The issue begins with four pages (three of which were previewed) of Faith sword-fighting Nadira and trying to talk to her about her uncontrolled violence and, more pointedly, her survivor's guilt. Nadira disarms herself by stabbing the sword too deeply into the ground to remove, and starts going at Faith with her bare fists. Faith pins her easily and asks if she really wants to avenge her sisters, or just to pitch fits.
Nadira, sobbing, says she just wants it to stop. Faith helps her up and says there are better ways than suicide by Slayer - she knows how to take the pain away. She explains, "It's not a memory wipe. You'd still remember. It just wouldn't hurt anymore." Nadira asks if she's serious and then socks her in the face, yelling that she wants it to hurt - she wants it to eat at her until she avenges them, and then some more so she makes sure it never happens again. Faith warns her that she's going to end up like her sisters if she keeps this up, and Nadira walks off saying she'd thought she could trust Faith.
Back at the house, Faith meets Angel at the door - he's returning from the events of the last issue, and she comments on his appearance (his wounds are healed, but his shirt is still ripped open). He says she's seen better days too and asks if they need to discuss it, to which she says, "Nah. Let's just -"
The interruption is a crash coming from inside. They rush in to find Faith's father sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the liquor cabinet. He's cradling one bottle in his hands, and another is smashed around him. He says he'll replace it, and Faith snatches the full bottle from his hands and begins to ask if he's been drinking after his six-month sober stretch. He hasn't, but wanted to, hence the smashing.
He's in trouble. Angel asks what kind, and Faith wonders if it's cops. "I wish," says Pat, and explains that he owes a lot of money to "Handsome Jimmy", who don't let nobody slide. Angel silently and shirtlessly watches the conversation. The shelves with one missing globe are visible behind them.
Faith is apparently familiar with Jimmy's name - she berates him for running away to England after getting in trouble with the Irish mob, and then says she should have known that all he wanted was money, and that she'll cover it (clearly implying that after that, he's gone for good).
Pat denies that that's what he wants from her: he really is sober and really does want to repair his relationship with her, but Jimmy won't ever let him go and let him make a new life. He wants Faith to kill him.
Faith is aghast. She says she's a Slayer, not a murderer, and he retorts, "So what'd you do that stretch in the pen for?" He says he knows she's no angel, and he's also noticed Angel's lack of reflection. Handsome Jimmy, according to him, is a killer and not someone anyone will miss. He begs her to kill a human one last time, "Not for me...for us.."
Faith orders him to leave, and he gets desperate, claiming that kicking him out now might as well be putting a bullet in his brain. Jimmy found him, and he's coming there now. Faith and Angel exchange a startled look.
On the next page, Jimmy - a smallish guy in a cabbie hat, with white hair in a ponytail and mutton chops - and four other guys get out of a car outside the house. Faith and Angel stop them at the door. Angel is holding a metal box and yet has not had time to replace his shirt. Jimmy recognizes Faith and reminisces about how little she was last time he saw her, but she says that girl's gone.
Jimmy then looks Angel over. "Who's this, your fella? Kind of a pretty boy, ain't he?" Angel replies, "And you're a bad Irish stereotype," and tells him that there's enough in the box to cover Pat's debt with interest. "You're done with him. Forever." Jimmy pinches his cheeks, smiling, and insults his intelligence for good measure before explaining that Pat's given him a lot of trouble, and now that Faith is nearby and rich, it's time for Pat to start solving his problems instead.
Angel goes into game face and says, "Or I could." All of Jimmy's toughs pull out guns, Jimmy himself yelling "Vampire! Shoot it! In the head!" Angel crushes the nearest man's gun in his hand while correcting, "That's zombies." Jimmy pistol-whips Faith, who's kicking another guy, while two others are falling and one is shooting Angel in the chest (all in one panel!), and says, "Zombies, vampires...blow off the head, problem solved."
Angel's on the ground with a hole in his chest, back to human face, and Jimmy and the guy who shot him are standing over him with guns pointed at him. Faith leaps up with her sword and hacks into them, chopping off Jimmy's gun hand and cutting the other's wrist. Angel immediately makes a tourniquet with his belt and is asking Faith for help when he sees she's gone into shock. He turns to the other guys instead and instructs them on how to stop the other guy's bleeding, using the shirt from one of them to wrap Jimmy's stump. Then he tells them to call 999 and tell them "anything you want except the truth." He goes back into vamp face and orders them to take the money and go back to Boston and never bother them again, because what he really wants is to drink from that arm like a hose. As he leads Faith back inside he adds, "And if you really screw up, you'll deal with her. We clear?" One of the toughs acquiesces meekly before Angel closes the door on them.
Inside, he asks Faith if she's okay. She's shocked at the way she acted without even thinking, but then Pat comes running into the room with a smile on his face, asking if they're dead. Faith grabs him by the lapels and asks what he did for this guy. He says he did what he had to, to provide for her, and she orders him out again. His expression hardens. "Look at you. Got some money now. Living in England. And you think you're Princess friggin' Di. But I know where you came from." Faith looks at her bloody hands, and he says, "I know what you really are."
She punches him, hard. She's what he made her, she says. All her life she's been letting people use her because they can tell how desperate she is for a family. She tells him about the Mayor, who wanted to wipe out all of Sunnydale, and who was still more of a father to her than Pat. She killed for him twice, without thinking, and has been trying to kid herself that that was a different person, until he shows up. She pulls him off the floor and holds him by the throat. Tears are streaming down her face and now both of them are bloody. He's right, she says; she is what she is, and it's because of him, and nothing she does will change it. So why even try?
Angel intervenes with a hand on her shoulder. She looks at him, then drops Pat and walks away. We next see Angel throwing him out, along with a fistful of cash. "You ever contact her again," he says, "I'll show you who I really am." Faith watches him leave from the window, still crying. When Angel comes back in to find her, he sees only a bloody handprint, and follows the trail to the open rooftop hatch.
He immediately (i.e., without putting on a shirt first) goes out to search for her, first hoping she'll be with her Slayers. He finds them, fighting a zompire and talking about it amongst themselves, but Faith isn't there and Angel isn't sure where to look next.
We cut to Faith, running down the street toward Drusilla's church. Dru's waiting for her, surrounded by her pet and cult: she's seen a flash of the future that told her Faith would be coming. Faith asks if she knows why she's here, and Dru says she'd like to hear it from her. "I'm tired," says Faith miserably, "So damn tired of feeling like this." She points to the Lorophage. She wants Drusilla to take away the pain.
Angel's on his way, over the rooftop. As Faith affirms that it's what she wants, that she can't keep letting "the same pathetic daddy issues" knock her right back after she tries so hard to get past the pain, Angel makes it to the door. He's at a run, seeing the Lorophage with its claws positioned at Faith's head as she sobs that she doesn't want to hurt, doesn't want to hurt anyone else. "Just take it all away," she says, and the demon plunges its claws into her head, Dru's hand on her shoulder and Angel watching in agony.
If I had to summarize the reason that A&F is (at least so far) a better comic than Buffy S9, I'd say it's because it doesn't depend on the plot twist. All of the discussion, reviews, and energy surrounding Buffy right now are in regard to figuring out what's going on and how it will unfold in the next issue, while for A&F, we can just talk about the writing and art and enjoy it for what it is, as it is. Does Faith get the Lorobotomy treatment? Intriguing. Does something interrupt it or cancel it? That's cool too. The quality of the story doesn't depend on either outcome; the important thing is that the scene itself is a good one and so were all the scenes preceding it. (The other important thing is that I just invented a great word. "Lorobotomy" is going to spread like wildfire, believe you me.)
I can't speak to the use of the "Irish mob", though I'm guessing it's a fairly pointless bit of cultural stereotyping, but I did have a mild appreciation for Handsome Jimmy and his cocky "I'm so dangerous I don't even bother scowling when I threaten oh shit my hand just got chopped off" brevity. Seeing our heroes go up against humans is still kind of a fresh, interesting fight scene, because of the way they know they need to hold back but sometimes don't. (Faith + sword = OTP. Can I hope there's a little bit of Excalibur symbolism with Nadira's blade in the pavement?)
Maybe it's because the Twilight arc sunk my expectations so low, but it's still a rush to see Angel acting in character (and out of shirt - okay, that's the last time I'll mention it, and hopefully this is the last parenthesis). He respects Faith too much to bring up any points of his own when she's having it out with her dad, even when she gets physical, but he knows he can't let this be a wholly private affair. There's danger in the air and he needs to be there when she's ready for his help. It's lovely and gratifying to see how openly protective Angel and Faith are of each other in this issue. A threat to Angel sends Faith into limb-hacking rage, and he's taking on her enemy as his own problem without question or hesitation. It's the guard dog mentality that I love so much: Angel is not here to give you advice. He's not here to party with you. He's here to chase away the things that want to hurt you, take bullets for you, and then ask if you're okay.
Of course this issue is more about Faith, though, and I'm pretty happy with her development, too. Yes, the story of her daddy issues is moving too quickly to be quite credible, but I think it's better this way, considering that it all has to come out through dialogue and we probably wouldn't like having Pat around for more than an arc. Also, Faith is messed up. She's been so stable for this season that it's great to see what she's been holding in and how it explodes. The direct reference to the Mayor was perfect - ever since we met her, she's been wanting a Giles, and it informed everything she's done since then. Her joy followed by fury at Pat is just showing us why.
Personally, I think that the Lorobotomy will take, and we'll get to see the new, trauma-free Faith, with all the benefits and new issues that entails. The arc will wrap up with Angel finding a way to reverse the process. If I'm wrong, though, there's still a lot of interesting places it could take us.
This is starting to get redundant, but the art in this issue was another shining parade of Isaacs' skill. I'm particularly enjoying the variation she gives to the design of her background characters, especially the Slayers. I got the Isaacs cover, and spent a while just looking at Nadira's forearm - just the right amount of muscle tone for an athletic woman. It's the little things. Jimmy's guy with the shamrock tattoo on his arm was a bit much, but I'd love to see the Celtic design on the same guy's back in real life.
Finally, I just want to share a couple little things from beyond the last page: there's no plans for Dana. Nuts. The "real" cover of the Jeanty cover for Buffy #8 shows sparks and wires instead of blood where Buffy's arm is cut off. Free Comic Book Day is on May 5th. Wil Wheaton will appear as a character in The Guild. There's a comic called Axe Cop written by a six-year-old which I need to own.
It's a solid issue. I'm so glad we have this series.