Considering that the last issue ended with the cliffhanger that Angel would have to save Angelus in order to not wipe himself out of existence, it’s more than a little surprising that Angelus doesn’t appear in the issue at all. In fact, that plot point is completely abandoned, with Angel simply saying that Angelus has been in situations like this before and can handle himself. The rest of the issue is devoted to more action as Angel and Fred try to stop the swarm from reaching shore. While also battling pirate zombies, of course.
There’s a lot going on, yet not much driving the plot forward. While I definitely enjoyed reading the issue, I’m not totally sure I’m on board with it. The artwork is great—a little cartoony, but clearly styled that way, and fitting for the more adventurous tone. It’s a totally different book than Buffy, and that’s great. These shows were at their best when they were totally different from one another.
If anything, I can forgive some of the plot shortcomings because of the character work. I’m fascinated with the treatment of Illyria, a character I love who has now appeared in way more comics than she ever actually appeared on Angel. She’s a character that was introduced right before the cancellation and one that they clearly had big plans for. In many ways, Illyria is the best, purest reason for the existence of these comics. She’s a story that never had the chance to be told on screen.
Her character arc just in this issue alone. After all they’ve been through, Angel still isn’t remotely sure he can trust her or if she’s going to do the right thing when all is said and done, but she does. When nobody has faith in her, when no one expects anything out of her, that’s when she really shines. At this point, it’s not so much that Angel doesn’t expect Illyria to do good things, it’s that—for whatever reason—he doesn’t expect her to understand the stakes of time travel, even though they’re using her abilities to go back in time in the first place.
I think that Illyria absolutely has a tendency to be reckless, but it’s the fact that people often expect the worst of her that’s precisely what makes her such a great character. This issue does a great job of showing the uneasy relationship between her and Angel. Twice, he doesn’t expect her to be overly helpful to the situation or understand the ramifications of her actions, and twice she proves him wrong. Even if I’m not totally sure what the comic is building toward, I’m incredibly grateful for her characterization and growth.
Also, Fred having to take over the ship to steer it away from land is a great moment. The more things she’s allowed to do, the more invested in the whole series I’ll probably be.
It’s not that Angel isn’t a great character, but Fred has been gone so long that I simply want to see the series make the most of her. The last thing I want to see is Fred falling into being a wall for Angel to bounce exposition off of. Luckily, we’re not quite there yet. Hopefully, the comic steers further away from that as it goes.
WICKED RATING: 6.5/10