By Andy Mansell | Contributor Published: 08/31/2013 10:00 am EST
Publish date: August 28, 2013 Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The Angel & Faith series from Dark Horse is written by Christos Gage and drawn by Rebekah Isaacs with covers by Steve Morris. It comes to a conclusion with this week’s issue 25.
Angel & Faith starts off quite well. There is the suggestion that a young Giles was more like John Constantine than Mr. Chips. This sets the mood for a story about Angel’s attempt at resurrecting Giles. Apparently, in Buffy: Season 8 or Angel: Season 6 or, hell, maybe it was Firefly: Season 2, Angel, the brooding hunky vampire who is the progenitor for an entire industry of moody attractive vampires, went just a little funny in the head—you know, just a little…funny. He became a masked super-villain named Twilight and did lots of bad stuff including snapping Giles the Watcher’s neck (this must have happened when Giles was not Watching). So, because of whatever happened at the series’ climax, Angel was left a drooling idiot (see Bones: Season Any) and our Earth was cut off from the magical realms. So the only magic that works on Earth is self-generated. By the Hoary hosts of Hogwarts, you can bet both Dr. Strange and Hermione Grainger are up the f***ing creek.
So now Angel and Faith—the replacement Slayer for Kendra, who became the replacement Slayer for Buffy back in Season 2 after Buffy drowned a little—are both living in England and, like any good heroes living in close proximity to one another, are teaming up. As the beginnings of an entourage, Faith manages a group of ex-streetwalker Slayers-in-training. The Hairy Mole Club must have had a huge membership drive between seasons.
The tone of the characters dialogue—inspired by the scripts of Joss Whedon and his minions—is spot-on, as they say across the big puddle. But do the locations in Angel & Faith feel British? Not so much, but does it matter? Not so much. However, some genuine English atmosphere—fog, rain, moors, castles—could have really added an extra level to the supernatural feel of the book.
Christos Gage has been one of the go-to mainstream writers when it comes to taking over series created by other hands, such as Stormwatch, The Authority, and WildC.A.T.s. Just about every book I’ve read by him has been solid and I have been pleasantly surprised by his output. He’s sort of a Cary Bates for the WildStorm Age.
The storylines for Angel & Faith (Season 9 of Buffy) are broken into four 4-issue stories, separated by four stand-alone issues, and ends with a 5-part climax.
“Live Through This” (issues 1-4) is a solid story that has to introduce a lot of characters and get the reader up to speed with a lot of back story. A very clever ending kept me wanting to keep on reading.
“In Perfect Harmony” (issue 5): Yuck. The focus is on glam vamp Harmony and this issue is proof that the witty repartee of the Whedon team is not the easiest thing to pull off. This story is painfully obvious and a real let down. Worst of all, it isn’t funny.
“Daddy Issues” (issues 6-9): More back story is handled nicely with some solid flashbacks about Giles time as a young Watcher in training. Uatu would have been proud…oh wait… (See? It’s hard to write witty.) The Angel flashbacks are grisly but well-handled by Gage and Isaacs. Like the previous storyline, the big payoff proves to be quite worthwhile and again, it made me want to forge ahead with the series. By this time I had forgiven the Season 8 jockeys for the super-villain Twilight.
“Women of a Certain Age” (issue 10): A one shot (sort of) where we meet Giles’ great Aunts. Now this was witty and Gage (along with guest artist Chris Samnee) get the most out of the Whedon-style shtick.
“Family Reunion” (issues 11-14): Willow drops by England—oh, the frequent flyer miles these folks must rack up! She has a plan to return magic to the Muggly world, but she needs Angel’s son Connor to help her get to another dimension. In this case, the destination is the god-awful world where Connor was forced to grow up. This is the lead-in to the Willow: Wonderlandmini-series.
“The Hero of his Own Story” (issue 15) tells the origins of the Whistler and his psychotic team of super-powered sibling henchmen, Peal and Nash. These three are the guys behind the guys behind the guys.
“Death and Consequence” (issues 16-19) is easily the best story in the series (season?), with a surprise guest star! Then we have a fun one shot:
“Spike and Faith” (issue 20): Ah, well—so much for the surprise.
“What You Want, Not what you Need” (issues 21-25) is the big five-part finale. There are a number of colorful twists and the characters stay true until the last 5-6 pages, which I really hated and made me feel really old. My problem, I guess, not yours.
Ms. Isaac’s art is quite enjoyable and her storytelling and page layout are economical, clean, and above all, consistent. She doesn’t get too fancy and her ability to keep it simple works perfectly for the timing of the sunny, Valley Girl witty banter. She can really draw beautiful quiet scenes and panel after panel of creatively grotesque demon-filled shenanigans.
Each of the known characters resembles their real-life Hollywood counterparts, but Isaac manages to place her personal stamp on the rendering and it adds an extra level of characterization. And thank God, because I would have had a hard time reading page after page of a Pete Campbell inter-dimensional monster-slaying messiah. It’s the world of Sterling, Cooper, Wolfram, & Hart. ”You’ve just defeated the demon—why settle for anything less than a Jaguar?”
There were a few missteps besides the relationship wrap-ups. The four-page segment where the London slayers plotline comes to a head was too contrived. Spike was just a little too silly; I’d have preferred more swagger and less self-parody. And far too often the storyline resembled Angel, Faith, and The Deathly Hallows. In fact, if one were to squint their eyes a bit, they may see Harry Potter in the last few issues. But then again, ol’ JKR lifted the Horcrux chestnut from Tolkien, who borrowed it from Wagner and so on, so maybe I should just quit my whining. All in all, Angel & Faith was a decent series and it makes me want to read Buffy Season 9 and then stream some episodes of Angel and Buffy. But not Bones or Ringer—no thanks.
Andy Mansell lived in Chicago for over 40 years until his doctors advised him that he would die soon unless he got as far away from the land of Italian combo sandwiches and soft serve frozen custard. He is currently growing rather old rather quickly in Charlotte, NC as a member of the Waistline Protection Program. He lives for four things: his family, baseball, opera, and of course great comics. He is also looking for a ride back to Chi-town for just one more breaded steak sammich. He will provide gas, guaranteed. Contact him at this address.