Taking direction from the diaries of the late Rupert Giles, Faith -- Giles's primary heir -- and the recently catatonic Angel face a demon that Giles had magically bound inside a young girl (a scene shown in flashback and "narrated" by Giles's diary). They succeed in their mission, and Angel returns to Giles's home, while Faith goes out and meets up with Nadira, one of the slayers who had served in Buffy's international Slayer squads. There, Faith learns that Angel -- in his "Twilight" phase -- was responsible for the death of Nadira's squad, though a pair of demons named Pearl and Nash were doing the actual killing. Those two meet up with Whistler, who is still trying to bring about the changes Twilight was supposed to, despite being cut off from the Powers That Be. Back at Giles's, Angel fills Faith in on what happened with L.A., some of what he can recall from being Twilight and his new mission -- (highlight for spoiler) bring Giles back to life. (end spoiler)
There are three covers for this issue, not including the super-limited Rebekah Isaacs New England Tour cover. The primary cover (above) is by Steve Morris, and is solid, though I feel like Angel's head is at a weird angle, given the direction his body is facing. I do really like Faith's pose in it, and the background sets the right tone for the setting of the series. The alternate cover is by Jo Chen, whose cover art was lauded throughout her run on "Buffy: Season 8". It's, as expected, spectacular, as she continues to nail her Angel likeness. The one quibble I have with her cover is that Faith's chest is disproportionately large, compared to Eliza Dushku. It's a comics thing, but it's really noticeable on the cover. The third cover is the Dark Horse 25th anniversary cover, by Georges Jeanty. I love the overall design, particularly the "25" flowing into the sewer and the demons hidden in the clock tower, but the Faith likeness is really off, particularly when compared to the other two covers -- and even when compared to the Angel likeness right next to it.
Score: 4 out of 5
Here's the challenge facing writer Christos Gage in this issue: come up with a compelling story, while also filling in details on how Angel snapped out of the condition we saw him in during Buffy #40, while also reconciling Angel's new state with both his role as Twilight AND the IDW "Angel" series, introduce a couple new characters, integrate Giles despite his being dead and finally establish the core direction of this series. Oh, and do that all in 22 pages.
All that may explain why, with two pages left in the issue, I went back and counted the pages, because I was convinced it was a 28 or 32 pager. Nope, standard 22. Gage got a LOT in there, and the only time it felt overwhelming was during the opening flashback scene, which had both the in-scene dialog and the diary narration, which made the pages feel text-heavy, even though there was a considerable amount of action going on.
My favorite scene in the entire issue was the one during the fight where Angel was bombarded with a memory Giles had used to help contain the demon, and it happened to be the memory of the day Giles fell in love with Jenny. Angel's reaction to that reminded me a lot of the guilt-ridden Angel we saw in Season 3 of "Buffy" and Season 1 of "Angel", which is a nice return to form for a character that had become a little too sure of himself during the final seasons of "Angel" and the IDW series.
The biggest thing that comes out of the story is the bombshell at the end about what Angel is planning to do. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a lot of reaction from the fan base to the tune of "OMG, this means Giles is coming back", but I'm not so sure that's the case. I could see this going in the direction where Faith has to lead Angel to realize that resurrecting Giles isn't the answer, and that there's a way to gain redemption without simply undoing your mistakes. Either way, Gage has set up a nice dynamic between all the players in the very first issue, which is something that couldn't be said about "Buffy Season 8."
Score: 4.5 out of 5
As much as I loved Georges Jeanty's art on "Buffy Season 8", I felt his style took some getting used to. I was probably about three or four issues in before it'd fully grown on me. That's not the case with Rebekah Isaacs. Her Angel likeness is very good, and I absolutely love how she's captured Faith. Eliza Dushku must be one of the hardest likeness to get right, and while her Faith isn't photorealistic (nor would I expect it to be), it's probably the best I've seen in a Buffy comic (again, excluding the Jo Chen covers, which are in a league of their own).
Isaacs's pencil and ink work is very tight, which is something I've always liked, and I'm able to get a sense of texture and flow from the way she draws clothing. Overall, she manages to both fit right into the overall Buffy comics universe, while also making the characters her own, which isn't easy to do. On top of that, colorist Dan Jackson works wonders to make it all pop, particularly in some of the more blood-splattered scenes, which look visceral without veering into "splatter-porn" territory.
Score: 4.5 out of 5
I honestly expected a less eventful start to this series, but it appears Joss Whedon wasn't kidding around when he decried the pace he set for "Buffy Season 8" and said things would move much quicker in "Angel & Faith" and "Buffy Season 9". It makes for a much better issue #1 here, and I'm incredibly excited to see where things go from here.
Score: 4.5 out of 5