Timing: Directly after Angel: Only Human #2.
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 covered.
REVIEW: Not only is Only Human the best non-Lynch, post-After the Fall tale IDW has told so far, it's also the funnest. Which is weird, considering the dark place both Gunn and Illyria are at, mentally. But while this issue does explore the ramifications of their actions in Hell, it keeps the emotions as an undercurrent instead of letting them take over the plot. And the plot is damn interesting, as it involved The Scourge using (SPOILER:) a device from Illyria's recent past to revive another Old One. Yup, The Scourge is back, and these demon baddies are up to their old ways of killing the "impure" breeds of demons. To tell the truth, the set-up that re-introduces The Scourge is way too similar to "Hero" (the last episode they appeared in). I mean, they had the sympathetic demon kid, they had the big but friendly group of demons, and they even had the flashback with them being hunted. I know, The Scourge doesn't do much else but hunt these kind of folk... but a different way of introducing them would have been nice.
That said, the motif of purity that runs through this issue is pretty amazing. The Scourge claim to be pure, going so far as to dedicate their lives to cleansing the world of the impure. But... in the face of Illyria, an Old One, a true pure demon... what are The Scourge? How can they be pure if only the Old Ones are pure? And now that Illyria is inhabiting Fred's body, is she pure anymore? She's exploring her humanity, which she admits is there, but she's still the closest thing the Earth has to a pure demon (SPOILER:) Well, until page 20. And going with the motifs of purity and humanity, Gunn was a vampire. A moment later, he's a human. But doesn't what you were in the past always inform what you are today? If Gunn was a vampire, how can he be purely human--only human--now? I'm stoked that Lobdell's series is posing these questions only two issues in, especially in the midst of such a fun and action packed story.
Sometimes, though, Scott Lobdell has trouble finishing a thought. During Fred's uncle's funeral, Gunn's thought caption reads, "It doesn't last long... but honestly, every word is agony." We know he means that being at a Burkle is painfully ironic, as the Burkle's don't know Fred is dead and her demon-possessed corpse is walking around, passing for Fred-gone-goth. But make that connection. If the thought is good enough to be started, it's good enough to be finished. Also, there is some syntax confusion that rubbed the English major in me the wrong way. After Illyria has a conversation with Fred's old prom date (which makes a great connection to her behavior in Spike: After the Fall #3, elaborating on how she's beginning to use Fred's romantic/sexual side to her advantage; great continuity!), Gunn's thought captions say, "I let her digest whatever it is she's feeling. Just grateful it isn't Jason Polt." Again, we know he means to say that he's grateful she isn't digesting Jason Polt. But the way the sentences are written, it is saying that Gunn is grateful Illyria isn't feeling Jason Polt. The "digesting" needs to be repeated, or the sentences need to be rephrased.
Grammatical issues aside, the issue was crazy good. Better than the first one, which was already a really cool read. It's not a full number grade better, but it's damn close. I saw a TPB solicited, but really... IDW should give Only Human the hardcover treatment. This is a badass series, and is definitely going between my Volume Six and Volume Seven hardcovers when they come out.
I know, I'm a geek.
Art: You may as well copy and paste my praise for David Messina's art from #1 in here. One thing you can leave out, though, is my gripes about Gunn's inconsistent beard. The art in this issue is 100% consistent, and Messina added that he would be fixing Gunn's beard for the collection.
Covers: Both of these covers are considerably better than the ones from the first issue. The Messina cover is at once brutal and beautiful, featuring an image of Gunn in creepy blue lighting that makes his eyes all shadowy, with an image of Gunn as a vampire slicing through the middle of the issue. The same format is used for the rest of Messina's covers in this arc, and I love it. And this time, Dave Dorman's cover is just as great as Messina's. Over a beautiful blue and purple backdrop, Gunn and Illyria, all promed-out, are dancing. Gunn dips Illyria, and to his horror, demonic tentacles whip up in front of them. That could be collection cover status.
Extras: If you have a question for Mr. Lobdell, ask it here! I'll be conducting an interview soon.
Characters We Know: Gunn, Illyria, The Scourge, Wesley (flashback), Fred (flashback)