Two central conflicts take place in “Angel & Faith: Season 10” #24: Illyria versus the embodiment of magic and the rest of the crew versus the demon lord Archaeus and his minions. Victor Gischler and Will Conrad never resort to the same tactic for both problems, which is what makes this issue work as well as it does.
As Illyria has been a longtime problem for the crew in “Angel & Faith,” it makes sense that stopping her didn’t involve a simple beat down. Not only is her power level rather high, it would have also reduced any potential for future conflict. It’s nice to see her stopped with words and reasoning, even as it also provides some good character growth. Koh no longer has a desperate need for vengeance, and that plays out well in his interaction with Illyria; similarly, Illyria’s reaction to Koh and the rest of the cast as they explain the situation and point out where she was wrong is a big step forward for her. Illyria was a reluctant but ultimately trustworthy ally during her brief tenure on the show, and this development might start to shift her back into being more of an ally than a foe once more. There’s still a strong element of danger around the character, but Gischler simultaneously reduces her explosive nature while keeping her as something of a powder keg.
Meanwhile, Archaeus returns to the scene in order to claim the embodiment of magic, which is what “Angel & Faith: Season 10” has built up to as a series. It makes sense that Gischler moves this into a big throwdown. It’s one that will continue into the season finale next month, and — to Gischler’s credit — he’s clearly setting up a big decision regarding the embodiment of magic, which is as much a factor in the conclusion as the fight itself. It feels like a good balance between the two ways to resolve a conflict in this series. The characters are all on point here, and they clearly understand when it’s time to talk and when it’s time to kick butt, even if the latter is against crazy difficult odds.
Conrad’s art is very much on point and he handles actor likenesses (Angel, Faith, Fred) and new characters (Nadira and Koh) with aplomb. Fred/Illyria comes across best in many ways, with the two looking different not only in Michelle Madsen’s coloring or the godly armor that Illyria wears, but with facial expressions and even the body language. The little moments in “Angel & Faith: Season 10” #24 are good too, like the way flower petals flutter down around the statue after the truck has been transformed. Even Archaeus has a bit of menace here, which was occasionally absent up until now; this is fitting, considering it’s his final battle in this title (before presumably heading over to the final story arc of sister title “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10”). There are no complaints here with the art whatsoever.
It’s a real pleasure to see the creative team work so well on this title, and I’d certainly welcome them back for a potential Season 11 run. Even with the hazard of sharing a “Big Bad” with another comic, the series has worked out well. Big thumbs up here, and — barring disaster in next month’s conclusion — a job well done.