Angel & Faith Season 10 #16-17
Now that Fred has returned, we get to see her helping out Faith on a new undercover mission. And keeping in mind that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer has always been best when the kids were in school, we’re back in that environment — only this time, Faith is undercover as a teacher.
Given my dislike of the writing of Victor Gischler, I was surprised that there were certain scenes that worked for me in these issues. They don’t add up to as much as I hoped they would — the overall story is still predictable and much too dependent on fight scenes — but I liked enough that I’ll follow through this storyline, because I do have a fondness for the title character.
Gischler is falling back on reintroducing favorite characters as a way of capturing goodwill, though. Which brings up one of my major complaints with these two issues: The end of #17 is one of those full-page, “oh, no, it’s them!” reveals. Only while the likenesses by Cliff Richards are ok, they aren’t good enough for me to know instantly who that person is supposed to be. I could guess, but I had to have it confirmed by reading ahead the description for the upcoming issue #18. Too many creators don’t do the work needed to make these kinds of “surprises” work for all their readers (such as including dialogue clues), instead pushing the effort onto the fan.
Anyway, we open with a well-done, mostly wordless sequence of Faith on her own. She’s moving into a new apartment and working on figuring out choices. Angel’s absent, currently crossing over to the Buffy series, although the two catch each other up via computer in issue #17.
A detective friend enlists Faith’s help in figuring out a dead body connected to a local prep school. He sends her undercover at the school as a gym teacher, assisted by Fred. The students are mostly standard roles: the nerdy girl who likes a popular guy with a mean blonde girlfriend and the group of cats who bully her.
There’s a lot of dialogue as the characters explain discoveries to each other, so much so that in some panels the font size has been shrunken to the extent I found it a struggle to read. It’s intended to illustrate whispering, I think, but a comic that reminds me I now have to wear bifocals isn’t very good escapism.
The bits I liked most about these issues, on a reread, are the ones we don’t get enough of. Faith trying to manage a group of girls as an authority figure, for instance, or Fred being clever about helping. The character elements are a sad second to pages of plot exposition and kids threatening each other. This would have been great on-screen, with the actresses fleshing out the bits, while it’s just okay on the page.
The variant covers for these issues, drawn by Mike Norton, demonstrate more humor and playfulness:
The problem with being unable to identify characters via art and having no help from the text was a big reason I gave up on Buffy Season 8. I always assumed it had something to do with pulling TV writers in to write comics — they didn’t realize that you couldn’t rely on people recognizing the actors to know who they were.