There are a select few writers that can hack it in the Whedonverse (wow, I really am still calling it that, aren’t I?). Joss Whedon (duh). David Fury. Jane Espenson. Marti Noxon. Drew Goddard. Douglas Petrie. Steven S. DeKnight. Ben Edlund. Drew Greenberg. Rebecca Rand Kirshner. David Greenwalt. Brad Meltzer. Brian K. Vaughn. For someone to make it amongst this hallowed pantheon, you need THREE THINGS:
1. SNAPPY DIALOGUE
Its Number One for a reason. The most memorable stuff about Buffy and Angel is the very particular dialogue. A tango of words and phrases spinning together to create something both mundane and celestial. Nobody talks like this in real life, but it gets away with it because its how we WISH we talked in real life. Its a fine art in of itself, and it takes not a small amount of skill to craft.
2. COOL ACTION
I like some violence with my story, thank you very much. Like any good non-Musical, people break into fights. With monsters. With bad guys. With each other. Its not always enough to write “And then they fought,” though that is perfectly fine in most cases, thanks to the excellent work of choreographers on the shows, and artists in the comic format. But “Cool Action” needs some meat behind it. When Drucilla punches Angel in the face, that’s fun. But when Drucilla punches Angel in the face because she’s trying to stop him from taking her sanity away, now you got me everybody leaning forward to see what happens next.
3. COMEDIC FREAKING RELIEF
I have a hell of a time watching Dramas, because most of them refuse to believe that anything can be funny when so much intensity is seeping from the screen. BULL S**T. The most natural of human reactions is to crack a joke, at least just for yourself. Hell, it can be the difference between life and death. Especially in the Whedonverse. There’s nothing I love more than the hero cracking a joke in the face of pure annihilation, whether it be sarcastic, pun, or a bad insult. That’s when I love the characters the most. And the TYPE of humor from different characters makes it all the more fun.
Now, all the above writers have demonstrated this ability with flying colors, but I’m especially giddy with man-joy to announce that Mr. Christos Gage, the current writer of Angel & Faith, has the “Three Things” in spades! And with amazing art by Rebekah Isaacs, Angel & Faith quickly became one of my favorite monthly comic books. It just finished its “Season 9” story arch, and will hopefully return for a “Season 10.”
So, here’s some story components and basic knowledge you’ll need to the know about Angel & Faith:
First of all, the story focuses on two main characters named… yep, you guessed it “Angel & Faith.”
Angel is a 240-something year-old vampire that was cursed with a soul by gypsies in the way, way back. Before the soul, he was known as “Angelus,” one of the most notorious vampires to ever walk the earth, known especially for his almost artistic and loving torture of his victims.
Angelus reveled in torturing his victims physically, emotionally, and psychologically. After the soul was put back in him, he went a little (read: “A F**K TON”) crazy with guilt. He disappeared (mostly) until, with a little help from a good guy demon named Whistler, resurfaced in Sunnydale in the 1990’s after falling in love with the current Vampire Slayer, Buffy “Die Hard” Summers.
A ton of stuff happened: Love. Soul lost. Hate. Soul recovered. Guilt. Some more battles. LA. Loss. Helped Faith out big time. Prophecies. A son. Wolfram & Hart. Soul tarnished. Hell A. Twilight (not THAT “Twilight”, though almost as confusing). Love. Magic Seed. …and then a murder. A murder that broke Buffy’s heart, and drove Angel catatonic with guilt. Guilt is kind of a thing for Angel. The only person that had the where-with-all to take Angel in was none other than the original “Bad Slayer” Faith!
Faith Lehane grew up in Boston, and had a rather crappy childhood. Her mom died young, and her dad was pretty much useless and out of the picture. And then she was Chosen to be a Vampire Slayer. She was assigned a Watcher, who filled up the hole that a caring Authority figure had left in Faith’s heart. But her Watcher was murdered by a vampire (his named sounded kinda like “Kiss Toast”) and Faith fled to Sunnydale to get help from Buffy, and they kicked much ass together.
In Buffy, Faith had kind of a big sister. But though she was growing to love Buffy like family, she also had a lot of jealousy for her as well. Buffy still had her mom, her Watcher, and more friends than Faith had ever had in her whole life. So what do some people do when they feel like “The Screw-up”? Act out and make things worse. She killed a few humans, tried to kill Angel, and got wrapped up in an odd-yet-heartwarming-in-a-demented-way Father/Daughter relationship with The Mayor, the Big Bad of Season 3.
So fast forward selector… Got stabbed. In coma. Woke up. Body switch. Spiral. Angel. Torture. Guilt. Jail. Busted out. Fought Angelus. Fought The First. Leader. Redeemed herself. And she took Angel in because of all the people around, she knew what it was like to have messed up so bad, you’re not sure you can ever become a better person.
*BIG BREATH* Okay, so that was a fraction of what you missed if you never watched the show. Or read Buffy “Season 8.”
Angel & Faith is set in London, England, in Rupert Giles’ flat that he had left to Faith in his will. Faith has taken it upon herself to help the catatonic Angel, while also helping the other Slayers in the area. Angel suddenly shakes himself out of his brooding nightmare with one mission in mind: Bring Giles back to life. But in a world where magic is nearly extinct, how does one go about doing that? In a word? Dangerously.
From here, Angel & Faith takes off with a bang. The dialogue is sharp as all hell. The action is paced beautifully, and drawn incredibly well by Rebekah Isaacs. The use of new and old villains is excellent. Pearl and Nash are great editions to the Whedonverse, and the use of old enemies is spot on. And what ties all this awesomeness into one big radical package of sweet? The main theme of Redemption at any cost. Its both inspiring and agonizing at the same time. Should Angel continue with what he’s doing? Should Faith be helping him? Or stopping him? The questions are asked, and answered with just the right level of ambiguity.
The supporting characters are interesting. Giles’ immortal Aunts Lavinia and Sophronia are both funny, selfish, and haunted. Alasdair Coames, a long-retired Watcher, could use more back story, but his introduction as one of the the last safe harbors of magic is interesting. Nadira, a Vampire Slayer full of the same kind of rage that had almost destroyed Faith does a great job of reminding Faith of her responsibilities and where they should lie.
And when Spike guest-stars, its an absolute blast.
Gage and Isaacs are one of the best comic book making combos I’ve seen in a while. In fact, I did not know of either of them before their work on Angel & Faith. And now after this book, I want them to work together forever.
Okay, I fanboyed all over this article. If you’re not going to at least glance at the book, I’ll be heart broken. Or I will be right up until the next Season… *crosses fingers*
READ THIS COMIC! Almost all of it has been collected into TPB’s, with a big “Season 9” omnibus hopefully down the road.