Angel has struggled to find its footing since then. Maybe it was based on the fact that, after you’ve returned from Hell, what could you really do next? Wouldn’t any adventure, no matter how thrilling or dangerous, seem a bit too easy? I will completely dismiss the notion that there’s no where to go with the story, but I knew it would take a gifted writer with a good feel for the characters to do the story justice. This is exactly what Bill Willingham was supposed to bring to the book. He has gathered a pretty serious fan base with his fairy tale-inspired comic book, Fables. Although, I haven’t yet had the time to gobble that one up, I was expecting great things. So, how’s it going?
Does “eh” work? Is everyone cool with that as a measurement of story quality?
Don’t get me wrong; there are many cool things going on in this arc. “Angel” is trapped in a steel body cast as he’s used as a blood supply for some evil suits looking to mass produce “ensouled” vampires. Willingham has a good grasp of “Connor” and “Angel,” and Brian Denham’s art is sharp and engaging. Willingham also seems to be someone who can balance humor and dramatic action for the most part, but it sometimes ends up feeling like fan fiction. Not all of this is Willingham’s fault. Part of it is the generally useless characters that are now working with Angel Investigations, but really don’t have much of a reason to be there. “Elohim” the angel and “Dez” the jaguar woman are left over from Kelley Armstrong’s previous arc, and, honestly, they never really fit. We already have “Kate Lockley” joining “Connor,” “Gunn,” “Angel,” “Spike,” “Illyria,” and “Beta George.” Do we really need an additional shape shifter and a fallen angel? As harsh as it may be, I would say to use them as cannon fodder. The book could use a few good deaths to up the stakes. Oh, did I mention the order of demon warriors that have sworn their allegiance to “Connor?” Boy, this book is getting crowded…
Willingham also seems to struggle with the voice of “Illyria.” IDW is attempting to have the character slowly adapt more and more to her new body and environment, but she doesn’t sound like herself. Willingham has her referencing “oedipal symptoms” and the multiple definitions of the word “seduce,” and it just reads false to me. Whedon and crew always wrote her as someone who had trouble understanding the world around her and dealing with her massive loss of power. In Willingham’s hands, she comes off knowing much about our world but not understanding it. It’s the difference between a character like “Anya” and “Illyria.” One awkwardly exists in our world, and one struggles to comprehend our world. Or, maybe I’m just being picky…
I also had some major issues with the way “Spike” is written. There’s a danger with “Spike” for authors, because they tend to want to write him too “cool” or “bad-ass.” This seems to be the case here, and, like some of the pre-Angel: After The Fall books, “Spike” comes off as a hokey and paper-thin bad boy. In this issue, “Spike” tracks down a young starlet turned vamp at her costar’s mansion and finds her feasting on the costar’s blood. When she finds herself horny after her gorging, she offers to sleep with “Spike” (who’s a fan of said starlet). He takes a night to have sex with this soulless killer before he ties her up and hauls her away to be tortured for information regarding “Angel’s” disappearance. Now, while I’m sure “Spike” has slept with quite a few women since “Buffy” and he’s certainly a shade grayer then “Angel,” I just can’t buy the fact that he would do this. “Spike” can still be petty, cold, and stupid, but we’ve seen obvious changes since he’s gotten his soul back; it seems highly unlikely that he’d risk the possibility of this vamp escaping during their tryst and killing others, just to have a roll in the hay with a "crush."
While generally I can find love for anything containing vampires, there was one inexcusable part of “Twilight” that made me burst out laughing. This was the scene where “Bella” rides a running “Edward” in an incredibly goofy fashion. Unfortunately, in this issue “Spike” follows suit and decides to pick up the habit of goofy vampire running himself. I don’t know whether to fault the author or the artist, but it just looks goofy. Like "Gora demon" goofy. Check it out below:
For all of my nitpicking, I will say this: I am enjoying this story better than the last arc, and the final page is excellent in writing, tone, and art. Comic books are a medium where it is almost standard to offer a cliff hanger at the end of the issue. It’s a marketing strategy, and, very often, it is done poorly or predictably. This is not the case for this issue, and I applaud both Willingham and Denham for crafting an excellent end to the issue that makes me excited for what’s to come. I’ve heard that Willingham is one who creates a slow burn of a story, so, for now despite some of my issues, I’m willing to stay on for the ride.
Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer