Friday, April 18, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also in “After The Fall Part 6”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 9 out of 10.