The covers: The Main cover is by Steve Morris and it’s Xander centric. Mr. Harris is walking down the street and notices that Dawn passes by and doesn’t give him a second look. It’s probably because both he and she are missing pieces or are only partially put together, seeing as how he, once again, has screwed up a relationship. As freaky-cool as they look, Morris put an exceptional amount of time into the bystanders, including my favorite ghost in the world. Really well done cover that thematically is right in line with this issue’s story. Taking a more humorous turn, and the one I had to purchase, is the Variant cover by Rebekah Isaacs and Dan Jackson showing Xander and Spike’s version of the Neil Simon classic The Odd Couple, with Mr. Harris being Felix and Mr. Pratt is Oscar. Xander’s reading of the latest issue of The B.P.R.D. has been interrupted by the bathrobe and one sock wearing Spike, clutching a photo of Buffy, a cup of joe, and several copies of Soap Opera Digest. It’s funny and an image that will never appear anywhere else, so I had to get it. Using bright yellow as a background to this image makes the characters stand out wonderfully. Overall grades: Both A+
The story: “I Wish” Part Two by Christos Gage and Nicholas Brendon is the ultimate pairing of Xander and Spike, who have moved in with each other. The dialogue between the pair is as good, or better, than anything you would have seen them lob at one another on the television series. If you’ve never seen the series, this issue is the perfect introduction to both characters. As the two make jabs at each other as they move boxes into their room, across the hall in Buffy, Dawn, and Willow’s apartment D’Hoffryn lectures Giles on what should and should be put into the book of magic, as whatever is written will come to exist. The demon leaves after telling the young Rupert not to write a spell that would change him back to his appropriate age. This angers the teen, but some words from Buffy calm him down. Cue Xander and Spike walking in, with Dawn’s appearance making Xander go weak. He’s ushered out of the room by Buffy who has perfect words for him at the bottom of Page 6. This was a sweet moment, with nary a baddie in sight, and it was a highpoint of the book–the moment is that perfect. This leads Spike and Xander to go out drinking where, naturally, something happens, but not the something you may be expecting. I loved this story. It focuses on two supporting characters, revealing what their strengths and weaknesses are and showing why they are such fan favorites. The return of a dead supporting character made me so happy, as her dialogue killed every time she spoke. The last panel on 19 had me giggling like crazy and the last panel of 21 had me screaming, because he WILL do it! Absolutely fantastic writing. Overall grade: A+
The art: Rebekah Isaacs is an artist who is the master of the character aside. She has the ability to convey so much story with a character’s look. The bottom of Page 1 introduces her ability to do this as the story’s leads share a glance that sets up all that is to follow on the next twenty-one pages. Page 2 has Spike showing his devilish nature in the third and fifth panels, while Xander shows himself to be an overly emotional mortal throughout. D’Hoffryn’s magical exit is stylish and cool, yet not over the top–a perfect line for an artist to walk. All of Page 6 sent me swooning, with Dawn’s suggestion over her shoulder and Buffy and Xander at the bottom. The bar exit was straight out of Looney Tunes. I swear I could hear the classic cartoon sound effect for what occurred. The reveal on 14 would make H.P. Lovecraft happy and seeing what the boys have to do on 15 is a watermark moment for this pair. The visual of the complaining female character is priceless! The final shot on 19 was wonderful. Page 21 only has dialogue in the first panel, and the rest rely on Isaacs’s ability to tell the story. And I didn’t want to hear what was said, because I would feel exactly as that lone character does. My heart was on the ground. Isaacs never disappoints. Overall grade: A+
The colors: I would feel sorry for Dan Jackson, if he wasn’t so skilled. Think about the bugaboo this issue posed in its opening pages. Several characters in apartments, with unpainted walls. Any panels in this location are going to need a colorist who knows what to do to brighten things up, and brighten them up he does. Xander’s bright yellow shirt makes him a standout in this setting, and Spike’s leather jacket does the same for him. When in the girls’ place, the walls are painted an off orange to provide striking backgrounds. D’Hoffryn’s exit is a gorgeous blue. The green used on 12 was a great choice to go with the swirling yellow at the bottom of the page. When a ghost appears she’s subtly outlined in blue, and the panels that focus on her go green. The villains of the piece have some super highlighting done on all of their muscles to make them supernaturally strong. Jackson, like Isaacs, doesn’t disappoint. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Dialogue, scene setting, and a few key sounds are done by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. I really wanted there to be a unique font for the issue’s villains to show their otherworldliness, but what is done by this pair on the book looks fine. Overall grade: A-
The final line: The best continuation of a television series continues to impress. With issues this good, who needs the Slayer all the time? 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.