Angel & Faith #23 wasn’t the most informative issue, and it certainly wasn’t the most loquacious. What it was was as balls-to-the-wall crazy as any climactic fight scene should be—and since that’s where we jumped into things from page one, I’d call this a job well done for Christos Gage.
We begin exactly where #22 left off: With Angel and Faith plunging into battle against the season 9 Big Bads: Pearl, Nash, and Whistler. After stealing so many magical artefacts from Alasdair’s flat last issue, Whistler now has enough material to start his master cleanse of the universe, on which he is hard at work when Angel and Faith crash the party, swords and crossbows swinging.
Whistler sends Pearl and Nash to take the offensive against the dream team, and it’s a tough enough battle that things are beginning to look dismal for our heroes, until Nadira busts onto the field to lend a hand. Since her entire character arc is centred around a festering need for revenge against Pearl and Nash, I was happy to see her — it would have felt like a waste of her introduction not to bring her into this fight. Unfortunately, she was turned into cannon fodder about three pages later (and with very little room for loopholes — Nash essentially fries her into ground beef), so those concerns about waste still may linger.
It’s a given that any creation in the Whedonverse will come with some pain. Like J.K. Rowling and G.R.R. Martin, Joss Whedon is famous for pointing out the realities of battle with the heartbreaking slaughter of his characters. And perhaps Nadira, a new face in Angel & Faith, brought in largely to be held up as a measuring stick against Faith to see how much she has grown as a human being, was marked for death from the beginning. But I’m left a little deflated at the final treatment of her character.
Nadira was interesting. She was a shadow of so many of the characters in Angel & Faith: of Angel, though she was singularly driven by revenge rather than redemption; of Faith, whose rebellious start in Sunnydale might have made her exactly like Nadira (angry, restless, pathologically impulsive) were it not for the guidance of Rupert Giles; even Pearl, who, like Nadira, draws her strength and her passion from her birthright and her family. I would have loved to see where Nadira might go with her life after Pearl and Nash were defeated. Without a cause to drive her, would she have crumbled? Or would she have found new strength somewhere and joined the good fight? We’ll never know now, and I’m sorry for it.
The sting of Nadira’s death will be fresh with me for a while, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t blown away by the final panels, where Pearl, Nash and Whistler manage to release a drop of their plague on Hackney. The horror Rebekah Isaacs drew was unnerving and even Lovecraftian—tentacles and all. The nightmare is real now, and with only two issues to go, who knows what rabbits Angel will be able pull from his hat in this round.
Angel & Faith #24, the penultimate issue in the series, will be released on July 31, 2013.