In all honesty, this issue is Willingham’s best yet. The plot moves rapidly forward and things are beginning to fall into place. ‘Angel’ is finally out of his box and doing damage to the lab that tried to use him to mass produce ensouled vamps. It’s also revealed that former watcher, "Laura Wethermill," has been playing Innovations Laboratories the whole time in order to score the opportunity to dust their vamp inventory like we saw last issue. Apparently, she’s also heard of "Angel" and is looking to work for him. Saving his life seemed like an easy way to snag the job. "Wethermill" is obviously a replacement for "Wesley," and while I kind of like her, her appearance in the book seems kind of cheap. A former watcher who not only rivals "Wesley’s" book smarts, but is just as skilled with a gun and a stake as our ol’ head boy? Feels a tad convenient. It’s also very contrary to what I believe Whedon would do. Sure, he’d feel the need to fill the "Wesley"-sized hole, but we wouldn’t just get a female, carbon copy of the guy! Whedon honors the characters that die in his universe by not “replacing” them with a clone of themselves. Think about his choices in the past: "Illyria" stepped in for "Fred;" "River" stepped in for "Wash;" "Wesley" & "Cordy" both stepped in for "Doyle;" and "Kennedy" stepped in for "Tara." None of these characters "replaced" the former in a real sense, because they are so varied from the first individual. By having different strengths and weaknesses, the characters struggle to find their own place and drama is hopefully achieved. Again, I like "Wethermill," so we’ll see how it goes, but I think she could’ve been more than a former watcher with a penchant for hand guns. Now, as a counter point, Whedon did make the ridiculous concept of two souled vampires work, and we don’t yet know the full story behind "Wethermill." Hopefully, future issues will prove me wrong about her character, and she’ll emerge as an interesting and original addition.
"Connor" is continuing to step up as a leader, and this brings some conflict when he expresses his mistrust of "Gunn" given the events that happened between them in “Angel: After The Fall.” While I was excited to see this addressed, I do feel that Willingham is unintentionally turning me against "Connor." At IDW’s “Angel” panel at SDCC 2009, Willingham discussed his fondness of "Connor" and his desire to show what a cool and likeable character he could be. I agree with this sentiment and, much like my soft spot for "Riley Finn," I consider myself one of the few "Connor" fans out there. "Connor" is a character who brings a lot of drama and conflict to every episode he’s in. When given his new memories by Wolfram & Hart, we see what a well adjusted and cool kid he can be. Still, since Willingham has taken the reins, the kid is finally starting to get on my nerves. In this issue, "Connor" berates "Gunn" for being weak in character and making the wrong choices over and over. I’m glad that Willingham had the intelligence to have "Gunn" bring up "Connor’s" list of betrayals, but ultimately "Gunn" decides it’s time to reconnect with his street gang and get back to the basics instead of working for "Angel, Jr”. Still, the wounds between these two are fresh, and I imagine that I’m not the only reader hoping "Gunn" makes good on his promise to deliver a beating if "Connor" crosses his path.
The "Illyria" story progresses forward with her informing "Connor" that she has his father’s permission to seduce him. While I do love this direction for the character, she still feels unfamiliar in Willingham’s hands. I really hope that this is something that works itself out, because the character voices are currently the biggest hamper to the book. The characters need to sound like the ones we know and love. Yes, this is not an easy task, but it’s necessary for the “Angel” comics to be successful.
One very positive comment that I have is how attached I’ve become to Brian Denham’s art. Much like Georges Jeanty’s work on “Buffy,” Denham has mastered the art of making his characters resemble the actors without appearing to be illustrated promo photos. His art has brought some real depth to this issue, and I hope they hold onto this guy for a while!
Lastly, let me comment on the recent blog entitled “The Spike Conundrum or What the Hell is He Doing?” by IDW “Angel” Editor, Mariah Huehner. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, she basically confronts the issues many readers have had with the way Willingham has been writing "Spike" and his uncharacteristic behavior. To sum it up quickly, she says that "Spike" may be acting oddly, but it will all pan out right if we see the book through to the end of the arc. Here’s a link to the full blog:
I can appreciate this intention and the fact that “Angel” may be struggling as a result of a fan boycott due to Willingham’s harsh words towards Joss Whedon; however, I have to point out that if you need to explain why a character is acting oddly without doing it within the context of the story, then something is not working. I’m not going to knock Huehner for trying to help, but the problem is that it’s not her burden to explain. The responsibility lies with the writer, Mr. Willingham.
That about wraps up my thoughts on “Angel #32." The "Eddie Hope" story this issue does feature "Gwen," but, honestly, they should’ve skipped it and gave us a few more pages for the main storyline. Hopefully, "Eddie," who does "look" cool, will prove more captivating in his mini series with "Spike."
By the way, if you’re really craving some good Whedon comic reading, pick up “Terminator 2029" penned by Zack Whedon. It has been excellent, with more happening in one issue than most stories cover in an entire story arc. We really need to get some genetic testing going, because it seems like the Whedons have a heavy dose of writing talent flowing through their veins. Maybe we can lock them in a box and mass produce decent writers for Hollywood!!!
Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer