(Review) Angel & Faith 1.03: Live Through This - Part 3
My impression of this issue of Angel & Faith is along the lines of last time: It's fun, I'm enjoying reading it; but so far it's not giving much impression of depth or serious meaning. Having said that, there are a few things this time around worthy of more meta consideration; and Christos continues to give us a well-thought out story with lots of continuity and cross-references.
In the brave new post-Harmony world, people don't go to sleazy brothels in warehouses to let vampires suck on them: they go to upmarket London nightclubs. Is that an improvement? Now, some versions of vampire mythology say that letting a vampire drink your blood is a pleasant, even euphoric experience: and of course in the original Victorian melodramas it was a clear metaphor for sex. I don't know that it's been depicted that way in the Buffyverse before - though Anya did say that humans who go to vampire brothels "get off on the rush", so maybe it is physical rather than just mental.
Fraser, the club owner, is suitably disgusting and sleazy. I was interested in his discussion with Faith: "Selling magic ain't illegal yet", with the "yet" implying it might become so. When human laws catch up with the revelation that the supernatural exists? Or because with no more new magic, magic artefact will become an ever-diminishing resource and the government will want to take them all over itelf? Then there's Faith's comment that killing demons is "kind of a legal grey area", which is interesting especially when read in conjunction with the parallel 'Buffy' story.
Faith's jacket has military-looking insignia on the sleeve. It's not entirely clear but I think the top one is the badge of the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars; I don't recognise the lower one.
In the rooftop conversation afterwards I did like Angel's admission that he was totaly winging it, rather than having a cunning plan all along. It's funny because his usual demeanour, all laconic and mysterious, does suggest that he's got it all worked out even if he han't. He'd make a great poker player. (Plus he has all that experience from hanging around in Las Vegas with the Rat Pack...) Faith appreciates his line, perhaps because she's a connoisseur of making it up as she goes along too.
Faith raises the idea of Angel using the Mohra blood to make himself human. I assumed she'd already decided that last issue, but on double-checking, it seems that actually she didn't, at least not in dialogue. Her plan is a new revelation this issue: it's just that fandom discussions have already assumed that was her intention, so the actual reveal is unsurprising. Angel rejects the idea, initially, for the same reason he used in 'I Will Remember You' except with less Buffy: he needs to be a vampire so he can be an effective evil-fighter. Faith counters that with her version of the S9 theme: the world doesn't actually need evil-fighters anymore, because there's no more magic. Her actual line is worth quoting in full, because it's an important and clearly-expressed statement about this new world:
ANGEL: There's always an apocalype.
FAITH: Actually there isn't. I mean, global warming, okay. But the Hellmouth-opening, demon-vomiting apocalypses we deal with... those can't happen anymore.
Of coure Faith then goes on to credit Angel himself, as well as Buffy, for achieving this... which is stretching the truth quite a bit. Even if it's technically true, it's on the same level as Angel saving the world from Acathla by "signalling Buffy with his eyes". But it's clear - and Christos has confirmed - that Faith's extreme loyalty to Angel is driving her along here.
So what is she planning to do? In her words, "Shove that Mohra blood down your throat and make you human". In other words, with the best motives and having Angel's wellbeing at heart, Faith is planning to violate his bodily integrity and change his destiny forever... because she thinks it's what he'd want if only his guilt didn't get in the way. Um, really, Faith? Seems to me her plan is quite as problematic as Angel's plan to resurrect Giles. This could get interesting.
Thematically, it also reflects the S9 idea that people who use magic have already been de-powered, so doing the same to Angel would be fitting. And perhaps a form of penance, although Faith sees it as a reward. Remember she was one of the few who were actually happy to renounce their power in 'Retreat' last season. It's also a neat contrast to what the Shadowmen did to
Hiywan the First Slayer, and Buffy did to the Potentials.
Angel on the other hand, thinks that a stake through the heart is how his story will end. Is that because he has an actual deathwish due to guilt? Or is it just resignation that his fate is to keep on fighting to the dusty finish, with no happy endings?
We get a couple of pages of Angel and Faith doing investigative legwork to find out where Fraser gets his Mohra blood. Faith seems to be wearing a different outfit every time - in fact, a quick count says that she wears six different ones over the course of this single issue of the comic. The money from Giles's inheritance is clearly being put to good use, after she spent most of her teenage years in the same white tank top. Maybe she should offer Spike a makeover too. :)
Inidentally, the white and red top Faith is wearing in one fight is a Boston Red Sox team jersey; the baseball team that both Faith and, in real life, Eliza support. The name on the shirt is Dustin Peroia, who joined the team in 2006.
The stories of the three people who got some Mohra blood are a neat little triptych. One woman: her cute little boy was dying painfully, presumbly of cancer, but now he's all better and playing football in the park. (There's an awful lot of sport reference this issue.) Another man's brother lost his leg and regrew it - but it was too late because he'd become addicted to painkillers, and now he's wasting his life away, and dropped out. And the last was a petty crook, smuggling drugs for the Russian Mafia, who either abandoned his wife and two children to go somewjere sunny, or possibly was murdered by Fraser. You can imagine three totally different TV dramas being made out of those three examples; and they do showcase the good and bad effects that magic can have in the Buffyverse.
Angel and Faith meet back up in Giles's old apartment to hold a council of war, and I'm sure Giles would be horrified if he saw how Faith is leaving old crisp packets and empty cups and cans and so forth around on the bookshelves...
They go to visit an old warlock, who - like Willow, but older and bearded - has now lost all his powers. He knew Giles and was listed in the Watchers' Files, so he may be a Council employee but I suspect he was a friendly independent. (Otherwise The First would have got him, presumably.) Angel strokes a cat, while I love Faith's wary expression as she looks up - at first I thought she was creeped out by the giant spider on the ceiling, but given the next scene I suspect she was looking at the two male fairies hovering above her.
One of whom tries to fly down Faith's shirt - which is an intrusion into her personal space not quite on a par with the female fairy who laid her eggs in Decoy!Buffy's inner ear, but did remind me of that.
At this point, I have to say that this issue of the comic had a whole bunch of gender-related scenes that I found - well, "creepy" is way too strong a word for it, because individually they were fine, and some were even funny. But put together in a row, they came across a a bit much. I'm thinking of Faith's comment that "she thought *women* were supposed to be complicated" - followed by her apparently unironically-intended instruction to herself to "Man up". Then there's this scene, with the intrusive male fairy trying to get into her cleavage. And then later on there's the scene where she distracts the football fans by buying them beer, but it's clearly played as though she'd going to flash her boobs at them, until the reveal in the next panel - and she actually mentions that idea herself later.
None of this is out of character - Faith's never been the most politically sensitive person, and the idea that she'd use her sexuality as a weapon is thoroughly canon. Even so, I'd prefer the laddish humour to be a bit more spaced out in future, and maybe interspersed with ladette-ish humour too. :-)
We learn - or rather are reminded, if we've forgotten 'Angel' season 1 - that Mohra demons are honourable warrior-assassins who come to our dimension on specific missions - they're not random killers. since the Seed broke and blocked all passage betwene Earth and other dimensions, it's trapped here - and also, no other Mohra demons can reach us.
The plot breaks down a little here. The warlock, Coames, gives the exposition that Mohra demons need vast quantities of salt, which is presented as if it will be a big clue to finding it. But next time we see Angel and Faith, they're attending an auction at Fraser's house, and there's no indication that they followed the salt to get there. Instead it seems that Angel's original plan from the first scene, to make sure everybody in the club knew Fraser had Mohra blood to pressure him into selling more of it, is what worked.
An intermission with Faith going off to help Nadira and her Slayer team. I smiled at the idea that one of them is called Daphne; is Faith assembling her very own Scooby Gang to rival Buffy's? (Which, over in the other comic, is kind of falling apart right now.)
Nadira has picked a fight with a group of Arsenal supporters in a pub. I've noticed several reviews of the issue getting confused about this, so just to clarify: the pub is showing a live football match between Arsenal FC (one of the largest London clubs) and Blackpool FC (a club from the north of England) on its TV. A group of football fans dressed in a mixture of replica shirts plus hats, scarves etc in their team colours (red and white) has gathered there to watch the game and drink beer.
Timeline fanatics may like to know that the only time in recent history when Arsenal and Blackpool have both been in the Premier League at the same time was the 2010-2011 football season. They played each other on Saturday 21 August 2010 - but it was a 3.00 pm kick-off, not 7.00 pm as the pub sign says. Arsenal won by a rather convincing 6-0. They also played on Sunday 10 April 2011 (Arsenal won that one 3-1); again, an afternoon game. Before that, they last played each other in the 1999 FA Cup third round (Arsenal won 3-1).
It's been pointed out that 'sheepshagger' is usually an insult for Welsh people, not Arsenal fans. But maybe that's why they were so insulted. :-) I've already mentioned that Faith is holding two beer glasses when she says "Hey boys, feast your eyes", but it doesn't look like that's what she's holding. It is retty funny, I have to confes. I also liked her comment about "being rich", which of course is the big change in her life now.
Well, apart for the fact that she's now considered "the grown-up" by Nadira, Daphne and
Velma the other Slayer. For someone with Faith's continuing self-esteem issues, that freaks her out. The idea that other people are relying on her, that they trust her, is something new in her life. Hopefully will have a salutary effect down the line, even if right now she doesn't feel worthy of the challenge.
To some extent this scene is just there to keep the B plot up and running, but Faith' comment about "as long as you have power, you're gonna feel the need to use it" definitely ties into the overall plot. She's planning to take away Angel's power, remember?
She's also incredibly protective of her Slayers, even though one powerless old man is hardly much of a threat to them. Though he is pretty creepy, lurking there in his old brown raincoat; and Faith again uses her sexuality as a weapon, to unsettle him. The scene is basically reinforcing what we already know - that raising Giles is a bad idea - but there is the added tweak that if someone who was formerly one of the most powerful mages in Britain, not to mention a renowned scholar of demon lore, is telling you that "the forces Angel tampers with could bring disaster", then we're looking at something rather more serious than just Zombie Giles, or even Reanimated Ripper. We're looking at an apocalypse, and not just the global warming kind...
Final scene, and a nice lantern-hanging reference to the similar scene in 'No Future For You'. Faith is a lot more comfortable in her dress this time around. An interesting implication that the new fashion accessory for the rich and famous is a vampire companion; another insight into how the world works now. I'm amused by the implication that Angel's "disguise" is simply going into vampface - but then again, few people have actually seen him in vampface and lived to tell the tale.
Nice bit of continuity by the lettering person to remember that when Angel's vamped out, they should use the special vampire font for his speech. Even though that's entirely a comics convention, not reflecting anything on the show. (Unless Joss actually had the idea all along that vampires do speak differently when in game face, but compromised for the TV show because it would have cost too much to dub all the voices every episode...)
Clever manouevring to push Fraser into bringing out the Mohra demon by working the crowd; it's reminiscent of what they were doing in the opening scene. Note that they're apparently draining a dozen or more pints of blood from the demon every month or two, and it's only human sized. Granted it certainly has superstrength and inhuman stamina, but that would kill a human many times over, and losing so much blood so rapidly can be painful and cause severe health complications.
Angel and Faith rescue the demon, and I loved the twist where it promptly decides that it's too weak to fight to escape, so chooses an honourable death by seppuku instead. Oops. I liked that it "wished Angel the same", that is, death with honour.
So no more Mohra blood. Everyone scrambles for the remaining vials, and Faith grabs two. That's significant - one for Giles, one for Angel himelf. It also ties up a loose end for the plot, so now nobody will be asking whenever someone dies, "Why can't they just get more Mohra blood?"
And finally, here come Pearl and Nash, after Mohra blood themselves. Faith gets her first view of them. I liked the way Pearl was floating upside down - in science fiction that's often suggested as a sign that someone grew up in space (without artificial gravity) rather than on a planet, because they don't instinctively think in terms of "up" and "down". Pearl, it seems, has been able to fly since she was a young child.
Angel's "let me explain" was a nice little bait and switch. It's also interesting that for all his arrogant confidence before, when Nash sees Angel coming for him, he looks terrified. either Angel'sreally scary, or Nash still thinks of him as Twilight even though he knows intellectually he isn't - or Nash is a big soft wuss deep down.
Faith's summing-up of Angel in the final panel is quite insightful: "He creates monsters". She mentions the obvious ones, Spike and Dru, but there's definitely an argument that thi couldbe applied toother people. such as Faith herself, since Angel playe a major role in turning her into what she is now.
And Faith's final thought: she's going to "get rid" of one more monster: Angel himself. Of course she means vampire!Angel, leaving us with normal non-monstrous human Angel. Probably. We hope.
To be continued...
I noticed in the letter column that Scott says explicitly, "We will see no more Slayers called, presumably until Fray". So that settles that, then - unless of course he's deliberately being evasive to hide a pot twist, but it doesn't really sound that way. He also mentions that Rebekah Isaacs is using pictures of Marylebone as reference material for her drawings of the area Faith now lives in.
Advice for non-British people: that name can be pronounced several different ways. Most Londoners would say "MAH-lee-bun" with a long 'a' sound as in 'Martin'. Pronouncing the final syllable with a long 'o', as in the word 'bone' (that dogs chew on) is very common too: MAH-lee-bone. Born and bred locals might slur the word into something like "MA-ruh-bun", with a short 'a' like in the world 'marriage', no 'l' sound, and the two final vowels both schwas (the indistinct 'uh' sound.) Most British people from outside London would say "MARRY-luh-bone", including the 'y' as well. The one pronunciation that will get you branded as a foreigner is MARY-le-bone, with the 'a' as in the girl's name 'Mary'. That's wrong, even if it is the original etymology of the name.
*waves to Xander's Bitter Fan* :-)
And finally, thanks to whoever nominated How Willow Discovered Online Porn at the SunnyD Awards.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a teenage girl, in possession of parents, must on occasion be utterly embarrassed by them. Willow's parents, however, take the embarrassment to a whole new level."