The Stars Align: Reviews for the Riley One-Shot and Angel #36
After an unbearable hiatus, former Buffy writer Jane Espenson brings season eight back with a solid and enjoyable one-shot exploring “Riley Finn’s” decision to join “Twilight,” and also “Angel’s” decision to become “Twilight.” While many are still waiting for “Riley” to trip and fall on a grenade, it was nice to see him again. He and his super soldier wife “Sam” fit into the comic book world like a glove. There has always been something slightly goofy about the depiction of “Riley’s” life as a “James Bond”-type operative, but in the pages of a comic book, the “Nick & Nora Fury” routine works perfectly!
There’s also a decent chunk of scenes devoted to “Angel’s” struggle with the path he has chosen as “Twilight.” In a welcome surprise, “Whistler,” “Angel’s” demonic guide from Buffy season two, makes an appearance to convince “Angel” to continue his actions as “Twilight.” “Whistler” explains that “Angel” must choose between “the girl and the world.” He even goes as far as to tell “Angel” that he’s seen a future where “Angel” refuses the mantel of “Twilight” and ends up dying with “Buffy” in a hopeless, yet romantic, last stand. As “Whistler” puts it, “Torture the former cheerleader, save the world.” While this issue does little to explain the many questions still surrounding “Twilight,” it does help to even out some of the initial confusion as to why “Angel” would willingly become “Twilight.” He certainly isn’t going to move forward with actions that he knows will lead to “Buffy’s” death, even if it means lying to her…or worse. It seems that this issue is stating that both “Angel” and “Riley” commit to the common cause of “Twilight,” because they believe that the fate of the world hangs in the balance. It’s also interesting to point out that at many points in their discussions, “Riley” and “Sam’s” dialogue could easily be switched for “Whistler” and “Angel’s.” Espenson uses this to show the similarities between the normally opposite “Riley” and “Angel,” especially in their thinking and approach to the “Twilight” predicament.
Of course, “Riley’s” commitment to “Twilight” is actually to be a double agent for “Buffy.” We get to see him slowly come to this decision while getting a nifty scar as a free gift for joining the club! Like much of season eight, this one-shot feels like it will mean more once we can view it in retrospect of the final arc. For now, it’s a decent issue and brings the anticipation of things to come! Also, props must be given to Karl Moline for nailing another Buffy issue! The art is fantastic, with the characters seeming full of emotion and recognizable without looking like tracings of promo photos that we’ve all seen a dozen times. He also adds wonderful atmosphere to his locations and scenes. Here’s my favorite pages from the issue with some wonderful posing by Moline of “Whistler” and “Twilight” chatting on a roof top.
Meanwhile, over at IDW, Angel #36 continues with writer Bill Willingham’s mediocre run on the series. It was revealed last issue by an attacking soul sucker that “Spike’s” soul is mysteriously absent. This issue did little to expand on that concept, except for “Angel” oddly stating that getting intimate with a hot, female vampire “…doesn’t sound like ‘good’ ‘Spike’…” to him. Apparently, he’s forgotten that time that “Spike” yanked “Harmony” away from him in order to do the nasty.
Most of the issue is spent with the group attempting to kill the soul sucker. The violence also seems more edgy than usual in this issue with “Spike” sticking his thumbs through the soul sucker’s eyes, “Angel” cutting “Illyria’s” throat in order to kill the soul sucker with her demon blood (she survives), and the soul sucker killing the cat-woman. If there’s one thing we can thank Willingham for during his time on Angel, it’s that he at least had the good sense to get rid of the ill-fitting characters forced upon the series by Kelley Armstrong. The group finally puts the soul sucker down by the end of the issue and shares some hollow-sounding words about how they’ll mourn “Dez.” We also get a peak at what “James,” the evil angel, has been up to. In the cliff hanger of the issue, he appears at “Anne’s” youth shelter and seems to open a portal to a demon dimension. We’ll have to wait ‘till next month to see if “James” is a real threat to “Anne” or just the standard, mustache-twirling villain.
Bill Williams’ “Eddie Hope” tale continues at the end of the book. Last time, “Gunn” freed himself from “Eddie’s” ropes. This time, “Angel” and “Spike” show up…that’s about it. Now, in all fairness, despite some harsh critiques from this reviewer, Williams’ tale will most likely work better once it is collected as part of a graphic novel. In its current state, the series moves at such a painfully slow pace that it’s almost unfair to attempt a review of it. It you need proof of Williams’ writing chops, then check out his Spike: The Devil You Know series from IDW.
There have also been some major announcements recently regarding the comic book Buffyverse! Apparently, sometime before the start of Buffy season nine, Dark Horse will reclaim the Angel license from IDW. Both Dark Horse and IDW are working together in this process, despite the fact that the announcement of the hand off was accidently and prematurely announced by Dark Horse. It’s quite amazing that the two companies have set aside their differences and will even be weaving certain elements of the two series together so that they sync up during Dark Horse’s Buffy season nine! Kudos to both companies, especially IDW,
for the graceful and classy way they are handling this obviously bittersweet process. In the end, having both licenses under both roofs will serve the fans better. According to Dark Horse, it will provide the elements for a true and far reaching comic book mythology for the Buffyverse. Take a look at the Marvel universe and imagine the possibilities…
Finally, Dark Horse has released Jo Chen’s cover for Buffy #38, and it’s a doozie. We all figured that there must be a connection between “Twilight” and “Dawn,” given the relation of their names, and it looks like we’ll be finding it out soon with possibly deadly results. We’ve been told that not everyone will make it through season nine and, honestly, is there really a season of Buffy that passes without any major deaths or losses? That’s the way of the world, kiddies.