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Comic Review: Angel & Faith #25
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Angel and Faith #25Angel & Faith #25
Written by Christos Gage
Illustrated by Rebekah Isaacs
Executive Produced by Joss Whedon
Colored by Dan Jackson
Lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Cover by Steve Morris
Alternate Cover by Rebekah Isaacs
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: August 28, 2013
Cover Price: $2.99

When Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended its seven-year run in 2003, fans of the Joss Whedon-created television series could (and did) take solace that a Buffy spin-off, Angel, was still on the air. Weekly forays to the Whedon-verse, however, ended when ended its abbreviated five-year run only a year later, Buffy/Angel fans contented themselves with syndicated reruns and DVDs. Whedon, of course, moved on, first to the short-lived Firefly (one season followed by a big-screen wrap up, Serenity) and Dollhouse several years later. Dollhouse only made it through two seasons on FOX. Despite his other projects, Buffy and Angel were never far from his mind.

Rather than attempting to bring Buffy back to network or cable television (an unlikely possibility given the passage of time, rights issues, and the availability of key cast members), Whedon decided to continue the series in comic-book form, first through Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, a sprawling 40-issue run that ran from 2007 through 2011, and subsequently through the about-to-be-concluded Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9. Acting initially as co-writer for Buffy, but primarily as an executive producer or showrunner, Whedon handed over Buffy to newcomer Andrew Chambliss and a new spin-off series, Angel & Faith to longtime comic-book scribe Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs. Both series were meant to run in parallel, each with 25 issues plus two spin-offs, one devoted to Willow, Buffy’s best-friend and witch, and the other to Spike, the other vampire with a soul.

Season 8 ended with massive changes, not just for the central and supporting characters, but for the world at large too. Revealed as the series’ “Big Bad,” Twilight, Angel helped to usher in a status quo-redefining end of magic. Buffy’s former Watcher, Rupert Giles lost his life in the process. Buffy relocated to San Francisco where she remained for Season 9 with most of the old Scooby Gang (Willow, Xander, Dawn) more or less intact while a repentant Angel relocated to London with Faith, the one-time rogue Slayer and heir to Giles not-insubstantial fortune and estate. While Buffy and company focused on adjusting to the end of magic and/or bringing it back from the West Coast – a focus made all the more urgent by Dawn’s seemingly terminal illness (she was created by magic) – Angel and Faith focused on resurrecting Giles by collecting several magical artifacts and, in reverse-Horcrux fashion, finding the scattered fragments of his soul before attempting to bring him back.

By the end of this last arc, “What You Want, Not What You Need,” Angel and Faith succeeded in bringing Giles back, but in the body of his 12-year-old self. That’s the least of the complications Angel and Faith are forced to confront. Whistler, the ex-mentor who guided the re-souled Angel into becoming a superhero instead of spending eternity moping about his past sins and crimes, has gone into Big Bad mode. Without magic, once again treated as a dangerous addiction, Whistler has decided what the world needs is a literal explosion of magic – contained in a fist-sized orb, of course – but like the plans of every Big Bad, substantial collateral damage will result – as in two billion dead and untold multitudes converted into magical/supernatural creatures (i.e., mutants, essentially).

The last issue ended in typical cliffhanger fashion, with Angel and Whistler locked in combat. Issue #25 picks up seconds later, resolving the conflict within the first few pages, but once again upending the status quo. Without saying too much, Whedon’s experience writing Marvel comics (e.g., Astonishing X-Men), not to mention a little superhero film that came out last summer, has served him well. The new status quo takes more than a few pages from several key developments in the X-Men universe, appropriately setting up Angel’s continuing adventures in the next season. Like every Whedon-created series, not every character makes it to the last panel and those that do engage in self-reflection (of the “what price heroism?” variety) before deciding their next respective steps.

Angel & Faith #25 conclusively closes most open plot threads, but leaves enough questions unanswered for the next season to explore. Whether the next season will reunite Angel and Faith, pair up Angel with a different character, or simply revert to just “Angel” is just one of those questions; the lasting effects of Whistler’s actions and Angel’s partial save is another one. Regardless of where Season 10 takes Angel, Season 9 will stand out for its strong storytelling issue-to-issue, arc-to-arc, and as a complete narrative. With one or two exceptions, Rebekah Isaacs’ artwork has complemented Gage’s writing throughout the 25-issue run.

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