Timing: Directly after Angel #24. During the fall.
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: Well, #24 was great.
I know I took too long to review this. I actually planned on writing up my opinion right after I read it, but then I sat down, read it, shook my head in confusion, read it again, cocked my eyebrow in confusion, read it again, and then sighed in confusion, figuring I needed some time to digest it. Since then, I've seen a lot of people's opinions, from any of the many Slay Alive users to Brian Lynch himself. There are a lot of theories about it, and I guess I just kinda had to come to my own... and I think I've got it figured out, but I'll let you be the judge.
First of all, this two-parter should have been a one-shot. Would it take away from the graceful, exercise-in-how-much-Franco-rocks that #24 was? Yeah, definitely. Franco had the entire first part of this two parter to strut his stuff and make the entire issue a beautifully bloody mess. But the success of that issue depended entirely on what the next issue did with all the set-up. And unfortunately, the answer is not much at all. The structure of the issue is this:
Pg 1-4: Drusilla continues to walk through her massacre.
Pg 5-14: Drusilla, suffering from visions, predicts some of the big events Heroes style by drawing various LA-in-Hell scenes.
Pg 15-22: A lot of audience confusing, little to none audience explanation.
It might have made an interesting little one-shot that explored the crazywonky place that is Drusilla's mind, but for a two-parter... you just expect more. There were some cool flashbacks popping up throughout the issue. We get to see how Angelus and Darla destroyed Dru's life and then turned her, which was interesting... but even the flashbacks weren't organically inserted, as they were in the show and in "After the Fall." ANGEL #4 starts with how Angel found out he was human because ANGEL #3 ended with us find out out he was human. Perfect. THE GIRL IN QUESTION had flashbacks of the Immortal screwing Spike and Angel over, because the episode was about the Immortal screwing Spike and Angel over. I can't think of any way to relate Drusilla's flashbacks to what happens to her in this issue.
Now, onto the speculation. I won't black text these spoilers, because a) the issue has been out for a while and b) this doesn't really have any impact on the overall arc of the series. First, it's never really revealed who wanted Drusilla locked up. Is it hinted that it's Wolfram & Hart? Um, kinda? Only because they are the default ANGEL villains. It doesn't really matter in the long-run, but the idea that there was a larger plan in keeping Drusilla locked up was one of the most interesting ideas in #24, and it isn't elaborated on at all in this issue. I remember writing in the review for #24 that "(the) second part will surely reveal who is behind this wonky experiment and why." Optimistic me.
Then, Drusilla draws a bunch of stuff and levitates. While she levitates, one of her drawings (a bunch of people, including KENDRA the Slayer she killed and the Chaos demon) comes to life. The people from the drawing swarm her and presumably knock her out. Well... what I think happened is this. Hell amplifies power. Hell screws with power. Just refer to the opening monologue of #3 and Illyria's entire After the Fall arc for that. So my best guess is that Hell is amplifying Dru's power, hence her levitating, and hence her psychic abilities amplifying so much that she is able to make her own artwork come to life. There's nothing in the actual text of this two-parter to justify that explanation, but it's context in After the Fall seems to suggest that. It's such an interesting concept, and I wish it was played with more. While #24 needed to be super visual and succeeded at that (it's probably my favorite post-After the Fall comic of the year after Become What You Are), this issue absolutely needed to be more ploty and spend more time on certain things. And it really, really didn't.
The issue ends with Drusilla waking up. She's in LA gone to Hell, only she doesn't see it as Hell. She sees it as her homeland, before she was sired. It's all golden (literally) with memories and warmth and love. She goes into her house, hears her mother's voice, and rejoices in her teddy bear. It's a sweet and interesting ending to an otherwise confusing issue, but it also brings up a few questions. I'm fairly certain that what Landau intended us to think that this is how Drusilla sees Hell. That she can rejoice in Hell. That, to Drusilla's messed up mind, Hell is the closest she can get to the happiness of her human home. But if that's the case, there should have been some cutaway shots that show Drusilla walking through how Hell actually looks to show the juxtaposition to how she sees it. To really make the point instead of just hint at it.
Basically, #24 stands as a brilliant, beautifully executed issue. #25 isn't a bad read, but it is a bunch of potential wasted. There should have been more time spent on the actual plot, and I do wish some of the stranger sequences had been executed a bit differently. At this point, while I really enjoyed Gunn and Illyria in Become What You Are and Drusilla in #24, I'm ready for the dream team, Brian Lynch and Stephen Mooney, to bring back our two favorite vamps with the Boys and Their Toys two-parter.
Art: Fantastic, as always. Franco Urru is my favorite artist working today, and most of the points I'm going to give this book are thanks to his wonderful pencils an Fabio Mantovani's great colors. Drusilla continues to move like Drusilla does (like a dancer), but this time, the highlight is the creepiest scene ever in an ANGEL comics. Drusilla picks up a severed head and attempts to talk at it. Franco pulls off the macabre as good as he does the action and the emotion. I can't wait until the SPIKE series starts so I can get a steady dose of Urru.
Covers: Oddly enough, none of the covers are as great as the ones for #24, but let's be honest... the covers for #24 were uncommonly great. Urru and Runge both turn over decent covers, featuring Drusilla reveling in LA gone to Hell. The photo incentive is Angelus hugging Drusilla, and the superexpensiveincentivethatiunfortunatelycouldn'tafford is another great one by Sam Shearon, who should definitely stay on the series as an on-going cover artist if they can't nab Alex Garner!
Characters We Know: Drusilla. Angelus and Darla, via flashbacks. Angel, Connor, Gunn, Cordelia the Dragon, Spike, Illyria, Wesley, the Chaos Demon, Kenda, and Spike's harem also appear via Drusilla's artwork.
Extras: There is another photo gallery, and it's a lot more... random than the last one. Juliet Landau really shows how she can look like totally different people. I love the short-haired Fight Club homage photos, and the two paintings by Mark McHaley and Sam Shearon at the back are really great.