Angel & Faith Volume 1: Live Through This (2012)
Christos Gage (script), Rebekah Isaacs (art), Phil Noto (art), Steve Morris (cover)
Genre: graphic novel
I've waxed poetic about how much I hate writing spoilers and how I'll try and keep spoilers to a minimum where I do need to reveal big plotlines. Not possible here. There's no way that I can talk about this book without revealing huge spoilers for Buffy Season 8. So if you haven't read the Buffy comics and want to, then DO NOT click on the 'Read more' link below if you don't want to find out what happens. Similarly, there's some biggish spoilers for Angel and Faith too. I mean, sure, don't let me stop you from reading it if you haven't read Live Through This yet and you plan to, but it's nothing MAJOR major unlike the Buffy spoilers. If you have read Buffy Season 8, or on the other hand don't plan to, then click ahead. But don't say I didn't warn you.
I'll begin with a reminder of what happened at the end of Twilight/Last Gleaming just so we can get a context of what has happened.
So Angel was Twilight. Ironic, right? I never saw that one coming, but there you go. So he and Buffy had a lot of sex in the issue titled crudely 'Them F#©%ing' (love it!) and I was really happy because I'm a HUGE Buffy-Angel supporter. The art in these scenes were tastefully done, yet so hot.
Then it turns out that Angel was being controlled by 'Twilight' (I still don't 100% get this) and was working against Buffy because the universe is getting tipped out of balance with all the extra slayers that were made at the end of Season 7.
So while Buffy is destroying the Seed which will get rid of all magic in the world (thus ending the line of Slayers) Angel pops up and - wait for it - leave now if you don't want to know ...
seriously - If you're a Buffy fan and haven't read Season 8 and plan to do so, LEAVE
... kills Giles. That's right. Just snaps his neck. Like a twig. It breaks my heart.
In his will, Giles leaves his London flat and all his money to Faith, bestowing only the Vampyr tome to Buffy - harsh, right? He and Faith had been working together a bit before his death now that she's all reformed, and she's made it her mission to work with those lone Slayers who might not fit in so well with the Buffy crowd.
So back to Live Through This. There's five issues: Live Through This parts 1 - 4 as well as a stand-alone called Perfect Harmony. Yep, that Harmony.
Angel and Faith are in London where they have been ever since Giles' death. Angel is overcome with guilt after killing Giles, despite that the fact that he was possessed when he did it. Faith has set out to rehabilitate him, like he did for her but is getting nowhere as Angel becomes a recluse. One day, out of the blue, he suddenly perks up and his life has a purpose again. His goal: to bring Giles back to life.
They discover that someone has a supply of Mohra blood that has saved humans from the brink of death. Mohra blood can regenerate anything - and Angel believes it could work on a dead body. Something else will be needed to bring back the soul.
Meanwhile, Nadira (one of Faith's slayers) is having real anger issues. She witnessed thirty of her sisters die at the hands of Pearl and Nash, a brother and sister pair who were associates of Twilight. She has a plan for vengeance: first, Pearl and Nash before hunting down Angel. Faith avoids telling Nadira that she's actually living with him - it'll be fun when that blows up.
Pearl and Nash have their own plans for Angel. They're harbouring a lot of resentment at the way he led them along in their path for glory, then deserted them in the blink of an eye. They're not alone in their planning, because they've got the assistance of ... Whistler. Yep. Whistler. This book was just full of surprises.
Angel and Faith go around hunting for the Mohra demon, because there can't be this big a supply of blood without a demon on tap. They come across a bunch of people who have taken the blood and are now perfectly healthy, and then another bunch of people whose relatives supposedly took the blood, but have gone missing since. They head off to a country mansion where an auction is taking place for vials of the elixir. The place is flooded with rich people and we get to see Faith in a hot pink bodycon dress that reminds me a lot of the Herve Leger one, only with one-shoulder strappier straps and some kind of black detail across the bust. It turns out that the baddies have a Mohra demon in their captive, and are siphoning off blood. Angel frees the demon, only for it to kill itself and everyone goes crazy, trying to make a grab for the vials. Faith manages two.
Then Pearl and Nash turn up and the chaos becomes a shitstorm. They go for Angel and Faith leaps into the fray, slipping one of her vials into Nash's pocket before announcing this to the room. While everyone makes a leap for it, Angel and Faith head in the direction of Angel's hunch only to find a chamber of horrors.
Yes, the Mohra blood had worked for the survivors that Angel and Faith had talked with, but those who went missing? They took the blood after Buffy destroyed the seed - after the death of magic - and they haven't stopped regenerating since. You know those pictures of the body you get in biology textbooks, where they're showing all the pink-white muscle in the body? It's like that, only masses and masses of cells all regrowing on top of each other, until these people no longer resemble people, but misshapen, pink-coloured body-builders.
Angel leads them upstairs where they reveal the truth of what the blood does to who's left in the building. Everyone who hasn't already left or isn't dead gets busy doing the former, and Pearl and Nash do the same, but not before announcing to Angel that this isn't the last that he'll be seeing of them. They are the bad guys, after all. In a frame of real poignancy, Angel and Faith end the misery of those who took the blood.
Not going to say much about Perfect Harmony: basically Harmony (with Clem and her two dogs in tow) come to Angel and Faith asking for help. [I'm going to refer to them as A&F now - NOT to be confused with the over-priced clothing brand]. Harmony has become something resembling a spokesperson for the vampire community, her main principle being that of no siring. So when someone sends her a videotape of an occasion where she sired someone by accident, she comes to A&F asking them to track down where it came from, because like a sex tape, it would ruin her career.
This is a really fantastic book. The Live Through This arc is a compelling story with an overarching theme (i.e. bring Giles back to life) that I see Angel stubbornly pursuing despite the fact that Giles died a 'natural' death. The Perfect Harmony standalone was not so much. Harmony got on my nerves in Buffy and although I haven't watched enough of Angel (roughly half the first season?) to even get near her role in the show, she still irks me. Her one redeeming factor is that Jo Chen did a fantastic cover for Harmony's standalone issue Harmonic Divergence in Buffy S8. Clem, on the other hand, I quite liked, but I hate how he's Harmony's dogsbody.
Dialogue in graphic novels has to be done well, because combined with the art, it needs to tell you everything that on television, the actors would otherwise do with the tone of their voice/body language etc, or what in a book, would be done through description/voices inside the characters' heads etc. There are some parts which are Angel's and Faith's thoughts, but too much of this device and it gets annoying and would detract from the interaction between characters which is inherent in comics. Christos Gage writes dialogue that flows well and is believable - I can hear Angel and Faith talking in my head. I loved the reference to rocket launchers and there was an added British pop-culture reference to BGT that made me smile.
The art was similarly very well done. The characters maybe don't resemble the actors who played them (David Boreanaz and Eliza Dushku) as consistently or as much as you might hope, but the likeness is close enough that it doesn't really matter so much. Angel does look a lot younger and more vulnerable than perhaps someone familar with Buffy/Angel would think of him as, but considering what he's gone through, I think that was probably the aim.
I was quite heartbroken when I found out in Buffy S8 that Angel wasn't the good guy that we thought he was when he first came back. Angel is back to a process of reforming himself (again) and I like that Dark Horse have decided to pursue the A&F relationship. They both have histories as the 'bad guy' and are treated differently by the Scooby Gang (and Buffy) because of it. I love that the series is set in London, but I would have liked a lot more pop-culture references and things to indicate the setting.
One small complaint is that reading it on my laptop is nothing like having the real thing in print. I get pretty anal about my Buffy S8 comics and keep them in pristine condition. I love the feel of the glossy pages in my hands and the look of the sharp colours and lines of the art. Reading the same thing on my laptop screen is a completely different experience altogether. The quality of the art is fine when you've completely zoomed out and are viewing a double spread, but it's impossible to read which means that you have to zoom in so that the width of a single page fills the screen. The text and pictures blur and you have to scroll down each individual page - it does not make for fun reading. I'm thinking that I'm going to have to buy the print version when it's out to get the full experience again. Definitely worth the money.
Other than my issues with reading on-screen, this was a fantastic addition to supplement my Buffy addiction while I wait for the Season 9 Volume 1: Freefall TPB to be released. I'm intrigued to see that Drusilla is back for the second arc and the cover art, just released in the last few days is beautiful. It took me a while to connect that hand on the bug-thing's face to Drusilla's arm, so clearly she's found a replacement for Spike ... And the name of the arc is just awesome.
Pictures courtesy of DarkHorse.com