First let me give you a couple visual aids that apply to this issue:
Here's Buffy as she now appears to be.
And here's one of Angel.
With that out of the way,
This is just going to be a few things that I'd like to hear discussed more than I already have elsewhere. You know what happens: Them F%@#ing (Plus the True History of the Universe).
The art was a joy. Unlike the last issue, Angel looked like his beautiful self in almost every panel, especially (go figure) in the one where he appeared with Spike. Major props to Jeanty, because my hopes for this much improvement weren't actually very high.
So, that's one reason that I was all about the sexposition. I don't think I need an excuse for rejoicing in some B/A eye candy. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense for the sex to take up so much space when space is such a valuable commodity in this medium. When the action slows down and focuses on single moments without dialogue, it's asking us to pay special attention because this is important. Big plot moments need screen time even if they could be summarized quickly, and "big plot moment" doesn't even begin to cover the implications of what we just saw here.
And all that exposure also gave us a chance to notice details that hint at the missing pieces. For instance, did you see how Buffy and Angel just started tearing off each other's clothes and going at it the moment they were alone? Oh wait. That didn't happen. The foreplay here showed that they had a measure of control over themselves-- they wanted each other but they wanted to make it right. (And is it just me, or is it incredibly sweet that after all this pent-up lust, the first thing Angel wants to do is eat her out?)
I am so, so happy that Angel's tattoo is back. I might be the only one who knows this or cares, but he didn't have it in the IDW comics or the early Dark Horse comics, supposedly due to the kind of licensing issues that I will never ever understand. So for me it's like seeing the "real" Angel for the first time since NFA.
Also, Buffy's bite scar is visible in one panel. Rock on.
HE'S STILL CALLING HER BUFF. KILL KILL KILL.
So, plot. There was a plot. Hold on, I'll remember.
It's important to note here that Angel and Giles are telling us two different things. Giles, by his own admission, has more legend on his hands than fact, and Angel's confidence in his own actions hasn't wavered yet. My stance is that we can't quite believe what Giles is telling us, although it's the basis for most of the speculation that's even possible here.
(Incidentally, I think we can trust Willow even less. More than once now she has stated a theory as a fact, and when it's proven wrong, she goes "Oh right because 2+2!" and her initial error is forgotten. Passion and love are not the magicks at work. Yet.)
Giles says that the universe is creating a new reality. Later, Buffy and Angel appear to be in this new reality, and Angel says "They [who's they??] said it didn't exist. But it does. It always has." Not exactly new, then.
Angel has a plan and we're going to hear it in the next issue. He's Angel, so the plan consists of more than taking advantage of godhood for himself and Buffy while the rest of the world crumbles. However, I think there are a few things here that he just couldn't control, and one of them is the universe's plan to use him and Buffy as its Twilight prototypes, or whatever they are. He probably knew that neither of them would be able to resist the pull toward each other once Buffy had gone Super-Saiyan, so he was very, very careful about timing their face-to-face meeting. He knew that they would be playing their intended parts, and thus their connection would open the door to whatever Twilight is.
Basically, Angel knew that he and Buffy were about to receive a rocketload of power that would enable them to survive the destruction of the world. What the universe doesn't know is that they're going to take that power and use it to thwart that destruction.
The universe doesn't know this, by the by, because the universe doesn't actually realize that the love between Buffy and Angel is genuine. The connection, and the destiny sex, and the superpowers, all could have happened if they were truly mortal enemies. Love, for each other and for the people they've got on earth, is their ace in the hole. Hence the title of the next issue.
Calling this pseudo-evil all-destructive force of nature "the universe" is already grating on me. Anyone got a better term? The universe makes a great setting, but a lousy Big Bad.
Faith got her Slayer powers back, but Satsu didn't say anything about hers. Discuss.
To me, that shadow over Buffy and Spike looks like a golem with spiked shoulder pads. Discuss.
Willow says that Buffy should be staking Angel right now but the universe won't let her. Actually, Buffy did stake him; it just didn't do anything. Willow's wrong again. Discuss.
Why is the Scythe pictured when Giles is talking about an item that could kill a god? He's been aware of the Scythe all along.
Did anyone read the letters column at the end? Here's something that struck me-- three of the letters were about the third arc, and two of them mentioned Dracula and his sword. I had a feeling when rereading that part that it had more significance than they were letting on, and now I'm almost certain. How? Not totally sure, but here's the root of it: the Tokyo vampire cult had a device that could de-power all the Slayers (without killing them mind you), and Buffy & the Gang & Dracula stopped them. The especially interesting part about this is that Twilight, for once, had nothing to do with it. So there's a non-violent way to reset the Slayer balance and Angel didn't use it. Clearly, balance alone isn't going to do the trick.
A final observation: these comics and the IDW ones can no longer be reconciled. Even if Season 8 ends with Angel back in LA, as the same vampire he was when he left it-- and that may very well happen, licensing issues notwithstanding-- he's spent far too long under the Twilight mask for his absence to not be noted by the characters of his own series. They can't really address that with Angel explaining himself, or with "Well, here's what everyone else has been up to, but Angel will never tell." So far, everything in AtF has happened between NFA and the beginning of Season 8, but when time catches up, Angel will be in two places at once.
My feelings are that they'll probably continue to write the IDW comics, but nobody can pretend they're canon anymore, and good riddance. Maybe Angel and Spike can even come play for Season 9, though we still won't get any neat AtS crossover characters.
As usual, longer than I meant to talk for, and as usual, I think there was more that I wanted to say and forgot about. Long story short, though, the B/A shippers win. Again.