Timing: Right before the fall. We'll have to wait and see at what exact moment the fall occurs, but we can assume for now that it happens during the events of ANGEL 5x21-5x22.
Warning: The bigger spoilers will be written in black text. Simply highlight to read. As this is a review, there will be some minor "spoilers" sprinkled throughout the text that don't warrant being hidden. If you have not read the issue and don't want to know anything about the plot, don't read this. Spoilers for previous issues will obviously not be hidden.
REVIEW: You might not know it, but Juliet Landau is the busiest woman in showbiz. You just have to follow her on Twitter or be her Facebook buddy to know that. She's got her hands in an amazing amount of projects, from her own directorial work, to music videos, and now comics. It's clear after reading this issue, though, that the quantity of her projects doesn't take away from the quality, because this comic is a top notch read. Along with longtime IDW scribe Brian Lynch, Landau brings back her beloved and scary-ass character Drusilla for this character study/bloodbath of an issue.
The basic concept is this. Drusilla is in an insane asylum... but it's not Mosaic, as the covers (a homage to Spike: Asylum #1) would have you believe. This asylum is for normal people. As expected, they can do absolutely nothing to contain Drusilla. The things is, though, it seems (SPOILERS:) that there are forces at work behind the scenes that don't want to contain her. The second part will surely reveal who is behind this wonky experiment and why, but this issue worked the set-up marvelously, making for a captivating and smooth read. I remember going really easy on Angel #18 (the first issue of the terribly received Aftermath arc by novelist Kelley Armstrong) because it was setting up the plot... but truth be told, the issue wasn't really enjoyable. This, on the other hand, effortlessly mounts the tension, makes the reader wonder what's going to happen, and reintroduces a character without missing a beat. I enjoyed the hell out of the issue, and was shocked and sorta sad when it ended.
And damn does it end quickly. There isn't much dialogue (but do expect some "grandmum" and "daddy" hilarity from Drusilla!), as Landau and Lynch let Urru tell the story through his art. Landau worked really closely with Urru from what I've read, making sure that the fluid movements of Drusilla translated well into this medium, and oh man did they ever. You can tell that Landau really knows the character in and out, and paired with Brian Lynch's intricate knowledge of how comics work, the overall product is amazing.
Art: Other than The Body, I don't know of any Buffyverse episode or comic that concentrates on the physicality of the characters as much as this issue. Franco Urru, as I mentioned before, nails the fluid movements of Drusilla as she playfully dances and sways from panel to panel... and also, you know, when she's bashing brains in and sticking syringes into eyeballs. The art is violent, Urru's most beautiful, and so real in its movement that I can see the movements that happen off-panel. I've always been a fan of how Urru captures the action scenes well, how you can visualize the fight and movement (take Angel #4, for example, where Wesley walks toward a broken Angel... can't you just see him moving, walking toward Angel?), but this takes it to the next level. The colors, done by Paolo Maddalini Fabio Mantovani )the man who should color every book I read), are cold, harsh, and so stylistically right for the book. They're different than anything we've seen before, and a lot bluer and greener than I'm used to... but in a good way. While Art Lyon's colors were brown and washed out for no reason, the color here is motivated.
Covers: A thousand million. COVER A and COVER B are done by Urru, with the former featuring Drusilla (human faced) curled up in a straight jacket against the padded wall of her asylum. The latter is the same image, except a lot greener, and Drusilla is proudly wearing her vampire lemon face. Both covers (but especially the second one with the greeness) are homages to SPIKE: ASYLUM, which is really cool for me, because while it wasn't the first Buffyverse comics I read, it was the first time I read a comic and realized that Buffyverse stories could be as good in this medium as they were on film. COVER C is done by Nick Runge, and it's his best in a long, long time. Drusilla's likeness is spot on, and he captures the gothic romance and even the frailty behind the violence that makes Drusilla so unique (see that cover above). COVER RI-A is a photo of Drusilla that might have been among the pictures taken exclusively for this book. It's beautiful, and Landau is lookin' fine as ever. Definitely worth the extra $10. Next are the covers I was unable to get (but I'm working on it!) COVER RI-B is done by Sam Shearon, whose photo-realistic painting is Jo Chen/Alex Garner status good. On the cover, Drusilla's head is in an open birdcage, with the open half of her face all vamped out, and the covered half normal. It's beautifully horrific. My least favorite of the painted covers is still amazing: It's the Comic-Con Edition, and it's also done by Shearon. On the cover, Drusilla leaps gracefully through the air in her asylum duds. Not as good as the others, but still a striking image.
Extras: Yup, I know, new category. We won't have this for every issue, because not every issue has extras. But this book has three new photos of Juliet Landau (shot by Deverill Weekes) done specifically for this issue. They're beautiful, graceful, and, erm, leggy. We likes it. Oh, and this: I'll also use this category to talk about things (happys, gripes) that don't affect the overall score of the issue but are still worth saying. First, I just wanted to say that ever since #23, there has been a slight printing problem with the IDW comics. The pages are sticking together in parts, and while it's easy to pull them apart, it sometimes damages the pages. It's not only the ANGEL titles either, because the STAR TREK and FALLEN ANGEL books have been going through the same thing. Not a major issue by any means, but still. Fixable, I think. And one last gripe that carries over from the Aftermath arc. Where are the titles? If the title on the front of the book has to remain simply ANGEL, fine. But put a title on the inside, the way "Become What You Are" was written on the inside. It's weird when 1-17 are After the Fall, 18-22 are supposed to be Aftermath but remain untitled on the actual issues, 23 is Become What You Are, and 24-25 are untitled. I'm gonna be calling this Drusilla (because the most Darla-centric Angel episode was called Darla, so there), but I hope stuff starts to get titles soon. I don't know, I just love titles.
Characters We Know: Drusilla.