This week saw the release of Angel & Faith #17 and the second part of Christos Gage’s “Death and Consequences” arc. I have been consistently and extremely complimentary of both Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs’ work on Angel & Faith (mainly because their work has been consistently and extremely fantastic), but the current “Death and Consequences” arc is pushing us to a place in the season where not only is the plot of Angel & Faith hitting a new high point on almost every level, but so is Gage and Isaacs’ mastery of Joss Whedon’s characters and the now magic-less world in which they exist!
SPOILERS BELOWHere’s a quick summary of Issue #17:
This issue opens with a flashback to Soho, London, and the early days of Rupert “Ripper” Giles and his time with his good bloke Ethan Rayne. It also shows Ripper’s first steps into a group that will later regret their dabbling with a demon known as Eyghon.
After the flashback, we return to the emotional aftermath of Faith and Angel’s confrontation with Faith’s disenfranchised slayer group. Furious at the position she’s been put in, Faith demands that she has paid back all that she owes Angel at this point and that he must complete his mission to resurrect Giles if her recent actions are to be worth anything. Angel agrees with her assessment and the two heroes get back on the case.
Meanwhile, in Guildford, Nadira and her slayers watch as the mysteriously alive “Giles” prepares to resurrect their fallen friend. Nadira asks many questions of “Giles” as he paints ancient Sumerian pictographs on the body of her dead friend, but fails to notice the mark of Eyghon painted on the arm of the corpse.
Angel and Faith continue to follow any lead they can, attempting to identify when exactly Giles’ body disappeared before his coffin was laid to rest. Eventually, with the help of Sophia and Lavinia, our heroes realize that Ethan Rayne, despite his less-than-living status, apparently attended Giles’ viewing. Having already expected the demon’s involvement, Angel quickly realizes that Rayne must be the puppet of Eyghon.
In Guildford, the dead slayer Marianne is alive again and reunited with her friends. Still suspicious, Nadira questions her friend and quickly determines she’s still dead . . . and not quite herself. “Giles” realizes there’s no point to hiding his motives any further and reveals a squad of zombified corpses that quickly attack the slayers.
In another poignant flashback, we see Ripper and Ethan’s final confrontation with Eyghon in their teen years. Refusing to release their friend Randall, Ripper and Ethan are forced to kill their friend in order to defeat the demon. Ripper alone seems aware that a line has been crossed that can never be undone, and that they’ll all have to pay for it . . . sooner or later.
Nadira and her slayers continue to battle Eyghon’s minions, but anytime one of the slayers is knocked unconscious, the demon quickly grabs the fallen comrade in his thrall. Looking to take out the source of the evil, Nadira kicks down a nearby door and reveals Eyghon in his true, demonic form, flanked by the very dead Ethan Rayne.
The “Ripper” flashbacks! Boy, these are bloody brilliant! There’s always a danger in showing past events mentioned by characters in a beloved series. Given the power of the human imagination, the chances are much greater that the result will be less satisfying than what one has always seen in their head. That said, Gage and Isaacs create these scenes of early Eyghon experimentation perfectly! Giles’ tragic “Ripper” past plays out with an amazing grace and poignancy with regard to character and emotional impact. Between this and the earlier flashbacks from this series, I’m desperate to see Gage and Isaacs take on a limited series set in the 1970s, entirely devoted to Giles’ younger days and the Watcher’s Academy.
Rebekah Isaacs continues to be ridiculously talented. Her work has been amazing throughout the entire series, but I’m convinced that Isaacs’ talent is now noticeably increasing issue to issue! There are several silent, reactionary moments in this issue that hit incredibly strong, and Isaacs knocks them out of the park! (Kudos to Gage for trusting his artist so completely and knowing when dialogue and narration are not needed.) Isaacs also illustrates a horrifically fantastic version of Eyghon in his demon form that really sells that last page of the book. All I can say is this: Dark Horse, you had better chain her to her desk. CHAIN HER TO HER DESK AND NEVER LET HER ESCAPE!!!
The return of Eyghon. I personally love that this demon is back and so closely attached to the necessary elements required for the resurrection of Giles. It fits perfectly within the mythology of Buffy and Angel and adds an appropriate thematic weight to the acquirement of the final piece of Giles’ soul. Also, Giles’ snapped-neck moment a la The Exorcist ranks as one of the most chilling and gut-wrenching visuals ever seen in the history of Buffy and Angel comics AND television series!
The Olivia nod. This was just beautiful. Another subtle example of Gage’s grace as a writer.
How stupid are Angel and Faith? I can understand the emotional blindness that these two characters, and a few others like Willow, may be falling victim to when it comes to resurrecting Giles, but it does seem a bit short-sided for them. After the resurrection of Buffy and Darla, the deaths of many, many other companions, and the various discussions in the past of “natural forces” and the limitations of the supernatural, I guess part of me expects Faith or Angel to understand how dangerous, rash, and unpredictable this plan that they’re barreling head-first into really is! Let me just say it now: I’m not expecting this to end well for anyone involved.
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
Thank God Ethan Rayne’s still dead! As morbid of a concept as it is, many fans seemed thrilled with the reveal that Ethan is still without a pulse. As much as we accept that the Buffy-verse is a place where the dead don’t always stay dead, I think the fanbase was excited that this return by Rayne wasn’t the typical comic book retcon some had feared.
That’s all for now, Scoobies. I’ll be back next week with a review of Willow: Wonderland #3. Remember to stay in school and say no to experimenting with demonic possession just to get high.
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer