The gang stands around muttering about Dark Willow until she comes down and tells them she can't do this; she needs to get out. Connor and the dogs rally to help her do it, but Angel objects on the basis that they need her to protect them from Quor'toth, which is still in pursuit (spewing oil and making noise about sucking out their souls). Willow begs him to not make her fight, and he implores her to trust him, which she reluctantly does.
Angel instructs her to hold of Quor'toth for a minute while they get everyone through. Instantly she's dark and happy again, and she and the demon-god face off with giant blasts of...magic/energy stuff. On the ground, Faith observes Willow losing control and asks Angel his plan. He tells Connor to lead the 'civilians' (dogs) through the portal, but Willow stops their advance before they get there, saying that she's calling the shots now. She's reveling in her power, tearing up the landscape, and talking about how she's going to replace Quor'toth as its god. She can basically do anything, she says, especially with the Scythe, which can open a tear to any dimension.
She grabs Connor, saying she wants to keep him as a minion, but that his dad has to go, as he'd never understand. She looks around and can't find him. The perspective moves to Faith giving Angel a fastball special (if that wasn't your first thought, look it up, and also work on heightening your geekiness). She asks what happens if he loses control, and he says they all die. He's in vampface when she launches him, and he grabs Willow from behind and bites her neck. She screams at him for a panel, then mellows out and falls as he keeps biting, saying that feels kind of nice.
Angel manages to somehow land in a crouch while catching her in his arms. Connor and Faith come running, but stop when Angel turns around, still vamped out, blank-eyed, and dripping with Willow's blood. Faith draws her sword, though Connor is protesting. Finally Angel manages to speak (in vamp-font): "D-do...what she says. I c-can't...change back. Hunger's...too strong." He finally lets go of Willow, who appears to be unconscious. "Faith...do it quick. Connor...I'm sorry. This...is how it has to be..."
Before anyone else makes a move, we see a hand catch Angel's wrist and a voice say, "No." It's Willow. She tells him that she trusted him, and that he has to make it okay. There's a full page without dialogue, in which Angel slowly regains control of himself and his face. He faces Willow, and they hug while Connor and Faith watch, smiling, the pack of dogs behind them.
Willow asks Angel if getting bitey was his plan all along, and he concedes that it was risky. She understands: "Sometimes there's no good option. You did what you had to do." He starts to tell her that that's what he's always done, but she stops him, knowing he's referring to Twilight. He was doing what he thought was necessary, she says, but it was still a disaster and he should have known better. That won't change and she can't forgive him, but she can't hate him either. He says he wouldn't have blamed her, but he's glad she doesn't.
Next page, she uses the Scythe to open up a portal for the dogs that will bring them to where the first evacuation went. Their leader turns to Connor and offers him a bride, then asks him to lead them. He refuses both, but tells them that they don't need him. He makes up a speech on the fly, composed of the Golden Rule plus a couple movie quotes, which of course they take as unforgettable wisdom. As they leave, Connor turns to Faith, and she gives him some playful words of support for the new Connorism religion.
Willow says goodbye to Connor and Faith, along with praise and thanks, and then tells Angel that he fulfilled his side of the bargain, so she's giving him what he wanted. She shuts off the wards on the Scythe that protect its energy from being drained. Angel takes hold of it, and he receives another piece of Giles' soul, which is apparently enough of a shock to bring him to his knees. Willow, whose hand remained on the Scythe as well, says she thinks she could feel him too, and confirms quietly with Faith that Angel's project is legit. "Be for him what he was for me. But Faith...don't lose sight of--"
They're interrupted by a loud cracking sound. Quor'toth is up and coming for them. Everyone runs, Willow in one direction (with the Scythe) and everyone else in another. We cut to the Hyperion, where Gunn is posed with a machine gun at the opening portal and saying his coffee isn't even cold. When Angel tackles him, he thinks something has gone horribly wrong, but Faith says it's five by five, and the portal winks out.
Next panel, Gunn's asking if that means Willow took care of business, and Angel says she's on her way. We see her floating through a peaceful-looking world with floating rocks and shrubbery, smiling. Gunn patches Faith up while Connor and Angel talk. Angel starts by apologizing, of course, but Connor just demands that Angel not use this as an excuse to keep avoiding him, and Angel accepts that he should stop fearing he'll screw up his son's life. He invites him to talk or visit any time, and says he'll stick around another week.
Still in the Hyperion, perhaps a bit later, Faith confronts Angel about the chance he took with Willow. He explains about the effect of vampire bits, and says he trusted her to kill him if he lost control. He also refers to Willow's plea to Faith at the end, and Faith says, "Yeah, yeah. Everyone keeps reminding me. And I gotta say, I'm pretty damn sick of the responsibility." Angel assures her that it won't be much longer before he finds the rest of Giles' soul: it's almost over. He looks eerily calm; she looks understandably nervous.
On the final page, back in London, Nadira rushes into a room full of Slayers who are gathered around one who's dead. Another is in the hospital, they say, and it was Drusilla who did it. Nadira freaks out and talks about finding her and making her pay, but the Slayers tell her that they tried to find her, but she got away in the confusion of the riot that Angel started. Nadira looks excited by the evidence that Angel's around for her to get her revenge on him, but then they drop one more piece of information on her: they saw Angel back to back with Faith. The issue ends with Nadira's stricken face.
I'm just going to come right out and admit it: the bite scene was a tad silly. I don't think I would have thought so if the season hadn't begun with Angel biting a possessed child to exorcise her, but with that image still fairly fresh in my mind, along with the canon occasions in which Angel bit an innocent to counter-intuitively help him or her (usually her, no?), it feels rather like this is becoming the magic wand that resolves any out-of-control situation. It's useful for obvious storytelling reasons: it's sexy, it's dramatic, and it lets us believe or try to believe that Angel's demon is about to be released and bring everything to hell. It's similar to the threat of Angelus, but distinct. And like Angelus, it has to be used sparingly to remain effective, and frankly, I feel like using it here was a bit of a waste.
Actually, the panel that I was celebrating in my earlier post about this issue might have been what swung me over to ambivalence about the scene. Until I read that one, I thought that Angel's trick had worked because he weakened Willow, and her giddiness was a moment of delirium. There's been evidence before that vampires can suck out certain qualities along with the blood, so it makes sense that his plan was to steal her power. Counting on an unreliably triggered reaction to vampire bites seems a little flimsy in comparison.
In a way, the whole issue was a little like that. We've got fantastic deadly things going on, but all of them need to be safely packed away by the last page, and since the characters are about to separate, they also need to put a satisfying end to their personal conflicts. Pretty much all the action and conversation that happened here was what needed to happen - no room for surprises, aside from Nadira finally learning about the partnership between Faith and Angel.
That doesn't ruin the enjoyment of it. All in all it was a solid issue and I feel bad for starting out with criticism but I seriously just had to start typing this with whatever words I could find. Someone has been sending thugs to my house to stare at me while thumping baseball bats into their palms and talking about how it would be a real shame if I didn't get a comic review up soon. (You know who you are.)
One thing I'm really loving about Christos Gage is how willing he is to pull in references from both shows, even when they aren't needed for anything more than a quick giggle. Faith's recollection of nailing Xander - something she did when she got crazy - is extremely amusing and also does a really good job of showing the evolution of her character. It's not a put-down to Xander; she's just acknowledging that she wasn't making good choices back then, and she's sane enough now to joke about her old bad choices - she's over it. The same idea is reinforced later when she tells Willow that she only changed the most because she set the bar real low. It really made me believe that these two, who have quite the ugly history together, are genuinely cleanly friends at this point, so I'm gonna have to say that Faith got the best lines this time around.
(I know it's wishful thinking, but what I wouldn't give to have her convert to Connorism. Or hear anything else about Connor's messiah status, really. I wonder how he really feels about that? Will it change him?)
The other big not-so-surprising, written-by-necessity scene was Angel and Willow discussing Angel's motivations about Twilight, and how she felt about it. I'm kind of unhappy about this one, because it gave me the sense that this is a cap of some kind of the Twilight talk, and I'm not ready for that. There's so much more that I want explained, and if it's really as simple as "Angel meant well, but made a dumb mistake that ruined everything", we've all been had. That's not what this character was meant for. On the other hand, Whistler's up next, so I might yet get a little bit more of what I want. If not, I'll try to be content with knowing that one more victim of the end of magic forgives Angel. I don't need him and Willow to be friends, but the two of them are so alike in some ways that it bothers me when they don't understand each other.
I haven't given up on my theory that Angel is up to something other than trying to resurrect Giles, but I don't have any new fodder for it either. I was pleased by the ominous ending in which Angel's all "I'm finally going to get some Kool-Aid!", not so much because I have feelings about his goal but because it means the main arc is heading toward its climax. There's been a lot of repetition in this series, Faith's duty to stop Angel if necessary being just one example, and it's only going to retroactively bother me if there isn't any payoff. I believe Gage is too good of a writer for that - everything will matter, we just have to wait and find out why.
Probably my favorite of the make-nice conversations was Connor and Angel. Most of it was just more gentle arguing about Angel's fear of interfering, but not only did it promise an end to that, but it gave us potential for more Connor in the future. This is what I love about these guys: everything that's happened, all the dire, all the shame, and they really just want a little time to hang out. What do you think they'll do? Drink beer? Play hockey? Ooh, will Connor introduce his girlfriend to his father?
One thing I really can't find a comment about is the art. I didn't notice anything about it, not an error, not an oddity, not an inconsistency. It just disappeared into the story so I watched things happen instead of stopping to admire or scrutinize a panel. Folks, this is exactly what comic art should do. This is why Rebekah Isaacs is my hero.
Okay, I'm gonna wrap up here and bring this baby live so I can start getting behind on the rest of my life. Haha, just kidding. I was already behind on the rest of my life too. I'm actually just taking a shower and going to sleep.