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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x19: "Time Of Your Life Part 4"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Karl Moline

Dark Willow: “I hate history. Not the subject – I always loved it in school: the French-Indian war, the Medicis, 1066 and all that. History is all romantic stories until you live it. Until you live long enough to be part of it.”

Given how long since it was with the last issue I was almost beginning to think this one would never surface. After all, the dates did change a good few times and out of all the arc related stories we’ve had, this one has been significantly weaker than the rest of them.

Things look dire for Buffy when she’s tied to a chair and Dark Willow is seemingly lording it over her. Fray on the other hand, might not have had a problem with rendering Buffy unconscious but thankfully enough, she isn’t that eager on killing her either.

Funnily enough Dark Willow doesn’t seem to be advocating Buffy’s death but does make a point of telling Fray to at least keep Buffy contained so that when another temporal rift opens, Buffy can’t escape. Of course it’s Erin who challenges this only for Fray to be convinced that Buffy will end the world if she goes home.

To be honest apart from some cryptic dialogue in the previous two issues, we haven’t had an iota of evidence to suggest that this dystopian future is solely Buffy’s responsibility. It might be easy to blame Buffy for everything going to the crapper but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s her fault.

Still I am interested in how easily convinced that Fray is that Buffy going back endangers her whole existence but then Buffy actually wakes up and her and Dark Willow have a bit of discussion. It’s nice that Buffy conveys some shock to see her friend going dark but how on Earth did Willow become immortal?

I was hoping for an explanation but Dark Willow’s too busy pointing out the obviousness of Kennedy no longer factoring in her life to give us one. It also doesn’t help that Buffy’s frustration of having no allies is marred with an appearance from Harth, who’s about as welcome as Andrew at a sci-fi convention.

It seems that Dark Willow is unsurprisingly enough playing each side off. Meleka’s got into her head that Buffy going home causes their world to cease to exist while Harth believes her arrival is a big advantage. He’s also stupid enough to convey his annoyance when Dark Willow is clearly trying to warn him to shut it.

At the end of the day however it seems that death is on Dark Willow’s mind, so the duping of both brother and sister was for her own benefit. Even now it would still seem that eradicating Buffy would be the agenda but when she talks about who kills a person rather than who died, thoughts tended to go elsewhere really.

Buffy herself at least has that goofy monkey creature trying to get her free but even in her frustration; it’s nice that Fray won’t kill another slayer. The other fun part is trying to guess who exactly Dark Willow is fobbing off. For someone who isn’t all powerful and could be killed by either Buffy, Fray or Harth, Dark Willow does very little to defend herself.

That being said I did enjoy watching her goad Harth. The guy’s pretty much an idiot and while it’s intriguing that Dark Willow has no desire to kill him. Fortunately a not remotely dead Gunther has no problem in doing his very best to kill Harth’s pathetic little gang.

Buffy uses the distraction to her advantage and she even gets to take some pleasure in punching Erin and electrocuting Fray. It’s just too bad she’s not prepared to listen to Dark Willow who obviously hasn’t completely told her why she teleported her 200 years in the future. At this rate, it’s beginning to look a lot less sinister than originally intended.

Back in the present day, Xander and Dawn are in league with a serious army of woodland creatures. This is good, seeing as Amy’s magical creatures are still in attack mode and the battle itself has a fair amount of decapitation and the like. Visually it looks really good in some places.

Even some of Xander’s fears don’t deter the scenario and having some of the remaining slayers lead by Leah at least gives him and Dawn a bigger advantage. Overall it’s far better than having Xander and Dawn sit around and do nothing, even if there’s a part of me that wishes they were actually aware of what was going on with Buffy and Willow but that’s a minor quibble.

Buffy herself meanwhile keeps on with the escape route and seems to have latched on to speeding a little better than before. Of course, there’s no way Fray’s gonna give up with a halfway decent fight and so having Buffy muse about Fray is a nice way to lead into another confrontation between the two of them.

It’s really good that during these scenes Fray doesn’t come across as an unhinged and instead is just foolishly desperate to maintain her own existence. She’s foolish because Buffy returning to her own time will not affect and even after Dark Willow was exposed as a liar, you’d think Fray would realise that.

Buffy tries to make her see sense and even gives a ‘fate of the world’ spiel but Fray seems more determined to keep Buffy here. Fight wise, it’s not the most impressive that we’ve had but it’s fun enough, even though I’m still siding more with Buffy than Fray. Now if this had been Buffy and Faith, I’d have been rooting for the latter but it isn’t so Buffy gets my vote here.

Dark Willow on the other hand just gawks at the whole smackdown like a voyeur but the best part is addressing the fight from Fray’s point of view. Fray’s assessment of Buffy will make some viewers laugh and a lot agree. She’s fighting a bit of slayer history but she’s fighting it for no reason and that’s saddening on her part. It also doesn’t help her that Buffy is quick thinking with a water tower.

Elsewhere in the land of actual villains, it’s oddly comforting to know that even a couple as gloriously demented as Amy and Warren are not above fighting over who’s the bigger idiot. I could solve this one very easily – Amy and Warren, you’re both supreme idiots but sadly no-one’s going to be asking for my advice.

The not so loved up couple are of course tearing strips of each other regarding the hit on slayer central and the forest fight. Amy’s critiquing the futility of Warren’s little bomb and Warren himself isn’t that impressed with his girlfriend’s magical army. Weirdly enough, there’s some actually delightful in this.

Warren’s such a hardcore misogynist that at some point, he’s got to say something that will truly piss Amy. Seeing as her magic is basically a skin substitute, Warren should probably hold his tongue and while Amy might have more of an advantage on him, she should definitely watch her back. After all, Warren’s got excellent form as a girlfriend killer but these two against each other could also be entertaining.

It’s also their bickering that puts Twilight in an amused mood and even reveals that his latest addition to the anti-magic cause is Riley. As someone who actually likes Riley, I’m a little disappointed that he’s seemingly coming back as a villain and even when he talks about Buffy in a mocking manner.

So from the little exchange we get, we know that Buffy and Riley have had some contact post “Chosen” and there’s even the speculation that Riley could either be divorced or widowed at this point. If it’s the latter, I could see how this might have lured him into helping Twilight’s cause but I’m actually hoping that he’s really double crossing the magic hater.

As for the real Willow, she does her best to bring Buffy back to the 21st Century and even blindfolds herself so she doesn’t look at the future. Fray might be unsuccessful in stopping Buffy from leaving but Dark Willow certainly has no problem with getting in her way one more time.

So Buffy has apparently failed something and like anyone else reading this issue, she’s bored of Dark Willow’s cryptic clues and wants some straight answers. While Willow doesn’t provide an answer, I’ve read enough interesting theories that Buffy being dragged her was some elaborate scheme so that Dark Willow could finally be set free by having Buffy kill her.

The death scene isn’t quite as emotional as it should be and as a resolution, it’s unsatisfying. The end however with Willow pulling Buffy out and the grateful slayer hugging her and crying is sweet. Heck, even Kennedy’s ‘I’m watching those hands’ doesn’t ruin the moment.

As for Fray and Erin, well both of them are alive so that really should be the end of things. As much as I had wanted to get into the Fray angle of things, I felt this arc overall was something of a missed opportunity for the character. Perhaps we’ll see her again in a more satisfying arc.

Also in “Time Of Your Life Part 4”

The cover for this issue is one of the best we’ve had – a black eyed Willow with Buffy reflected in one of her eyes for good measure.

Buffy: “Oh my God! You went dark again? You are so in huge trouble for going dark. How could you even – is Kennedy okay?”
Dark Willow: “It’s been two hundred years, Buffy. How do you think she is?”
Buffy: “Okay, fair enough. Let’s move on. Why am I shackled, why are you evil and why isn’t anyone on my side?”

The interesting question is will Buffy actually tell Willow that she goes dark again? I personally can’t see her doing it but I wouldn’t rule it out either.

Dark Willow (to Fray): “You see what I’ve seen, you come and go as I have … you realise the most important thing about death isn’t who dies … it’s who kills them.”

Harth: “Your fortune-telling’s tapped, witch.”
Dark Willow: “Harth, you should be careful when you choose your enemies.”
Harth: “Your power’s but gone. You can’t stop an army by yourself.”
Dark Willow: “Don’t plan to.”

Why did that monkey/spider creature decide to free Buffy? It didn’t seem like there was a purpose to it.

Buffy: “Erin! Listen to me! That’s for ‘Puffy’. I’m leaving. I don’t care about your world. I have to save mine.”

Xander: “You’re just into guys with no lower half now, is what.”
Dawn: “Don’t be gross.”
Xander: “You wanna nuzzle his root system.”
Dawn: “I hope you die first. With the most wounds.”
Xander: “Pretty much counting on it.”

Where did Xander get that awful helmet? It looked like a hollowed acorn and why wasn’t Dawn wearing any headwear?

Fray: “Can you swear my world won’t mist out if you leave?”
Buffy: “You know I can’t.”
Fray: “The big picture.”
Buffy: “It’s called the fate of the world, short view.”
Fray: “‘Fate of the world’ made sense … when there was only one.”

Fray (re Buffy): “She’s not some big head carved on Mount Walmore. She’s just a tiny, whiney, long dead slayer … in a damn unpractical frock.”

Riley’s sporting the big old Twilight symbol on his chest so I really hope him and Buffy don’t end up having sex if he wants to dupe her.

Warren: “You start with that self-actualising womyn-jargon, I’m gonna build a robot you with no mouth.”
Amy: “Well, maybe I’ll conjure a love slave who has skin.”
Twilight (to Riley): “Ah, young love … isn’t it depressing?”

Riley (to Twilight, re Buffy): “I tell her I’m her inside man, her ever faithful. She’s so stuck in the past, man … when we had our secret meeting in New York … she even got dressed up.”

A lot of the letters in this issue were about the “No Future For You” arc. I’ve read that Faith and Giles are back in Issue 24 so not too long to wait.

Buffy: “I’m cute and blonde and popular but I’m not stupid, Will. You dragged me here and then you told me exactly how to get out. Everything, every lie to get us here. Why? What happened? Why does it have to be me?”
Dark Willow: “It’s a long story.”

Kennedy (to Willow/Buffy): “I’m watching those hands, you two.”

The next issue, “After These Messages … We’ll Be Right Back” is out on December 17th.

Like I already said, although there are some enjoyable parts to “Time Of Your Life Part 4” I still can’t help but feel under whelmed by the way this ended. I’m hoping with the Riley/Twilight subplot things will advance a bit more now but overall this felt a little wasted for Fray.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x13: "After The Fall Part 13"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Stephen Mooney

Angel (to Cordelia): “Even when we went to hell, it was going to be okay. Wesley believed it. Gunn, far gone as he is, still believes it. And I did, deep down. I truly did. I was wrong.”

With thirteen issues reminding us that we are in fact in hell, there does seem to be a never ending sense of limbo with this ‘season’. Last issue I felt like this was really going up a notch and I’m fearing that I was overconfident because this issue just seemed … sort of pointless in a way.

First off all, it begins with Spike lying on his ass dithering about the loss of his harem (most annoying groupies ever) and his unsuccessful attempts of protecting Illyria again for the billionth time. Oh and to top it off, there’s some petty jealous about the dragon as well. Seriously, Spike needs to drop the ‘look at me’ stick and soon.

Still I do feel a tad sorry that he landed in garbage but compared to other people, he’s better off and least he’s complimentary about Connor. It also helps that his perceptiveness of Connor’s emotional state is bang on too. Connor is making the rookie move of allowing his emotions to dictate his actions. It also makes him perfectly human as well.

However on the non-human front, Spike goes into vamp face mode and decides to beat the ever holy crap out of a random vampire. It’s funny that Spike comments on no-one being around for his pithy one-liners as well as his determination to get back into the fighting fray on the roof.

Of course his fight with the burly vampire is a surprising joy, mainly due to the slayer mentions and Spike besting him with little effort involved. Unfortunately for Spike, his rescue of three slayers just means that he has more problems on his hands when they decide to end him.

Cordelia meanwhile (yes, thankfully she is in this issue) is curious to know what’s gotten Angel so eager to join her on the other side. Angel believes his death could stop Wolfram And Hart overall scheme and then goes on about how manipulative the law firm are with conjuring illusions and what not.

Gunn on the other hand isn’t impressed with Wesley effectively telling him that he’s ruined things. As far as Gunn is concerned, the army they faced in the alleyway of “Not Fade Away” was big but Wesley is quick to point out otherwise. I can’t wait for Gunn to realise that he’s been lead up the garden path given how rampantly annoying this season has made him.

Elsewhere the skies in hell have opened up even more with an array of dragons all heading for the roof when they’re not attacking the Cordelia dragon. More interesting is that despite his total anger towards Gwen, Connor is still willing to protect her from being slaughtered.

The boy’s heart is in the right place but against all those dragons, he really doesn’t stand a chance. Gwen is smart enough to realise that and when Connor refuses to listen to her, she bolts him away from the roof. Then Gwen also goes for the impressive jugular by using all of her electricity to kill every dragon going.

Sort of a big question playing on my mind – is Gwen dead and if so, does this count as a heroic death? I suppose next issue will determine for us but given that Gwen still believes in Gunn’s madness, I guess it would be a ‘no’ on the heroic death thing. Still, death seems to be the ongoing problem with this issue.

If millions of dragons and Gwen meeting their maker wasn’t enough, it seems that Spike getting dusted by three unnamed slayers is also a cause for frustration too. It’s not that I’m against the idea of Spike being killed but I would prefer if it was done in a way that seemed like the writer cared about the character.

As for Angel, he’s still going on about everything meaning nothing and to be honest, it’s this entire nihilistic attitude that irritating me to no end. Still the idea that Angel could be used to arise evil is intriguing but still cruel when you consider the fighting for good he’s been doing countless times over.

It’s also with that realisation that he’s eager for him and Cordelia to just leave. However in the best moment of this comic so far, there’s a brilliant face off between Connor and Gunn. Of course this comes after a pointless attempt from Wesley to try and stop Gunn getting near Angel’s body.

Surprisingly enough, Gunn isn’t too fazed by the idea of Gwen being a casualty but he doesn’t waste much time in throwing down with Connor either. The best part is Connor getting the upper hand and tossing the vampire out of the window. Now how can anyone not love Connor for that?

What’s also great about Connor’s contribution to this issue is that he’s determined not to give up on his father. While Wesley’s practically close to picking out a funeral plot for Angel, Connor’s determined to get his father out of Gunn’s lair and get him healed up as soon as a possible.

This could have come across as incredibly saccharine but given how relentlessly bleak things have become, I just love this scene. I also love that Connor’s faith in Angel is paramount to the latter not being ready to cross over. However, would it have killed for Angel to tell Cordelia that he loves her? Yes I am a shipper and I really, really wanted to see that.

Besides we got it with the Metacrisis Doctor and Rose in “Journey’s End”, so why on earth couldn’t we have gotten it with Angel and Cordy? Also we know that Angel is going to survive because Spike and his would be killers come striding up the elevator, so Gunn’s murder spree is further invalidated.

Speaking of Gunn, things seem to have gone from bad to worse with him when he meets Illyria. To give her credit, Illyria displays some curiosity towards Gunn instead of completely ripping him a new one. That being said as soon as she morphs into Fred, Gunn then shoots her and muses about being right.

Also in “After The Fall Part 13”

The cover I got with this was Connor cradling Angel’s body in the rain. I think it’s one of the best covers they’ve done.

Vampire (with severed hand): “You think this will stop me? I survived slayers.”
Spike: “I didn’t. Yet here we are. Heh, ‘I didn’t’. No-one’s ever around for the really pithy – hmmm?”

Five issues since its first appearance and we’re still getting snow, although it was during Spike’s little scenes.

Cordelia (re vision): “How do you know it was real?”
Angel: “How do I know you’re real?”

Connor: “Gwen …run.”
Gwen: “You have a sword.”
Connor: “And they have eyes. I can make this work. Just get out of here.”
Gwen: “Weren’t we just fighting?”

Please tell me that Cordelia the dragon actually survived this bloodbath issue. I know it’s probably unlikely but I’ve developed an attachment to the dragon.

Gwen: “I know you’re the leader and in no mood to listen to me –so I’m gonna make this simple – find your father, find Gunn, I don’t care. Just get off this roof.”
Connor: “No.”
Gwen: “Yes, sweetie. Go.”

Angel: “I tried so hard to help, Cordelia. But the best thing I could do for this world and everyone I love would be to leave. This is how it should be. Please. Let’s go.”

Even though we seem to be seeing the tentacle creatures in the last few issues, they have yet to actually make a threat on Angel and company.

Gunn: “Hey baby Angel. So Gwen failed.”
Connor: “Pretty sure Gwen’s dead.”

Gunn: “Admittedly I didn’t think of your feelings but in the grand scheme of things – who the hell are you anyways?”
Connor: “I’m Angel’s son. I’m Gwen’s boyfriend. I’m also the guy who just did that.”

Once again this comic fails to give us a date for the next issue. I can’t be the only one who finds that annoying each time, right?

Cordelia: “Oh, yeah, you’re running away from the light. Getting harder to stay. Question … you said one thing that made losing loved ones easier was the hope that all this was leading to something.”
Angel: “Yeah, well, I guess we can scratch that, considering.”
Cordelia: “But what was the other thing?”
Angel: “The fact that the loved ones I lost – usually come back to help me when I need it most.”
Cordelia: “See? Are those the words of the vampire destined to bring about the fall of civilisation? No way! Be good, big guy.”

Fred: “Cha … Charles-”
Gunn: “Thank you baby, thank you so much. Let’s get to work.”

No Nina or Lorne in this issue and what the hell has happened to Groo as well?

While it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it too, it was naturally disappointing. “After The Fall Part 13” had some good moments – Angel/Cordy, Gunn/Connor but overall, I’m still finding this frustrating at times as a reader and fan of the series.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Review of Doctor Who's "Music Of The Spheres"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Euros Lyn

Graske: “Must speak to The Doctor.”
The Doctor: “I don’t care. You’re a Graske and a Graske is trouble – out!”

Continuing in a trend of mini-scenes for Doctor Who, the only difference with this little special is that it’s for the 2008 Doctor Who At The Proms concert and not for Children In Need. Of course that doesn’t matter when there’s fun to be had and for seven minutes, fun is the order of the day.

Following “Journey’s End” where The Doctor pretty much lost everyone, he decides to cope with his loss the only way he can – writing a symphony. Well he has coped in more destructive manners beforehand so this is a bit of relief for The Doctor’s mentality in my opinion.

Of course he doesn’t really get a chance to be properly alone because a Graske has materialised on to the TARDIS and The Doctor isn’t pleased to see him. So far, all we’ve seen from the Graske in “Attack Of The Graske” and The Sarah Jane Adventures serial “Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane” is that they are not the most trustworthy of creatures.

The Doctor himself wants the Graske out of his TARDIS and aside from a little of shouting, The Doctor isn’t entirely effective in doing this. That’s mainly because the Graske is successful in distracting The Doctor. Well, it’s not like The Doctor hasn’t has a lot to deal with in recent weeks, what the return/loss of several companions and Davros being on his destructive high with the Daleks.

The Graske gets The Doctor’s attention by asking about the beautiful music that he hears in the TARDIS. The latter gives an acceptable enough answer about planets revolving around suns, suns revolving around galaxies, galaxies revolving around each other. With that, you then take gravity patterns to feed them to the TARDIS’ harmonic filter and then presto, music.

To be honest it’s a nice way of getting The Doctor and the Graske to agree on something but at the same time a space portal also reveals to The Doctor, the London Royal Albert Hall. For those of you who were lucky to see Doctor Who At The Proms back in July 2008, then this scene is even more heightened all for it.

The Doctor’s on his shouty best and even waxes lyrical about the notions of orchestras before actually getting the orchestra to play his own material. While conductor isn’t entirely The Doctor’s strongest suit, there’s no denying the overall fun of this piece either.

More importantly, the Graske has swiped The Doctor’s water pistol and has gone into the audience to create havoc. Of course he doesn’t succeed much when The Doctor pulls him back into the TARDIS and sends him. I do wonder that specials aside, will we actually see this particular creature in a full episode of the series.
The last minute of the special is also uplifting. The Doctor does tend to go with the change in music trends quite a bit but his overall message of encouragement (your inner musician) isn’t necessarily something to be scoffed at. You got love this show’s bouts of optimism.

- David Tennant is the only one credited for this scene. This is his first proper solo Doctor Who adventure and I’ve read that the 2009 specials may have a similar trend.
- The Doctor called his piece “Ode To Universe”. He was also wearing another one of his blue suits.
- Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow – that’s a nice shout out to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor.
- Is it strange that this didn’t entirely bridge gaps between “Journey’s End” and “The Next Doctor”?
- Despite this only airing in July and widely available on YouTube, this little scene won’t be available on the Season Four DVD. This was the last thing to be filmed in relation to the fourth season also.
- Ending this scene with the 1963 theme tune of the scene was a clever move.

Quote, Unquote

The Doctor: “I love the Proms. I was at the first Prom, 1895. I played the tuba, I was brilliant.”

After a series of dramatic and stirring episodes, the overall light hearted antics of “Music Of The Spheres” are welcomed. It may not have you reminiscing about days gone by in the series (except for the two obvious references) but it’s still a worthy addition to the series overall continuity.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Review of Doctor Who's "Music And Monsters"

Narrated by Anthony Stewart Head
Directed by Rhoudri Huw

David Tennant: “It’s like being a pop star at the moment. When I came on stage, I felt like Robbie Williams.”

Doctor Who and Children In Need continue to go hand in hand and compliment each other. In 2005, audiences got their first taste of David Tennant as The Doctor in the “Pudsey Cutaway” scene and now the lovely man is hosting a concert dedicated to the music from the series.

In fairness, you’re not five minutes into watching this concert that it’s told to us by David Tennant, Julie Gardner and Murray Gold that the concert had been on the card for a good part of a year. While they also might have pointed out the time and effort it takes into preparing such an event, it’s unsurprising that they come up trump.

David Tennant himself makes for a good host as he calmly plays audience participation (not that it took much to get the audience going) and relayed the history of the new series as well as bits from the old series during takes. When he wasn’t on hosting duties, he was being asked about several things such as “The Runaway Bride”, Season Three and the show’s theme.

Musically if you owe the soundtrack from Seasons One and Two, then you’re good to go really. All the familiar stuff is drummed out during the hour long concert with music dedicated to the Daleks, Cybermen, Sycorax, Clockwork Droids, Rose’s theme, the music from episodes such as “The Girl In The Fireplace” and “Doomsday” to name a few and of course, the theme tune itself.

There’s a good few minutes dedicated to the discussion of Delia Derbyshire’s theme tune with David Tennant, Russell T. Davies, Murray Gold and Ben Foster all offering their own thoughts in the matter. Overall this show has one of the most enduring themes going with some versions obviously sounding better than others. I’m particularly fond of the Jon Pertwee era of it.

Probably the best part of this entire concert is the fact that we get a behind the scenes look of “The Runaway Bride”. While it’s hard not to notice the blinding sun during the making of this episode (it was after all filmed in July), as a viewer who watched this on Christmas Day, it was a nice way of psyching myself up for the episode so to speak.

It was also the first time that not only did we have to think about Rose being gone but it was also around this time that Donna was being introduced. Catherine Tate herself looked in fine form as she described Donna to be an untraditional companion for The Doctor. Plus we got some music for the episode itself.

More importantly what really spirited this concert was the use of Daleks, Cybermen, Clockwork Droids, Sycorax and the occasional possessed group of people. With the audiences (especially the youngsters) clearly lapping it up, it’s clear that Doctor Who’s ongoing partnership with Children In Need is safe for many a year to come.

- The concert opened with a showing of clips of the Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Rose, Martha, Donna, Jackie, Mickey, a Dalek and a Cybermen. Shame about the lack of Jack or Sarah Jane.
- I spotted Freema Agyeman in the audience. The cameras even showed her off at one point.
- Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri really are great. You can tell like every cast member that they totally enjoyed working on Doctor Who.
- This concert aired on Christmas Day, six hours before “The Runaway Bride” and is available on the Season Three DVD.
- Anthony Stewart Head narrated this and has pretty much been narrating Doctor Who Confidential since then.
- David Tennant does have the most flamboyant of dress senses for a straight man. That’s all I’m saying on the matter.

Quote, Unquote

Murray Gold: “This show in a very un English way is very passionate. It came back in a big way and has a voice.”

“Music And Monsters” was definitely an appropriate title and it succeeded in it’s delivery for both Children In Need and just for being essential entertainment. As well as the brilliant scripts and acting, the music also brings Doctor Who to life and this wonderful concert is a nice reminder of that.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x18: "Time Of Your Life Part 3"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Karl Moline

Fray (re Buffy): “’Big picture …’ that spin’s for govvers, not slayers. Something’s skew with that girl.”
Dark Willow: “Anger won’t help. You have to understand Buffy. If you hate her she’ll be harder to kill.”

Three quarters of the way into this arc, it doesn’t feel like too much is advancing, does it? So far we know Buffy’s been thrust into a future where only one slayer now survives but she’s still clueless on how all the others perished within the space of 200 years.

Leafing through some books in Fray’s house doesn’t really help Buffy. When the clues aren’t being cryptic or ridiculous, then it’s sad for Buffy to discover that none of the race of slayers herself and Willow created have even made it into the history books.

Naturally enough this distresses Buffy and being stuck in a rather dystopian future also does little to boost her self esteem. Fray on the other hand is more concerned with a lead from Gunther on a current vampire hit so Buffy doesn’t get too much time to brood, which is good because self-pitying Buffy can be exhausting at times.

Still Fray’s appalling English is also a good thing for Buffy to concentrate. Three issues into this arc and even I feel like shaking Fray and asking her to speak properly but despite her terrible vocabulary, at least Buffy is smart enough to realise that a part of Fray’s plan involves actual slaying.

As for Willow, she’s still smarting over being duped by Saga Vasuki and decides to take a more assertive stance in order to save Buffy. Kennedy’s function in this issue is to serve as a means of support and she does this by getting Willow to try and contact the snake demon for help.

The flipside is the method that Willow has to take in order to do this. Okay while she doesn’t have to go and slaughter another deer, the idea of her and Kennedy frakking doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement under the circumstances. Maybe Saga Vasuki should consider opening up an email account instead.

Xander and Dawn are also not having a very good time of it either. With the castle going up in flames and demons after them, these two could really use some luck as well. Xander also badly times falling off Dawn’s back as well but at least it didn’t take either one of them long enough to figure out that Warren and Amy were behind this little scheme.

The one thing that slightly peeves me is that we’re not getting to see either Warren or Amy. Blowing up the castle was a good move on their part but shouldn’t we be seeing them put the rest of their plans into action. Shouldn’t Twilight and General Voll also be factoring at this point as well?

Then there’s the attack of the tree people as well. As if things weren’t bad enough for Xander and Dawn but now they have another adversaries to contend with to boot. Funnily enough this problem is taken care of far easier by Xander and Dawn simply dressing them down. Apparently tree demons (or whatever they) are the least frightening thing to find in a forest.

In the future however, the likes of Gunther has a lot worse shit to deal with when Harth makes a house call. Harth is unsurprisingly annoyed that Gunther has been helping his little sister with the big monsters and decides to take care of the Mer creature once and for all.

I quite like Gunther as a character so I’m a little sad to see him meet such a grisly death as a group of Harth’s vampires decide to feast on him. However although not a lot is seen, it does make for a nice little gory moment in the issue. Then again, there is the good possibility that Gunther might actually survive into the next issue.

As for Buffy, she might be a slayer but it still turns out that she’s a lousy driver with even Fray scared for her life. There’s a nice moment where Buffy’s notoriously bad motor skills are noted by the other slayer but for the most part, Fray’s priorities lie solely in getting the baddies.

Buffy however is more curious about the origins and that is where her and Fray openly conflicted. Buffy’s ‘big picture’ speech isn’t much to stop Fray from just attacking vampires and Buffy herself is a little too occupied with her bad driving skills to do anything to stop the volatile slayer.

One of the more interesting moments of the issue is when Fray takes a look at a victim and then faces off against Dark Willow. Just a few seconds to that, Fray was openly questioning Buffy’s ‘big picture’ speech so it only seems ripe that Dark Willow would use it as a conversation starter.

Our Willow on the other hand is having mind blowing sex. Now my definition of that would be with a hot, funny guy and not a sinister looking snake demon but as communications go, at least one of these parties is getting sated. Willow on the other hand is still annoyed for being deceived.

Saga Vasuki doesn’t seem all that bothered about Willow’s annoyance. She’s too busy with the flirty banter and seems genuinely surprised when Willow admits that she genuinely cannot get Buffy back herself. However it does seem that Saga was deceived herself so it’s not entirely her fault that Buffy is stuck in the future.

Still she does decide to help Willow out on the promise that once the rift is opened that Willow doesn’t look into it. I’m pretty sure there’s a terrific reason as to why Saga would demand such a promise but given how sketchy she comes across, I’d still want to know the real reason rather than just accepting her word at face value.

After that promise is hastily made, Willow disappears back into her own bedroom with Kennedy where it appears that the two of them also had sex around the same time. I’m sure a lot of people would envy Willow for being able to screw two women in different times/places but it does make relationship with Kennedy look questionable.

Given that Willow and Kennedy are not a massively shipped coupling, you do wonder if this is the beginning of the end for them. I’m not sure how I feel about that. The realist in me thinks we’ll never get Tara back but I’ve never hated Kennedy and I don’t like the idea of Willow having to whore herself even if it is allegedly for the greater good so to speak.

Dark Willow on the other hand is also equally hard to figure out. It’s clear that she wants to create a divide between Buffy and Fray but at the same time, her attitude towards Fray is rather friendly. She even patiently reminds Fray that she’s not a vampire and credits her with already knowing that.

However the discussion of her not being human could just be a commentary on the dark path she has revisited or a possibility that this Dark Willow might have some demonic properties about her. Another noteworthy part about this conversation is the fact that Willow notes the similarities between Fray and Buffy.

That being Dark Willow also quickly establishes that her and Harth have different ideas. Harth seemingly wants dominion whereas Dark Willow could simply be looking for revenge on Buffy. It also doesn’t help Dark Willow that she’s not running the big magic juice but she’s able to use something to convince Fray against Buffy.

Buffy meanwhile has managed to survive her lousy driving skills and even wonders about a certain van being parked but soon enough she encounters Fray’s older sister Erin. This was the girl who didn’t recognise last issue and also the one who felt like a dweeb for not knowing.

Erin’s a police officer but right now, she’s more worried about Fray’s whereabouts that in her frazzled mind she pulled a gun on Buffy. Buffy at least does the right thing by informing Erin that Fray took off during the middle of a lurk central before putting her foot in her mouth about Harth.

The best part is that both Buffy and Erin find some unsurprising common ground with each other. Both of them are able to chatter about being the law in their own ways and the both of them can relate to the annoyance of younger sisters. Mine is only six minutes younger than me (we’re twins) so it’s an amusing exchange between the two of them.

Perhaps it makes sense that Buffy would have an easier time relating to Erin that Fray. I even find Erin more sympathetic and interesting than Fray. Unfortunately for Buffy she ended up getting knocked out by Fray, who now thinks that turning on the blonde slayer will help her save the world.

It’s kind of sad that Erin had a role to play in this overall but I could see it coming upon repeat readings. The cliff hanger isn’t quite up there with Warren being revealed to be alive, Gigi about to get axe happy on Faith or poor Renee being murdered by Toru but it’s interesting enough.

Also in “Time Of Your Life Part 3”

The cover I got was with a Centaur Dawn who did seem to be drawn quite saucily or was that just me?

Buffy (to herself): “I created a race of slayers. To tip the scales, to beat back the darkness. To make the world better. But they’re not in the books. Not a mention. Nothing and the better world … turns out like this. Wow. Spoiler alert.”

Has Joss Whedon been watching Doctor Who’s “Silence In The Library”/“Forest Of The Dead”? I only say it because of a line from Dark Willow last issue and the spoiler comment.

Buffy: “Does any part of that sentence involve me beating something up?”
Fray: “Think so.”
Buffy: “Include me in.”

Willow: “Ken-Doll, do you trust me and know that I love you and I’m not a crazy person and what we do is for the greater good, cross your heart no backsies?”
Kennedy: “Duh. What we gotta do?”
Willow: “Frak.”

Given how much of an avowed Battlestar Galactica fan Joss Whedon has admitted to being, I’m surprised it’s taken him this long to reference it. It’s even more effective that it’s Willow who did as well.

Xander: “Bomb. Plus magic. Equals.”
Dawn: “Warren and Amy.”
Xander: “The Laurel and Hardy of being a dick.”
Dawn: “Man, I’d love to get those two under my hooves.”
Xander: “Amen.”

Gunther: “I was born in the gutter, boy. Not near, in. I have worked and killed and dodged or bought the laws till I control half of Haddyn and I have done it without even breathing air. Don’t think to out beast me.”
Harth: “You have it spun, Gunther. We’re of a kind. After all … lurks don’t breathe either.”

What exactly happened to Dark Willow to make her lose her magic? Did Twilight actually succeed in his aim to rid the world of magic?

Fray: “Summers, you drive like a Spaz!”
Buffy: “And that phrase stood the test of time?”

Willow: “I seem to be going.”
Saga Vasuki: “So brief a stay.”
Willow: “I’ll see you soon.”
Saga Vasuki: “Yes … do come again.”

This comic had some interesting ads in it, including one for Dragon Con 2008 which featured James Marsters.

Fray: “You wanna keep that hand?”
Dark Willow: “This is about as much magic as I can muster so don’t fret. I just need to show you something.”

Erin (re Buffy): “She just seems … Mel, what are we doing here?”
Fray: “What we do. Saving the world.”

The next issue is out on October 1st and then afterwards we’re back to a standalone one.

As this arc seems to move on, “Time Of Your Life Part 3” doesn’t offer a whole of progression. With one more issue left, we’ll need what exactly happened that turned the future into the bleak world we’ve become accustomed to.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x12: "After The Fall Part 12"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Stephen Mooney And Nick Runge

Cordelia: “But to be fair, you’re not standing, either.”
Angel: “Oh, right. That.”
Cordelia: “Yes, that. I’m not a fan of the dramatic -”
Angel: “Ha.”
Cordelia: “- Shush, but your reaction to your own death could be a bit bigger. Like maybe a gasp? A sigh? Subtle cock of an eyebrow?”

After the crappy previous issue where yet another betrayal was revealed and Angel was inches away from death, it is amazing just how much I ended up loving this issue. Sure it’s because of a certain person but does that matter? This comic needed a boot up the backside and the best returnee brought that in style.

However before I get on with them, there’s the issue of Gwen. The end of Issue 11 looked ambiguous but the first page makes everything clear – Gunn got to her before the LA Scoobies could and ever since she’s been doing her own part to help Gunn without them knowing.

Of course Gwen hasn’t necessarily turned evil, she’s just under the belief that Gunn is out to save them all and seeing as Gunn easily believes that himself, it’s easy to see why Gwen would be so keen to buy into it as well. I’m relieved that she’s not being deliberately evil but she is being stupid.

Spike naturally enough isn’t particularly sympathetic to Gwen’s plight. Then again Spike has always been a hypocrite. Lindsay used him brilliantly so the fact that Spike doesn’t entertain the idea that Gwen might be being duped by Gunn is annoying. These comics have succeeded in making Spike more annoying than when he was in Season Five of the series.

Connor on the other hand is naturally hurt. That guy’s history with women just keeps getting more and more tragic. His anger even stems into wondering whether or not Gwen was using the ‘no-touching’ as part of her act. I did believe Gwen when she told Connor that she fell in love with him as easily as I believed that she thinks Gunn is trying to do the right.

I could ask if believing in all of this suddenly makes me stupid but I’m dreading the response to that question. It’s also believable that Gwen would help Gunn out if it meant that she could touch people without electrocuting them. On the plus side she shoots a few volts of electricity in Spike’s direction, which in my opinion one of the best things she could’ve done.

Even if she does love Connor, it’s clear that betrayal has taken its toll on him and he threatens. Physically they could both hold their own against each other, unless Gwen used her powers against Connor. Scarier however is the fact that Connor threatens to make dragon food out of Gwen.

Elsewhere in what blatantly looks like a dream sequence or out of body experience of some sort Angel is chatting away to a mystery guest. Mainly Angel focuses on the moment he became human and how imagining this person kept his sanity intact. The best news ever is that the person in question is Cordelia.

Just like the televised Season Five, the comic book Season Six has sorely been lacking without Cordelia and her reappearance is the most welcomed thing this whole season has done full stop. Apart from looking radiant, this is the same witty and wonderful Cordy we got back in “You’re Welcome”.

I just loved the way she muses about Angel’s antics since their last encounter but while it’s utterly brilliant to see Cordy again, Angel’s right to assume the worst. However he is a gent in asking about her personal well being and Cordy can’t help but be a little amused by his flustered state to seeing her. Believe me he wasn’t the only who felt a little flustered in seeing the woman again.

Cordy doesn’t say much at first but does seem to try and point out that she isn’t pulling a parlour trick. More importantly she takes an interest in Angel’s seemingly nonplussed reaction to being killed. Angel however focuses his energies on Gunn’s mental imbalance and the effect he has on people.

Like any hero that takes on human allies, there are always potential casualties. Doyle, Wesley, Gunn, Fred and Cordy have all died in the space of five seasons and four of them aren’t completely back right either. Fred’s still the annoying Illyria, Wesley’s a ghost and largely powerless, Gunn’s one angry vampire and Cordy isn’t totally herself either but could actually be more useful than everyone else right now.

The shocking part is that Angel assumes (as did I) that Cordy is here to give him strength. Unfortunately she’s actually here to take him and here I was thinking that Grim Reapers weren’t supposed to look this gorgeous. However seeing as the Powers That Be can’t operate in LA right now, Angel’s mind goes back to wondering what has brought Cordy here.

Cordelia herself mentions the three possibilities – hallucination, actual Cordy or Wolfram And Hart manifestation to stick the knife. To be honest I think it’s the first, hope it’s second one but fear it could be the third one. Either way Cordy points out the irrelevance of whatever option it might be by getting Angel to concentrate on the fact that he’s only got one fate left.

To pull us away from the brilliance of Cordy’s comeback, Fred morphs back into Illyria when she has difficulty handling Gunn reappearing and Wesley disappearing all at once. Unfortunately it’s Nina who has to bear the brunt of Illyria’s anger when the loopy hell God explodes.

Illyria’s as tedious as Spike in this issue but fortunately we don’t have to tolerate her too much either. Although Nina isn’t quite as fascinating as other characters, I did feel sorry for her here. Her attempts to empathise with Illyria’s feelings of distress just have her thrown around the place like a rag doll.

While Illyria bores me senseless where her regal talk, at least she has the courtesy of leaving without breaking Nina in half. I think in the last two issues alone we’ve had enough deaths and maiming to last us for a bit. Illyria doesn’t need to add to the body count, unless it’s to kill Gunn’s motley crew.

Meanwhile another reunion takes place when Wesley and Gunn finally face off. It’s been hard trying to keep track of characters returning and those who haven’t interacted with certain people. Wesley of course chooses to arrive as Gunn comes to the realisation that Angel might have died prematurely.

That being said I do love Wesley and Gunn’s mutual sympathy to the dire states they’ve both ended up. Although they sound sarcastic in dialogue, it has to be sincere. Being a ghost has made Wesley powerless and being a vampire for Gunn has brought out the worst in him.

Needless to say Wesley’s also pretty pissed off that Gunn killed Angel as well. I felt for Wesley as it took him a while to realise that he was unable to save him. Even Cordy’s light hearted comment about the return to stuff suits couldn’t mask the sadness of Wesley’s rage. Wesley even explodes in anger before receiving a little message from Wolfram And Hart.

For a second Gunn believed that Wesley was going to be made corporal and so did I but this is Wolfram And Hart and Wesley’s no good to them as a human. However at least the evil law firm do give Wesley some much needed information on what exactly Gunn’s real role in the scheme of things really is.

Gunn deluded himself into thinking that he was going to save LA but all along Wolfram And Hart have been using him. In fact their main focus is still on the Shanshu prophecy and less about Gunn’s ‘heroism’. Not that Gunn particularly reacts well to such news.

In fact he tries to convince Wesley that he’s being tricked yet again but its Wesley who has to remind him that the Powers That Be can’t access the hell that LA is currently residing in. Angel on the other hand just kept assuming that his prophecy was destined for Spike all along. Does this mean that Spike isn’t special enough for said prophecy because I can live with that?

Still with Gunn making a foolish attempt to physically fight Wesley, Gwen tries her damn best not to become dragon food. It also doesn’t help her case that Connor is joining in on the attack but this segues into Wesley explaining that all along Wolfram And Hart just used everyone so they could get to Angel.

Wolfram And Hart have been doing that for five televised season so it’s hardly a shock but Angel’s intrigue matched by Cordy trying to get more answers makes me wonder what else is cooked up for him.

Then there’s also Gunn getting a bit eager for decapitation and Angel receiving one almighty vision from Wesley that inspires him to let Cordy help him to pass on. Where the hell is this going to go next? What did Angel see that ended up making him change his mind about passing over?

Also in “After The Fall Part 12”

The cover for this issue I got was Connor, Cordy (or was it Gwen/Nina?) and Spike over Angel’s grave.

Connor: “I don’t understand, Gwen.”
Spike: “It’s called being betrayed by the one you love. Welcome brother, the club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

The dragon got the name of Cordelia which last issue confused Betta George and this issue Gwen.

Gwen: “I love you, Connor. Wasn’t part of the original plan but there it is. He can make it back to how it was. He’ll make it so I’ll be able to touch again but I can’t let you near him.”
Connor: “You’ve said.”

Angel (re dragon): “He thinks his name … is your name. Is that weird?”
Cordelia: “Completely. But understandably I’d be disappointed if I came back and you had a boring story for me. ‘Hey Cordelia, guess what I’ve been up to. Lots and lots of Sudoku’. ‘Hey Cordelia, guess who started a movie review blog’.”

If you look at the way Cordelia is drawn it’s consistent to the way Charisma Carpenter looked during the 2004-2005 TV season on Charmed.

Cordelia (to Angel): “I can’t usually come …here. I don’t do LA and I certainly don’t do this sliver of LA. I tried, believe me, the glimpses I’ve seen of you have broken my heart – but whatever Wolfram And Hart did, its keeping the good out. But I can come now because you’re close. I’m here – and honey, I am so sorry – to make your passing easier.”

Angel: “Stop what?”
Cordelia: “Ignoring what I just told you. Death comes for you weekly, Big Guy, but this time it’s sticking.”

Cordelia seems to be wearing a fairly similar outfit to the one she wore in “You’re Welcome”. The hair of course is noticeably longer.

Illyria: “Everyone comes back just to leave! Gunn, Angel, Wesley again! Stop testing me. It’s annoying. I don’t approve.”
Nina: “I understand and I’m right there with you.”
Illyria: “I know you are but I don’t care if you’re here. I want the ones I know. Now.”
Nina: “No, I mean. You missed him and then he comes back … and now he’s gone again.”

Gunn: “Vampire.”
Wesley: “Ghost.”
Gunn: “Sucks -”
Wesley “- Truly.”

There’s a street sign named Doyle above an image of a samurai nun. Doyle also appears on a cover with Angel and Cordy for this issue. Maybe he’s coming back as well.

Cordelia: “Poor Wesley.”
Angel: “I know. He feels useless.”
Cordelia: “I was talking more about the return to the men’s warehouse wardrobe but yeah, the useless thing, totally almost or a little more than worse.”

Wesley: “This wasn’t about you. None of it was.”
Gunn: “Goddamn liar.”
Wesley: “We were all pawns. Moved accordingly … and sacrificed when needed. All so they could have Angel.”

In the series of flashbacks who was the guy that was roughing up Connor? Could it have been Hamilton?

Cordelia: “Shush I’m trying to listen.”
Angel: “‘You’re trying to listen?’ You didn’t know about this?”
Cordelia: “White hats don’t have a plant in the black hat office. If we were that sneaky, we’d be, you know, grey hats.”

Wesley (to Angel): “Speaking of visions. The senior partners been kind enough to force me to deliver one last vision. For Angel’s eyes only. Your part in the apocalypse. The Shanshu prophecy carried out, right before your eyes. It is written. It has been witnessed. It is inevitable. I’m sorry, my friend.”

I just found out that from Issue 17 onwards this series is getting the name “Aftermath”. I know Buffy Season Eight have 40 issues but how many will Angel Season Six have for definite?

Cordelia: “What did you see?”
Angel: “Cordelia? I’m ready to go.”

Once again IDW fail to tell us when the next issue is out, though wikipedia have said the end of October.

After the worst issue last week, it’s incredible that the best issue came this time with “After The Fall Part 12”. Cordelia’s return was a bloody triumphant and one can only hope that things are finally going to get back to the series I fell in love with. However how is Angel going to get out of surrendering to death?

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x11: "After The Fall Part 11"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Nick Runge

Fred: “Charles! Oh Angel, isn’t it wonderful? It’s beginning to feel more and more like home every day! I mean, more recent home, not “demons run/humans are cows”. Although it’s kind of like that too.”

And this comic is kind of like everything else we’ve seen in Angel’s sixth season so far. One minute you’re getting amazing stuff and the next you’re being saddled with a less than satisfactory story.

This issue unsurprisingly enough reunites Angel and Gunn after the two of them being apart for so long. Their face to face is a good set up but this is one issue I could’ve done without reading in a way.

Angel opens the issue by trying to remind himself that he’s in hell. Something like that should be easy to remember seeing as we’re now into the eleventh issue of the comic. Of course from an emotional perspective, Angel is just trying to remind himself of this fact because he’s had to deal with a lot.

Between friends dying, losing battles and becoming human, Angel discovering that Gunn has become a member of the undead couldn’t have come at a worst time. It also doesn’t help that Gunn’s minions seem determined to make their presence both known and felt at the same time.

Gunn’s sudden reappearance also inspires Illyria to morph back into Fred. At this point I just Fred back full time so I try not to get invested when this shell just coos about the gang being reunited. I suppose there could be an element of truth but this is too twisted and not the gang that I fell in love during the series hey days.

At least some action comes in Gunn’s henchmen trying to attack Angel. Instead of keeping his allies around, Angel forces both Nina and Fred/Illyria to get on the dragon and leave. On the plus side, the dragon at least scorches Gunn’s men. It would’ve been if the dragon hadn’t done that, right?

Of course just because the vampires get scorched, it doesn’t mean they’re dead and Angel has to put his fighting skills into use to do in the rest. Gunn in a show of kindness saves Angel by dusting one of the vampires himself. I would’ve loved for this to have been a hint that Gunn didn’t hate Angel but alas no.

Instead Angel discovers that Gunn has become a vampire and he’s pretty horrified by the reveal. It’s already documented that Gunn has been transformed into the very thing he hates but it doesn’t stop Angel from raising the point yet again. It’s also similarly transparent that Angel would second guess Gunn’s emotional state.

Is it really a shock that Gunn is trying to downplay his anger regarding his current predicament? Probably not but it’s definitely the most insincere form of downplay I’ve seen as well. Still some of the jokes he tries on, particularly ones about bald heads are alright enough.

In all of his guess work, Angel figures that Wolfram And Hart have had a hand in Gunn becoming a vampire. Gunn doesn’t alleviate the blame from them but he doesn’t focus too hard on it either. Still Angel does an incredibly stupid thing in following despite knowing full well that Gunn’s emotional state is erratic at best.

The Hyperion on the other hand just sees Spike trying to find out why Connor is irritated by his father. When reading that bit, it’s hard to determine whether Spike is genuinely concerned for Connor’s wellbeing or is just trying to stir thing. We already know that Angel has issues about the two of them being partners in crime.

Connor to his credit doesn’t give Spike any soot and decides to go back and save his father from impending doom. Gwen unfortunately tries to stick her oar in by concentrating on Connor’s trademark pouting. He can pout all he likes given that this isn’t Season 4 and that here; he’s easily one of the strongest characters going.

It’s also rather funny that Connor is playful in defending himself. Instead of getting stroppy, he gently reminds Gwen of her own whining abilities while giving us a brief rundown into the first time they met. The issue of sex raises its head too with both Connor and Gwen determined to find a way to be physically intimate with each other.

However this is all fine until Nina returns with dragon and Fred in tow. Nina explains about the vamps and then tells everyone that Gunn is their leader. This generates a reasonable reaction except for Spike being unconvinced that Gunn is a big bad of sorts. Although he raises a point about hell playing tricks on people, he just comes across as being a bit of a twat here.

Wesley also pops in to drop an opinion piece. It seems he’s also blissfully unaware of Gunn’s recent changes and wants to disbelief the theory that one of his closest friends is on the side of evil now. Connor thankfully interrupts all of this just by focusing on saving his father.

He does however assume too quickly that Gwen is going to try and talk him out of going on his hero mission. Fortunately for him, Gwen simply wants to back him up and let’s face it, having a mutant girlfriend is pretty beneficial during a mega battle as well as a big old dragon.

Fred meanwhile is too distracted with the idea of everyone coming. Apart from the obvious fact that we have yet to see Cordelia, Wesley’s right – nobody has come back right. So far we’ve Ghost Wesley, Vampire Gunn, Human Angel and the split personalities of Illyria and Fred. This comic is reuniting the gang, just not in a way that make you feel good as a reader.

Gunn meanwhile now seems to have taken Angel’s mantle for the old second guessing routine. Angel doesn’t have a chance to speak as Gunn yammers about what must be going through his former friend’s mind at the present. It’s not that Gunn isn’t making a valid point but it’s also not like we’re getting anything new either.

Angel tries to keep his cool. For the time Gunn doesn’t seem to realise that he’s human and suddenly Angel has to deal with a horrifying smell as well wondering what way his altercation with Gunn is going to go. The fact that Angel is preparing himself for the worst is good. The fact that he’s defenceless on the other hand isn’t.

Being a vampire in some ways does suit with Gunn’s sense of directness though. He immediately tells Angel when his transformation took place and does a better job of not sounding bitter when Angel was otherwise engaged. Turns out that while trading up for the dragon was also the same Gunn got to become immortal and develop a dependency for blood.

Introducing the rest of Gunn’s gang is less interesting. Apart from that brutish vampire who spent a few issues beating the crap out of Betta George, the rest of them are just generic and dull. There is however another uncomfortable moment when Angel sees a photo of the gang, which is a further reminder of the dystopian world our heroes have been shoved into.

Gunn seems to have a lot to say in this issue and while it might be insightful, he’s not imparting anything that you couldn’t already have guessed. There’s no secret in the fact that Gunn’s gang hates him more than their former leader and it’s also no secret that Gunn doesn’t entirely hold Angel responsible for the way things have gone down.

The interesting part however is the mention of the visions. Gunn seems to believe that Angel speeded up the process for him to become a vampire and seeing a disgusting creature nailed to the wall. The creature is question saw that Gunn was fated to become a vampire and Gunn decided to use this to take down his former leader.

However comparing some of his actions to Angel’s seems a touch unfair. That being said the dead creature at least left Gunn some gifts to ponder over but between filling Angel in about Betta George and captive slayers; the one thing Gunn really wants is his old friend’s help.

Gunn has a desire to save Los Angeles and while he doesn’t get a chance to explicitly explain what the genius plan might be, Angel tries to talk him out of it. Proving that Angel’s initial fears towards Gunn were justified, the recently made vampire just loses it and Angel gets the savage beating he should’ve seen coming.

However while Angel is a dab hand at defending himself and slaying more of Gunn’s uninteresting gang, there’s a nasty taste left when Gunn stabs after stripping him of his glamour. So Gunn knew all along about Angel being human and worse is the pleasure he seems to take from seeing his former friend in agony.

The most confusing part of this issue though is Gwen. Gunn bragged about finding a “her” first and by the end of this issue it does look like Gwen has turned traitor when she apologises to Connor. Then again it could be a mislead. Perhaps there’s another “her” that Gunn is referring to, one that would have more of an emotional impact on Angel than just Gwen.

Also in “After The Fall Part 11”

There are five different covers for this issue but the one I scored was a sword wielding Angel with a fire breathing dragon.

Betta George: “Wait a minute. That guy’s from your head, Gunn. He’s got Spike in his head! And why the heck is the dragon names that?!”

Since I’ve last reviewed this series, two issues of Spike: After The Fall have been released. I won’t be reviewing them.

Angel: “I, um – Was it … was it Wolfram And Hart?”
Gunn: “Nah, I mean, yeah, sure, in the sense that Wolfram And Hart was partially responsible for the big bang that the vamps in question used as a distraction, but no, not directly.”

Connor: “Can we figure out a way to, please? Because -”
Gwen: “I know, I made a list. It’s long and sordid.”

The cover for Issue 12 seems to have Connor and Spike but I’m not sure if the woman is Fred or Gwen or even Nina. The artwork is still inconsistent with this range.

Nina: “How do I put this … it was Gunn. Angel saw Gunn.”
Gwen: “We did too.”

Fred: “Isn’t this exciting? Everyone’s coming back.”
Wesley: “It would appear so, only the problem is … nobody’s coming back right.”

This comic showed an ad for the Doctor Who arc “The Forgotten”. Given that said arc isn’t being imported for UK/Irish fans, I’m a bitter man over that. Still maybe I’m not missing out.

Gunn: “Man, see, that’s why you wore the Captain’s stripes for so long, you ask the good questions. “When” is easy, it was while you were trading up for the dragon.”
Angel: “Pardon?”
Gunn: “Wasn’t a riddle, Angel. In the alleyway. You were otherwise engaged.”

Gunn (re dead demon): “Many gifts actually. Then he passed on. I keep him up there for tribute.”
Angel: “Maybe you could bury him.”
Gunn: “It’s an idea or maybe just a drape over him.”

The visions we saw were of the sphere, Betta George, Wesley, Fred/Illyria and that demon Gunn had slain earlier on in the series.

Gunn: “Can’t believe I’m about to say this … Angel. Help me.”
Angel: “I will, Gunn. I -”
Gunn: “Help me to carry out what the visions want. Help me to save Los Angeles.”

Gunn (to Angel): “One of these things is not like the other. Should I turn you or feed on you? Bet you wish you could tell me what to do now, huh, old man? I kinda do, too. You know what? Gonna let you die. But you should shuffle off knowing one thing. I found her first.”

Issue 12 was released on September 4th along with Buffy’s “Time Of Your Life Part 3”. Reviews for both of them will come soon.

As issues went, this one annoyed me. The ending for “After The Fall Part 11” should have me on the edge of my seat but it didn’t. I can’t imagine that Joss Whedon or Brian Lynch would dare kill off Angel.

Rating: 5 out of 10.