Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x07: "After The Fall Part 7"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Tim Kane And Nick Runge And Stephen Mooney

Connor: “Surprised you haven’t encountered one of my fathers.”
Kate: “‘One off …? Heh, LA.”

Things keep building up and getting rather juicy as this comic season continues to show vital signs of actual improvement. Last issue tackled four different characters so this issue continues with one Betta George and also starts unravelling the fates of both Wesley and Kate.

Betta’s story both begins and end this comic yet again. The fish has managed to break free of the reigns of his prison and is making a decent attempt to escape. Sadly for him, the vampire we all assumed was thicker than two short planks has other ideas.

While Betta George might be keen to catch up with Spike, the vampire minion stops him from actually leaving. Worse still for Betta is that he’s furious about the fish trying to underestimate him at every turn.

Much as I like the Betta George plot I kind of wish that we got the full story in the first few pages. I’m looking forward to really finding out why he’s so significant in the grand scheme of things. What the hell does Gunn want with him and it Betta is so important, then why aren’t Angel and Wesley looking for him also?

To kick off the new stories first there’s Wesley sitting in a chair looking content. From the get go, it’s clear that he’s supposed to be in some form of a happy setting and given the amount of misery he’s had to endure, a part of me was hoping that this happiness was real for him.

After all you’ve got Wesley with a big goofy grin on his face and there’s Fred telling him that they’ve done it. Wesley’s reaction is to wonder aloud if a small of her was still inside Illyria to which she reacts that she was. Given that Illyria lied to him as he began to die, I could see where this one was going.

It’s great to see to a romanticised Wesley and Fred. Both of them want to be together and there’s a few romantic images as well as the odd monster to slay that highlights what their future might be. All Wesley wants to do is curl up in bed with the woman he loves more than anything.

Sadly Wesley is also a realist and immediately that the Fred who is offering him such joys is a fake. It’s not specified who is actually posing as Fred, though a part of me suspects that it could be Eve. Well she always did have a penchant for being annoying when she wasn’t scheming against Wolfram And Hart herself.

Wolfram And Hart clearly believe that Wesley could do with being a bit more miserable. After all they want to reveal the Fred as a fake as soon as Wesley slept with her but they didn’t bank on Wesley figuring out so quickly. I’m hoping future underestimations on Wolfram And Hart’s part will play to Wesley’s advantage.

Wesley’s first reaction to the fake Fred is to strangle her but he manages to keep his anger under control. Not that it matters seeing as the fake is every bit as dead as he is. Still the woman is a right bitch in her happiness to goad Wesley and she doesn’t waste much time either in reminding him that he is still under contract.

As we’ve seen from the start of “After The Fall Part 1”, Wesley is literally being forced by Wolfram And Hart to spy on Angel and report to them everything he gets up to. Wesley doesn’t want to do this and uses both the fact he’s dead and idle threats to try and get out of the deal.

Unfortunately the threat of being separated from Fred even more and the fact he’s bound by contract means that he doesn’t get a say in the matter. Soon enough he’s kitted out for work and is told to get on with things.

Wesley’s reaction to the hell on earth outside is a nice touch. He’s actually surprised by the amount of carnage that has managed to happen in such a short time and while he’s still determined to best Wolfram And Hart, he is for the time being their unwilling little spy.

As for the woman posing as Fred (then again maybe it is Fred), she also questions Wesley’s motives. She knows that he’ll try to break free but she’s also aware that Wesley’s loyalty to Angel could be an advantage for her as well.

The most interesting however is that she mentions Wesley being the key to Wolfram And Hart being victorious in this battle. Needless to say, I really want to find out how exactly that one will come about. How can Wesley help this firm win and more importantly, aside from Angel, is there any other way they can lose?

Connor meanwhile also has the fear of losing his own battles. Being caught by a demon gang in the last issue wasn’t exactly the best of things that could’ve happened to him and given that his mind is less focused on escaping, it’s a good job that he doesn’t have to be the one who kills the demons ready to slaughter him.

Nope, instead that honour goes to Kate who since the last time we’ve seen her has clearly went on a Supernatural marathon and decided to become a demon hunter in her own right. All she says is two words before the demon holding Connor is shot to pieces.

As reintroductions go that is pretty damn cool. Kate’s never been one of my favourite characters but I’ve never hated and while I was expecting the mystery character for this issue to be someone like Cordelia, I have to admit that her story is riveting enough to keep me amused.

As soon as she shoots the demon both she and Connor have to leg it as the remaining demons are ready to tear them both to pieces. One of the amusing things with the running is that Connor goes into overload trying to prove his toughness as Kate gently dismisses him.

Still at least there is Kate’s car so they don’t have to do that much running and the driving allows for some more sparkling dialogue. Kate wants to get Connor away from danger and all Connor wants to do is explain that he can handle himself in a fight.

He’s also quick to mention that he has multiple fathers as Kate gives a brief description of her own antics. Basically she’s helping people fall through the cracks caused by this hellish setting and when she’s not doing that she’s also blowing up as many demons as she can possibly muster.

In fact before we get to see her base she also shoots at a grisly looking spider creature which looked like it could’ve came out Doctor Who. It also enough to get Kate suspicious while in a funny scene Connor thinks she’s flirting with him. I guess in every dimension Connor is going to have a thing for older women.

As Kate’s base of operations, it’s a slayer’s wet dream. Tonnes of weapons and books but Kate’s too busy telling Connor to relax to give him a guided tour. Also when she finishes working on a nifty little weapon of her, she leaves Connor there to ponder all by himself.

Well Connor does that for a few seconds and then he arms himself. More interestingly is that it’s perhaps Kate and not his father that influenced him to fight monsters in this environment. After all when he wasn’t thinking about her sexually, he seemed to be taking in a lot of what she said.

However seeing as the comic started with Betta George, it also finishes with him and the fish is back to being a prisoner. Even more interesting is that the vampire holding him hostage explains that Gunn has being using slayers to help with his training.

This might be the first element of Buffy that has slipped into Angel’s comic season. It’s a nice, sinister twist that will hopefully pay off in later issues and it also manages to both confuse and freak out Betta George so there’s double points in that too. However something like that has got to draw attention and obviously I don’t mean from Buffy’s neck of the woods.

Also in “First Night Part 2”

The cover I got was with Spike in pure vampire mode on top of a building, looking all gothic and creepy to boot.

Betta George (to the vampire): “Wow, you really wanna bite me but you can’t, huh? There’s a reason I’m Hell’s most sought after fish. I’m a powerful telepath, little man. I mean, look at us, you’re a vamp and I can still make you think this is going on. Virtually impossible, yet here we are.”

The only appearance from Spike this issue is the image that Betta George produces to the vampire holding him hostage.

Betta George (to the vampire): “When your boss gets back, tell him I’m sorry I couldn’t stick around but I had to go see a British guy about kicking his ulp.”

Fred: “Sweetie … we did it.”
Wesley: “You were in there.”
Fred: “Maybe a smidge. You always knew.”

I have to give big praise to Nick Runge who really made both Wesley and Fred in this comic actually look like Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker.

Wesley: “What now?”
Fred: “What now …is us. Is this. Forever. We’ve earned it. We’ve earned whatever we want and for old time’s sake we can do this sometimes. But each and every time … we’ll be just fine. And we’ll always come back here.”

Wesley: “It sounds wonderful.”
Fred: “It’s getting there.”
Wesley: “If only … this wasn’t a lie.”

Visions we saw with Wesley and Fred included them by a field and a mountain, a horse drawn carriage and slaying a devil like demon.

Wesley: “Do yourself a favour. Stop pretending you’re her. It won’t get you anywhere except dead.”
Fred: “Well then we’d have something in common. See I knew you’d be smarter than this. They thought you’d be so desperate to believe that we’d have to drop the curtain and tell you when it would hurt the most.”

Fred: “I can’t believe you didn’t want to live in the lie for a while. I would’ve done whatever you wa-”
Wesley: “Shut up. You think I’ll be a company man? Really?”

Wesley had a snake on his back before forced into his suited attire. That has to mean something else, right?

Wesley: “What’s his fau- oh.”
Fred: “Yeah heaven isn’t this clich├ęd but hell … stereotype is pretty dead on.”

Connor: “It’s cool, I’ve done this kind of thing before.”
Kate: “I can tell.”
Connor: “Hey I grew up in a hell dimension.”
Kate: “Well then this oughta be like old home week.”

The cover issue I got here was also a poster in the middle of the comic book as well. Works better as a poster too.

Kate (to Connor): “A man wiser than both of us helped me through a crisis of conscience once. He said to me and I’m paraphrasing here …‘in the greater scheme. Or the bigger picture, nothing we do matters. There is no grand plan. No big win. If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do because that’s all there is’.”

There’s a double issue frenzy in June. Issue 8 is out on June 11 and Issue 9 is out on June 25th.

Betta George (to the vampire): “And what is with that one word in your head over and over. Seriously what the hell is a slayer?”

Chronology: Seconds after “After The Fall Part 7” and “Not Fade Away”.

I liked this one. “After The Fall Part 7” is upping the intrigue on the hell on earth situation but I can’t help but think that Season Six should’ve started with this story rather than the format it’s placed in.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x14: "Wolves At The Gate Part 3"

Written by Drew Goddard
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Xander: “Hi guys.”
Buffy: “You look terrible.”
Xander (re Dracula): “It’s been a long flight. He doesn’t travel well.”

Last issue saw the gruesome death of Aiko when Toru was successful in turning her back into an ordinary girl. Needless to say that as soon as Buffy and her troops arrive in Tokyo, they get one hell of a greeting.

Clearly Toru knew that Buffy would come to retrieve her scythe but even Buffy wasn’t expecting to see a strung up slayer on a public building. Horrifying the locals, it’s also a nice reminder for Buffy not to underestimate this particular threat. If Toru can do that to one slayer, then he’s going to have a cherry pick of them now.

Buffy’s pretty disgusted at Aiko’s death but fortunately she evades the “everybody sucks but me” she dished out in “Get It Done”. Instead she gets help in getting Aiko’s body down from the building and brings it back to base as the other slayers watch her.

Willow does her best to be a comfort to Buffy and after the friction between them in “Anywhere But Here”; it’s nice to see them on side. Now if only Buffy could extend that courtesy to Giles and Faith, I would be one very happy reader. No seriously, it’s time Buffy got over that one.

Anyways the fun little girl time gets interrupted by Dracula, which I guess is marginally better than Andrew. Acting like a grand dame Dracula is quick to remind Buffy and Willow that he thinks they are idiots. The fact that neither one of them hurls some form of an insult back is a bit jarring.

Still at least Xander is there to greet his friends and while he does make a lame attempt to defend Dracula, this comic does fortunately give him much better material to work than being the count’s gopher.

Dracula meanwhile not only decides to give Willow a spell to combat the shape changing vampires but he also leaves his manners at home by wanting to snack on Aiko. I suppose its comic but seeing as Dracula seems to be channelling Spike in the dialogue department; it’s a bit irritating as well.

As for our baddies, when they’re not busy setting up a giant symbol to help with the crippling of the slayer line, both Toru and Raidon are either sniping at each other or talking about precautions to be taken against Buffy and her army of slayers.

It shows that Toru is smart enough to realise that his plan could possibly go wrong and Kumiko is still being really creepy by hanging upside down on the wall. Still as secure as Toru might want to be, you have to admit that he still does have to be that extra cautious.

The scoobies are definitely not short of ideas to get their own information on Toru. Having Renee undercover as a frightened school girl in order to trick one of Toru’s soldiers was a neat twist. Renee is definitely convincing enough to dupe this bloke, even though he doesn’t come across as the brightest of vampires.

While he thinks he’s got a tasty school girl treat, Renee quickly reveals her identity before Willow is able to snare him. It seems that Dracula’s spell is reliable after all as the vampire is unable to escape from his boxed prison.

Weirdly though, the gang’s method of extracting information from him felt a tad too extreme. I mean having Willow squirt him with gasoline before Buffy torched was kind of taking things too far. I know she’s got a serious war on her hands and while that vampire was better off dead, did she really have to go that far.

A part of me would like to justify her actions by saying that maybe finding out about Toru’s plans just freaked her out but there was a callousness in what Buffy did that makes me wonder yet again if General Voll was right about her all along.

Because of this Buffy also does what she does worst by isolating those she needs. This time around it’s Satsu who feels Buffy’s distant behaviour when she’s told to stand down. Now there are some arguments that should be in privacy and this was one of them.

Instead Buffy had it out with Satsu in front of the other slayers who by the looks of it are well aware that Buffy and Satsu slept together. Of course Buffy tries to pass off her order as a method of leading but even though Satsu is younger, she isn’t stupid and calls Buffy out on her actions.

Using the Tokyo based slayers as an excuse might have been plausible but clearly Satsu knows Buffy better than she thinks. Satsu even openly ponders if Buffy’s orders have more to do with either protecting or avoiding her and Buffy herself isn’t able to put up much of an argument against the flighty slayer.

Instead Satsu basically tells her that she’s fighting with her and storms off. Buffy on the other hand just ponders that she finds it sexy that Satsu calls her “Ma’am”. While I still maintain that Buffy isn’t gay, there is the possibility that this tryst between her and Satsu might last a bit longer, provided Satsu doesn’t get killed in this arc.

Buffy isn’t the only person with romantic problems. The last two issues have gotten past the awkward stages and confirmed that Renee’s crush on Xander isn’t one-sided. Nope, Xander ups the flirty banter between him and Renee by explaining the etiquette of dating.

This dialogue is a nice reminder to a younger Xander and given how much I like Renee as a character, it’s also undeniably cute as well. He might go on just a tad too much but it’s really nice to see him open up to another person romantically and Renee’s way of countering his proposition is also hilarious.

She reminds him about the less savoury antics that in real life would never occur on a first date but she also puts him out of his misery by planting a juicy kiss on him too. Oh and if she wasn’t likeable she remains nasty to Dracula, who isn’t so quick with the comebacks in this one.

Actually by the looks of things while Dracula might protest about never wanting to go on a date with either Xander or Renee, he sure as hell looked jealous when he saw them making out with each other. I admit that I did find that funny, particularly as Xander and Renee ignored his hints for them to cut it out.

As for the action of the episode, you’ve got a street littered with over a thousand vampires, lot of slayers hiding in the alley and on a roof there’s Xander, Renee, Buffy, Dracula, Andrew and Rowena all discussing different tactics. Everyone except Buffy seems to be spoiling for a fight. All she wants is her scythe back.

Knowing what Toru is doing with her beloved weapon, it’s no wonder Buffy is eager to get the scythe back but with so many vampires standing between her and Toru’s lair, she doesn’t have a lot of options. That’s where Willow comes in and she uses her magic by teleporting Dawn to the scene.

I suppose I should’ve guessed that with the insanely prolonged giant problem, Dawn would once again come in handy. She was useful in knocking out Amy and squatting zombies in “The Long Way Home Part 3” so it makes sense to use her size to terrify the crap out of Toru’s minions.

That being said Dawn did take her time getting into Godzilla mode. Then when she did, she had no problem smashing a few building as well in order to pose a serious threat to Toru’s minions. Andrew musing about the unusual situation Dawn was put it was nice.

As for finding Toru, it was really was a case of being too good to be true. I should’ve guessed when Buffy and the gang go inside the factory and he didn’t seem to look their way. Then Willow got the headache from hell and Xander’s face came into contact with a lot of blood.

Killing Aiko wasn’t satisfying enough for Toru as the victim he claims now is Renee. While her death isn’t as tear jerking as Tara’s was in “Seeing Red”, it’s definitely impacting enough to invoke fury. I liked Renee and I liked the idea of her and Xander hooking up. Does Joss Whedon and his staff writers have to kill off every love interest for the Scoobies when he’s not making them evil?

Given that Renee also hasn’t appeared in that many issues anyway (I think she’s been at least eight), I think this comic took an easy way out in killing her. Unless Renee actually survived being impaled by the scythe but that’s highly unlikely.

Granted if it hadn’t have been her then Satsu could’ve easily also gotten as she’s the only other developed new slayer in Season Eight. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that Faith, Kennedy, Rona and Vi aren’t around. There’s at least one of them whose death would seriously anger me more. I’m also dreading how Xander is going to react to having yet another dead lover.

Also in “Wolves At The Gate Part 3”

Cover for this issue that I bought was the one with Dawn stomping all over Tokyo in Godzilla mode.

Willow: “How long are you gonna stay up here?”
Buffy: “Just ‘til I figure out what to do next.”

Given the severity of Toru is trying to pull off, I think Buffy really should warn both Giles and Faith as well as the other slayer factions what he’s up to.

Dracula: “I’m assuming you’ve considered using Carolina’s grasp. I mean you’re not complete idiots are you?”
Buffy: “Oh good it’s you.”
Willow: “And Xander!”
Buffy: “Who’s grasping Carolina’s what now?”

Dracula: “I need to get my coffin installed. The sun should be up before long.”
Buffy: “It’s eight pm.”
Dracula: “Is it? I’ve never understood time zones.”

When Kumiko is sleeping/praying upside down it looks like her feet are literally inside the ceiling.

Toru: “You have no imagination, do you Raidon?”
Raidon: “I’m fairly certain it died with my soul.”

Raidon: “What’s Kumiko doing?”
Toru: “I think she’s praying, though it’s always hard to tell with her.”

There’s a timely ad in this comic for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull actions figures given the movie’s imminent release.

Vampire: “Well you have to be careful. You never know who you could run into out here.”
Renee: “Boy, you’re telling me.”

Buffy (to the vampire): “Everytime we try to fight one of you guys, you turn into air and it’s really hard to fight air. At least until you remember … air burns.”

Buffy had on a T-shirt with a dragon logo on it. Plus school girl Renee was the first time we’ve seen that girl in a different costume.

Vampire: “Please I told you everything I know. You have to let me go.”
Buffy: “I never agreed to that.”

Buffy: “I need you to stay here and look after them. And I need you to help them bury Aiko.”
Satsu: “You want me to stand down.”

Judging by the way the other slayers are looking, they definitely do know that something went on with Buffy and Satsu.

Satsu: “I’m not following your order. Not this time. I’ll see you on the battlefield. Ma’am.”
Buffy: “I can’t believe I find it sexy when she calls me ‘Ma’am’.”

Renee (to Xander): “Okay, so just to be clear. When people ask what we did on our first date, you want me to tell them we dressed me up like a school girl, used me as bait on the streets of Japan. Lit a vampire on fire, then geared up to go into battle with several hundred girls and Dracula.”

At one point we did see Dracula dressing up in the same outfit he wore in “Buffy Vs. Dracula”. I also quite like that sword of his.

Dracula (to Xander/Renee): “I resent that. I would never go on a date with the two of you. Even if you begged. So don’t even bother asking.”

Buffy (to everyone): “I’m not looking for a fight. All that matter is the scythe. Once we get that back, they can’t hurt us. I mean except, you know in the traditional biting and stabbing and clawing sense. But we’ll deal with that when it comes.”

There were not one but two people who commented on The Doctor and Rose’s appearances in “No Future For You Part 1” in the letter section.

Dawn (to the vampires): “Hi. Or I mean … roar?”

Buffy (to Toru): “Yep, that is, in fact, a giant Godzilla woman wreaking havoc on your minions and to make matters worse, she’s a teenage so moody. Believe me, there’s no dishonour in surrender despite what your culture says to the contrary.”

I’m guessing Kumiko drummed up the mirage of Toru to distract Buffy.

Buffy: “Guys it’s a -”
Toru: “I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘trap’?”

The next issue of this arc is released the day before my birthday – June 4th, though as I live in Ireland I’ll get it on June 5th hopefully.

Well this was definitely an improvement. “Wolves At The Gates Part 3” was more darker and wins points for keeping Andrew and Dracula’s contributions to a thankful minimum. It’s going to be interesting to see how this very arc is resolved next issue.

Rating: 8 out of 10.