Cats in the Cradle (the conclusion of "Connorland")
Plotted by Bill Willingham, David Tischman, and Mariah Huehner
Written by David Tischman and Mariah Huehner
Back up story ("Eddie Hope: Knockout Punch") written by Bill Williams
Art by Elena Casagrande
The scene on the roof.
That is all.
Alright, kidding, but I seriously could end the review there, because... just damn. More on that later. A few loose ends get tied up here: The Sisterhood of the Jaro Hull is defeated in one of the best fight scenes in the comics, Spike's soul flu is cleared up with a few lines of a dialogue (all that needed, for me), and the chief characters (Angel, Connor, Spike, Illyria, and Gunn) are all taken or about to be taken to interesting places.
Gunn is back in the group. The Eddie Hope back-up story shows him being saved by the gang, but the main action of the issues shows Gunn already back in play. He was my favorite character in After the Fall, and the whole reason that arc resonates so well is that all the crazy shit that happened while they were in hell matters because they remember it. Gunn's character is at such a rich point, and he hasn't really been explored that well since Become What You Are. But he has a little moment in this issue, where he throws a weapon to Connor and simply says, "We'll talk later" before proceeding to whoop Sisterhood ass. Based on conversations I had with writers David Tischman and Mariah Huehner at NYCC (videos to come!), Gunn is in for some wonderful, deep, and startling development.
Spike. Oh, Spike. Probably the main issue most folks took with Willingham's run was his characterization of William the Bloody. Mariah Huehner wrote this article that promised there was a twist concerning Spike if fans just waited, and that twist came to light a bit earlier in the arc. Spike's got a soul flu, which was a fallout from his ghosties all the way back in Season Five. In this issue, Spike is back to his... well, Spikey-self (Is there really an adjective that can properly describe him? No one word can sum up his Spikeyness.) and it's great to see. He recognizes that he's been acting out of character, and he's off to do some soul searching (mwah!) to find out what he's made of.
Illyria leaves the group after a conversation with Angel that happens in between scenes. To see this convo, read Illyria #1. These two issues really work well together, even though they're kick ass on their own. For those who didn't really dig Willingham's characterization of Blue Thunder, this issue and Illyria #1 are here to show you that IDW is on top of things.
Now, Angel and Connor. I'm bunching these two together because, really. With Connor in the picture, Angel is really all about his son. He's not interested in aerial sex, wearing costumes, or hanging out with skinless dudes. Just Connor. And Connor knows this. And here's another thing that the both of them know: Connor is special in a way that has yet to be discovered, and the Sisterhood--creepy as they were--helped show them that. And Connor isn't going to be able to tap into his true power and see how far he can stretch it in order to become a champion while Angel is around, worrying about him every second of the day. Angel and Connor have this conversation, which has been in the works since... well, I was going to say since After the Fall, but I think it dates as far back as the finale of Season Four. Angel walked away from Connor, leaving him in the safety of a normal life. But Connor didn't belong there. Connor belongs where he is now, playing the role of a champion... and Angel recognizes that it's finally time for him to walk away, leaving Connor to fend for himself the way Angel did when he came to LA. The scene on the roof is beautiful, calling back to both Home and Angel and Connor's post-resurrection reunion in After the Fall #16. A lot to live up to, huh? Well, it easily succeeds. It's heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, if that's possible. You see those broken pieces of your hearts? They're super toasty.
I'll end with a quote from the issue. Angel says to Connor, "None of that matters. What matters is you and me and the people in this city. The city needs you. And maybe you'll find you need it, too. So... maybe it's time I stepped back for awhile and let you find each other."
That is Angel. That is all.
PS: The title. Jeez. Fits. Wow.
Haunted (part one of four)
Written by Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner
Art by Elena Casagrande
So, so very good. While IDW has given Illyria a lot of attention in the past (Fallen Angel: Reborn, Illyria: Spotlight, Angel: Only Human, etc.) this book gives us more insight into her perspective than we've gotten... well, ever. Since her arrival in Shells, she's been a mystery. We've seen her develop, change, grow... but she remains alien. Now, we finally get a good look at her thought process, and it's fascinating. Illyria has great conversations with both Angel and Spike that sheds light on all three characters in new and interesting ways. And that's really what good writing is. Developing characters in a way that makes sense considering their history, but keeping it all unexpected. Illyria: Haunted treads new ground, which is kind of ironic seeing that the plot is taking Illyria back to where she started: The Deeper Well.
All in all, it might be the best Buffyverse issue since Brian Lynch's epic "Become What You Are." It's right up there with that issue, and also the recent and awesome Spike #1. Good things are coming in with all of the IDW Angel comics, and I can't wait to see what the dream team of Mariah, Scott, and Elena have in store for us. If the next three issues are anywhere as good as this, I just might have to break my "Serious Fans Do Not Squee" rule.
Actually, I may have broken that when I read the dream sequence where everyone but Illyria and Spike were crayon drawings. What an outright brilliant way to tinker with the medium.
NOTE: After Illyria #4 is released, Scott Tipton will be dropping by Buffyverse Comic Reviews to give you guys "Illyria Annotated." He, Mariah, and Elena threw a lot of tiny jokes and references into the book, so let's see if you can catch them!
What Happens in Vegas, Slays in Vegas
Written by Brian Lynch
Art by Franco Urru and Nicola Nanni
The issue was good and fun. I'm finding that while the balance of Brian Lynch's Spike: Asylum, Spike: After the Fall, and Angel: After the Fall series was in tune with that of the television series (equal parts comedy, drama, and fantasy), the on-going Spike series is veering more in the direction of comedy. And that's not really a problem. It has a Spike: Shadow Puppets kind of feel, even more in this issue than the first. I can tell that there are bits that will have emotional payoff, such as Spike's upcoming reunion with Drusilla and whatever happens to Jeremy, who is revealed to be possessed in this issue by an agent of Wolfram & Hart. Seeing Spike taking the reigns as leader is awesome, and Brian Lynch utilizes the thought captions very well, showing our hero's thought process as he struggles to pave his own way. There continue to be awesome one-liners (Beck's "Weird, right? Whoa, someone must really want you to shush?"; Spike's "Gits like you mess with the mystique. Seriously, mate, the chocolate cereal vampire is embarrassed by you."; and John, the Big Bad's "I fully anticipate a slap on the wrist" come to mind) and fun character moments, but I'm anticipating the story really kicking off. The first issue had a lot of great set up and fun moments. This issue had a great deal of comedy, banter, and exposition. I'm ready for the arc to kick in, and I'm excited to see where my favorite Buffyverse writer takes his trademark character.
Also, for you continuity nuts and Whedonesquers taking issue with how these relate to each other and Season Eight, here's a quote from Mariah Huehner to clear things up.
Mariah Huenher: "You can ask Brian for more specifics, but it's not actually a continuity goof so much as gray area of time. And some inside jokes. Buffy is a year ahead of all the Angel comics at least, and while Spike will be more directly related than the others, we're not defining precisely how far behind it is. Hence why you're not seeing direct ref's to Harmony's show or the like. It's just a bit of humor for those who have read both, it's not to be taken as exact references to the timeline.
Spike's Vegas adventure takes place after Angel #38, and that's pretty much all the defining of the timeline we're doing for now. Illyria's story takes place after #38 as well, and after the little fight with Angel and Spike. When you see Illyria #1 you'll see how some of it ties together, but again, it's a tight time frame for only those specific events. The Spike adventure goes off on its own and has its own arc to manage. Brian's story was too important to hamstring with trying to force it all to gel perfectly. And a lot of the Spike comic had been established before the last story arc became the last one, so it's more on me than it is on Brian. We just want to link what we can, and hope fans will be forgiving and okay with the sort of vague "happens after #38" answer. :}
The way we see it, the pro-vamp attitude has probably been around awhile. Heck, there have been groups who really didn't understand how bad there were long before ATF (the ep of Buffy with the pro-vamp teens, for instance). So this is really just an extension of that, plus the fact that vamps are "known" now in this verse, and a little bit of a poke at the sparkly "romantic" vamps of "Twinkle". It's just playing with the idea that people are easily misled when they want to be. Our culture has often romanticized vampires, and this is just another facet of it. Which is, I'm sure, what the idea was in the Buffy comics. So we're just showing how it manifests in the Angel/Spikeverse side of things. :}"