"Angel and Faith" #1 recap, review and spoilery specs
Stormwreath's review, Maggie's review, Emmie's review, Patrick Shand's review, Review by ShipperX,review by Eilowyn,IGN review, Buffyfest review, Whedonesque thread.
Short and quite selective recap:
Flashback: Somewhere between 1998 and 2010 Giles bound a demon inside a possessed girl, paying his price for the ritual: his happiest day was withdrawn from his memory and transferred to the bound demon.
The present: Angel has read Giles' diary and found out that his spell weaken in time and has to be reinforced. Together with Faith he exorcises the demon and kills him. As a result, Giles' forgotten day, spent in the company of Jenny Calendar, is transferred into Angel's mind, causing more repentance and "opening his eyes", according to him.
Faith meets a slayer, Nadira, who recounts how Twilight's minions, half-demons Nash and Pearl killed girls in her slayer squad while Twilight was looking. Nadira wants to kill Nash, Pearl and Angel.
Whistler recruits Nash and Pearl to bring Kitty Twilight back: "You were trying to make things better. Help us evolve. That still needs to happen. More than ever."
According to Whistler, "Earth's cut off from the mystic dimensions. The only magical crap that still works is stuff that's self-powered. I can't contact my bosses at Powers That Be L.L.C., and my precognition's been all outta whack. Like trying to watch scrambled porn. [...] The world we got now's like a chicken with its head cut off. Running around not realizing it's dead." They agree that it's all Angel's fault, and he must pay for it.
Meanwhile, Angel admits to Faith that Nash and Pearl were working for him, although he doesn't remember watching them killing slayers without stopping them. Faith tries to make him feel better, saying that he was possessed by Twilight, but Angel refuses to accept her excuses and blames himself. Then he says that he's going to bring Giles back to life. To be continued...
It feels like a pilot of a new show. Joss and Christos Gage managed to develop the theme, the character arcs, the big bads on only 22 pages. Structurally the issue echoes back to "City Of" and season 1 of AtS: in it, theme and villains (W&H) were introduced in the pilot and there was no an eleventh hour surprises.
Christos Gage writing is very good - clever, sharp, powerful. I can recognize this Angel and this Faith. Giles diary in the prologue is a great way to highlight his innate duality - that of a caring surrogate father for Buffy and a ruthless warrior in the demon world.
Giles' thought in flashback "I must place the greater good above all. Regardless of how difficult that may be" - echoes poignantly in Angel's Twilight arc and highlights the similarities between Giles and Angel. The whole scene reads as setting up Angel's redemption by assuming Giles' role upon himself. Angel gets Giles' role, some Giles memories... I wonder if, by the end of the season Angel will have the epiphany that he could honor Giles by turning into him, in a way? "Dollhouse" demonstrated that Joss is fascinated with the notion of personality and identity, and A&F could become another step in that direction.
Rebekah Isaaks' art is sharp and crisp. Characters are easily recognizable. She excels both at facial expressions and characers' movements. The coloring is also a big win: Giles' flashback is tempered in almost-sepia color scheme; the scene of Faith and Nadira in the night club is very inventive - it pulses with the floodlights that bathe them in different colors that reflect the things they say. Faith wearing white top and black nail polish looks symbolic, while Nadira's stylish outfit almost steals all the scenes with her.
Faith: "Your whole Twilight phase makes about as much sense as a David Lynch movie". Thank you, Faith. It had to be said.
I think there is a strong possibility that Whistler may end up as the real Big Bad here. I can see the scenario in which Whistler's goal all along was (and still is) to bring Twilight. He was shepherding Angel since Buffy has been called. Buffy was the first slayer, not brainwashed by The Council - hence, more disposed to fall in love with a vampire. So Whistler manipulated them both.
The demon they kill calls Faith "cow". Was the demon from Pylea? (Faith's reaction: "Now, Gene Simmons' tongue just called me fat. Things are about to get nasty" - is priceless.)
Giles memory are transferred to Angel's mind: looks like Joss applies his "Dollhouse" ideas to A&F. If writers need to equip Angel with some facts from Giles' past, it's a very convenient way: he may acquire them the way Xander has acquired secret military codes after spending several hours as a soldier in "Halloween". That is, if we suspense our disbelief.
So, this is only the first issue, and we already know the Big Bads and their plans as well as Angel's plans. Although it could be misleading. In any case, I'm sure there will be twists and surprises.
I wonder how Angel plans to bring Giles back, especially in the magicless world. The first thought that came to my mind was time-travel and bringing back Ripper. "Self-powered" magic still works; Illyria is "self-powered", isn't she? And if she's not - remember Dr.Who's phone box right under the windows of Giles' apartment? ETA: speakr2customrs corrected me that the TARDIS is a dark blue Police Box. Still, the guy looks like David Tennant and the girl looks like Billie Piper.
Interestingly, the last panel features a pic of child!Giles - it may be a clue. In "After the Fall" Angel has successfully pulled off the reload of the verse and managed to save the day. He did it by killing himself in the previous timeline. Time-travel is also a way to reload the timeline. Angel may think he can pull off something like that again.
OTOH, one of the future cover features Mohra demon from IWRY - and "its blood has regenerative properties" as it was stated. In any case, I can't see Angel's plan working without very, very bad consequences. Consequence-less reload could happen in Lynch's story, but Joss never lets characters off the hook.