Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x03: "After The Fall Part 3"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Franco Urru

Angel: “Demons from the primordium age, however, even those that had their powers reduced by, let’s say, mutari generators … they don’t seem to be affected.”

It’s vampire versus super bitch as Illyria promised to dismember Angel at the end of “After The Fall Part 2” and the God isn’t one to make empty threats. Angel gets his ass tossed into the kitchen and while he’s busy musing about Illyria still having enough strength to finish him off, things get somewhat confusing.

One minute they’re duking it out in the kitchen, the next we’re flashing back to Angelus having his own violent encounter with the deranged woman in a barn. Then it flashes back to the present kitchen fight. What the hell is going on here? Angel puts it down to a time slip but why is it only occurring during his fight with Illyria.

Illyria doesn’t seem particularly concerned about this though. Nope she’s much too happy to decimate Angel and there’s no amount of reasoning from him that’ll put her off. What the hell is this bitch’s problem? She’s caused more damage in her time than Angel sending LA to hell so shouldn’t she a bit more understanding as such?

There’s a great moment when Angel gets in a single punch to Illyria, followed by the opportunity to stab her. Now I’m not a big Illyria fan so anyone doing physical harm to her (except Spike) is fine by me. What’s even more interesting is the fact that Angel is able to stab through her armour.

Being in hell has changed people and demons. Wesley’s a ghost, Gunn’s a vampire, vampires no longer view daylight as a problem and werewolves are going crazy with the duality of day and night. The only ones seemingly unaffected is Gwen.

Of course getting stabbed doesn’t slow Illyria doing, although it’s safe to say that getting a blade in her side did hurt a little. The other thing is that Angel is still determined to find out whether or not Illyria murdered the Lord of Westwood. Illyria being her usual annoying self just rants cryptically before pinning Angel to the wall with knives in his hands.

Its times like this even I’ve forgotten how much of a quick mover Illyria but then the time slip dilemma is back again. This time round we’ve got Puppet Angel wondering why Fred is dressed so strangely and then a futuristic version of Angel wondering whether or not there’s something of Fred remaining inside Illyria.

I would love for this to be an actual hint or sign that Fred is destined to return. Seeing as this arc has acted as if Cordelia never existed, I really hope that in a few issues time, Illyria is gone and Fred is restored. Fred is a lot more interesting to watch than Illyria any day of the week The fact that Illyria is acting highly strung could also be a good sign that she’s not destined to last much longer.

Spike doing probably the only decent thing in this comic tries to persuade Illyria to refrain from killing Angel. Of course Illyria’s too eager to behead Angel and with Spike’s crappy persuasion skills, it’s up to the dragon to ensure Illyria isn’t successful in her latest slaughter.

Much as I’d like to know why Illyria is so determined to off Angel that dragon’s arrival couldn’t have came at a better time. Illyria being as gloriously arrogant as her pet ignores Spike’s warning that she’s out of her depth and decides to take on the beastie. Dumb God, doesn’t she listen to anyone?

The dragon responds to Illyria’s defiance by scorching her. It’s a good for Illyria that she is a God or else her ass really would’ve been barbequed at that moment in time. It’s almost a pity we didn’t another “maybe there’s a part of Fred inside of Illyria” hint during that moment.

Instead Illyria just goads the beast into continuing the fight and then tries to straddle him even though she’s the size of a fly compared to the dragon. Is it wrong that I want the dragon to kick Illyria’s ass? Maybe but at least dragon isn’t a Spike devotee and that earns it some respect in my book.

I know I’m being hard on Spike but that’s mainly because I’ve become sick and tired of the writers always trying to validate him and having him be a thorn in Angel’s side only re-enforces my sympathy for Angel that bit more. Spike’s decent to help Angel up but yells at his minions who offer to help Angel. Surely Spike should be able to put his pettiness aside in this battle.

I’m not exactly sure why Spike was so worried in being found but thanks to Illyria and the dragon’s airborne battle, they’re more or less screwed. Blaming Angel seems a tad unfair. It’s not like he had a choice when it came to confronting Spike and Illyria.

Battles aside, the Illyria/Dragon one is every bit as fun to watch as the Faith/Gargoyles in “No Future For You Part 2”. The dragon even gets the chance to try and eat Illyria up much to her fear. Yes Illyria showed some fear as she was being swallowed. It’s almost too bad that she’s such an unpleasant taste that the dragon has to spit her out.

Illyria’s penchant for stupidity doesn’t stop there. Any other powerful God smart enough to escape being dragon food would either have the sense to quit while they’re ahead or to at least go away and regroup. Illyria clearly not blessed with the sense of awareness annoys Spike with wanting weapons. Just give it up, Illyria. This dragon could kill you, which would not be a bad thing.

It’s good that Illyria’s erratic behaviour hasn’t gone unnoticed. Angel berates Spike about his destructive influence on the God and he’s got every right to but it’s Connor who rallies to Spike and Illyria’s defence when he claims that they had nothing to do with Lord Westwood’s demise. I’m begging you Angel writers; please don’t have Spike use Connor as a means of scoring points against Angel.

It does seem that Spike and Connor are working together however. As Illyria continues to get her ass kicked by the dragon, Connor explains that Spike has been rescuing people and sending at least half of them to Connor, Nina and Gwen. Connor then explains that Spike has been saving so many people and they’re running out of space.

It explains the hoards of scantily clad women around Spike’s place but Spike easily loses points when he starts rubbing it in Angel’s face. Angel doesn’t take it well and leaves with the dragon, despite Illyria still wanting to fight. Damn, does that girl have no other hobbies?

At least Connor isn’t against Angel in all of this. He did try to explain why he was working with Spike and he does go after Angel to see if he’s all right. It’s moments like that make all the more glad that Connor is in this arc. He’s the only person that Angel can fully trust right about now and I hope it stays that way too. Plus it would be nice to see Connor kick Spike’s ass if he acts too smug.

Then again that’s not much of a consolation to Angel. He doesn’t like the idea of Connor and Spike having a friendly rapport and his guilt about putting Connor in danger is nicely touched on without going overboard. Even better is that instead of sitting around and brooding, Angel decides to do something about his actions.

Pairing up with Wesley (who tries to warn him about the Lords), Angel decides to pay Burges a home visit. Here we get an eclectic bunch of demons all ruling certain parts but hardly any of them remotely interested in avenging the death of Burges’ bratty offspring. Hey they’ve got their parts of LA, why the hell should they care?

Even more fun is Angel and Wesley interrupting the little meeting. Better still Wesley doesn’t try to stifle Angel’s parade as our handsome hero dares to not only challenge Burges but also the entire demon lords of LA in his attempt to regain order. I don’t know about Angel but that to me, definitely is not baby steps. Funnily enough Wesley then points out the bad odds.

Angel might be all for getting rid of Burges and every other rotten demon from the hell he’s sent everyone to but given that aside from Connor/Nina/Gwen, Angel is pretty short on allies. Wesley physically can’t do a damn thing and Spike, Illyria and Gunn aren’t exactly that eager to help Angel out either. Perhaps he has bitten more off than he can chew so to speak.

Not that it matter because there’s a bigger shock when Angel lets slip that he’s no longer a vampire. Does that mean that Angel is now human? Going on all the three issues so far, Angel hasn’t vamped out when he’s been assaulted and Illyria did some mega damage to him this week.

Being human should be a good thing for Angel but just like the fates of Gunn and Wesley, it’s more than likely going to be played to his disadvantage. He might want to start banding his team pretty fast or else Burges will have a victory on his hands.

Also in “After The Fall Part 3”

I’ve started buying the variant covers since last issue. I just liked the Illyria grabbing Angel’s throat one for some reason.

Angelus (re Illyria): “What is wrong with this woman? Who is the woman? Where am I?”

Illyria didn’t seem to recognise the various stages of Angel. Angel was also shown as a baby too.

Angel: “We need to talk.”
Illyria: “If I separate your pieces and hurl them into different directions you will not return.”
Angel: “Granted -”

Angel: “Do you think I want to fight you Illyria? I just want answers, so – wow.”
Illyria: “I want you away.”

The artwork for Illyria is slightly better than it has been for characters like Nina and Gwen. Less porn star looks anyway.

Spike: “What I was merely making sure you were free of hell lice is what it … missing the point here … let him go.”
Illyria: “If he’s gone we move forward.”

Angel (re imminent Illyria/dragon fight): “Illyria I have a feeling what I’m about to see we could sell tickets to.”

There’s a preview to Joe Hill’s “Locke and Key” in this issue. It looks interesting.

Illyria: “First strike little dragon and go.”

Spider (re Angel): “Should I tend to his wounds?”
Spike: “You do and you’re out of the Top Twelve. Answer me, Angel.”

I’m impressed that Illyria didn’t even show scorch marks especially given that Hamilton was able to make her bleed in “Power Play”.

Spike (to Angel): “Great. Fountain of blood is gone. When Fred Sonja is done, I want you to take that thing and get out.”

Illyria: “Loud vampire! Fetch me my arms! All of them!”
Spike: “A bit busy here psycho.”

This is the first issue with a letter page. Most of the comments on Season Six are more positive than my own thoughts had been.

Angel (to the dragon): “Stop playing, we’re leaving.”
Illyria: “I’m not yet sated.”
Angel: “Join the club.”

Connor (to Angel): “I drove here. The dragon kinda indicated that it wanted me to ride on his back but I thought that would be weird.”

The shark demon from Buffy’s “Tabula Rasa” is the Lord of Santa Monica. Other lords are from Burbank, Compton, Downtown LA, Weho, Century City and Sherman Oaks.

Wesley: “It will, you know – Burge is right. It will absolutely be a slaughter.”
Angel: “We’ll think of something. We’re the kings of last minute saves. Except for that one time. When I sent everyone to hell.”

Angel (to himself): “Another thing about hell, doesn’t alter a vampire’s healing faculties, so a vamp can still mend quickly. Which, of course, would mean so much more if I still were a vampire.”

Next issue is out in mid-February and apparently this arc is a five parter according to the letter page.

After two underwhelming issues, “After The Fall Part 3” finally does what the others should’ve and ups the tension. The time slips, hints of Fred being there (possibly) and Angel’s revelation gives this arc the kick up the arse it needs. Less Spike worshipping would be welcome of course.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x10: "Anywhere But Here"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Cliff Richards

Sephrilian (to Buffy/Willow): “The end, of course. Of the struggle, of the Hellmouths … the final triumph of the base humans over the demons. It’s your life’s goal achieved, Slayer. The death of magic.”

The format of this season seems to be a four part serial with standalones sandwiched between in order to give some breathing space. This standalone of sorts fails on that objective as the Twilight continues to steamroll ahead.

When the opening panels in this issue are of Buffy relaxing on a beach and being hit on Daniel Craig (I would tap that, too), you know you’re in the land of dreams or fantasies and suffice to say we are here. After all, Buffy fantasising about hot actors is much better dangling off a flying Willow.

You heard right there. Buffy and Willow are flying to get some more information on Twilight and they amuse themselves with a game of ‘anywhere but here’. Fun idea and Willow poking fun at Buffy’s fantasy is a light way of easing readers into the story. It’s also to see a friend moment between the two of them as well. It’s also good for Willow that they’ve found their location as Buffy’s fear of being is on the increase.

Speaking of friendly moments, Xander decides to do something for Dawn. Seeing as the girl has been criticised for her recent lack of hygiene, it’s only fair that Xander got some of the witches to make some of Dawn’s clothing extra large like herself. It’s even funnier when Xander falls into the suitcase as a grateful Dawn opens up to get some fresh clothing.

With the greatness coming in, we get to see what turns Willow on (ski lodges and Tina Fey, I never would’ve guessed) but what’s more intriguing is the issue of Kennedy. In “The Long Way Home Part 3”, we learned that she died mystically, came back to life and that her and Willow are on a break.

In this issue Buffy realised that Kennedy was still significant and was quick to ask Willow about her. I love that Buffy admitted to thinking Kennedy was bratty. Kennedy is in a way but also in the kind that doesn’t wreck my head too much. Willow clearly doesn’t want to discuss it with Buffy and uses the fact that they’ve arrived at their location to change the subject.

The location in question seems to be a forest with a cottage and a woman named Robin, who obviously has been expecting them. Willow then piques Buffy’s suspicions by one minute telling her that she doesn’t know Robin and then changing her statement when Robin acknowledges. The phrase ‘timey wimey’ springs to me. Either that or Willow is up to something less good.

Anyways the main gist seems to be geared towards Buffy and Willow entering that cottage and meeting with a demon called Sephrilian, who’s in something of a cantankerous mood. A pissed off demon – big whoop. Thank God there’s the reveal about him being able to go through realities. Even more interesting though is a concept of a Minder, which is the role that Robin plays.

Like Slayers, Minders have no choice in the matter and if we’re going by Buffy’s deduction, they contain unstable realities. Buffy’s dismissive attitude about Robin being one is nicely countered by Willow. See slayers are not the only ones who shoulder a heavy burden and what not. Buffy should know that by now.

Once we’re inside and enduring the staircase that never, there’s a chance for more Buffy and Willow interaction. Bitching about Faith is never cool but Willow talking French and calling Buffy “cutie” is amusing. It’s also nice to see that Buffy’s fear of the dark from Issue Two has resurfaced again. Also Willow promising to have Buffy’s back is nice.

With Buffy and Willow heading towards the dark, Xander finds himself swimming through Dawn’s frilly attire. Dawn praising Xander for his efforts is great but not as cool as her teasing him for panicking. Yes, Xander I get that Dawn is a woman now. Then there’s the picture of Kenny.

Since “The Long Way Home Part 1”, everyone has wanted to know why Dawn became a giant. Over the last few weeks some people thought it might have been Kenny’s fault beside her transformation and I hoped that sex wasn’t involved. Well I was wrong on both accounts unfortunately.

It seems that Dawn was silly enough to sleep with Kenny’s roommate Nick. Like Buffy, it turns out that Dawn also has a penchant for bad boys and Nick is one of those wankers who people mistake for being deep. Anyways he popped Dawn’s cherry (presumably) and Kenny used magic to turn her into a giant.

It’s amazing that even now sex can still be bad on this show even in comic form. Dawn cheating on her boyfriend was bad but couldn’t Kenny have just dumped her and move on? At least we finally know how she became a giant. The only other question is when the spell is going to be reversed. Having Dawn as a giant has kept her out of the action so far.

Xander provides some decent support for Dawn. Seeing as they have a very sibling like rapport, he doesn’t berate for her poor choice in men. It is funny that he likens her actions to being clichéd, which they are. It’s also curious that Dawn doesn’t know about every guy Buffy has slept with either.

Speaking of not knowing things, Buffy is still pushing the Kennedy issue again. She tries to tell that she likes Kennedy (which I do believe) and even wants Willow to be comfortable with Kennedy around her. Willow is still having none of it and once again, there’s a demonic distraction. Also Buffy goes from being supportive to suspicious of Willow in no short time.

The demon on the other hand manages to scare the shit out of Buffy and Willow before making his presence known and felt. He’s affronted by their presence in his domain and also accuses them of being liars. Buffy pointing out that they haven’t said anything doesn’t help matters.

That being said I don’t care about the affronted demon, all I care about are answers and this guy seems willing to provide them with more questions. Twilight mentioned to that suit in “No Future For You Part 4” that he wanted to end magic and this demon more or less states the same thing.

I’m not sure why Sephrilian is revelling in the concept. If Twilight is looking to end magic, then that could be disadvantageous even for a reality flitting demon like Sephrilian. It’s also noteworthy that Buffy’s life time goal as a slayer could end up being a major disaster for Willow. Willow wasn’t best pleased when she heard that revelation was she?

Sephrilian, almost deliberately cause a divide between Buffy and Willow then shows them at their least likeable moments. On one hand, you’ve got Buffy and a ton of slayer robbing a Swiss bank and on the other, there’s Willow all naked with demon in her search for knowledge.

Willow is quick to judge Buffy’s bank robbing antics and she raises valid points all round. Voll bitched about slayers becoming corrupted and doing what pleased them and we saw it here. Buffy’s crime wasn’t that victimless and if she takes actions like this, then some of her charges are going to take a darker turn.

That being said Willow is no angel as Buffy looked shocked at her bad. Does everyone on this show need to bonk demons? What secrets was Willow looking for and more importantly, what the hell is going in that place?

The next thing we see is a vision of a bruised Buffy betrayed by someone close before Robin comes and goes in a flash. Willow acts twitchy when Buffy wonders if it’s her who’ll betray Buffy. The fact that Willow says she won’t betray her any more than she has speak volumes.

Remember twice in this issue that Willow was acting cagey about Kennedy? In our last reveal, we see Willow and Kennedy argue and then Willow reveal that the reason why she doesn’t want Buffy and Kennedy to interact is in case, Kennedy dies. Somehow Willow has now thought that Buffy’s resurrection caused Tara’s death. The hurt both Buffy and Willow exhibit during that would’ve been powerful had this been a televised episode of the series.

Sephrilian finishes his rant by criticising human emotions before him and Buffy lock into another battle. Its fun that Willow uses her magic to help Buffy slay the beastie but it also causes the field to blow up and almost kills the two of them in the process. Then again, it’s not like Buffy and Willow had a choice in the matter and Robin was able to contain it as well.

The last moments add some complicated poignancy. You’ve got Robin sympathising with Buffy and Willow but you’ve got both Slayer and Wicca unable to face each other as they go their separate ways. Damn and just when some fun was being had too.

Also in “Anywhere But Here”

There are two covers for this issue. I have Jo Chen’s with Buffy and Willow but the variant cover with the girls and Robin is pretty gorgeous as well.

Willow: “Come on! We’re flying!”
Buffy: “You’re flying. I’m dangling.”

This is the second issue where we’ve had the cover image appear in the comic, what with Buffy and Willow flying.

Dawn: “Uh, Xander?”
Xander (mumbled): “I don’t love you anymore.”

Willow: “Sephrilian walks between worlds. Reality tends to buckle around those guys.”
Buffy: “It’s bigger on the inside.”
Willow: “That’s my guess.”

The winner Jerrod Balzer wrote a touching letter about his wife Robin, who is the character in this issue.

Buffy (re Robin): “I thought you hadn’t met.”
Willow: “We do later on.”
Buffy: “And I’m just gonna ride with that.”

Buffy: “If things get dicey, then I get slay-ey. But that’s not what we came for.”
Willow: “We’re just here to talk.”
Robin: “There’s a chance you’ll wish you hadn’t.”

Buffy also fantasised about Christian Bale from both Little Women and Reign Of Fire. Also a guy that I wouldn’t mind tapping.

Willow: “Ah, esprit d’escolier.”
Buffy: “Willow! What’s happening? I can’t understand you! It’s getting inside us.”
Willow: “It’s French, cutie. You really are afraid of the dark, aren’t you?”

Xander: “Frilly … frilly! Lord of hosts, I’m in the frilly.”
Dawn: “Relax, tiny; it’s a camisole.”

Does anyone think that Kenny’s friend looked a little bit like Andrew? No, seriously take a look at that picture.

Sephrilian: “You reek of lies.”
Buffy: “We haven’t, unnh even said anything yet!”

Dawn (to Xander): “It’s not that simple. I lied to Willow. I didn’t sleep with Kenny. I slept with his roommate.”

Please tell me Kenny did something to punish Nick as well. Also can Joss please explain what a Thricewise is at some point?

Sephrilian (to Buffy/Willow): “Lies, delusions, gross simplifications …these are what make mankind. No fault in it; your brains could not contain the horrible beauty of total awareness. You run from it, as from a predator. You escape. Even from each other. Take a look.”

Buffy: “Will, I don’t think I wanna be here anymore!”
Willow: “I don’t think we are.”

The demon woman Willow made out with had white hair, a snake like tail and green skin. The forest background was a nice touch.

Demon (to Willow): “Are all my secrets laid bare now? Have you found what you needed? Or shall I show you more?”
Buffy (reacting to what she has seen): “Wow you’re bad is way better than mine.”

Dawn (re Nick):“Bass. Vocals. I’m a Satan.”
Xander: “Dawnie stop! You hereby guilty of being a cliché and that’s it. You ever see the first guy Buffy slept with in college?”
Dawn: “Riley.”
Xander: “Oh how she wishes.”

What was inside the cracked red egg shell in Sephrilian’s lair?

Buffy: “Is it you? Is that why we’re both in this?”
Willow: “No. I won’t betray you. Any more than I have.”

Kennedy (to Willow): “You know I’d die for you … oh wait, I did! Admittedly it was mystical and kind of mellow but, headline: death! And I didn’t say a word about your six month mystical walkabout.”

That yellow top on Kennedy looked pretty nasty. It’s not something you’d think she would wear on the series.

Robin: “I’m sorry if I projected a remnant in there. It went when the field closed down. But I imagine that it wasn’t something fun.”
Buffy: “It was demons. Playing games.”

Chronology: No mention of a time distance since “No Future For You Part 4”.

This was fun in some ways and confusing as heck in a lot of others. “Anywhere But Here” continued to build up the Twilight mystery but how many divides in the Scooby faction must we deal with? Buffy already is on the outs with Giles and now it looks like her and Willow could go their separate ways too.

Rating: 8 out of 10.