Angel and the Faith #18 wraps up the three part “Those Who Can’t Teach, Teach Gym” arc in a hurry as Faith and Fred, who are secretly investigating a series of vampire related murders come face to face with the culprit behind them all. The Big Bad for this short arc is long time Buffy and Angel opponent Drusilla, who was sired by Angelus, sired Spike, and wants a taste of her old glory so she is siring a bunch of students at St. Cuthbert’s School. Writer Victor Gischler captures her evil, pain, and eccentricities through his dialogue while artist Cliff Richards and colorist Michelle Madsen give readers a taste of her monstrous past and present with a liberal use of flame motifs and close-ups of her bumpy, toothsome vampire face.
But Angel and Faith #18 isn’t just Drusilla being bad. Gischler lets Faith and Fred’s high school gym teacher and lunch lady cover pay off in an action packed way as they are in key positions for the big fight against Drusilla and her teen vampire horde. The movement of Richards’ figures might be on the static side, but his photorealistic style comes in handy when the attractive students turn into vampiric beings. It’s a nice use of metaphor from Gischler and Richards to show that the pretty, popular people in school can often be the meanest and ugliest inside.
However, Gischler goes beyond doing a supernatural riff off Heathers or Cruel Intentions and makes readers sympathize with the loneliness of these teens, which is the main reason why Drusilla chose to make them part of her vampire coven. Even though she is still a little bit flighty and loves her poetic anachronisms, Drusilla is a strategist and planner, who picked these kids because no one would miss them. This is why Mary, the stereotypical new kid, was such an important target for her. Angel and Faith #18 is a turning point for Mary as a character as she starts to take control of her life, and Gischler leaves a few mysterious elements concerning her to set her up as key player as the series starts to reach its endgame.
Even if some of her dialogue sounds cheesy and lacks the barbed, quippy punch of Faith’s, Angel and the Faith #18 has Fred show some agency as she plays an integral part in the fight against Drusilla. Gischler still mentions the fact that she still has the demon Ilyria inside her, but this subplot takes a backseat to her normal human ass kicking. Fred doesn’t have any special powers unless she decides to tap into the power of a demon that will possess her and possibly destroy the world so she only has her determination and humanity to fall back upon. This makes her a compelling and relatable character in comparison to the Slayer Faith and Angel, who is technically still teaming up with Spike and Buffy in the United States.
Angel and Faith #18 has all the elements of a good Whedon-y tale, including female characters with agency that aren’t necessarily Amazon warriors (Fred and Mary in this case.), some witty dialogue, and a nice use of monsters as metaphors. It doesn’t hurt that this metaphor is driven home by a formidable and entertaining villain in Drusilla, whose role as Mother Superior in the last Angel and Faith series gets expanded upon in this issue. Some of Cliff Richards’ figures seem overly posed, especially in the fight scenes, but his storytelling is clear, and Michelle Madsen adds a special fiery “oomph” to the vampire staking parts.