Remember that episode of Buffy where Willow got all twisted on dark magic and couldn’t leave the house? And she was willing to ignore anything else that was going on in the Buffyverse because she was just too willing to roll around in the darkness in exchange for a free taste for a load of evil across her naked chest (Perhaps I’m misremembering the episode… but if I am, don’t you fucking dare tell me)? Yeah, that’s what Angel & Faith #6 is: the crack of the Buffyverse.
Whereas the actual Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic feels committed to advancing the Buffyverse and showing the Scooby Gang pushing forward into adulthood, Angel & Faith as written by Christos Gage, particularly in this issue, feels committed to beefing up and filling out previously mentioned areas of the Buffy mythos. On its face, this can be dangerous; any storyline that is less concerned with advancement and more concerned with its own continuity runs a serious danger of crawling up its own ass and dying (hello, Grant Morrison’s run on Batman!).
But considering Buffy and Angel have been off the air for eight whole years (You damn kids! Get off my lawn!), going back to fill in some gaps just feels fun. And Angel & Faith is the book in which to do it – hell, the entire overriding storyline is that Angel is trying to resurrect Giles, so the book is designed and built to live in the past more than Buffy – a story about a young woman finding herself – could ever be. Hell, the first panel of the book talks about how The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy got Angel through the 80s; the only thing that would make the character scream “Gen X junior high kid pining for the good ol’ days” more would be referencing jacking off to T. J. Hooker’s Heather Locklear… or, depending on your tastes and/or desperation, T. J. Hooker’s Adrien Zmed. Either way, don’t you fucking judge me. But I digress.
The plot of this book is relatively simple: people in London are going batshit nuts. They’re becoming utterly delusional and violent, and Angel and Faith discover there’s a chance that the cause might be a demon that feeds on trauma under the control of a vampire who’s been afflicting the city. Which sounds like a good excuse to stop living in the past and trying to bring Giles back for a while… and instead gives us some choice cameos, introduces characters from the past who we didn’t necessarily even know we wanted to meet, and show us a key flashback from the past: how Giles left the Watchers and started on his path toward being Ripper, which as a John Constantine fan (and I’ve always maintained that if we ever get to see Ripper in action, we’ll see Constantine), I’ve wanted to see since Band Candy.
So what we have here is a book that is willing to advance the characters by examining their pasts. Which could easily lead toward stagnation – and we’ll see how I feel about this book in a year – and which might not be exciting for the non-comics reader who only visits their local comic store to pick this and Buffy up – but as an inveterate comic geek, it pushes all those continuity buttons that I generally like. I want to see more Ripper, especially considering that what with Whedon’s Avengers primed to push him into A-List movie director status, that long-threatened BBC series will likely never come to pass… at least not unless Avengers bombs, Merlin gets canceled and someone gets desperate enough to demonstrate or ask why they call him Tony Head.
Rebekah Issacs’s art works well for a Buffy story like this. The motion is fluid, the backgrounds are generally detailed to set atmosphere, and the camera angle changes keep even simple dialogue sequences interesting and dynamic. The one place I had an issue was with her facial expressions… other than Faith’s. Her general expressions are okay, but many of them seem a little broad compared to Faith’s, which looks like the spit and image of Eliza Dushku, provided Eliza had bought the lip implants of her wildest dreams. Maybe it’s just the fact that Faith looks so good that the rest look a little abstract, but the first full-on faceshot of Angel on the first page looks like he’s 70 percent nose. However, the differences aren’t generally so glaring as to take you out of the book, but they are noticable.
For the first time since Buffy: Season Eight started a few years ago, I can honestly say that this is a Buffy comic book for comic book fans. It’s a deep examination of continuity that advances the story by looking at what came before. Sure, it dwells on things that have come before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not comforting. Like masturbating to T. J. Hooker while reading Hitchhiker’s Guide with Willow and Adrien Zmed.
Don’t you fucking judge me.