‘Angel & Faith #21’ Review: Resurrection Time, Baby!

We’ve finally reached the moment that’s been building since the very first issue of Dark Horse Comics’ Angel & Faith series. With this week’s release of Angel & Faith #21, writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs begin the final arc of the series (unsettlingly titled ‘What You Want, Not What You Need’) and, at long last, begin to provide some answers to the ultimate fate of Rupert Giles.

 


SPOILERS BELOW

Here’s a quick summary of Issue #21:

This issue opens with Angel, Faith, Spike, and Alasdair gathered around the body of Rupert Giles and ready to attempt the resurrection process. Angel is explaining to the others that he’s retrieved a resurrection spell (The Lazarene Incantation) and plans to use the “ambient mystic energy” in Alasdair’s magical artifact collection when Faith receives a phone call from Buffy. After she hangs up, she informs the group that Buffy is in no position to help, because she’s focused on helping “some girl named Dawn.” It becomes clear that Angel and Faith no longer have their memories of Buffy’s sister and in a frustrated state, Spike exits, stage right, to help Buffy and the nibblet in any way he can.

After the blonde vampire leaves, Alasdair begins to protest Angel’s use of his items for such a “selfish goal.” The vampire begins to threaten the former mage, believing Alasdair only wants his power restored when Whistler brings magic back to Earth, but Faith steps between the two and they all get into an argument regarding how to proceed. Eventually, Alasdair reveals that he’s been “cloaking” his collection from Whistler, and, despite his reservations, will sacrifice his collection for a chance to bring his friend back to life.

Angel and Faith recruit the help of Lavinia and Sophronia while Alasdair preps for the spell. After a few hours, they are ready to begin. Partway through the spell, Whistler, Pearl, and Nash, sensing Alasdair’s “uncloaked” collection, burst through the window, ready to throw down and loot the place. Angel and Faith battle their demonic adversaries, giving Alasdair, Lavinia, and Sophronia time to complete the spell. The baddies eventually retreat, having taken the magical items they were after, just as the spell takes effect, striking Giles’ body with a burst of magical energy. While everyone holds their breath to see the result, Faith turns to Angel and asks, “What did we do?”

 

The Good

“Ben is Glory, Dawn is Buffy’s sister.” While we’re still fairly in the dark in regards to what exactly is happening to Dawn, whose memories have been affected, and in what way, the scene where it is revealed that Faith and Angel no longer know who Dawn is sent a dramatic chill straight to my heart. Not only did it add another level of “ommph” to the peril Buffy’s little sister has been put in, but it provided a great scene for Spike, who immediately drops everything and “white knights” it right back to his beloved Slayer and her friends. In addition, it provided one more connection between the two books and the events happening at parallel times in Dark Horse’s shared comic Buffyverse.

The final debate over resurrection. While we don’t get to see the results of their actions, this issue finally finds Angel and Faith attempting to bring back everyone’s favorite watcher, and Gage and Issacs don’t waste a beat nor rush the moment. This entire issue basically focuses on each character’s feelings regarding the resurrection, the price of bringing back Giles, what Giles would feel about their actions, and which distasteful deeds will need to be done if the resurrection goes awry. Gage writes a masterful script that examines the watcher’s resurrection from almost every angle and uses each character’s relationship with the deceased to milk every bit of the juicy character moments contained in Angel & Faith #21. In the end, every single one of the characters feels the loss of Giles heavily, and they almost face how much they truly wish for his return. It’s a beautiful chapter in the story of Angel & Faith and is one message that is sure to ring strong with readers. Having Rupert Giles taken from us is one of the most painful and affecting events fans have endured, so when Angel and Faith make the decision to finally attempt to bring him back, it’s nearly impossible for those reading to not immediately jump on board, even if we know how foolhardy such a move may be.

“It won’t change how people feel.” This is one thing Faith feels is necessary to stress to Angel before they attempt Giles’ resurrection. As the slayer puts it, “. . . even if this works . . . it’s not gonna undo Twilight. It’s not gonna bring back magic or anyone else who died.” In short, it’s not going to even the scales. Angel responds, “But, Giles will be alive.” This is a great moment in the story, but also feels like a metaphorical message regarding the character of Angel, Buffy: Season 8, and how fans feel about them both. We don’t know at this point if we’ll actually get Giles back, but even if we do, many will still feel that Buffy: Season 8 (and the events surrounding Twilight) were a poorly-written travesty and will think of Angel either as the ultimate douchebag or a victim of character assassination. But, that’s not the point. With this scene, Gage & Whedon state very clearly that the Angel & Faith series, while focusing on redemption and correcting the mistakes of the past, is not about apologizing for or “fixing” the events of Buffy: Season 8. Much like their stories have always been, Angel & Faith is a story about its lead characters attempting to, despite all of their missteps, put one thing right. Sure, there may be consequences and this resurrection attempt may turn out to be the exactly wrong thing to do, but there’s a chance that, as Angel said, “. . . Giles will be alive” again.

Someone get me my hankie.

Isaacs raises the bar . . . again! While Gage penned an amazing script this issue, Rebekah Isaacs once again brings it like a boss in Angel & Faith #21. The amazingly heartfelt facial expressions coming from Isaacs’ talented hands continue to blow me away month after month. There are so many emotionally heavy moments in the book (Spike’s reaction to the news about Dawn, Angel’s threatening of Alasdair, Faith’s troubled look in the final panel, etc.), and Isaacs nails every single one of them. No power in the ‘Verse . . .

Are we about to get Giles back? Wow. I never really thought we’d get this close. I’m not sure about the other readers, but, at this point, the consequences, the retcon quibbles . . . Hell, I can’t wait to see that familiar face again!


The Bad

Nash burned the handsome right outta Angel’s face! Was anyone else surprised by the brutality of that injury? Let’s just hope the vampire healing abilities are still working like they’re supposed to.

What you want, not what you need. That’s the title of this story arc, comic book sniffers, and ain’t it an ominous one? I don’t think it’s a bad title at all, but it certainly doesn’t sound like it’s broadcasting a future of hugs and puppies for our main characters. Just for fun, let’s try to crack this code. So, if “what you want” is the return of Giles (Kinda obvious, right?), then would “what you need” be the restoration of magic, the defeat of Whistler, or maybe even simply . . . forgiveness? No matter what, the fact that we won’t be getting what we “need” sounds all kinds of bad.

 

The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is…)

Fan reaction for this issue has been mostly positive in the fan forums, but at the time of this posting, the only review I could find was a so-so (and Spike-focused) reaction from Fandomania.

I blame Moloch. Apparently, there were some issues with the release of the digital version of this issue through Dark Horse Digital, and a number of fans were ready to start some Warren-style filleting over the delay of such an anticipated chapter in the series. Several fans also commented that they wished Dark Horse would make their comics available through ComiXology. Just another growing pain as the comic industry figures out exactly how to handle this new medium.

Impatient, are we? There were several fans who seemed to be upset that we didn’t know the specifics of why characters are losing their memory of Dawn and why only certain characters seem to be affected so far. Just chill out, comic book sniffers. I guarantee we’ll get those answers soon.

 

That’s all for now, Scoobies. Now, who wants to join me in holding their breath until the next issue arrives, and we can finally learn if Giles has returned to us? What? No takers?

’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
@ComicBookSlayer
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