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.

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