Behind Buffy Season 9: Gage on "Angel & Faith's" End Game

Over the course of Dark Horse Comics' "Angel & Faith," the titular characters, along with the rest of the Buffy-verse populace, have been sorting through the fallout of the events of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8." At the conclusion to "Season 8," Angel, possessed by the Twilight persona, ended the life of Buffy's original Watcher, Rupert Giles, and Buffy attempted to stave off total worldly destruction by shattering the Seed of Wonder: the source of magic on Earth.

The "Season 9" arcs, an umbrella covering "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel & Faith," and the miniseries "Drusilla: Run and Catch," "Spike: A Dark Place," and "Willow: Wonderland," are largely concerned with the ramifications of these two conclusive acts. Buffy has her hands full dealing with the emergence of the mindless hordes of zompires. Angel, left in a catatonic state following his stint as Twilight, is nursed back to health by slayer Faith Lehane and subsequently vows to find a way to right his wrongs and bring Giles back to the land of the living.

Angel's plans are quickly complicated, however. Just as he prepares to attempt the resurrection, it is revealed that the final piece of Giles' soul is held by the demon Eyghon, who, with the help of Whistler, Pearl and Nash, is set on creating a new Hell on Earth with a possessed Giles at the helm of his growing army.

As part of its regular BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9 feature, Comic Book Resources spoke with series writer Christos Gage about the book's final story arc beginning with "Angel & Faith" #21 on April 24th, and he looks back at the series so far and teases what is yet to come.

CBR News: "Angel & Faith" has been, in large part, a story about the search for redemption -- this is something that seems to define both Angel and Faith as characters. How close has either of them come to really finding that redemption in this series?

Angel & Faith

Writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs have sent "Angel & Faith" on a path toward redemption in his "Buffy Season 9" series

#19 cover by Steve Morris

Christos Gage: I think we won't know until the season is over, and even then there is the question of what redemption means for each of them. Is Angel redeemed if he brings Giles back to life? He's still got all those other crimes he committed over the centuries. And does being redeemed in their own eyes mean being redeemed to others, or vice versa? Our last couple of arcs of the season are not just about whether our heroes will achieve their goals, but what that means for them.

In prior talks with CBR, you mentioned that father figures play out in many ways throughout the "Season 9" arc. In the past, Angel has taken on a fatherly role with Faith, shepherding her through some dark times. How would you say their relationship has shifted over this series?

I think Giles was more of a father to Faith, whereas Angel is more of a brother or friend -- both someone who takes care of her and who she takes care of. When we started out Faith was taking care of Angel, who was a wreck after he killed Giles as Twilight. She's had some rough patches this season, and Angel has helped her. You could also argue that he has caused her problems as well, by involving her in his quest and as a result causing the Slayers she was mentoring to lose trust in her. The relationship between Angel and Faith has been fluid, and by the end, will be something very different than it was when we began. Another key father relationship is that of Giles to Faith -- her realization of how much she lost when she died has informed her actions quite a bit, and she has as much at stake in the outcome as Angel.

Over the past few issues you've gotten to jump back in time and fill in some of Giles' back story, looking at his rebellious "Ripper" period. What about this time period is so defining for Giles?

It's when he made his worst mistakes -- mistakes that resulted in the death of his friends. This period also led him back to the life he'd earlier rejected, of being a Watcher, but I think the fact that he experienced it is what enabled him to be the Watcher Buffy needed, rather than the more stiff-upper-lip, rules-obsessed Watchers we saw at various times.

One thing we see a lot of in this book, and throughout the Buffy mythos, is the shifting paradigms of good and evil: Angel has flipped several times into his vampiric Angelus persona, not to mention the whole Twilight snafu, and now we're seeing a possessed Giles as commander of a zombie brigade. How does one ever know where anyone else stands?

I don't know that you can, and that's another example of the Buffy-verse taking real-life dilemmas -- can you really trust the people close to you -- and adding fantastic elements to craft a cool story. But I want to go beyond the 'so and so is possessed' paradigm -- as much fun as that is -- and use these events as an impetus for the characters to examine both each other and themselves. Is what this person is trying to do a good thing? For them, for me, for the world? I want to take that extra step and ask not just 'will Angel turn into Angelus' but also 'is Angel himself someone I should put my trust in?'

If you were forced to choose, what's been your favorite character or creature design to come from Isaacs over the course of the series? What about that design nailed it?

EXCLUSIVE: #19 art by Rebekah Isaacs

Thus far, I guess my favorite design has been Quor'Toth, the Old One who gave the hell dimension its name. It's just this giant, horrible thing, the size of a mountain range, with an exposed brain and spine, drooling slime, and rotting flesh that attract great flocks of birds to eat off it. I just thought it was really horrible and awesome -- exactly what I imagined an Old One would be, both in terms of power and nastiness.

What is series artist Rebekah Isaacs bringing to this final arc? Can we expect some further horrific glimpses into Eyghon's hell-on-earth?

Rebekah is bringing awesomeness. Over the course of this season I have come to realize what an amazing talent she is, not just in terms of art, but in terms of designing monsters, demons and magical creatures. So now, whenever I get the chance, I like to give her the opportunity to cut loose by just suggesting a few general guidelines: "exposed brains, tentacles, fangs, go!" I am inevitably amazed by what I get back. But what Rebekah never loses sight of is that the characters make it all work. I feel safe doing silent beats or reaction shots and I know she can nail it, which is great for a comic based on a TV show. Watching a good show, you aren't used to clunky exposition or having it explained that someone is mad or sad or is saying something that's at odds with how they truly feel -- you just get it. Truly great artists can approximate a live human being acting, and Rebekah has that rare talent.

We've seen several times in the Buffy-verse the resurrection of the dead rarely comes without a price. What makes Angel and Faith think that resurrecting Giles will be any different this time?

Well, they think they can make it work. It's an open question whether that's foolishness, arrogance, or selfish desperation; they just want him back that badly. But a new light has been shed on it with the revelation in recent issues that the biggest part of Giles' soul was the property of the demon Eyghon. So it's not like they're pulling him out of heaven, as with Buffy. If they did nothing, he remains the plaything of a horrible monster. That said, they are planning to try to return him to life, not just sent his soul to its reward, so there is most certainly risk. This will definitely be addressed very soon.

How well can we expect the plan to slay Eyghon, and free Giles from his grasp, to go?

I'm not going to drop any spoiler bombs, although I think it's safe to say no one's plans will go exactly as they would have liked!

Whistler's objective, to maintain balance between good and evil, seems to have spiraled a bit out of control. How, with their history, will Angel confront him?

EXCLUSIVE: Art by Rebekah Isaacs"

It's tough for Angel because Whistler is really responsible for giving him a new lease on life (or un-death). In some ways, Whistler is in the position Angel was as Twilight last season: pursuing great power to effect a world-changing transformation that is supposed to be for a greater good, but will have significant collateral damage. And just as Angel wasn't always thinking clearly as Twilight, now Whistler is the one whose mental state seems to have been affected by the loss of magic and the resulting tip in the cosmic balance. No doubt, Angel will try to get through to Whistler's better nature just as Buffy did with him, but if that doesn't work, he's going to have some tough choices to make in terms of taking Whistler down, if that's even something he's capable of.

Spike is back from space! In returning to work alongside Angel, is he a different man than when he left?

Spike evolved in his miniseries to be a bit more self-motivated, more independent of Buffy. Does that mean he's over Buffy? No, it's not nearly that easy, but he's coming to London having established some independence and gained a bit of his swagger back. Does that mean he and Angel will go back to their dynamic of the series, or will it be different? How about Spike and Faith, who seemed to have a bit of romantic chemistry in "Buffy Season 7?" I promise that someone will get up to sexy-times in issue #20, but I won't reveal who. I will say that I love the dynamic between Spike and Angel -- they're rivals, but they're also the only ones on Earth who really understand each other. The "Angel" Season 5 episode "The Girl In Question" is, for me, aside from being very funny, a great example of their relationship in microcosm.

Their rivalry is a little bit like that of two brothers: an understanding, but also that sense that the younger feels caught in the shadow of the elder. Here, with Angel calling on Spike for help, is that relationship maturing, at all?

Maybe. Or maybe just getting more juvenile. Or both! Read issue #20 and see for yourself.

As the series reaches its conclusion, in what ways might we see "Angel and Faith" and the primary "Buffy" storyline coming together? Will we see anyone else popping up for the final showdown?

We are not going to do an outright crossover. It was briefly considered early on, but the consensus was that it would feel gimmicky, and the mere fact of Buffy and Angel seeing each other for the first time since Twilight would be such a big thing that it would derail the storylines of both books. In "Angel & Faith" we're sticking with our core casts; the explicit crossovers have already come, and tended to involve one character at a time. But the creative teams are definitely in touch with each other, so there may well be some thematic parallels.

Looking back at "Angel & Faith" as a whole, what points in the narrative stand out as definitive? Were there moments in which the characters surprised you, or which you find particularly transformative?

I always said Giles was the third most important character in the book, but even so I was surprised at how important a presence he was. Despite being dead, he informed so much. And I loved writing the flashbacks to his past. I think both Angel and Faith have matured and grown significantly over the course of the season. And Giles' Great-Aunts are a trip. I love writing them, and I love how Rebekah (and Chris Samnee, in his issue) gave them life. I can't thank Joss [Whedon] enough for sharing them with us -- he originally conceived of them to be part of the as-yet-unrealized "Ripper" TV show he was developing with the BBC.
Finally, looking forward, where might the story go beyond "Season 9?" What plans have begun to take shape in moving the Buffy-verse forward from here?

It's too early to say what comes next. We're still working it out ourselves. But I'm definitely going to be there for it!

"Angel & Faith" #19 by Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs goes on sale February 27.

Tags: dark horse comics, buffy, christos gage, rebekah isaacs, angel and faith, behind buffy season 9

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