Magic is gone. Giles is dead--Angel killed him. So are most of the Slayers Buffy spent the last couple of years training and leading against the many monsters and menaces of the world. Some of that was Angel's fault, too. He was working with and sort of possessed by the entity calling itself "Twilight" and for a while there he was moving a bunch of pieces around the board--including Slayers, high-tech vampires, the very fabric of the universe--for his own purposes. Now with Buffy M.I.A., Angel's wracked with new levels of broody guilt. Along comes Faith, the once "bad" Slayer who entered a sort of mentor/partner relationship with Giles in Season 8. She's taken it upon herself to try to guide a pretty much wrecked Angel back to the light--or at least get him out of his room.
That's pretty much the rough outline of where things start in the first issue of Angel & Faith, which marks the full-on return of the vampire with a soul to Dark Horse Comics after the conclusion of "After the Fall" at IDW. Written by Christos Gage with art provided by Rebekah Isaacs, the book plunges headlong into the post-Twilight messiness of Season 8. We picked Mr. Gage's brain about the first issue and he gave us a guided tour into a Buffyverse that was looking a bit grimmer than it did last time we saw it.
****Spoilers after the break****
MTV Geek: We find out later what Giles’ sacrifice was here. To what degree do you think losing this memory allowed Giles to learn to trust Angel?
Christos Gage: I don't think it had much to do with Giles trusting Angel. He still remembered what Angelus did to Jenny. What Giles gave up was the specific day he fell in love with Jenny, which he subsequently didn't even realize he'd lost. He didn't forget he loved her, though… I can't pinpoint the exact day I fell in love with my wife (while I'm sure some people can, I bet a lot can't) but it doesn't change the fact that I love her. Giles just forgot this one beautiful day he had with her, which left a hole in him he couldn't quite define… it was the sacrifice that made the spell work. There will be a lot more unfolding along these lines down the road - not necessarily Jenny-specific, but involving Giles' past—so stay tuned.
Geek: Giles’ note about his death leaving too many loose ends—to what degree is this (and the Watcher’s Journal) the basic pitch for Angel & Faith?
Gage: It was indeed my early idea for giving the series a structure—Angel and Faith have the Watcher Files and are drawing on them to tie up Giles' unfinished business. Then Joss shared his ideas, which of course were coated in radioactive awesome! :) The Watcher Files are still a significant part of it, but we now have a lot of really cool character-based stuff going on as well, and the big wrinkle revealed at the end of this issue.
Geek: Both Angel and Faith are characters who have traditionally been known to cross the proverbial line to get things done. What does the world look like with these two characters lacking other, more balanced people as anchors?
Gage: The world of the Buffyverse in general is a strange new place, where the old rules no longer apply… that's a recurring theme of both our book and Buffy. But Angel and Faith may be their own worst enemies.
I have to point out, though, that Faith is a lot more balanced these days than she used to be. I've spoken with Editor Scott Allie about how I think she's come further than any other Buffyverse character. She's now the mentor figure, the protector. She has her act together. The question is, can she maintain that in the face of what's coming? And will her best intentions be her downfall?
Geek: This interaction between Faith and Angel here in the last couple of panels catches some of the rhythm of Joss Whedon’s dialog. To what degree did you feel compelled to find Joss’s “voices” for the characters?
Gage: Thanks, that means a lot to hear! I think it's crucial that I be able to write the characters at least close enough to Joss' voices for them for readers to accept that's who they are. Obviously I'll never know them as well as their creator, but hopefully I can make them feel and sound right. If not, the book won't work and I should be fired.
Simple as that.
Geek: Can it be assumed that there’s a lot of Twilight’s baggage that Angel will be forced to deal with in the near future?
Gage: Oh, hell yes. We won't be re-hashing Season 8 in detail… it's concentrated on a few big things: the end of magic, the death of Giles and 200-odd Slayers, and the unsavory beings he associated with as Twilight. But that's gracious plenty.
Geek: For our readers unfamiliar with the idea, could you tell them a bit about the Powers That Be? In the past, their conduits have been a little more benevolent, I guess you could say.
Gage: The Powers That Be are higher beings who were, by and large, benevolent, albeit somewhat removed from humanity. Whistler is a demon who, instead of serving denizens of the Hell Dimensions, served the Powers, with a specific mission of maintaining balances. He brought Angel to Buffy, and the Powers also gave people around Angel (Doyle, Cordelia) visions of people who needed his help. The problem is, since the end of magic, all access to the Powers That Be is cut off. Whistler was an agent of balance—a demon who worked for good. His goal was to balance good and evil, dark and light. He brought a vampire and a Slayer together to fall in love and convinced Angel to become Twilight—according to him, because the alternative was the end of the world.
Now, the balance is completely skewed; magic is gone from Earth. Whistler can't talk to the Powers. He can't see the future any more. What does that do to a being like him? Has he lost his mind, or is he doing what he's always done… trying to achieve balance by any means necessary? Or does he have some hidden agenda no one knows about? I think Whistler is a fascinating character with a lot to explore.
Geek: Could you tell us a little about your notes to Rebekah Isaacs in the designs of new heavies Pearl and Nash?
Gage: Pearl and Nash are the children of a human woman who deliberately bred with a demon in order to have children with power, because she believed a merging of biology and magic was the future of humankind. I told Rebekah they should be basically human in structure, but with little touches that make it clear they're NOT human… pointy ears, etc. (Being a superhero nerd, I think I cited Sub-Mariner as an example.) I can't remember who came up with the skin tone, but I know it was Rebekah who gave them that wonderful wolfish/predatory look, with the turned up noses. She also suggested dressing them in sort of old fashioned, 1920's inspired clothes. And who knows how old they really are, being half demon? For me, they really needed to seem both alien and entitled… they see normal people as lower beings… and Rebekah really captured that beautifully.
Geek: For you, what has Rebekah been bringing to the book?
Gage: Magic. Magic may be gone from Earth, but not from the pages of Angel & Faith. Rebekah is a star in the making. She has a remarkable range, able to capture character, action, humor and storytelling with equal skill. For me, the real revelation has been her demon designs. They're so good I barely give her any direction anymore; I just turn her loose and she delivers beyond my expectations. She takes my scripts and makes them so much better, filling the pages with little touches and details that reinforce and augment the story. There are wonderful comic artists who wouldn't be right for a Whedon book; Rebekah has all the qualities you need for one. If she wasn't such a lovely person I'd really hate her for being so good so young.
Geek: To what degree will you be drawing on the L.A./IDW period of Angel’s history? Is that territory you guys want to get into with both Buffy and Angel & Faith?
Gage: In general, we want people not to need a PhD in Buffyverse history to follow this storyline. (Though it doesn't hurt.) There will be nods to the L.A. years—Harmony shows up in issue #5, and Connor will be in a future story arc. But Angel is in a new place with a new mission, and we're looking forward. As for the IDW years, again, we're not going to delve deep into any of that, for the same reasons. However, while as far as I'm concerned only Joss can say this story is canon and that one isn't, I think we establish pretty clearly in this issue that "After The Fall" happened, and indeed significantly informed Angel's actions in adopting the role of Twilight.
Geek: Angel’s plan here—he knows this kind of thing never turns out well. So why is he going to try it?
Gage: Because he can't live with the alternative. Killing Giles was too much. A bridge too far. You could argue that Angel/Angelus has killed or lost hundreds, even thousands of people. Why Giles? Why not try to bring back Cordelia, or Doyle, or Nun #32, or Holtz's kids? There are plot-driven/technical answers to that which we'll get into in the next issue. But from a character standpoint, Giles' death at his hands was, for Angel, the straw that broke the camel's back. That cost him his friends, the woman he loves and proved that he is toxic, evil and will always do more harm than good. Either he believes he can fix this, or there's no reason for him to exist at all.
Angel & Faith #1 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.