While Angel's off fighting to close the Hellmouth, Gunn and Spike are on a mission to save Fred from Wolfram & Hart and their dark overlord Baphomet!
Gunn and Spike raid Angel's hidden armory, and spend a little time getting to know each other...
Their respite doesn't last long, though, before armed mercenaries from Wolfram & Hart bust in!
At this point, longtime Angel and Buffy fans wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if the current writers of their respective books have ever watched either show. Yes, that’s a very harsh assessment. But this particular issue of Angel has brought enough of the burbling-under-the-surface problems to the forefront that it’s an assessment that must be made. It’s a sad state of affairs when the characters and worlds of either book bear so little resemblance – practically or functionally – to their forerunners that this question even must be asked at all.
At the outset of this Buffyverse reboot, an open mind had to be kept, because the writers were taking liberties to shake up the familiar into something new. But it didn’t take long for those liberties to start running roughshod over some very basic tenets of that world, and the result is quite simply something no Buffy or Angel fan would really recognize.
Case in point: Spike.
On Buffy, Spike didn’t become truly good until he fought and clawed to regain his soul. Sure, he’d been doing good things in prior seasons, but for selfish reasons: more or less because he truly believed he loved Buffy and wanted to be worthy of her. But his fixation on her was about what he wanted, not necessarily who she was. But he couldn’t do it, which resulted in some truly abhorrent behavior on his part when, in season six, he tried to rape Buffy because he couldn’t accept that she’d dumped him. Unable to reconcile what he’d done with what he was feeling – a selfish, inverted and ultimately malformed version of love – he sought to get his soul back so “Buffy could get what she deserved.”
This act is important not just because it leads to Spike’s ultimate redemption at Buffy‘s series finale, but it also speaks to the very function of souls in the Buffyverse. When someone dies and becomes a vampire, a demon possesses their body. It may look like them, talk like them, and have their memories, but it is not them. This is a basic building block of the entire Buffyverse. The demon inhabiting the body has no soul, and thus its base instinct is always selfish or outright evil. It can choose to do good acts – but ultimately, because there is no soul, those acts would always be for selfish reasons. No vampire, in other words, is going to run into a burning building to rescue a baby just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s going to do it so it can drink the baby’s blood. By contrast, humans, all of whom are born with souls, are inherently good at their core. They may make poor decisions but ultimately the presence of a soul means there is always the chance for redemption because that very presence is an inborn catalyst for good, selfless behavior.
Which gets us back to the iteration of Spike as presented in the pages of Angel. This Spike has no soul. He has no motives for doing good deeds; he’s not in lust with Buffy, he’s not searching for any sort of redemption. He has no reason to care that Fred has been captured (whom, in fact, he’s barely even met) and that Gunn needs help rescuing her. Sans soul, he does however have every reason to not care at all. Because that’s supposed to be his nature. In writer Bryan Hill’s misguided script, though, Spike simply chooses to do this good deed because of reasons that are never made clear. He just helps, which flies completely contrary to everything fans know about not only his character but again how one of the fundamental underpinnings of the Buffyverse even works. It’s not just murky motives or basic mischaracterization; it’s a fatal misunderstanding of a basic foundation of an entire universe.
(And, on matters more sartorial in nature: Spike just ain’t Spike without his black trenchcoat. C’mon, guys.)
As for the other characters, Gunn and Fred (the mysterious Lilith makes no appearances this issue) fill name-check versions of their roles at best. There’s an attempt at a deep exchange between Gunn and Spike when the former asks the latter what it feels like to kill. Spike responds by flipping that question around and stating instead, “What you really want to know is if killing matters. I could tell you it does, but I’d be lying.” This is a pretty cold-blooded statement and something to be expected from a soulless Spike, but it feels a little naive on the part of Gunn. Granted he’s not the hardened street-warrior here that he is in the show, but at the same time he’s hardly a stranger to death. The subsequent scene where Spike is riddled with bullets by Wolfram & Hart’s mercenaries is grim in its effectiveness, but then undercut when Spike tells Gunn not to look when he vamps out and slaughters the would-be assassins. This makes no sense, because it conveys a sort of protectiveness toward someone he’s just met and frankly shouldn’t care one way or another if they’re offended by his bloodlust.
Fred, for her part, fulfills a sadly stereotypical woman-in-peril role throughout the entire issue. Fred in Name Only would be a better description for her, though, as she neither does nor says anything in these pages that bares even a passing resemblance to Amy Acker’s wonderfully wacky character on the show. And in the end, her rescue becomes a non-factor – pretty much making the entire issue a moot point despite such flawed execution. There’s some obvious set-up for the post-“Hellmouth” world, but that’s still a few months away at this time, with no issues set to ship again until March after the crossover wraps up.
Gleb Melnikov’s art, at least, is serviceable enough. It’s a little too sparse on details in places, but it does exude an appropriate amount of mood through copious use of shadow. The above panel where Spike is riddled with bullets is especially effective in its shock of violence. This is the sort of thing that makes a comic jump to life, something that Angel sorely needs if it’s going to retain its target audience. Because with so many miscues this early into its run, tried-and-true Buffyverse aficionados will surely be running in droves.
In terms of basic storytelling execution, this issue is decent enough, but some extremely off-model characterization is causing the entire house of cards that is Boom's Buffyverse reboot to collapse under its own fatal misunderstanding of the characters and their world.
Angel #8: Angel’s Avengers
Writing - 3/103/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 6/106/10
Color - 5.5/105.5/10
Cover Art - 6.5/106.5/10
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