Dark Horse has just released Volume 1 of Angel: Season 9 (also known as Angel & Faith), collecting Issues 1-5 of the series.
Scripted by Christos Gage with art by Rebekah Isaacs, the bulk of the volume is comprised of a four-issue arc entitled “Live Though This.” A stand-alone story, “In Perfect Harmony,” closes out the book with a return appearance by Sunnydale’s flakiest vampire media sensation, Harmony, and is also scripted by Gage with art by Phil Noto.
Angel & Faith: Vol. 1 picks up in the aftermath of the tumultuous Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fresh after saving Los Angeles in his own series, Angel made a surprise appearance as the Big Bad in the Buffy line and caused major repercussions in the Buffyverse with his actions.
Beginning shortly afterwards, Angel has teamed up with Faith, living in London, to fight back against an evil force he unleashed as Twilight in the persons of brother/sister half-demons Pearl and Nash, while attempting to undertake a most dangerous plan: the resurrection of Rupert Giles.
Overall, by teaming Angel with Faith, Dark Horse has injected some “fresh blood” so to speak into the Angel storylines. Angel has always been a broody, internal soliloquy kind of guy, and while he had other characters to play off of in his series, it’s his interplay with Faith here that raises him above his limitations.
Angel and Faith have never had the smoothest of relationships, going back to Season 3 of BTVS (TV), but here there’s a grudging respect for one another that shows in every issue. Christos captures the voices of the characters well, but his storytelling truly shines in his work with Faith, which turns out to be the strongest piece of the story.
While trying to keep a tight rein on Angel’s dangerous resurrection plans, she also finds herself counseling a group of rogue slayers, lead by a vengeance-seeking teen with anger issues, who will only be satisfied with Angel’s death and asks for Faith’s help in this. And, as Faith remarks at one point, “If I’m the grown-up, we’re screwed.”
But, this is part of Gage’s talent. Angel is one-track, steadfast in his desire for redemption. Faith is juggling multiple roles and always questioning herself as to whether this can happen . . . or even should. In a refreshing change of pace, Faith is the one dealing with moral issues of right and wrong, of how to defend a world that has lost its magical defenses when the person she fights alongside may be engendering its end. And, while she may complain about the responsibility, she knows that she is the one who has chosen to bear it, and that the choices she makes could have deadly ramifications themselves.
Closing out Volume 1, Harmony Kendall makes a return appearance, hiring Angel to find out who is blackmailing her (despites his protests that he doesn’t do that anymore) and threatening to topple her showbiz empire. While a one-shot, Christos expertly lampoons the me-me-me-media culture currently running rampant, and also manages to imbue what is essentially a comic-relief character with some of the best wisdom ever given Angel & Faith, proving once again that only fools and children can get away with telling the truth. What Angel and Faith do with it is up to them.