Between rogue demon hunting and vampire slayer wooing, I haven’t had the time to do single issue reviews for Illyria: Haunted or Brian Lynch’s Spike mini-series. Still, given that all three series will, combined, lead the Angel characters from their IDW story lines to their future paths at Dark Horse, things would be amiss if we didn’t review these important additions to the Buffy-verse!
Here’s a quick summary of Illyria: Haunted:
Wolfram & Hart’s representative, Darrow, has just taken our hero to a dingy, uber-industrialized future run by James and his demon-farming followers. Darrow purposes that Angel join forces with Wolfram & Hart, and Angel, knowing how bad of an idea that is, does the logical thing and jumps off the roof. Meanwhile, back in current day L.A., Connor leads the team’s search for James, while he and Gunn continue to butt heads.
- The Return to The Deeper Well! While I’m always happy to see a familiar face or place, The Deeper Well is one of the cooler and more memorable locations featured on Angel. Massive in scope and housed in a tunnel that supposedly travels all the way through the planet, The Deeper Well is a Lovecraftian graveyard for The Old Ones, gigantic demons who originally inhabited the earth before mankind. Guarded over by a chosen Keeper, The Old Ones lie dormant in their tombs, awaiting a time when they may wake and escape as Illyria did. While it was extremely appropriate for this location to appear in Illyria: Haunted given the character’s history with the place, I did feel that there was a missed opportunity to have Illyria become the Keeper of the Well. Given that much of the focus of this tale is on Illyria’s quest for purpose, it almost seems like a no-brainer.
- Spike & Illyria Are Always Fun Together! Brian Lynch has done a great job of building a relationship between these two with his stellar Angel: After The Fall and Spike: After The Fall. Writers Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner have done a great job of picking up that ball and running with it. During Spike’s attempts to help Illyria find herself, the two end up having some discussions on love that are so well scripted and subtly meaningful for both characters that, once again, I yearned to seem them on my television screen! Tipton and Huehner also show some expert restraint by allowing Spike to add to Illyria’s story without dominating it. Often Spike seems jammed into stories where he has nothing to do, just because of the character’s popularity, but in Illyria: Haunted he shows up for a reason, delivers some great scenes, and moves on before it feels like a Spike comic. Kudos to Tipton and Huehner!
- Jenny Frison’s Amazing Covers! Artist Jenny Frison has been doing some beautiful work for IDW for some time now. Her covers for Lynch’s Spike series have been beautiful and her work on Illyria: Haunted is perhaps even better! Illyria has always been a character that fits easily into the comic book world, and Frison takes advantage of this trait, making the character really sing on the covers. She even manages to bring some softness to the character, something rarely seen without Ms. Burkle making an appearance.
- Illyria’s Transformation/Realization. While I’ve been excited to see the new Illyria in Angel’s future story line, I have to say I expected more behind the recent transformation. Tipton and Huehner were on the right track when the decided the character needed some advancement, but the character advancement of a millions-of-years-old demon trapped in the body of the woman it killed would be a hard task for Whedon himself, and, sadly, the writers don’t seem up to the task. In the end, we do have a changed Illyria, (she even chooses to give an attacker a second chance at life!) but remain slightly unclear on how and why she changed. Maybe it’s just because I refuse to accept that Illyria would have such a hefty realization without some major internal struggles, but, unfortunately, Illyria: Haunted leaves me feeling like our favorite blue demon found morality because the story arc IDW has planned dictated it.
- The Demon Named Pancakes. While I’m sure that many other readers considered the reveal of Illyria’s demon-pet’s name one of the more enjoyable moments in the mini-series, it felt off to me. Maybe it would’ve seemed more appropriate to me if Illyria chose the name for her pet, but it is hard for me to believe that her companion even knows what a pancake is. Honestly, this reads as an attempt by Tipton and Huehner to add some of that Whedon-type humor to their story and it just doesn’t hit right.
- The Drogyn or The Battlebrand? This is a nit-picky thing, but as Joss posted online recently, sometimes it’s the little things! Tipton and Huehner have their Illyria refer to the former keeper of The Deeper Well as The Drogyn. In my memory, Drogyn was the character’s name and his title was The Battlebrand. After checking up on the appropriate episodes from season five of Angel, my suspicions were confirmed. It’s attention to little details like this that’s needed to truly carry your audience from the medium of television to the comic book format.
- Fan reaction has been sparse, at best, for Illyria: Haunted. Unfortunately, I’m sure that means that few fans are following the series, passing it up for the more popular Angel and Spike books.
- Geek With Curves! I wanted to give a shout out to the one blogger out there delivering some consistent reviews of Illyria: Haunted. She’s been generally impressed with the mini-series and its handling of Illyria’s character advancement. Aside from providing another opinion of the mini-series, it’s nice to know that there’s another Whedonite out there that still cares about the path of Angel’s very own, super-powerful Smurf! You can check out Geek With Curves at www.geekfemme.blogspot.com.
That wraps up Illyria: Haunted. In the meantime, be sure to check out Lynch’s Spike mini-series, where our favorite bleached blonde hero is hanging with a certain red-headed witch in the city of sin and the current Angel book where Angel and Illyria prepare to take on their next uber-powerful foe, the demonic sister of James. (By the way, she’s also the one who murdered him!) Big things are coming!
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer