah draws Spike - this is perhaps her first character likeness that I can accept without arguing at first try. True, her Angel finally grew on me - especially in the last two arcs, but she got Spike right instantly. The shifty-eyes look under the cloud of cigarette smoke in the last panel of page six is not just priceless - it speaks and tells you all you need to know about how Spike feels about giving that 'restless spirit' line, and why he instantly switches to snark and denial next - once Angel guesses the truth. Not to mention that the terrified face of Alasdair Coames watching Spike use one of his priceless artifacts - something that looks almost like a prop for the cup of Holy Grail - as an ashtray. See - the comics really can be 'that good'. So, Spike is pissed over losing the ship , by way of his own ineptitude and being too easily swayed by anything wearing a tight leather gambeson over a curvy body. And he is even more displeased when forced to admit that, and let it slip that he and Buffy have not been in the same( geographical) space for a while. Add Spike's instant deluge of counter-attacks ('she can at least stand the sight of me!' - yes Spike we all remember how Buffy reacted at the mention of the Angel island, and how you reacted in turn ) and outright fibs ('I am not you - I am not mooning about outside her window' - yes, Spike, we all know you don't moon ) Throw Faith into the mix with her 'cue the slap fight' line (thank you Christos) and you got a recipe for one of the most delicious scenes of S9. ( I think misdirection to the none-relationship with Dowling is Spike's way of wiggling out of the unpleasant topic of conversation, but that might be my fanwank.)
So we proceed to the yell out over the 'resurrection of the dead librarian' - seems that Spike's main concern with resurrection here is the same as that of many of his fans: he does not like it because he is afraid that Buffy might forgive Angel if he succeeds. Very pragmatic of him. In his turn, Angel sees resurrecting Giles as taking responsibility for his mistakes. I am not sure I agree with him - even assuming that he does not plan to off himself in the process, which I still strongly suspect he does - especially after this issue's finale. And luckily-unluckily the mention of Buffy's phantom pregnancy and robo-body never came out. No page-space, I guess, for the exposition - but at least we can assume Faith would know all these facts in the next issue, and Angel might learn them from her.
Did I mention I finally warmed up to Faith ? All it took is 3/4 of the series and her having a headache over Spike and Angel 's Betty vs Veronica condition. Nadira - not so much. And it is not just because she clearly picks Spike as her favorite vampire-with-a-soul - although that looked more vindictive than logical. Her overall attitude to everybody in this issue is just pretty unpleasant, and besides, she has no sense of humor.
Speaking of Faith, I am not sure what awkward sexual encounters she is so much against reminiscing about, but there was most certainly something awkward between her and Spike with his half a smile and a raised finger, and her open palm-up, and I don't even ship them myself, although I know some folks who do. Seriously, Spike and Faith have more sexual tension between them on the few pages they are together, than anybody else in this book ever had. (Well, aside from Giles' aunts and anything that moves.) And they both favor black nail polish. (Which is also one of the few odd preferences of young Rupert Giles.)
Eyghon 's demise
With this issue, I feel like going over the comic in the right order instead of reviewing just the character interactions so here we go. I do realize that Eyghon breakage into Alasdair's house is a plot device, used to avoid the extra pages of searching for him, yet the justification of Eyghon having a peek into Faith's head worked for me. Messy fight ensues - but it is nice to see Angel firmly remembering everybody to stick with the plan they all devised and to remember their respective roles with restraints, etc. In this book Angel is consistently a team player and an impressive battlefield commander. ( I refer you to his demeanor in Quar' Toth major battle as well.) But that's not surprising, considering Christos Gage's been a writer for GI Joe's series. ...And Spike is consistently 'not' a team player and without fail stubborn in not having a high opinion of anybody who is not himself - and that anybody includes Giles, alive or undead. There were not much love lost between the two, so Spike's disparaging remarks towards Giles are in character. And yet he sticks around to help Angel and the crew of baby Slayers, which shows that Spike's personal agenda is a salad bowl of mixed loyalties and acquired obligations, which is right and proper for his character's protean nature. I suppose the allure of the fight itself is a big bonus for Spike, hence the 'there would be blood ' remark and the mighty swinging of the Vorpal blade.
Bonus points to Gage for the logistics of the fight - and for the Faith's parts. She is solid good at what she is doing when she has a plan and sticks to it, and so they manage to restrain the possessed girls and zombie Giles without extra damage to their bodies. Extra bonus points for the sequence of attacks featuring both souled vampires and their respective fighting styles. Lovely character consistency here. Of course Spike's moves are flashier than Angel's, and his 'I am the main event!' line is as close and personal as ever. Which makes his subsequent possession by Eyghon double amusing - and as a cherry on top gives the audience yet another 'Spike and Faith' and their awkward sexual tension moment later on.
The father (figure), the son (prodigal and remorseful), and the un-holy Spirit.
I am talking about the revelation of Angel now having three separate entities in his well-honed body, (yes, his abs on some of these panels are to die for - and Rebekah is absolved for her earlier less impressive explorations ).
I saw some of the fandom debates regarding the Angelus and his unique situation of being a separate entity within Angel - whereas with other souled vampires it is not so. Gage's explanation was that Angelus is truly an amalgamation of Liam's worst original characteristics and the vampire possessing demon , whereas Angel is all of Liam: his bad and his good traits (including the photographic memory, the fantastic artistic talent, and the penchant for reckless behavior) plus his 240-some years of experience and knowledge, and the mountain of guilt. Myself - I don't see why accepting that a person with a soul and therefore in possession of morality is a different entity from the person without a soul - and subsequently 'without' morality is such a conundrum.
Surely, Darla with her human soul and Darla turned back into a vampire are two different people - if only because the latter one could and should be staked without remorse, while the former one is to be cared for and helped ? Perhaps the vampire Darla has all the memories of the human Darla - or perhaps she does not , because she does not even recall her name. Yet, the vampire Darla carrying a human child - and thus sharing a soul is capable of sacrifice and understanding of 'why' soul matters, and is afraid of losing the soul again, and of stopping to care and forgetting her love for her child to the extent of committing suicide - to let her child live. The soulless Darla kicks souled Angel out of her company and rages and raves over his 'disgusting' soul, feeling not just mortally offended but truly threatened by his soul. Are they the same personality? Certainly not.
Also, I feel that our waiting for the Giles' soul fragment to manifest themselves in Angel have been fully justified in this issue. The whole sequence of Giles' manifestation within Angel fighting and defeating Eyghon was magnificent - and rewarding. Although I don't fully buy it that the entity that defeated Eyghon was 'entirely' Giles. Firstly, because the greatest, the most important part of Giles soul, the one carrying his most important memories was still not there - it was possessed and bound by Eyghon. Secondly, because Giles fighting skills suck big time, as was openly teased by Spike earlier in the fight. Thus the entity that defeated Eyghon was not fully Giles . It was Angel - strongly influenced by Giles' embedded partial personality - but still Angel - knowing how to properly hold a sword and how to decapitate a demon.
And decapitated Eyghon he did - while Spike and Faith were otherwise amusingly occupied. Yes, that 'other' sexually awkward moment included Faith kicking Spike in the balls (Buffy vs Angelus style) and knocking him out cold, then having him fall on top of her when un-possessed by freshly-killed Eyghon. And it was properly sexually awkward , and properly funny, and strangely enough - adorable in a bizarre way, even though Spike unwittingly 'borrowed' Angel's line from the finale of the last season ('have we won?'). As I noticed once: Spike's story has a tendency to replay Angel's tragedies on a vaudeville level. I am not shipping Spike with anybody yet - but I am going to keep an eye on him and Faith in the next issue for sure.
The panel with Angel being hit by all of the remaining Giles' memories gets my' the best panel of this book so far' vote - although I confess to being highly prejudiced. But yes - that's where my 'the comics can and should be that good' emotion comes from. I am not even sure what I like the best about this panel - but I suppose it is Angel's face in half-profile at the center drawn by Rebekah that gave me chills. So, the most important new memories that Angel got in him are that of Gile's loss of Jenny and his desperate attack on Angelus, Giles' memories of being a Watcher to both Buffy and Faith, Giles' memories of Willow going Dark - and him helping her, and finally - the moment of Giles death at Angel as Twilight hand. A chilling collection, (yes Joss, we all know you are a sadist at heart.)
I found the justification for Nadira's most recent rage almost completely absent - but I assume the writer wanted her out of the story for now without 'fridging' her. I also found that the Slayerettes' leaving Faith at this particular moment of her life a bit callous of them - but unlike with Nadira, fully justifiable. I liked Alasdair's being unhappy and gruff but steadfast helper.
Finally, I was floored by Angel's three personalities manifestations - as they were taking his body over in turns. I found the Angelus' turn most fascinating - and I think that Gage get's Angelus better than some of the AtS S4 writers, because he is both incredibly frightening and cunning - and her managed to shake Faith to the core with simple truth - all in a few seconds he had. My only wish is for Rebekah to learn to draw Angelus as less of a beast and more of a complex and clever monster.
Faith won me over completely with her 'that's who he really is', and I am quite fascinated with her lost look in the last few pages.
I am even fascinated with Spike's sudden reaction to Angel's current insanity - he sure was not too broken over it, and contributed a few sarcastic remarks that were 'on target' , but it also looked like he cares. Even cares enough to forget about his earlier 'resurrecting Giles is bad because it means Buffy might forgive Angel' attitude.Who would have thought? I just hope he does not put Alaisdar's house on fire ( on top of it already having a huge hole in the outer wall) with a stray cigarette butt.