Faith, Angel, Alasdair, and Spike are at Alasdair's house, standing over Giles' body, which is restored by the Crown of Coils, and the Essuary containing his soul. Angel explains his plan: he has a spell, the Lazarene Incantation, which can put the soul back into the body, and he's going to harvest the magic he needs by sacrificing magical items, inspired by Whistler's plan to do the same on a larger scale. He mentions Pearl and Nash, and he and Spike fight about Spike not mentioning his encounter with them while Faith takes a phone call. It's Buffy, asking for help with Dawn. Angel and Faith don't remember that Buffy has a sister, but Spike seems to be unaffected by the memory loss, and runs out the door to go help Buffy and Dawn.
When he's gone, Alasdair brings up his objections to the plan: it's dangerous, and he soon realizes that Angel intends to sacrifice his magic items. He refuses to give them up, and Angel insinuates that he'll take them by force. He says that Alasdair must have struck a deal with Whistler to keep his own treasures and get magic back into the world, shocking Faith, who nonetheless believes it. Alasdair shows them the item he has that masks all the other items, saying he knows he can't stop Angel from doing what he wants, but he won't give him an excuse to justify it. Faith decides to take his side, and Angel apologizes and backs down. They both still want to resurrect Giles, though, and when they start to discuss how to get the items they need without first getting killed by Nash and Pearl, Alasdair relents and offers his help, in the hopes of making the project a little less dangerous for everyone.
Lavinia and Sophronia are called in to help, and over the course of a few private conversations, the plan is revealed: Angel starts the ritual, because it comes with a death curse that only he is immune to, and then the more experienced Alasdair takes over, with the Fairweather sisters as back-ups. Lavinia tells Angel that she's on board, hoping to make right the damage that she's done to Giles' life, and Sophronia cautions Faith by telling her a story of a failed resurrection of her own. Faith understands; she's ready to take measures to ensure that Giles doesn't suffer. Faith and Angel, alone together, talk about how this won't reverse Twilight, and Angel says he just wants to fix one wrongdoing.
The five of them begin the ritual; Faith and Angel start chucking Alasdair's stuff into a magical brazier, Angel reads something in Aramaic and gets hit by the curse, Alasdair takes over. Giles' body is glowing; it looks promising, and then Nash, Pearl, and Whistler bust through the window with their now-familiar sack o' magic. Faith and Angel grab weapons, Alasdair and the sisters stay with the spell, and Whistler tells Pearl and Nash to keep Faith and Angel off his back while he collects. After a few blows are traded, Angel gets hit in the face with Nash's eye-beam and goes all murderous and vampy. He and Faith both score a few good hits, but Alasdair is also wounded in the crossfire, and the sisters take over the spell, arguing about it all along. Whistler, loaded up on items, ushers Pearl and Nash out (flying, so nobody can follow). Sophronia seems to be panicking, but Lavinia says she's got it. Before she finishes talking, the glowing outline of Giles lifts off the platform with an agonized shout. Faith, supporting Alasdair, gives Angel a worried look and asks, "What did we do?"
Last things first! Obviously the ending was constructed for suspense and the question on everyone's mind is "What, indeed, did they do?" Since we haven't been given a lot in the way of hints, I'm just going to throw my 100% guesswork prediction in the pot and say that it's a mislead - the spell was actually a complete success. Faith's reaction is because only the sight of Giles alive again (and in pain) is making her realize the full magnitude of what it means to raise the dead. The actual dangers and complications of the matter will come later, and maybe Giles will die again, but for now he's genuinely himself and healthy and here.
Or maybe his skin is inside out. I dunno.
That part was written before the preview pages came out. Now that I've read them, I'm not really revising my prediction, since the preview pages didn't give us anything new. There was a hiccup in the spell, Giles' soul/body was in pain, and now he's on the floor. And alive!
Back to #21. I thought this was a pretty tight issue. There was a lot of verbal rehashing, for this is the Christos Gage way, but it seemed a little more pointed this time - I got the feeling he was addressing the readers' constant chorus of "Angel's not being held accountable for Season 8" when Faith told Angel that this wouldn't change how people felt. His response shed a little bit of new light on his thought process, too, if a rather dim light. For all that Angel knows it's better for a sinner to help people than it is for a sinless person to do nothing, it must haunt him constantly that a life he saves can in no way negate a life he took. Every mistake he makes just builds up the guilt a little more, and his good deeds can't take it down at all. Bringing Giles back might not be much in the context of Angel's complete ledger, but it'll be the only good deed that's ever given him any relief about his past, and maybe a little relief is enough.
Aside from the obvious fact that the whole mission is nuts, it seems like Angel's plan, now that we've heard the whole thing, is a pretty savvy one. It makes sense now that Giles' soul had to be in pieces for the sake of the plot - otherwise, all the difficulty in arranging the resurrection would have had to come from something boring like the research that Angel did to find a spell. But we had our fun with the classic slay-the-dragon-claim-the-treasure formula, we had a unique (and kind of unfair) psych-out with the Case of the Missing Watcher's Corpse, and now we have some bonus purpose from that one excellent conversation between Angel and Whistler. Making magical items the new currency is a neat way to tie the Big Bads to the resurrection storyline; not only does it give Angel a way to cast a spell, but it gives the villains a reason to burst in at the worst possible moment, and everything holds up against the established mythology.
I might still hope that magical items are a real scarcity in the next season, though. I had envisioned the world without magic as having a lot of misplaced demons and more room for human personal stuff, and maybe now we'll have that plus Willow, and maybe some kind of cool transformation that one or more other characters goes through.
As I said in my last review for Buffy, the idea that Spike is immune to the memory loss effect of the Key fading is a bit irritating to me, both for logistic reasons and because I'm tired of his friendship toward her being overstated. But the timing of the books did link up really well here; you can get a good picture of Buffy and Faith's conversation just based on what each of them said about it, and Spike's departure from Angel's title was as well-placed and written as his appearance in Buffy's. Angel's reaction to it all was interesting, too - he really thought Buffy was calling with an offer to help? I just wish he had hesitated a little more after the muddle about whether she had a sister. Seems he'd want to stop and ask why Spike thought that, and find out what had made Buffy so upset. Well, if there's any shipper gratification to be had here, it won't be coming until the end of the season anyway.
The pages that were used as preview pages for this one were among my favorites. When Angel called out Alasdair on his suspiciously protected magical artifact collection, he had me convinced right along with Faith, and the way it played out from there made perfect sense. Angel's thinking first of necessity. He realizes he needs Alasdair's stuff, he knows very well that he has the power to take what he wants, but he knows he can't just threaten and rob an innocent man, so he comes up with an excuse for it. I'm sure he did believe that he had found Alasdair's dirty secret, but he believed it in part because he needed to. Alasdair saw right through the whole show (I like him more and more), and Faith, poor damaged girl that she is, went straight to the belief that she'd been betrayed before the rational explanation let her new self take over. Everyone has to deal with uncomfortable discoveries about themselves, but I think Angel was rocked the most by his. When he says he used to be able to trust his instincts, he's right. When Faith says he used to be wrong a lot, so is she, but she's thinking short-term. Angel did, as he once said, "know people". He lost that somewhere along the way, but I feel like this is the first time it's been acknowledged.
Lavinia and Sophronia were great in this issue, which probably means they're going to be the two characters who die. Oh, that's silly. Of course it will be Nash and Pearl. Or Alasdair and Nadira. Or, um, okay, it might be Angel and Faith. NEW TOPIC! Why have we still not seen the horses??
This time I'll forgo my usual gripe about battle scenes being unnecessary and uninteresting, because it helped a lot that this one was taking place during such a sensitive moment, and that the non-combatants, along with Whistler, had a job to do while the fighters fought. Also, how many times has Angel been holepunched in this season? Day-um! Not to mention that he completely lost his shit and went Wolverine on Nash and Pearl while his face was all red and bubbly, so we really know for sure that he meant business.
Couple nitpicks: Angel does, too, have experience casting spells. And check out page 21, panel 2 - that really looks like Faith's shadow, but it's not placed anywhere that she could have cast it. And that? Is all I have to say about the art this time, because it's otherwise up to its usual high standards and everything is shiny.
I'm glad we got a break before the next one because I wanted my chance to review this before it came out, but I'm really looking forward to the next few issues. I think they'll be great, full of surprises, not a dull moment, and right now it's really looking like we'll at least get to see Giles, maybe in the very next issue, and give him our goodbyes again if nothing else.