After spending the past two weeks trapped in the Hellmouth, Angel returns home to Los Angeles and discovers things have changed, whether he likes it or not!
Spike has joined the team! With the looming threat of Wolfram & Hart, though, Angel's avengers are going to need all the help they can get. But before they can focus on that threat, there's a more immediate one - someTHING is stalking the children of Los Angeles, leading Detective Kate Lockley to Angel's doorstep!
Refurbished with a shiny new title boasting two vamps for the price of one, Angel morphs into Angel & Spike in its ninth issue, ensuring Joss Whedon’s favorite bumpy-foreheaded do-gooders are getting equal page time for fans of both characters alike. What still doesn’t make a lick of sense is why Spike, sans soul, is doing good at all – a point I went into at length in an earlier review for this series – but nevertheless, here we are.
One of the most ingenious moves Angel the show made was bringing James Marsters’ Spike aboard as a regular character in what would turn out to be its final season. Spike and Angel play so amazingly well off of each other, because while they’re uniquely different people, they share a world of regret between them for the wrong they’ve done in past lives. As a show, Angel needed a shot in the arm after a meandering, melodramatic, and unfocused fourth season; shaking everything up in season five and adding Spike to the mix was a masterstroke in understanding that Angel needed someone who brought out something new in him. With the arrival of Spike, his grandsire and former partner in evil, Angel was forced to deal with the horror he’d wrought head-on, but also reckon with the fact that Spike might just be more deserving of redemption than he is, as he fought to regain his soul rather than had it forced on him as a curse. The entire season played off of Angel’s insecurities in the wake of Spike’s arrival, but also the clever antipathy between them that brought out a hilarious petty side (see: the infamous “cavemen versus astronauts” debate) in our fanged hero.
Angel & Spike #9, however, brings none of those nuances. Perhaps it’s unfair to lambaste the first issue of the book’s new direction, but given how writer Bryan Hill has struggled to adequately convey that he understands this character and his world, it’s sadly no surprise that the Angel/Spike dynamic is underwhelming in its execution, too. Angel doesn’t like Spike, doesn’t trust Spike, and wants him gone. Gunn and Fred feel he proved his worth when helping them rescue the latter from the clutches of Wolfram & Hart last issue. That’s pretty much it. There’s none of the classic friction between these two immortal rivals that there should be; maybe that’s because so little of Angel and his world was established before he was whisked away to partake in the Hellmouth miniseries a mere six issues after this title debuted. Maybe it’s that Spike doesn’t have a soul and therefore shouldn’t be compelled to do good deeds, a basic building block of the entire Buffyverse. Or maybe it’s just that Hill doesn’t feel particularly invested in this story or these characters. Regular series artists Gleb Melnikov and Roman Titov are back for more this month, at least, bringing an issue-by-issue consistency, but per usual, their art style is drab and uninspired.
One bright spot in this issue is the introduction of Detective Kate Lockley, late of Angel‘s first two seasons before the actress beat feet for the greener pastures of a regular Law & Order role. Lockley’s character was key in creating a surrogate for viewers wanting an outsider perspective on Angel and his world; as she gradually went from being an antagonist to a believer to an ally of Angel’s, she blossomed as a character and surely would have remained an important role had she continued to be a presence. Here, Kate is in a similar position as she was in her earliest appearances on the show: an outsider suddenly thrust into a world she doesn’t understand and is desperate to make sense of. That sort of humanity (assuming Hill is up to the task of providing it) could be exactly the shot in the arm this title needs to keep readers interested. As it stands, though, if a book not even yet in double-digit numbering is already in need of so much help to right the ship, then it may have been a doomed enterprise from the start.
Angel is given a shiny new coat of paint as it morphs into Angel & Spike, but there are still so many underdeveloped characters and narratives here that it's going to take a lot more than a couple of new characters to save this sinking ship.
Angel & Spike #9: Something is Biting the Children
Writing - 6/106/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 5/105/10
Color - 5.5/105.5/10
Cover Art - 6.5/106.5/10
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