In Review: Angel & Faith: Season 10 #25

I’m standing and applauding everyone that contributed to this book.

The covers: Each of the title characters holds a huge sword, showing that they are strong enough to wield them, but they have their hands clasped as they stare into each other’s eyes. This is not the look of love, but absolute trust, and that’s something Angel and Faith have difficulty with. Behind them is a skeleton clasping its hands together as if it were going to sleep. Behind it is a gigantic star with Magic Town shown between each of its upper points. Scott Fischer has worked magic on this series and closes out this season with a cover that perfectly symbolizes these two characters’ relationship. The Variant cover is by Mike Norton with Michelle Madsen. This has Angel, Faith, Illyria, and Eldre Koh. It’s night and they’re surrounding a hot red car whose headlights are glaring, almost obscuring a very cool license plate. The image is meant to imitate one of The Fast and the Furious movies, and the logo completes this picture. Nice design, but the title characters don’t resemble themselves closely enough. Good, but not great. Overall grades: Main A+ and Variant B

The story: The final chapter of “A Tale of Two Families” by Victor Gischler opens where the previous issue ended: the heroes and villains facing off in a park located within Magic Town. As Archaeus rants that Angel should have joined his side, Drusilla tells her lord that he should kill Faith and make her friend watch. The monster backhands her, telling her to just obey his words and make her minions attack when he gives the word. Watching this occur is the now sentient statue that contains the magic force of Magic Town. The word is given and a tremendous melee begins. Anything that can be used as a weapon is employed, and if one is not used, fists and fangs will do. The battle ends on Pages 12 – 14, and it’s very satisfying. It does not directly involve the title characters, but someone whose presence has been felt in this series for a long time and it was terrific; the single line of dialogue given in the third panel on Page 15 is the perfect coda on this conflict and echoed the tone of a famous vampire slayer. Gischler doesn’t just have the heroes victorious, someone has to pay the price and I felt this loss on 16. The final six pages have the characters celebrating their victory, but it’s not with a parade or a speech; it’s so much more human and real. This is where this series has truly sang – in its characters. Yes, the fights are fun, but what the characters have said and done before and after the battles have made them real. Each character has their moment after the fray, with the leads getting the final scene. Gischler made these characters family. Overall grade: A+

The art: Will Conrad had a lot to do in this issue, and ranking at the top was to have a battle involving several dozen characters beating the tar out of each other. The book begins with an excellent establishment panel; it shows the heroes and villains in a standoff in the park, being watched by the now living statue. The second panel is a great point of view, showing how insignificant Dru is to Archaeus in size, and with the third panel in power. Page 3 has a terrific shot of the denizens of Magic Town standing up to take on the evil that’s trying to take over. The final seven panels of that page needed some Ennio Morricone music to complete it. When the fight commences, it’s a partial double-paged spread on 4 and 5 and it is absolutely worthy of the word epic to describe it. With so many characters in play, Conrad seizes the opportunity to move perspectives around often, creating a thrilling visual experience. This is especially true when it seems that Archaeus is going to be overwhelmed on Page 7: the number of characters involved is terrific, and they’re not all human, so Conrad has to get each character’s body structure correct, and he does magnificently. The close ups on characters are great, with the illustrations resembling David Boreanaz, Eliza Dushku, Juliet Landau, and Amy Acker. A particular highlight of the art is the action on 12 and 13, where something is given form and it’s masterfully mysterious and frightening. The final page is the perfect ending: there’s no hero or team shot of the group; they’re all just being natural. That’s what Conrad’s art has been on his supernatural series, natural. Overall grade: A+

The colors: With such a menagerie of characters, colorist Michelle Madsen gets to show off her skills on every page. The rusted features of the living statue give it the necessary earth tones its age implies, and its glowing blue eyes give it a definite magical essence. The stark red and whites on Archaeus make him a focus in crowds or long shots, or if he’s been buried by bodies. When the fight breaks out it’s not just physical, it’s also colorful, punctuated by bright greens as vampires are staked. When the action gets in close to the characters, Madsen colors the background an intense orange and yellow, punctuating the violence. Nadira’s tattoos continue to impress in glowing limes, making it seem they could fly off the page at any moment. The subtle shading that’s done on characters’ skin really brings Conrad’s illustrations to life; every character from Angel and Faith to Nadira and Koh looks superb. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt create Archaeus’s unique speech, dialogue, sounds, the story title, and the final two words of this series. It’s always impressive when letterers can add their text to a book without having it overlap the artwork, obscuring important details, and that’s exactly what this pair does. The sounds are also excellent, with the ZZZMMMMs and WHUMs winning. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I’m standing and applauding everyone that contributed to this book. I got the characters, the action, and the visuals I wanted. This group made this series feel like home. Absolutely recommended. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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