Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Rebekah Isaacs
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Cover Artist: Steve Morris
(Joss Whedon, Executive Producer)
Let’s start by covering the Angel & Faith basics:
1. Yes, this is canon Buffyverse!
2. It directly follows the events of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8.
3. All the Angel: After the Fall stuff is still canon, but it sounds like it won’t be too important for this series.
4. Joss may not be writing the series, but he did oversee and help create all the major plot points.
Here is what Dark Horse editor Scott Allie has to say in the “Slay the Critics” letter column (made small to save space):
Welcome to Season 9!
Does that mean it’s Angel‘s ninth season…?
No – it means that Dark Horse’s follow-up to our biggest series in recent years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 consists of both the new Buffy series and Angel & Faith. We just want readers to know that while you don’t have to read one title to understand the other – honestly – both series take place in the same world, facing similar challenges, in the aftermath of Season 8.
With that out of the way I can comfortably say that I am shocked at how excited I was before and how pleased I was after reading an Angel-centric title. While I love Buffy unreservedly, I am definitely not Captain Forehead’s biggest fan (although I usually enjoy Angelus stories). The exception to the rule always tended to be stories that included Faith, which I guess goes part of the way to explaining how much I was looking forward to this book. The rest is that I am very excited to see how this carries on from the end of Buffy Season 8. I can’t write more without delving into some SPOILERS for Buffy Season 8, so keep reading at your own risk!
This story picks up with Faith and Angel where Buffy Season 8 left off: namely after Angel (as/possessed by Twilight) kills Giles and then goes semi-catatonic, Faith decides to take care of him (an interesting role reversal from season 1 of Angel), and the two of them move into Giles’ empty house in London. Obviously because Angel likes torturing himself and thinks this will be a good place to brood. The issue starts with excerpts from Giles’ Watcher diary and flashback to him dealing with a demon, who then gets finished off in the present by Angel and Faith. From the very start it packs an emotional punch, showing us the much beloved, late Rupert Giles (man it hurts to type that) and giving us his writing about why he didn’t plan to ever have children. Gage effectively brings to mind the Giles and Buffy relationship, which never fully healed after Season 6. In the flashback/diary entry Giles mentions having to sacrifice the memory of one of the best days of his life, and the eventual reveal of which day is gut wrenching and beautiful. I won’t spoil what it is, but kudos to Isaacs for that particular double panel.
Angel and Faith’s interaction is already interesting. Angel is brooding as usual, but he is well balanced by Faith’s characteristic smart-ass conversation. Beneath the jibes and banter (“Suddenly you’re in your ‘helping the helpless’ clothes, ready to kick some demon ass.”) it is clear that Faith is worried about and protective of Angel. It’s a side of her we never got to see much of and I’m happy to explore it. Faith also interacts with a slayer named Nadira who isn’t sure how to feel about her, partially because she doesn’t know if Faith is friends or enemies with the universally resented Buffy. Resented because, as readers are reminded, Buffy ended the Slayer line at the end of Season 8. Of course Faith sums it up by saying it’s complicated. Nadira mentions two half-demons (siblings Pearl and Nash) who slaughtered her squad at the behest of Twilight/Angel. She casually mentions that she would like nothing more than to end Angel. I smell plot!
Next up we have a visit from an old friend: Whistler. Remember the nasal demon in the fedora who got Angel to stop eating rats and pops up randomly to monologue? Yeah, him. He’s doing his monologue thing again, this time to Pearl and Nash, who are clearly going to be our first big bads. Based on the full page panel of them I’m very excited about these two! Something about their reveal almost reminds me of Spike and Drusilla’s introduction in Buffy Season 2. The issue ends with Angel brooding some more (I wonder how long I’ll be able to take it) and offering up a cliff hanger of a last sentence.
I’m very happy with the writing, particularly Faith’s voice. An I really love the art! Not to disparage the excellent Buffy art of Georges Jeanty, but in some ways I really prefer the way Isaacs captures the characters. And I’m always happy to see more books with female artists at the helm.
Although I really enjoyed this book and think it’s a great start to the series, it’s not one I would support picking up without some background reading. I cannot recommend this title to anyone who has not seen Buffy and/or Angel. And I definitely cannot recommend it to people who haven’t finished Buffy Season 8! This book’s target audience is established fans of the franchise. So if that sounds like you, if you like Angel, Faith, Giles (around whom the emotional center of the first story arc seems to be based), and good story, I think you should pick this book up!
Personally I can’t wait for issue #2!