Moment Number Five
Angel: After the Fall #12
Shanshu is Not So Much with the Yay
In a devastating turn of events (I mean, when you're stuck in a Hell dimension most turns of events are devastating, granted), it is revealed that the Shanshu Prophecy--the light at the end of the tunnel for Angel, the promise that, after playing a pivotal role in the apocalypse, he would be granted humanity for his rewards--isn't as good as it sounds on paper. Wolfram & Hart wants Angel to know that the only reason they've been keeping him alive is because he eventually will Shanshu... but the role he'll play in the apocalypse is for the side of evil.
Oh, and Wesley is the one who is made to deliver the bad news to Angel. Talk about twisting the dagger. In a move almost as daring as making Angel human, Brian Lynch and Joss Whedon flipped the entirety of Angel's arc from the end of Season One until now on its head, giving Angel new reason to say "Screw destiny" and fight for himself.
Honorable Mention: Illyria Crosses Over (Fallen Angel: Rebirth #1).
Moment Number Four
Angel: After the Fall #15
Not much to say about this one. It's the most devastating death in all of the comics. It showed Angel at the end of his fight, Angel with nothing left, Angel after the worst has come true. Gunn killed Connor. When I read the issue, I instantly thought of the moment in Not Fade Away when Connor tells Angel that Wolfram & Hart is going to destroy him. Angel replied, "As long as you're okay, they can't." This moment took the series in a direction of true tragedy, which made the eventual eucatastrophe of an ending all the more happy.
This is what I wrote when the issue first came out: "His son, Connor, dies in his arms. After being stabbed by Gunn with the very flaming sword Angel fought with in the battle with the LA Lords. I wouldn't even mention this in the review, but the simple fact is that the death and the way it's handled is one of the reasons why the issue is so good. It's insanely risky, but the pay off is enormous. Because when Connor is stabbed, it feels like everything goes quiet. As Angel says, the "World has just ended." Seeing Angel holding a dying Connor is one of the saddest things I've ever seen, and the final, hopeful words that Connor gives his father will leave Angel with the will he needs to fight. And to win. Major kudos to Brian Lynch, Chris Ryall, Joss Whedon, and the entire IDW team for going there. You made me cry like a little baby, and I'm grateful."
Honorable Mention: Everybody Dies (Angel: After the Fall). I mean, c'mon. Gwen, the Dragon, Groosalugg, Connor, debatably Illyria, Wesley (again), Spike (briefly), Gunn (vamped, but still). It was a death fest. Luckily for the on-going series, a lot of these folks were saved from death, but the repercussions still affect the Buffyverse to this day.
Moment Number Three
James is a Baddie
James was a hard character to like. Thanks to him, we saw a very out-of-character Cordelia in Aftermath, the problematic introduction of angels into the Buffyverse, and a whole lot of mythology that didn't really vibe with the established universe that these characters live in. Say what you will about Willingham's run, but revealing James as a villain completely wiped that slate clean. Nothing he'd done in Aftermath counted for anything. He's a friggin' god being kinda... thing... Well, he's damn powerful, and it's been established now that he had lied to Angel the entire time. He wasn't an angel. Everything he'd done and said was a ruse. He turned from a strangely stuffy, humorless, angelic version of Groosalugg into the creepiest villain in all of Angel. Harvesting demons? Incest? Getting Anne pregnant with his weirdo spawn? Put nothing past this guy.
Also, he ripped Angel's hands and feet off just a few moments after his true intentions were revealed. Gotta love a guy who's quick to act.
Honorable Mention: Dedication to Wes and Fred (Angel: After the Fall #17).
Moment Number Two
Illyria: Haunted #2
Spike and Illyria's Conversation
This moment from Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner's ILLYRIA series makes it here for a few reasons. One, it's the closest the comic has come to feeling like the show--it hits the voices, the tone, and everything else right on the head. After the Fall was up there in quality, for sure, but the story was so epic that it felt more like Angel the Movie. This feels like the show. I was waiting for the credits to start when I heard these character speaking--and yes, not read, heard. This conversation is full of pay off, character development, pathos... everything you'd want from these characters after they'd gone through so much together. Spike talks about his sacrifice for Buffy, which is something fans had been wait for since Angel hit the funny books, and Illyria talks about a tragically beautifully dream she'd been having about Fred and Wesley. It was moving, smart, funny in parts, and everything an Angel comic should be.