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Shadowhawk reviews the latest graphic novel installment of the Buffyverse, collecting together issues 6-10 of Angel & Faith, as well as a one-shot featuring Giles’ magical great-aunts.
“Angel and Faith are back for more kickass action as Christos Gage gets downright personal with their respective pasts.” ~The Founding Fields
When I read Angel & Faith Volume 1 and reviewed it, it was very much like a nostalgia trip that got me interested in the Buffyverse once again. It also helped that Christos Gage wrote such a good script for the series till that point and the art too was on the high quality end of the spectrum. For comics set in a setting as culturally iconic as Buffyverse, a good script and good art is essential in maintaining people’s interest and feeding their hunger for more content. More so when that quality is maintained in subsequent issues, keeping the flow of things going from point to point. Angel & Faith Volume 2: Daddy Issues is a book that is better than its predecessor in every single way.
The story kicks off this time as both Angel and Faith come across killer maniacs in two separate investigations, maniacs who seem to be all about killing somebody, anybody, and don’t seem to have any qualms about committing the most violent murders. The guy Angel tangles with is one certified nutjob in that department. Given that there has been a spree of such killing all over the city, they attempt to figure out if there is some supernatural reason for this, and their research leads them to a lorophage demon, one who can suck out all the negative emotions and feelings out of somebody. Giles’ records indicate that he has tangled with one such demon before, when he was still in training to be a Watcher. From there on, its a hunt, and this hunt takes Angel and Faith to meet with Angel’s “greatest success”, Drusilla, who is now apparently cured of her mania and is back in her old haunts, just another Vampire, trying to survive in a changed world.
Christos Gage did a great job here of reminding any old hats and new readers who Drusilla is and what her relationship with Angel is. From a virginal nun at a convent to a manic Vampire, he tells it all through Angel, who is now very remorseful about what he did and wants to make amends with Drusilla. But when the lorophage demon is involved, there can’t be any resolution and so its back to what makes the entire Buffyverse so cool, vampire kill-kill action that only Angel can deliver.
The characterisation of Angel and Faith that we saw in Volume 1 continues here, in that Angel still feels guilty about having killed Giles and is looking for a way to resurrect him, while Faith is there to keep an eye on things and perhaps do what Angel can’t do. The dynamics of their relationship are explored even more this time as they help each other come to terms (to a degree) with their past: for Angel its where Drusilla is concerned, and for Faith its where her abusive and alcoholic good-for-nothing father is concerned. Faith never really struck me as the emotional side during the Buffy or Angel series and seeing that side of her is quite the revelation. Angel is the same old Angel of course, but that’s ok. That’s his character shtick and taking that away reduces the character to something generic and cliched. Which is not what we should be getting. What Christos Gage handles really well is that Angel does not flip-flop in his convictions this time around, he sticks with them to the bitter end.
Drusilla. Well. Not sure what to say about Drusilla really. I read a couple quick wiki entries on her once I was done with Volume 2 so I can remember who she really was, and I have to say that Christos Gage brought her out really well with his script. She has changed considerably since those days of course, but she is still Drusilla at the core. Regal and commanding as if she’s a Vampire matriarch or some such. It was a nice change from the old times. Not too much, not too little, finely balanced.
Where Angel and Faith have a relationship based on friendship and their work, Angel and Drusilla have a relationship that is defined by dominance of one over the other, one that involves a lot of pain, blood, death, and violence that they have/do inflict on each other. Its as dysfunctional and messed up a relationship as can be between two vampires. Christos Gage doesn’t resolve their differences with each other, but he does showcase them. The resolution isn’t important, the differences themselves are, especially in how they compare with Angel and Faith’s relationship.
The “daddy issues” also extend towards Faith and her father’s relationship with each other, as I mentioned previously. Faith turning to the life she did is as much a result of her alcoholic father as anything else that happened in her life. Christos Gage brings her issues with her dad front and center at the same he does it for Angel and Drusilla. That’s another contrast there for you, makingVolume 2ultimately a book about contrasting relationships. This isn’t just a story about a Vampire attempting penance for his past violence and resurrecting an old friend, or a Slayer finding something meaningful in her life by helping out other Slayers, those who are not as experienced as her and are less equipped than her to carry out their job. Faith and her father have a relationship that will resonate with readers more than Angel and Drusilla’s, in no small part because of its relevance to our modern society where abusive parental relationships are a key “evil” of our society the world over. I personally found the latter more compelling, since its between Vampires and has that added attraction to it.
The final story arc in Volume 2 features Giles’ two great-aunts who need help from Angel and Faith, after having squandered the inherent magical powers on staying young and promising themselves to various supernatural entities over the years in return for even more “staying young” powers. Now the entities are all coming to collect and given that the magical arts are now impossible, Lavinia and Sophronie/Sophie can’t handle all the entities on their own. That’s not all though. Christos Gage takes the script further than that and adds a layer of mystique to the two women, since they do have ulterior motives, motives related to Giles’ resurrection as being planned by Angel. That’s an angle that I found startling and abrupt at first, but given that he also uses them to impart more background information on Giles, it all works out for the best and I have to commend him for the choices that he makes with the script.
As for the art. Its even better than before, at least that’s my take on it. Characters were much more sharply delineated, the pencils much more defined, the colours even more contrasting, and so on. As a visual experience, Volume 2 is an excellent experience, in the way that the show itself was. And the cover art, for the graphic novel itself and for all the single issues? Just fantastic. I’m in love with the style. The collection’s cover art captures Drusilla really well.
In the end, Angel and Faith Volume 2 is a fantastic follow on to the first volume and proves why Christos Gage waes picked to write the series, in conjunction with Joss Whedon’s creative consultation. The Whedon-esque feel is all there, working with Gage’s own imprint on things.