The covers: The Main cover by Scott Fischer looks more like something one would see hanging in a fine art gallery than on the cover of a comic book. It’s fantastic! Angel and Amy, signified by the red rat on her shoulder, are looking into a crystal ball that holds Faith’s image. Angel’s got his big magical sword, caked in blood, and Amy’s holding a drink, telling readers where she’ll be seen. The background is terrific, looking like something Art Nouveau, especially with those hanging circular chains. The coloring is also beautiful. I’d buy this as a print and hang it in my house. The Variant cover is by interior artist Will Conrad with Michelle Madsen providing colors. It’s showing more of where Faith is, and that’s South America up against a tribe of jungle dwelling vampires. I love that she’s holding a flame thrower, bringing up memories of Kurt Russell in John Carpenter’s The Thing. If she has to resort to this type of weaponry, things must be dire. The coloring on this is perfection since only the vaguest of outlines of the vamps can be seen, though their eyes glow orange. Overall grades: Main A+ and Variant A.
The story: Our leads are still separated, but that provides lots of opportunities for writer Victor Gischler to jump between their stories to increase tension. The book opens in the magical bar where two consumers have a quick smack down, leading to the continuation of returned Amy Madison’s talk with Angel. She wants Angel to resurrect Warren Mears, the baddie who was responsible for all the trouble that plagued Buffy and her friends during Season 8. Angel’s comment is dead on, “That’s a terrible idea.” She then goes on to give three strong reasons why he will help her, leaving him to take a momentary break to take care of something. Meanwhile, in South America, after Faith and her friends were ambushed by the jungle vampires, they have to decide what their next move is, and they make one. Having the story shift between both stories was maddening and brilliant. Just as I was wholly involved in one character’s story, Gischler goes to the other’s adventures. This is a fantastic way to guarantee that readers don’t skip one line of dialogue. Whom Angel turns to as a sounding board might surprise readers, but after having this character introduced in an earlier issue, I wasn’t surprised to see this individual’s return. I was surprised by this character’s asides, suggesting a duel nature? Faith gets most of the issue and it’s high noon, or high midnight, for her and her companions. A Buffy character makes a surprising appearance, but it’s not whom fans were expecting. And that final panel on the last page–Yes! No! Yes! This book continues to be exceptional fun. Overall grade: A+
The art: I’m also really impressed with the realism that Will Conrad is bringing to this book. He makes the characters from the series look just like the actors who portrayed them with Amy looking a dead ringer for Elizabeth Anne Allen. She looks great on Page 5, and that smile was a gut kick. Faith, and I admit to being a huge fan of the character, is a stunning representation of Eliza Dushku. When he has Faith frown as she reveals past indiscretions it’s like watching a still from one of the shows. Conrad also has a lot of action in this issue with the vamps trying to overrun the heroes’ camp. Things start small and then ramp into overdrive: Page 16 is like Hell on Earth occurring. There is an army of characters shown from a variety of angles and it’s every bit exciting as it should be. On original characters Conrad is also impressive. The monsters on the opening pages are fun and Faith’s current cadre are fantastic. Will Conrad is knocking this book out of the park with his visuals. Overall grade: A+
The colors: Michelle Madson also delivers a great job on this book. The opening sequence with the monsters in the bar has a lot of really slick tone work on the characters’ many muscles and even the setting itself–take a look at the stain work done in the second panel on Page 2 and the detail put into a barstool in the third panel. Did she have to do that? No. Would anyone really have complained if she hadn’t? I doubt it, but it shows that she’s putting all the finite details into her work to showcase Conrad’s art. The top of Page 3 nicely uses color in the background to accentuate the action occurring, plus she has to do a lot of different shades of red to make sure it’s clear to the reader what’s what in the panel. Her details with coloring in the jungle are also really good, with Page 6 making it look like a pleasant place to visit in the daytime. My favorite pages were 16 – 19 with the terrific oranges and greens. Overall grade: A+
The letters: All of this issue’s text is provided by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. They provide dialogue, titles, and sounds. And let me tell you the sounds of 16 – 19 are awesome! Overall grade: A+
The final line: The spin-off isn’t supposed to excel over the series that spawned it, but this certainly equals it. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.