Angel & Faith Volume 1 by Christos Gage – Comics Review [Shadowhawk]
Shadowhawk reviews the latest graphic novel installment of the Buffyverse, collecting together the first five issues of Angel & Faith, as well as the one-shot In Perfect Harmony.
“An Angel and Faith comics team-up for more Buffyverse goodness eight years after the show ended? This is a welcome nostalgia trip!” ~ The Founding Fields
It’s been at least five years since I last saw the final episode of Angel Season 5, rather glum about the fact that this was the show finale too. What Joss Whedon created with Buffy, and then expanded to Angel, was simply great and not an experience that is easy to forget. Had I been aware that the characters of the two shows had crossed over into comics, I would have taken the dip ages ago and got back into what most people affectionately call Buffyverse. When I saw the entry for Angel & Faith Volume 1 by Christos Gage on NetGalley a few weeks back, I knew I just had to pick it up and read it. While Faith was never a principal character on either show, she is one of my favourite (guest) characters nevertheless and seeing her team-up with Angel in a series of their own was pure joy. Given how good the show had been, and the characters that Gage was taking on, I expected him to deliver on an experience as great as anything Whedon had done with them. High expectations, but then that’s the fun of all things Joss Whedon.
Gotta say that while I wasn’t that impressed with Gage’s script here, he still made me long for the days of the TV show itself because he seemed to have such a good handle on the characters and because he gets the nuance and mood of the setting as well.
To begin with, the story is canonically part of Buffy Season 9. As this is my first time with these comics, I’m not sure why that is so and one of the initial things that, for me, count against the series as this is never explained. Not that I can recall at any rate. Could be just a subtitle-ish thing I suppose. Anyways, the story kicks off with the principal characters, Angel and Faith Lehane, having relocated to London following recent events in which the former was possessed by an entity known as Twilight and committed some of the worst atrocities of his 200+ years yet, including the murder of an old friend that has now sent Angel into a somewhat catatonic state. Page by page Gage teases out the characters, getting them to develop together as a demon-slaying gruesome twosome in the style and attitude of the TV show. The characters simply do what they have always done best: kick demon ass, save the innocents, then go back home and repeat all over again the next day.
I confess that my knowledge of the Buffyverse has deteriorated over the years. I can name most of the major characters but that’s about it, other than a few random details here and there and what few things I remember from the various episodes (Buffy going to college was NOT a good thing I should point out). As such, I often struggled to understand some of the references being made by both the characters and the writer in the panels. To be honest, I can’t count that against Gage as this series is set in a well-and-truly advanced timeline within the setting and follows on after several other series, mini-series, and one-shots. One thing that this graphic novel has succeeded in doing is getting me interested in going back to the previous comics and picking up where I left off after the end of Season 5 of Angel. I really want to know what exactly three of my favourite TV characters have been up to these last few years!
The dynamics of the relationship between Angel and Faith are something that I feel Gage has gotten right. There’s a lot of back and forth between the two as Angel provides the mind behind their activities and Faith providing the muscle, although things aren’t that black and white in several cases. They also provide each other with purpose and their relationship is such that they can keep their partner honest as well. Following his “freedom” from Twilight, Angel is once again on the path to redemption and it is up to Faith to make sure that he doesn’t lose himself in his new obsession to bring back his dead friend to life. Particularly as she is privy to some details of the magical processes that he is not. For Faith, she is concerned with taking care of the remaining slayers in London and her partnership with Angel complicates matters but he is there to get her out of a jam if needed.
By the time the collection ends, you really get the feeling that a big adventure is about to start for the characters. The overall tone of the script is very Whedon-esque, no doubt because the man himself is said to have taken a hand in plotting the entire series, handing off the individual issues to Christo Gage (he’ll be penning the entire 25-issue series). When the story hits the last panel, things end on a typical Angel note and there are lots of nice little bits of character revelation by then, especially where Angel and Faith’s relationship is concerned.
Speaking of redemption, it was too much of a typical plot in that respect I thought. Angel screws up, does a few bad things, gets ok, then feels like terrible and goes about fixing things. A bit too generic given the character’s history and a little jarring at times but I still enjoyed reading the entirety of Live Through This (the title of the volume). I really wish there had been a “fresher” backstory to this volume. There has to be only so much self-loathing and guilt that even a vampire with a soul can bear!!
Artwise, this was a really nice book. Rebekah Isaacs, Dan Jackson and Steve Morris have really captured the feel of the characters and the world that Joss Whedon created, just as Gage captured the essence of the characters in his script. Looking at the characters, I can easily tell who’s who, especially the two principals (should be obvious really but I’ve come across graphic novels before where the artist changes things around and that is really annoying). The dark palette for the surrounding conveys the theme and mood of the script itself as well, matching the struggles that Angel and Faith are going through, as well their downbeat feelings. There are a few scenes with upsides in their lives and those get a softer but more colourful palette that is yet dark, staying true to what this new world without magic, where trust is an even more precious commodity than before and even the demons are going through a really rough patch in their lives.
All I can say in the end, at the risk of repeating myself, is that this book has really made me want to go back to the Buffyverse. For someone who has been away from it for as long as I have, this is the perfect hook (and line and sinker) to do that. I really want to see where Gage and Whedon go with the series arc too. By the end of Live Through This, a big confrontation is imminent between Angel and some former friends of his, and it’s not going to be pretty. Then there’s the fact that Angel’s own plans concerning a dead friend seem be slowly moving towards a climax of their own.
So lots of things on the horizon to look forward to where Angel & Faith is concerned. I’d definitely recommend this arc to readers.