Issue 19 sees Angel return from his business in California and his reunion with Buffy and, honestly, the moment he steps back into this title it feels like the book is back on track. It was interesting to see Fred and Faith on their own for the first time, but now the gang’s all here and we’re seeing a definite cast for this book, one that is as different from the Buffy cast as it is from the Angel cast. Angel & Faith is truly its own unique series and definitely works best in that regard.
Right at the beginning of Angel & Faith #19, we have what almost feels like a classic cold open from one of the TV series, with Fred overwhelmed by vampires in an alley. We haven’t seen much of Illyria in a while, despite Fred having some of the spotlight in recent issues and the two of them sharing the same body.
Having said that, even though Illyria emerges to deal with the horde of vampires, we still don’t see much of her here. There is an exchange between Angel and Fred that suggests they will need Illyria in the coming fight. It’s an interesting character dilemma, providing Fred with a bit of the classic werewolf elements that Oz brought to Buffy. Fred now has to deal with whether or not she will be able to let Illyria out if she needs to, as well as whether or not she will be able to maintain control after that happens.
The difference, of course, is that Illyria is her own independent character who has continued to grow on her own and independent from Fred since her appearances in Angel’s fifth season and in both the Buffy and Angel comics. I’m somewhat nervous at how little Illyria has appeared since her dramatic death scene in the Buffy comic last season. Fred’s return is excellent, but it has still led to suppressing a character who has really come into her own. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of Illyria soon as the comic heads toward the finale.
It’s very nice to see Drusilla sticking around as a villainous presence with a clear—though yet unspecified—master plan. It’s interesting to see Archaeus developing as the big bad for this comic this season. This would mark the first time that a threat rose in one series only to crossover and become the larger threat of another. This could be a really neat touch if they pull it off.
Overall, Angel & Faith is developing nicely. It wasn’t until Angel returned that I realized what a sense of camaraderie we have between these characters. I’m also impressed with the balance of characters that were established on the show, like Angel, Faith, Fred and Illyria as well as characters like Eldre Koh, Nadira and Giles’ aunts who were created for the comics.
The overarching plot has a clearer sense of direction now that we’re nearing the end of the season. It’s been a fairly solid book overall, but the characters have been separated for most of it. Now that the group is fully formed, it seems almost as if the stakes are higher, which will no doubt make for interesting reading.
WICKED RATING: [usr 7]