Angel and Willow are not at their best in "Angel & Faith" #9 under Christos Gage's hand. It's not that Gage writes them out of character; it's more that he has them wallowing in the last attractive parts of their personalities. At their worst moments, all three of our three main characters in are artists in self-pity. Willow can be self-righteously self-pitying, and without the charm and innocence that actress Alyson Hannigan brought to the character, the character can be insufferable. Angel has the market cornered on torturous guilt in a strong and silent emo way. In this issue, he continues to be a noble idiot, first deciding to stay out of Connor's life despite his son's obvious desire to see him, and then being overprotective.
Faith's usual specialty is impulsive, self-destructive self-pity, but Gage plays her against type and has her behaving admirably. When Faith offers advice to Angel, taking him up on his request that she tell him when he was going to far, Angel overreacts and behaves like a jerk. Faith would have been within her rights to stomp off, but she doesn't. Here, Gage delivers a well-done scene of raw emotions between the titular characters. It's weird when Faith is the adult in the room, but it's good that there's one major character that doesn't have me rolling my eyes.
Unfortunately, Gage doesn't write other important emotional scenes with the same punch. Connor is a charming character, and his chipper demeanor and can-do attitude are refreshing after being in emo-land with Angel and Willow. Despite that, the father-son interactions between Angel and Connor are cheesy as hell. Angel's pride and emotion doesn't ring true, partly because it's premature for this kind of scene. Angel has been an absent father and Connor should be at the very least a little resentful.
In contrast, the art team holds up its end without any caveats. Rebekah Issacs' page and panel compositions are balanced and elegant. With only one action scene in "Angel & Faith" #11, the issue is mostly talking heads. Issacs' shifting camera angles keep the panel-to-panel transitions interesting and she handles emotional scenes with aplomb. At the moment of reunion between father and son, Issacs draws Connor popping out of the panel when he sees Angel and jumps on the car hood. It's a great artistic choice and Issacs shows restraint by using it only once. With so many people, the variety of the different clothes Issacs draws is in this one issue is jaw-dropping and her backgrounds are stunning -- especially interior and street shots, with cornices and ironwork, door frames and furnishings all rendered in loving detail. For readers who reread or who linger over the art, Issacs provides some fun details.
Dan Jackson lays out flat panels of color-saturated, complementary hues, and his work is very noticeable in a good way. In fact, I haven't seen colors I liked this much since Danny Vozzo's colors on "Sandman" or Laura Allred for "Madman." The colors enhance the pencils immeasurably. For example, Jackson reinforces Isaacs' background details, going as far as to color tiny background knickknacks in house with such individuality and lushness that you can smell the antiquity and preciousness of the weapons and vases.
By comparison, Gage's writing isn't as consistently rewarding or subtle. However, his handling of Faith is excellent and he does build suspense well for the rest of "Family Reunion." Readers will want to pick up the next issue, if only to see what happens to our heroes in Quor'toth.