"Angel & Faith: Season 10" has been in a difficult position. After Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs' previous series ended up being a success (and critically eclipsing its parent title), the creative team moved over to tackle Buffy, leaving poor "Angel & Faith" behind under new hands. Victor Gischler and Cliff Richards' "Angel & Faith Season 10" #18 has taken the step of firmly tying this series to what's happening in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10," and it's a smart move on all counts.
By having the same major villain behind the events of both titles, not only does "Angel & Faith Season 10" feel a little more "critical" in terms of reading, but it also gives Archaeus a bit more of a strong presence in each title. Gischler's script wisely places Archaeus in the role of manipulator, showing that it was his hand that moved Drusilla into St. Cuthbert's to prey on the students. It helps keep Drusilla at a place where she can still be a little crazy but also have an actual plan, which is a nice balance.
The plotting is a little deus ex machina (although at least this time it's not a literal god coming to save the day, which is a relief) but, at the same time, I do appreciate that Faith and Fred are smart enough to know when they need to call in some backup. With the book building up a larger supporting cast in recent issues, this move both makes sense and also reinforces the presence of these other characters. The fight itself (Faith and Fred versus the vampires) is perfectly fine, and I also appreciate that there's a reason why poor Mary was being stalked (even if we're not entirely sure what the item on that last page does).
I've always found Richards to be a variable artist, so I'll cut right to the chase: I think this is one of his best contributions to the Buffyverse. Drusilla's saunter while talking to Mary looks pretty perfect in terms of portraying Juliet Landau, and Fred in particular looks on model without feeling stiff or posed. The action sequences work well, and I like the moment where Faith is fighting towards Drusilla while all of the other vampires continue to swarm her in an attempt to hold her back. While some of the close-ups on Faith's face seem a little droopy, it's a minor nitpick in a comic that otherwise really works well. Richards and colorist Michelle Madsen have created a handsome looking comic and it's a pleasure to have the visuals coming together.
"Angel & Faith: Season 10" #18 is definitely one of the better issues in the series, and I feel like the book is now on track to barrel towards its (eventual) conclusion. The villain is well established, the cast is works well together and the utter absence of Angel this month is barely even felt. All in all, a thumbs up.