In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #22

You know you're reading something special when the conversations can be as intense as any slaying. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: The Main cover by Steve Morris starts as a funny image, but turns eerie. It shows Willow playing teacher before a class of military officers. She’s sitting in a classic school chair reading a book to the room, My First Spellery. The officers are sitting on a tile floor, with their legs criss-cross applesauce, focused on her reading. Hanging from the ceiling, just behind the title’s logo, are several airplanes to inspire the students. This would have been a silent chuckle of an image, but the coloring makes it otherworldly: Willow is colored in roses, with the book leaking yellow tendrils of smoke, while the soldiers are bathed in green, and the background an even lighter green. With the colors going mystical, the image is delightfully unsettling. I really like this cover, but it’s the Variant cover by Rebekah Isaacs with Dan Jackson that I had to buy. Buffy and Willow are sitting on the sofa in their apartment sharing some double chocolate chip ice cream. Willow passes the title character the tub of ice cream with a wary smile on her face, which Buffy returns. This warm and fuzzy moment is made hilarious because both look as though they’ve taken a major beating: their hair is messed up, they’re sporting scars, and Willow has a black eye. The curtains are ruined and the sofa is torn. I love this! The actual image that accompanies this review is much better than the poor scan from my computer. Overall grades: Main A and Variant A+

The story: The second part of Christos Gage‘s “In Pieces on the Ground” opens one week ago at Theo Daniels’s Corporate Headquarters where Willow learns that the facility is associated with the Department of Defense, the United Supernatural Combatant Command, to be specific. Overseen by Lake Stevens, she tells Willow that she and the USUCC (Yes, they’re aware of what this sounds like) view her and her associates as allies. She wants to bring Willow into the fold, after all, they’re already coordinating with the Magic Council, which is there with D’Hoffryn. Reluctantly, she keeps quiet about telling Buffy and sees what USUCC has to offer. In the present, Spike is in a bar with Dylan, who arranged to meet with him to tell him how she’s grown since they’ve broken up. Naturally Spike is a little worried this isn’t the case, but she has an art showing next week and wants him and Buffy to attend. Before Spike can be shown approaching Buffy, Gage has Buffy find out about Willow and USUCC. This is fantastic gut-wrenching scene with one character speaking the absolute truth to the other, ending in an exit and a door slam. Buffy and Spike do go to the art exhibition, while Willow makes a tough decision. Though there’s only two pages of monster fighting, the tension between the characters was strong. Knowing these characters for so long, any reader would want them to just get along, but Gage has them hammer out some hard truths, which might taint their friendships forever. An exceptional read. Overall grade: A+

The art: Rebekah Isaacs is responsible for the linework on this issue and it’s fantastic. The first page builds nicely to the War Room reveal as Willow and Theo make their way through the public sections of this building. The screens that comprise the viewing areas of this high tech location outdo anything shown in any movie where monitoring takes place. D’Hoffryn and the new Council look great and I hope that more is shown of them soon. The bottom of Page 3 is a reaction shot from Willow without her speaking any dialogue, and Isaacs’s work is so good, readers will know exactly what’s running through her mind. Dylan is absolutely charming, which will put readers right into Spike’s shoes, wondering what she has in mind meeting with him. As attractive as she is, it’s more important to look at Spike’s reactions to her, which smoothly progress from nervous to confident. The visual high point for me occurs on Pages 7 and 8 during Willow and Buffy’s confrontation. Each character’s emotions are a perfect match for the text, with the character’s look in the second to last panel on 8 outstanding. And I have to mention that I loved Buffy having laundry in her hand on 7, waving it about for emphasis as she speaks. The emotions on every character absolutely sells the story, such as the last panels on 11, 12, 15, 16, and 18. The final three pages of the book have the look of a lost episode as two characters make a decision. Their posture and glances toward one another was as riveting as any life or death battle these characters have ever faced. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Colorist Dan Jackson knows exactly how to use his skills to get a reader to pay attention to specific elements in the artwork. On Pages 1 – 3 there are gigantic monitor screens that emit strong blues. With Willow standing before them with her ginger hair, she is a magnet for the reader’s focus. Changing locations to the bar, the establishment is given brown and tan colors for its background, allowing Spike’s ultra blonde hair and Dylan’s jet black locks to create the focus. Jackson is exceedingly clever in the apartment when Buffy and Willow talk: anytime one of the characters is in a heightened state, the hot, dark pink walls are shown behind them, adding fire to their speech. When Willow initially responds calmly, as on 7, a soothing pale green is behind her. Look at the colors in the background on the final three pages: neutrals are used to give the characters an equal footing, and leave the reader questioning where their discussion will leave them. Every page is outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, the story’s title, yells, sounds, and a television broadcast are provided by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. I’m so happy that italics are used when characters speak with emphasis, making their speech sound more natural, and the sounds are great on the two page action sequence. These gentlemen continue their winning streak on this title. Overall grade: A+

The final line: You know you’re reading something special when the conversations can be as intense as any slaying. These characters continue to live amazing lives beyond the television series. Every contributor is at the top of their game. Highest possible recommendation of the week. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five 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.
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