ADVANCE REVIEW! Angel & Faith Volume 2: Daddy Issues will go on sale Wednesday, November 21, 2012.
Editor's note: The Steve Morris who wrote this review is NOT the same Steve Morris who illustrates Buffy covers. That'd be weird.
With Star Wars now possibly heading to a publisher far, far away, it's a good thing that Dark Horse Comics have found a way to establish their Buffy license. With the start of Buffy Season 9 came a much stronger foundation for the franchise, out of which have come two miniseries, as well as this side-series, Angel & Faith. While Buffy fights monsters in San Francisco with Andrew Chambliss, here Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs are teaming up in London with some of her allies.
Season 8 of Buffy was a bit of a mess, all things considered, with the storyline going too big too quickly, losing focus on the characters and plot simultaneously in a manner which almost sunk the franchise as a whole. While that has been cleaned up now, Angel & Faith deals specifically with the fallout of that series, and as such has to not only deliver a new engaging storyline — it has to make the past storylines make some kind of coherent sense. The first arc set up the premise, falling out of Angel's decision to dress up as somebody called "Twilight" and engage in some kind of bizarre, terrible plan to do… something bizarre and terrible. It wasn't coherent.
What did happen, however, was that the character killed off Rupert Giles, one of the main characters in the world of Buffy. That was quite a big deal, and this series focuses on that moment in particular to create a jumping-on point for a new story. As Angel attempts to overcome and fix this act of murder, he's been paired with once-rogue slayer (and reformed murderer herself) Faith Lehane. In this second arc, the book attempts to push forward with this storyline, whilst also immersing itself head-first into some heady new directions.
And it's a success in this regard. Gage has managed to set up a number of crisscrossing storylines here, which move in and out of the story at will, sometimes for a purpose, and sometimes to set up something that'll happen in future. It's rather impressive to see just how many pieces he can manoeuvre around the board at once, continuing previous plots whilst introducing new ones at a breakneck pace. If he can keep this up remains to be seen, of course, and a lot will depend on how he sticks the landing. As it stands, the stories so far have been engaging, intricate and intertwined masterfully.
This arc sees the return of — she's on the cover — Drusilla, one of the best Whedon creations. There's a wrinkle to her this time round which shows just how much the creative team are going for broke. The last few seasons of the TV show were arguably playing things far too safely, with very few narrative surprises or twists for the main characters. Here we have Gage engaging in the previously-unseen past lives of not only Faith — but Giles, too, in the form of flashbacks. And he does a great job here, even though the spellings are all American (it's SPECTRE, not "specter"!) The new additions to the characters are just that — additions — rather than bolted-on afterthoughts. The character work is well handled.
Isaacs, as well, has to be mentioned in this regard. Her art is brilliantly expressive, taking the idea of the actors who played these characters previously, but making the characters her own. There are flashes of Eliza Dushku and David Boreanaz, but only flashes. The rest of the book is purely her. The most effective part of her work is how simply she structures each page. Most of the time, she works in straight boxes, horizontal and vertical rectangles which don't attempt anything too experimental with the style. However, when something really strange comes into the story, she immediately saws off corners and cuts the rectangles apart in order to disorient the readers. It's a subtle, smart move.
Chris Samnee draws the final issue. He's Chris Samnee, so of course it looks amazing.
While there are some troubles with the story here, with Gage sometimes overshowing his hand and making it a bit too obvious that pieces are being moved into place, this is an entertaining counterpart to the main Buffy series. The team play into past continuity rather a lot, meaning you do need to have seen the TV show to get the most out of the story. But even bearing that in mind, Gage tackles the storylines in a surprising manner, fitting them into the story to progress the characters without damaging them. It's a valiant attempt at redemption for the characters, and unfolds in an interesting, unpredictable manner.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.