Faith continues to take the reigns on this title while Angel is still away on Buffy. We’re still in the middle of the same plot arc with mysterious vampire happenings at a prep school where Faith is posing as the gym teacher. Fred, her partner on this case, is posing as the lunch lady. There’s obviously a funny element here, but more than that, it’s interesting to see Faith genuinely connect with these kids. This was what she wanted to do. Before all the tragedy at the end of season eight, she had been looking for a way out, which she did not get. She wanted to help people as a sort of counselor and never got that shot, so I think this current arc is great for her in quite a few ways. It shows how much she’s grown as a character just to even see her using her words.

There’s a sense of mystery throughout the issue as to exactly what these students are up to. When Faith reports in to Angel, he tells her that it has to be something bigger than the usual vampire business. The demon Archaeus, who Angel is currently helping to take down on Buffy, has to have some bigger plan here. That’s what he’s tasking Faith and Fred with finding out.

angel-faith-17This issue has a good balance of plot, character work and action. Things are really moving a long at a good pace, but Faith also gets to put a few rounds in with some of these young vampires.

The art by longstanding Buffy artist Cliff Richards continues to impress. Richards has always been one of my favorites ever since the early days of the comics, before season eight. He brings dynamic action, but also nails the character moments, not to mention the likenesses. There’s also a visual tone being established that I appreciate. Angel & Faith is a very different title than Buffy so it’s appropriate that it should look different.

The comic is sort of taking on a more procedural appearance, somewhat darker and grittier than the flagship series, but that was always a large part of what differentiated Angel from Buffy.

Angel & Faith #17Luckily, Gischler’s writing continues to be effective at unraveling the story while going deeper into the characters at the same time. However, Illyria continues to sort of fall by the wayside. I don’t want the comic to get into the trap of only using Illyria for the big events and forgetting about her when she’s not a major plot point. There’s something going on with this character, a dramatic change after so much development, and it would be sad to see any of her new development not get its due credit.

There’s a big surprise at the end of the issue as well, one that should make a lot of fans happy. At least it made me happy, because I love it every time this character comes back into the fold. It’s hard saying what they have up their sleeve now, but whatever it is and how it ties into the larger storyline, I’ll be very interested to find out.

WICKED RATING: [usr 8]