Wednesday, September 29, 2010

(SPOILERS) Mariah Huehner talks Angel #37

Today marks the release of the next issue in the Angel ongoing and, to get the ball rolling on the discussion, we sat down with writer and editor, Mariah Huehner, to talk about some of the particulars.  Stay tuned below for an overview and review of the issue, as well as a bonus Illyria question.  Ready?  Here we go!

Buffyfest: Let's address the elephant in the room: in Angel #37, Illyria uses the word "please" when asking Spike to stop fighting with Angel, surprising fans who are used to thinking of her as the uncompromising god-king.  Can we talk about how Illyria has changed since Angel, the TV series ended and why you think she is now in a place where she would ask anything so politely?

Mariah: First, I saw it as a small but important way of re-establishing her relationship with Spike, which is different than it is with any other character. Since After the Fall we've seen her in various situations, and while I think she's still mostly uncompromising, she's also been trying to work through some really conflicting ideas in her head. She has a collective set of memories bouncing around in there. Fred's, Wes's, Spike's, and then there's her own perspective. Which tends towards the self-important. But that's been challenged a lot and I thought it was important to show that she's not the same. There's been a lack of forward momentum with Illyria that's bothered me, and the "please" was a simple way of showing that something is shifting, while also re-establishing that she and Spike have a connection. Plus, it ties into the Illyria mini and some of what happens there. I didn't want the events there to feel too sudden, which means you have to drop little hints that change is coming.

Buffyfest: We're getting somewhere with the question of Spike's soul.  Would you please elaborate on what the Arcadia Sum is and how it affects Spike's behavior?

Mariah: The way David and I envisioned it, it's something that latched onto him when he was flux back in Season 5. The soul parasite idea was originally Bill Willingham's, we just put detail to it. Something that lay dormant (not unlike what happened to Cordelia) until it was triggered. The fact that Spike was incorporeal and would fade in and out seemed significant to me in a show where things from "outside" are constantly trying to get into our reality. And with all the time shifting and the idea of "old" magicks getting stirred up, it was an opportunity to show that, like the limb dusting, some very strange things are going on. I know Spike's behavior has been very controversial, but it was never done out of disrespect for the character.

To me, if a soul can be cursed, if people can come back from the dead,  then it's completely and entirely believable that a soul can get "sick" or however you want to interpret it. Like when The First circumvented Spike's soul, allowing him to feed on humans again without him knowing, the Arcadia Sum kind of allowed Spike to do things that he otherwise wouldn't. By "infecting" his moral centers and the part of him that would see some of these actions as clearly bad. He wasn't really aware of how off things were until they were pointed out to him. Which is also why there was that "crazy in the basement" line came from. That was the last time souled Spike did anything even remotely like what he'd been doing, so it was a way to hint that something significant was going on.

Buffyfest: The Sisterhood of the Jaro Hull take violent action in this issue to become "reborn" but, with James preparing his attack, are they a necessary evil?

Mariah: You'll find out in #38. We discover something significant about Connor in #37 that gets even weirder in #38, and it will directly effect what happens with the Sisterhood from here on in. Not to mention change how Connor may be viewed, too.

Angel #37: The Review

Overview: Angel and Spike are looking into Connor's disappearance but don't get far because Angel is still distrusting of soulless Spike.  Tumble, grunt, insert slashy comments here, and the two separate, agreeing that their times is better spent focusing on what's actually important.  Angel and Illyria head off on their quest to solve the Great Connor Caper, while Laura and Mr. Polyphemus spitball ideas on what's happening with Spike.  Surprising absolutely no one, The Sisterhood of the Jaro Hull have kidnapped Connor and plan to draw from his powers in order to be reborn.  Meanwhile, Eddie Hope has a run in with Team Angel mid Gunn murder.

Eddie Hope Preview
Review: I mentioned last month that it seemed very evident that the story arc Bill Willingham had started is now being very speedily concluded in favor of telling one, last big story before Angel and co. head back to Buffy land permanently.  This issue follows suit in that regard, throwing us headlong into the conclusion to the Connor story and skipping us straight through the Spike's soul plot thread.  That's fine.  We all kind of knew that Bill's story wasn't quite meshing with fan expectation.  The nice thing is that Mariah and David continue to be adept at getting the voice of the characters and so the comics feel much more like the show than they have in a while.  So while things feel rushed, we're getting dialogue between characters that feels fresh and genuine.  The Connor stuff actually seems like it could get an exciting conclusion, too, which is nice for those in the crowd who were happy to see him get more time in the spotlight.

On the less good side is the art which I will only talk about briefly.  It's terribly challenging to capture characters from a show in comic form.  Only a few artists can truly master that combination between capturing the actor's look and the soul of the character and, in my opinion, Valerio's art was too inconsistent to satisfy me.  There are certain panels that I really enjoy but some characters, Connor especially, who never really look quite right.  You can see the difference when Elena comes back to perform the art duties for the Eddie Hope story.  She's had a lot of practice with these characters and it shows.

Overall, this issue is solid despite feeling like it's on fast forward.  I'm looking forward to wrapping this story next month so we can move on to what's next: A Wolfram & Hart story and two spin offs (Spike and Illyria) all of which I fully expect to blow my socks clean across the room and into an adjacent hell dimension.

Enough from me, though.  I'll leave Mariah with the final word. 

Buffyfest Bonus question: When Illyria says "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me", Angel assumes she is quoting "Star Trek" but, according to Illyria, the quote originated as an ancient, demon proverb.  My deeply philosophical question is this: If Angel watches hockey and Spike watches "Passions"; what sort of television do you think Illyria would get hooked on?

Mariah: Well, she likes to play Crash Bandicoot, so that kind of makes it hard to guess, you know? I can see her watching anything from Muppets to the History Channel. In spite of what she says, I think she finds humans and what they do interesting, even when she doesn't understand it, finds it futile, or beneath her. We do things she would never even think of and I think she can't help but be a little intrigued. I also think she might watch things she thinks Fred would watch, but only when no one else was looking. 

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