Tuesday, 6 September 2011

An American Slayer in London (and a brooding vamp too)

Gotta love these Jo Chen covers.

Buffy Season 9 starts proper very soon. Yay!

But before it does, Dark Horse have just published issue 1 of Angel & Faith, a separate title under the Season 9 banner that will run concurrently with the main Buffy title.

Angel & Faith sees disgraced and traumatised vampire with a soul Angel living in London with reformed one time psycho slayer Faith. Now, I don’t wanna spoil things too much for those who haven’t read Season 8 yet, but…

Oh what the hell!

Rupert Giles, stalwart and true Watcher and father figure to Buffy Summers, is dead. He was killed at the end of the big Season 8 showdown. And his killer was none other than a certain heavy-browed, brooding bloodsucker, who’d been under the influence of a nasty mystical force amusingly named Twilight. To make things even worse for poor Buff, having witnessed her soul mate murder her ‘father’, in his will Giles then goes and leaves all of his worldly goods to… Faith! For some reason Giles thought Buffy didn’t need any of it, but that Faith did. Faith’s inheritance includes a house in London, all of the remaining Watcher files/records, and an estate somewhere in the country with horses and stuff. Faith, forever in Angel’s debt for having stuck by her and helped her through her own personal darkness, takes the catatonic-with-guilt vampire with her to London in order to help him along what will now be an even harder road to redemption.

As Angel & Faith starts, Angel is out of his catatonic state and is helping Faith carry on Giles’s work. Using the Watcher files, the dynamic duo are battling evil on the streets and in the homes of Great Britain - starting with trying to finish a job Giles had begun months before: fighting to remove a monstrous, tentacled demon from a scared little girl.

Angel & Faith no.1 is great stuff. Highly enjoyable. Both A & F are in character with plenty of brooding from Angel and sexy sarcasm from Faith. It was great to start the story with a flashback to Giles in good old fashioned demon fighting form before cutting to Faith and Angel continuing and then finishing the exact same fight. The plotting is intriguing, seeing the return of Whistler, the demon who was once Angel’s mentor, who first showed him Buffy before she was called as the Slayer, who convinced Angel to come out of the gutter and be someone. Here, now, Whistler seems to be taking on a possible Big Bad role, recruiting a pair of truly nasty demons who used to work for Twilight. Then there’s Nadira, an angry, sexy, two-fisted Brit slayer who is friends with Faith (they seem a lot alike) but who is also out for blood after her slayer squad were all killed by Twilight’s people. Knowing now that Angel was Twilight, Nadira’s determined to find Angel and kill him, unaware that the big guy is actually being looked after by Faith. And then there’s the doozy of a revelation at the end of the issue, about what Angel is planning to do.

The UK setting gives the book a nice atmosphere, though it perhaps has a few too many British-isms wedged in to characters mouths, hammering home that they are indeed British. And I'm not too sure about the Buffy timeline anymore but I'm guessing this takes place 2/3 years after Chosen, making it circa 2006. If so, then Brit characters talking about public spending cuts and austerity measures would be about four years to soon. But, hey, it's no big deal as it's the characters and the story that I care about. And in that respect, A&F shoots and scores. Christos Gage’s script is tight, witty, emotional and very well structured. His new character of Nadira is instantly likeable. The art by Rebekah Isaacs is also very good. She captures the likenesses of the original actors better than Georges Jeanty manages in the main Buffy comic. Don’t get me wrong, Georges stuff is fine, just a bit more cartoony.

All in all, Angel & Faith no.1 is a very promising start to the future adventures of everyone’s favourite brooding vamp and bad girl slayer. Y’know what I really hope for though in this book? I hope that Oz turns up sometime. Cuz then we can have a Joss version of An American Werewolf in London. Heh. Roll on issue 2.

Meanwhile, on a related (and very cool) geek note:

The other day I had a brief twitter chat with Angel & Faith’s writer Christos Gage. I asked him if there was any chance the duo, while living in the UK, would come to my part of the world – to the west country - seeing as how back in Buffy season six Giles said he kept a flat in the city of Bath. Christos said maybe, and asked if there were any country estates with horses around there. Of course, being the huge Buffy geek that I am, I told him yes, there are loads, including the one shown in Buffy episode 7.1 with Giles and Willow in England, which was actually filmed by Joss at Tony Head's real home in Westbury near Bath in summer 2002. Christos then came back to say that Faith’s inherited country estate will now officially be just outside of Bath. And she may well be visiting soon. So...YAY! I may have contributed in a very, very tiny way to the continuing Buffyverse canon.

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