Friday, April 18, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x06: "After The Fall Part 6"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Tim Kane And David Messina And Stephen Mooney And John Byrne

Woman: “Can we stick with you? It’s not safe.”
Spike: “Yeah, yeah, I was retired but to tell you the truth, it got boring after a while.”

After the wonderful return of Fred at the end of Issue 5, it seems purely evil on IDW’s part to deny us some follow up on that. Instead we have to focus for this issue and the next two on what exactly happened on the end of “Not Fade Away”.

Maybe I’m an impatient sort but shouldn’t this have been something that we should’ve gotten at the start rather than now? However as complaining goes, this is where I stop because to be perfectly, this issue is actually quite amazing.

Stepping away from traditional storyline of the previous five, this one focuses on four characters and tells their stories in a rather compelling manner. Not any of them are completed but you’re definitely given enough to make you care for each and every single one of them.

The first page starts off with Betta George still kept captive by Gunn’s minions. The poor thing is quick to muse about all the excitement that’s going on but then wonders why a nice fish like him gets screwed over by bad luck.

I think the answer to that is because you’re a construct of Joss Whedon and whether you’re naughty or nice, you’re going to get shafted at one point or another. Although Betta George’s situation does suck for him (it is a him, right?), he’s a lot luckier compared to other characters in this comic series.

The first story of the issue goes to Spike, who is the only character of their story to take on the champion role. Spike is surrounded by a lot of carnage and although he’s alone, it doesn’t take him long to point out how spectacularly Angel failed in his assessment of taking on Wolfram And Hart.

For once Spike’s comments seem less bitchy but that’s probably because Angel isn’t around to hear them. At least Spike doesn’t spend all his time ranting. Nope he soon gets into battle with a demon that is easily quashed and Spike has fun telling his defeated foe to let everyone know he means business.

Spike may not be in the most modest of mind frames but he’s smart enough to question his surroundings and that garners him respect in my book. He notes the stupidity of jumping off a roof and also wonders whether or not the elevator he happens to be in is just as dangerous.

The most interesting happens when Spike gets out of the elevator. Because we have to wait until Issue 9 because getting any continuity on Fred’s return, the mere sight of her here in distress to keep the craving in check, although obviously my joy factor wasn’t as strong as the previous issue.

Spike can’t believe his luck in seeing the girl but unlike the previous issue, I really do feel that it’s not Fred we’re seeing here. There’s just something about the way she appears here that doesn’t convince me that we have the real Fred.

Spike is still convinced that it is Fred and even thinks that him and her are meant to have survived. I’m not entirely sure why Spike thinks it’s just him and Fred, aside from the issues Wolfram And Hart had with Angel and Wesley but his vow to protect Fred endears him a lot in this issue.

Spike is even tempted to allow two women to be killed by a demon in order to keep Fred but because he seems to be riddled by the champion bug, it’s not long before he’s helping the women. However it’s not Spike who slays the demon as soon enough Illyria re-emerges to annihilate that particular nasty.

I just knew that we were not to get the real Fred here and I really hope that by the time we do get to Issue 9, it is the real Fred we have and not Illyria going loopy. As a character, I’d rather Fred any day of the week and I just think that it’s time to wrap up the Illyria plot.

Illyria here doesn’t make much of a fuss in killing the demon and when one of the women question her, Spike points out that he has to protect Illyria. Given that Illyria isn’t the most rational of gods, Spike certainly has his work cut out for him.

With Spike’s story ending on a promising note, the next person to be focused on is Connor. Okay, so he is the only person that gets a story but like everyone else’s, it still manages to keep you interested. Given that a few hours ago, he helped Angel in taking down Hamilton, the guy also has reservations about abandoning his biological father.

In fact as Connor’s running for his life, he has enough mental energy to muse over the fact that he’s basically grown up with three fathers in the past 18 years of his life. Despite all the musing, he does make the conscious decision to actually go back and help Angel.

One of the positive aspects about this comic has been the cordial relationship between Angel and Connor. It’s another why I enjoy this story too. Maybe after all the hell business, we can see Angel and Connor just enjoy each other’s company as well as slaying beasts.

Connor might jest about the coolness of slaying a dragon but it’s his loyalty to Angel that makes him go back. However because everything gets sucked into hell, Connor finds him in a different part of LA and reacts by heaving at the first moment. Looks like Buffy isn’t the only who’s unable to be teleported without puking.

Even more interesting is that Connor also experience some graphic flashbacks to both his birth and the moment he lost his virginity. To even have Connor admit the yuck factor with him and Cordelia. Believe me, most people who watched Season Four more than felt the unpleasantness of that particular plot.

However while Connor keeps remembering that Angel really loves, most of hell’s minions are determined to turn LA into a bloodbath and even Connor realises that he’s out of his depth. Hiding would’ve been a great idea if he hadn’t gone and picked the most obvious place to do it.

It’s then no big shocker when he ends up being caught by the head of whatever hellish clan are out for Angel’s blood. Worse still is that they know who Connor is and waste no time in deciding to kill him. Of all the times to be defenceless, this definitely wasn’t the best one for Connor. Just like Spike’s tale, it does end on a cliff hanger for Connor, even though it’s safe to assume that he won’t be dying anytime soon.

As for Lorne, if ever there was a prize for innovative, then his segment is surely deserving of it. Because the guy is such a ray of sunshine, Brian Lynch gets to have a little fun with segment by basically having his entire story rhyme while in the form of an ongoing narration.

We see Lorne musing over signing up with Wolfram And Hart while Fred dies and Illyria rises to take her and Lindsay is killed by Lorne. Of course, all of these along with LA being sucked into hell are the negative aspects of what has gone down in Lorne’s life but this is also the most uplifting of the stories as well.

The reason why is because we get to see Lorne not only encouraging people to fight back with the use of his vocal chords but he also managed to turn one little place of hell into a heaven. Seeing as we’ve seen Silver Lake in Issue 4, it’s safe to assume that that is the very place where violence is forbidden.

Also because it was Lorne who brought peace and happiness to one little place, it only seemed fair that it would be him who would become Lord of Silver Lake. Given how dark this comic season has been, Lorne’s story offers so much needed humour and also hope that things are going to get better for the gang. As an Angel fan, I want the gang out of hell.

The last story is then Betta George’s. I enjoy this little character and like Connor, the poor thing is mostly screwed. Being kept hostage by Gunn, who seems to have no idea of what to do with him and then being looked after by an inept vampire, it’s really not Betta’s day.

Still at least Betta George is able to have some fun taunting the vampire looking after him. Well if Donna Noble can taunt a bunch of scary priestesses, then why shouldn’t the fish be able to back talk the aggressive vampire? This show is able to write for some spectacularly stupid vampires as well as nasty ones.

Of course the vampire doesn’t really take to Betta insulting him all that well and spends most of the time threatening him. Its funny that the vampire openly admits to being a wild card. He’s obviously doing it in an attempt to scare Betta but mainly it makes him look like an idiot. Either way, it’s satisfying enough way to end the issue.

Also in “After The Fall Part 6”

The cover I got for this issue had Angel, Spike, Lorne and Betta George on it with a few squid like demons too.

Betta George: “I bet there’s total excitement out there and I’m missing it all. Fighting and biting and probably revelations and everything. Would love to see it. Gotta be better than what’s going on at Castle De Gunn. How did I wind up here? How does a nice fish like me wind up in hell?”

Although all the stories are written by Brian Lynch, each of them has a different illustrator. Stephen Mooney who worked on Connor’s story was my favourite.

Spike (to defeated demon): “Get the word out, flyboy when you reach bottom. Nobody talks to Spike unless Spike talks to them and Spike doesn’t talk to anyone who isn’t a fairly opened mind damsel in distress … aw, no.”

Spike: “Fred?”
Fred: “Is it over?”
Spike: “I think so, love. But. Why are you here? Why are you near me? Also why are you Fred?”

Fred was wearing the same outfit she died in at the end of “A Hole In The World”. She didn’t do that in the last issue.

Woman (re Illyria): “What about her? Is she coming … doesn’t look like she needs protection.”
Spike: “Yeah, lady. She really does.”

Connor (to himself): “No that’s a dragon. He’s gotta fight a dragon? Going back. He needs my help. Besides, kinda be cool to slay a dragon.”

I forgot to mention that as well as flashbacks to “Lullaby” and “Apocalypse Nowish”, there was also a graphic image of Connor inside Darla. The drawings for the flashbacks were so spot on as well.

Connor (to himself): “I’m going loopy. Son of a vampire, shouldn’t be born, it figures everything had to fall apart sooner or later.”

Connor (to himself): “Fantastic. My first time was with my surrogate mother. I’m not only an immaculate vampire baby … I’m also Oedipus. Wow, Dad would be impressed. I referenced Oedipus. Third dad that is. Fake dad?”

There’s a nice poster halfway through the comic with the dragon, Wesley, Spike, Gwen, Lorne, Gunn and Connor.

Connor (after being caught): “What the hell do I do now? First dad would fight. Maybe die. Second dad, fight. Probably die. Third dad. Just die.”

Narrator (re Lorne’s achievement): “For what seemed so long, there’d be no joy at all. But slowly, but surely … in ways large and small … Lorne got his groove back, right after the fall.”
According the letter section, we can expect both Issues eight and nine in June as even IDW want to speed up the Fred thing.

Betta George (to vampire): “Doesn’t it get confusing? ‘Hey which dude is sucking on that fine ladies’ necks?’ Is it Gunn or that big copycat, I can’t even tell. But seriously, why’d you get left behind? Your parents forgot to sign your permission slip?”

Although they appear in Lorne’s segment, there were no actual roles for Angel, Gunn or Wesley in this issue.

Well this was a fine start to a mini-arc that holds for the big reveal about Fred’s sudden return. “After The Fall Part 6” sets things up rather nicely with all of the stories being utterly interesting. Can’t wait to see the rest of it unfold.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x13: "Wolves At The Gate Part 2"

Written by Drew Goddard
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Dracula: “There was this witch with them …I never should have her deal … those filthy yellow swine!”
Xander: “You know, I really don’t remember you being this racist.”

There’s plenty of things I don’t actually remember as well. Admittedly it has been ages since I’ve watched “Buffy Vs. Dracula” but there’s a lot going on in this comic that doesn’t add up to what we’ve seen in the episode and what has happened since then. I’m not the only one who’s a tad confused, right?

The first shot we see of Dracula here is not him greeting Xander and Renee. No, its fifteen minutes prior to their arrival and Dracula looks awful so to speak. He’s old, hairy, drunk, in need desperate need of a shower and has seemed to lose all enthusiasm for everything.

This even extends to slaughter. His servant Butterfield tries to chide into killing an Albanian boy let loose but all Dracula can do is sit around and feel sorry for himself. Although Butterfield seems to be a loyal servant, he has no problem in pointing out to his employer that staff are gossiping about him too.

Dracula doesn’t seem to be really bothered that he’s the talk of his people but he should be. His people are revelling in his glory, they’re revelling in how pathetic he has become. I’m not really sure why or how Dracula has become this way but I do find it rather interesting that as soon as he sees Xander and Renee’s helicopter, he’s all for getting himself spruced up.

Of course just because he’s delighted to see Xander, it doesn’t mean he wants to deal with him right away. Xander has to persuade him to let him by telling him of the vampires who have his type of powers. Renee on the other hand is given some racial abuse before Xander insists that she accompanies them. Um, Renee, you’re a lovely girl but you should’ve socked Dracula one. Nice that Xander stuck up for her though.

However if Xander is fearing that Dracula’s hold on him is strong, well then he’s justified. They’re barely in the door before he tries to get rid of Renee. At least Renee has the sense to put her foot down and insist that she stays with him. Looks like Dracula really does only affect certain people.

As for the incredibly shit part of the comic – Andrew. So far in this comic book season the writers have done the noble thing and kept him away. Hell he was nowhere to be seen during all of “No Future For You” (one of the many reasons why I adored that arc) but sadly he’s here in a bigger and more teeth grindingly annoying way.

He’s basically telling all the slayers about what exactly Dracula is. Needless to say they already know and really don’t want to be subjected to one of Andrew’s idiotic presentations. Is it still too much to hope that this guy gets a painful death somewhere in this series?

Andrew does however point out that Dracula and Xander have a special relationship. After the pleasant ‘what the fuck’ moment in the opening episode of Doctor Who’s fourth season, the unpleasant thing is thinking of Xander and Dracula’s special bond. Last time I checked Xander loathed every vampire in the universe. Anya’s death or not, what the hell would really motivate him into having a friendship with Dracula?

Moving away from Dracula, at least there’s some progress in the scythe stealing business when a Japanese slayer named Aiko manages to tell Buffy about a vampire sect in Tokyo, lead by Toru. This was the same who managed to best Buffy in the last issue and by the end of this one; he will really pose a threat to her.

While Buffy tells Aiko to stay put, she is insistent on bringing every slayer to Tokyo despite Satsu making the sensible deduction that leaving some behind for defence wouldn’t be a bad idea. Sadly Buffy is in one of her snappy moods and basically ignores sound advice for the millionth time.

At least Buffy does one decent thing by asking about Xander. I swear if this arc indulges on Buffy’s superiority, I will personally ring someone’s neck. Willow points out that Xander isn’t responding and given Xander’s track history, this should mean that he’s in really serious trouble.

Then again it could also mean having to read through the next few pages of relentless arse crawling between Xander and Dracula. Actually it does as they manage to compliment each other on their improved appearances in a way that sounds way too fake for its own good. Renee gets to represent most readers with the look of pure boredom of watching these two.

Fortunately Renee’s patience also snaps and she tries to sway the conversation into business. Dracula’s venomous hostility for the girl really shows itself here when he continues to call her a “moor”. Even Xander refers to her that way by accident but even still it’s Renee who is generating all of the sympathy here. At least Xander is quick to apologise for his poor taste in words.

Dracula on the other hand still continues to get irritated by Renee. Okay so she’s accusing him of selling his powers for profit but she has no loyalty to Dracula so in my opinion she’s got every right to antagonise him. Much as I love Xander, he’s being reverted into a butt monkey here with the way he keeps attempting to placate Dracula.

However while Dracula might not have sold his powers, he still lost them in a way, thanks to a bit of gambling that went wrong. Renee might be disgusted by him but Dracula really does lose his rag when he threatens to slit her throat. Xander, it’s here you really should be sticking for Renee.

Another thing about Dracula is his loathing of Buffy. Yes, the very woman who rejected and humiliated him but at the same time, he’s willing to help. Thankfully not because of whatever bizarre attachment he might have to Xander but more because of his anger of cheated by the Tokyo vampires. Dracula’s racist reaction even towards them takes Xander by surprise. Clearly he’s never seen Celebrity Big Brother 2007.

As for Aiko she has a good time following both Toru and Raidon in an effort to see what they’re up to and not get caught at the same time. That might have helped if neither one of them didn’t know that she was on their tail. I’m guessing that Aiko might the only slayer around if she’s doing it alone.

Of course Raidon and Toru are more focused on their recent acquisition and the little issue of a spell. Toru is insistent that another vampire keeps working on it and while there does seem to be a fair amount of goading with them; they both take delight in knowing that Aiko is following them.

Raidon might be a bit worried about Aiko but Toru decides that perhaps it’s time they gave the girl a little something to see. Of all the things she could see, I’m intrigued to know what Toru has up his sleeve because from what we’ve seen, Aiko’s a pretty strong slayer.

As for Buffy, she spends the flight to Tokyo pretty much just scowling before Willow gives us an insight into what Buffy is thinking. Unfortunately this is the same old thing that we’ve seen and heard a million times before – Buffy’s alone, Buffy’s got the weight of the world on her shoulders and Buffy’s not gay.

To counteract with all of these questions, here’s my two cents. Buffy’s alone – yeah because after eight years she still won’t let people in. No-one is choosing to ignore her, it’s Buffy ignoring them. Buffy’s got the weight of the world on her shoulders – I’m sorry but no she doesn’t. She’s not the slayer anymore, she’s a slayer. The world is every slayers burden now. She should be using that fact to connect with her team, not disengage from them.

As for the Buffy’s not gay bit – well duh! Satsu already knew that before and after sleeping with Buffy so Willow dropping that nugget was as useless as the other ones she dispensed in this episode. Satsu might be in love with Buffy but she seems clued up to know that they’re never going to have a relationship.

As for Willow asking Satsu what Buffy is like in bed, maybe I’m being a stick in the mud but that one bothered me. Why the hell would you want to know about your friend’s sexual prowess? It made Willow come across as a bit creepy. Thank God Satsu actually told her to mind her own business.

Last but not least, Aiko got the rough end of the deal. All her clever work and stealthy spying on Raidon and Toru and she becomes a victim of that vampire sect’s scheme. It turns out that with a ring and the scythe, a slayer can be reverted back into a normal girl. It makes a fair amount of sense that the scythe could reverse the process.

Toru takes ultimate fun in this by breaking Aiko’s jaw, taunting her and then to cap it all off, just killing her. Knowing that their little spell actually works, the next thing the psychotic gang decide to do is to take it globally. Oh Buffy, you are so screwed but after some of the ill judged humour of this issue, this is a good way of saving things.

Also in “Wolves At The Gates Part 2”

The cover for this issue is nice. You’ve got Xander, a creepy castle and two female vampires.

Butterfield: “What has become of the mighty Dracula?”
Dracula: “I told you to leave me be, Butterfield. I assure you, I’m fine. I don’t require help from you or from anyone.”

Dracula has some interesting pictures hanging up on his walls. There’s a battle picture, maybe it’s of Vlad The Impaler?

Dracula: “Oh. Very well. Come inside, manservant. Your moor can wait in the stables.”
Xander: “Wha –no. No, no, no, no. She’s not my moor. That’s … ha …that’s terrible, Master. This is … this is Renee. She’s my, um …uh … she’s with me.”

Xander: “I’m just saying. Maybe it’s for the best. Hey you could go look for that Albanian boy.”
Renee: “I’m not leaving you alone with this guy.”

Andrew lists Dracula’s powers as transmogrification, piercing hypnotic stare, impervious to stakes and romantic undertones.

Slayer: “This is seriously his worst lecture since his one on that weapon from Krull.”
Andrew: “Hey I heard that! And it’s called the Glaive, thank you very much.”

Buffy: “Are those Kabuki demons?”
Aiko: “They were Kabuki demons.”
Buffy: “Those things are vicious.”
Aiko: “You’re telling me. I think one actually scratched me.”

That’s a funny exchange because you can see one of the Kabuki demons cowering in a corner crying. Aiko is certainly a brutal slayer.

Xander: “Thanks, you look good too.”
Dracula: “Oh you’re just saying that because I complimented you.”
Xander: “No – I’m not, I promise.”

Dracula: “That’s preposterous.”
Renee: “Or maybe you sold your powers to the highest bidder.”
Dracula: “Manservant, your moor is on snide comment away from a swarm of bees.”

As soon as Dracula uttered “oh balls”, he all of a sudden became Spike. Believe me when I say that isn’t a good thing.

Raidon (re Aiko): “One block back. South side of the street. She’s good – she knows to keep a distance but she’s keeping a close eye on us.”
Toru: “Well then. Let’s give her something to see.”

Dracula (to Xander/Renee): “I loathe Buffy Summers, her whole army makes me want to retch and I’d just as soon see them wiped off the map once and for all. However. Nobody steals from Dracula.”

If you read the letter page, there’s a response from the winner of the Issue 10 guest spot. It’s a really touching letter.

Willow: “Good. Now. What’s she like in the sack?”
Satsu: “What?”
Willow: “Do you know how long I’ve wondered about this? Don’t hold out on me sister.”

Satsu: “I’m not telling you anything.”
Willow: “Oh yes you are. Did she make that high pitched squeal? I call it her ‘shoe-sale noise’.”

The latest Angel issue “First Night” also got released this week but I’ll review that issue next week.

Toru (to Aiko): “Shoot. I just broke your jaw, didn’t I? That’s unfortunate. I was hoping you could tell me what it feels like to be a regular girl again. Must be terrifying.”

This issue takes place exactly from where the last one left off.

“Wolves At The Gate Part 2” wasn’t the best issue we’ve had so far. Some of the humour falls a bit flat, some of it borders on being offensive (even though I doubt that was Drew Goddard’s real intention) and there’s not enough time spent on the real action of the piece.

Rating: 7 out of 10.