This week, Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs are back at it again, raising the bar once more with Angel & Faith #16. While I absolutely loved the last issue with its guest appearance by Whistler, this issue hits even harder, bringing us back to the meat of the season with Angel’s somewhat misguided mission to resurrect Giles. With the end of the season getting closer and closer, the stakes are getting higher, and this issue digs deep into the dark descent on which our heroes are willingly plunging!
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #16:
This issue opens with Faith and Angel battling regenerating demons in Peru in pursuit of The Crown of Coils, an ancient and mystical artifact with the power to restore the biological, be it rotting corpses made fresh or headless demons less headless. Once Angel and Faith acquire it and determine that it’s still charged, they proceed to their next grim task: exhuming Rupert Giles.
Unfortunately, after going through with the unfavorable task, Angel and Faith open the watcher’s casket to find it completely empty. They soon return to Giles’ flat and explain the situation to the watcher’s two great-aunts, who begin putting together a list of possible culprits. All of that comes to a halt when Nadira appears with her pack of slayers and begins to bang on the front door, demanding entrance and letting Faith knows that she’s aware that the slayer’s been working with Angel.
Faith allows Nadira and her slayer pack to enter, only to find that they’ve brought a dead body along with them. The body belongs to Marianne, a girl who was part of Nadira’s slayer family until Drusilla slit her throat. Nadira and her slayers have heard the buzz behind Angel’s plan to bring Giles back to the world of the living and demand that he instead resurrect their dead friend or suffer the violent consequences at their hands.
When Angel explains that he can’t thwart natural death, Nadira pops him one, telling the vampire to reconsider and Faith that she never wants to see her again due to the lies she’s told. The slayer posse exits, pursuing another lead on helping the dead Marianne. When Nadira finally reaches the location of the mysterious lead and mentions that they’ve heard he has powers to resurrect the dead, it is revealed that the lead is actually the supposedly dead Giles, himself!
“Fire in the hole” jokes. A great joke and so very Faith!
“Twilight” jokes. No, Angel and Faith don’t rip on sparkly vampires in this issue, but it is very Whedonesque that the convoluted storyline surrounding the cosmic force that possessed Angel has now become an inside joke for the writers to play with.
Respect for the dead (or lack of it). And, boy, is there a lot of it in this issue! While Angel has always been the dark and brooding type, causing his show and Angel & Faith to adopt a more somber and shadowy tone, this issue brought it out in spades! The books almost whispers to the reader that darkness and pain are coming, and, at this point, it doesn’t look like we’re turning back. Whether it is Angel’s lack of respect for the fallen corpses of criminals in Peru, the somber exhumation of Rupert Giles by Angel and Faith, Nadira’s “no bulls@#$” confrontation of Angel regarding the blood on his hands due to his consistent unwillingness to slay the murderous Drusilla, or the shocking conclusion, this issue puts everyone through the ringer and leaves no character unscathed. What I really love about what Gage has done with Angel & Faith is that there are no completely heroic figures at this point. Gage has, as Whedon did before him with the Angel television series, painted a complex world where characters are forced to decide which moral compromises they can bear (or not) while still hoping that they can achieve the noble goals that they seek in the end.
There’s a Giles flashback (squeee!!!). I’m always happy to see more of the deceased watcher, and this poignant scene between Faith and Giles is a delicious morsel for fans.
The silent moments. Despite what some may think, just because there are no word bubbles on the page doesn’t mean that the writer didn’t have to “write” that page or panel. Silent moments are one of the hardest things to script correctly in a comic book script, but when they’re done correctly, especially in conjunction with an uber-talented artist like Rebekah Isaacs, they are supremely effective. Gage shows his mastery of that specific skill twice in this issue: once during the foreboding look exchanged when Faith and Angel hear the sounds of their shovels hitting Giles’ coffin and again when Angel and Faith are left momentarily shattered by Nadira’ s painful words to both of the them. Kudos are much in order to Gage and Isaacs for these incredibly powerful moments.
The cliffhanger. Let me just say that it’s a doozy.
Were you really expecting anything in this section? Because Gage and Isaacs are pretty much making this section of my reviews fairly unnecessary.
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
Fan reaction continues to be extremely positive for Angel & Faith, with some even claiming that Issue #16 was the best so far. The issue also got great reviews from Comics Grinder and The Fellowship of the Geeks.
How bad do you want to hurt us, Christos? There was a lot of fan joy being passed around regarding the return of Giles, but if everyone’s favorite watcher is actually back from the dead, many are wondering if we’ll have to live through losing him all over again before the season is over. Keep those tissues handy!
Who’s in that body? I honestly don’t believe that the Giles we know and love has returned to us, and quite a few fans felt the same way. Then, the speculation began: who is really in that Giles-shaped package? Some suggested Rupert’s old nemesis, Ethan Rayne, even though the trickster himself is dead as far as we know. Others speculated that, given the fact that Angel has been collecting pieces of his soul, perhaps this version is simply Giles sans soul. One very likely contender is the demon Eyghon. We know from (spoiler) Dark Horse’s early solicitations that the demon that hounded Giles and his school house buddies will be making a reappearance that is somehow connected to the final piece of Giles’ soul. Is there a piece of Eyghon that survived Giles’ death and is now wearing his face ever since there became a vacancy? Only time will tell . . .
That’s all for now, Scoobies. I’ll be back next Wednesday with a review of Willow: Wonderland #2. Remember to keep your fire out of your hole (*snicker*)!
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer