Angel has a dream, same kind he and Spike have been having for the last couple arcs. It takes up a page and a half. Fred and Angel decide to go to Ireland. It takes up another two pages. They check into their hotel and Fred decides to go on "The 1753 Massacre Tour". Four pages. Fred goes on the tour while Angel snoops around the hotel to find out why the bellhop was so scared. Four pages. The next eight pages are devoted to taking down your standard cult who are trying to gain power through occult means, with a quick and harmless appearance by Illyria. Then it's Angel's side of the phone call with Spike we saw in the last Buffy issue, and Angel and Fred deciding to go to San Francisco to help. Two and a half pages.
Angel visits the graves of his loved ones: zero pages. Angel locates the sites that had particular significance in his human life: zero pages. Angel and Fred catch up on everything she's missed since AtS5: zero pages. Fred thinks about her own lost loved ones: two panels. Someone appreciates that they're in freaking Ireland: zip nada zilch, no full-page landscape spread, no random historical tidbits, no distinctly Irish guest characters.
A lukewarm series is enough of a drag and God knows I've already done enough complaining about that, but it's the missed opportunities that really kill you. We've been waiting for so long - for surprises, for closure, for a conversation or an emotional moment or a plot hook that makes us keep thinking about it days later. We keep thinking we're going to get them, and we look at these upcoming covers with the giddy anticipation of the birthday kid with a pile of wrapped presents because finally! And I for one am starting to feel like a real schmuck every time I even entertain any hope. The presents aren't even toys, let alone the toys we asked for.
The best part of the issue was Spike and Angel's call, just because I like crossovers and I like getting them in the right order, but nothing actually happens in those pages aside from what we either already knew from reading the other book, or could easily guess. It does make me wonder if the poor overall quality is partially because Victor Gischler's hands are tied by what the PTBs need or want to have happening. When Christos Gage fills up space with repetition and pointless dialogue, I get the impression that he doesn't know how to compress and get the point across succinctly. When Gischler does it, it feels more like he really just needs to fill up some space, and all the good stuff that could be filling it up has been nixed by upper management.
I don't have any criticism of the art. The art was good and I liked it. Except it was kind of weird that all the blood looked like it was added later in WinPaint - I don't know if that was a deliberate stylistic choice, and it didn't look bad as such, it was just hard to not think about WinPaint.
Also, I always read the lettercols, and I need to put some more thought into how I direct my ranting, because time after time, there are signs (and statements) that someone who's reading the exact same comic that I am loves it, genuinely and enthusiastically, and I have no idea why. They even say things that are the polar opposite of what I'm feeling, like, "It finally feels like the show again!" The difference between not enjoying something and calling it bad is important, and I try to keep it in mind when I do a review like this. Currently I'm not convinced that my aversion is a personal opinion rather than a reaction to a flop, but I shouldn't let myself off the hook that easy.
So, let this be a bit of encouragement to talk me out of it. Or, if you're pretty sure I'm right, tell me about that too, I never get sick of that.