The covers: Steve Morris provides the art for the Main cover which has a great stylized cover looking like something from the 1950s. Against a neon green background, Buffy stands proud holding her axe, as a skeletal hand reaches for her from a stream. Behind her are a trio of Trick-or-Treaters walking on a crooked path that leads to a squid holding a trident. Great art and fantastic coloring. This would be a great print. The Variant cover is by Rebekah Isaacs and Dan Jackson, and this looks like a magazine cover. Headlines include “Kick Evil right in the Hellmouth,” “Stakes: The Good, the Bad, and the Pointy,” “Dark Overlords: Worth It?” and “17 Prom Fight Tactics You Won’t Believe!” The text is funny and the image is also funny, with Clem the Prom King, trying to ignore Buffy and Harmony who involved in a cat fight. Funny art and funny text equal a winner. Overall grades: Both A
The story: “Return to Sunnydale” Part One begins with Buffy chewing out Xander and Spike for losing the Vampyr book, which will allow anything written in it to become realized, often with bad effects. Giles realizes that Andrew is missing and probably took the book. Using magical G.P.S., they see he’s heading toward Sunnydale. It’s Halloween and several people have gathered there to party at the entrance to the Hellmouth, “Think Burning Man with cosplay.” Buffy comments, “Those lunatics just made themselves the perfect sacrifice.” What follows was an utter surprise in Christos Gage’s story–Cthulhu appears in backstory. There’s some history given to this tentacled monster who’s walking around with the revelers at the Hellmouth. Nearby is Andrew with the book, doing something no fan would suspect. Great idea for a story and a great way to get Richard Corben to illustrate a few pages of this story. I love Andrew and I was completely conflicted with him–Is he up to no good or not? There’s a great scene between Buffy and Spike that will make fans of this pair sigh. It’s great to see Willow powered up, but still not up to her previous levels of strength. The last two pages are slick teases for next month’s installment, and I cannot wait to see what Buffy, Willow, and Andrew do! Overall grade: A
The art: Rebekah Isaacs is doing the super visuals, but a surprise treat are the three pages drawn by comics legend Richard Corben. He does the backstory of the Cthulhu character and they are fantastic. I am a huge fan of Corben and to have him do any work is a treat, but to have him integrated in Buffy is a feast! I was very impressed that when the story shifted to the present Isaacs was able to maintain Corben’s design on the character, but have him/it drawn in her own style. Really, really cool! The opening three pages as Spike and Xander play the blame game is a lot of fun, as everyone is pointing fingers of guilt of each other. All that was missing was Spike using two fingers for a different meaning. Andrew is completely in nerd mode and Isaacs has him look equally evil, lost, and overwhelmed as he tries to achieve his goal. Also impressive is Isaacs’s ability to move her point of view around, as she’s dealing with some pretty crowded quarters in an apartment and the final setting. This book looks great, as does everything by Isaacs. Overall grade: A
The colors: Beautiful work from Dan Jackson on the Isaacs’s pages. There are some really nice flame effects when the partiers are shown at Sunnydale, and his shading on characters’ faces creates a great sense of emotion, such as Buffy in the first panel of the first page and Andrew at the bottom of Page 2. There’s also some pretty cool blue work he provides on the character that first appears on 13. Page 17, panel two had some really sweet coloring to show the powers in play. There’s also some terrific shading he provides on the backgrounds of the final four pages that create a lot of depth. The Corben pages are colored by Beth Corben Reed with Richard himself. They are strikingly bright and glorious and perfectly suit what’s occurring. Fantastic. Overall grade: A
The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, the story’s title, Cthulhu narration, sounds, an evil cackle, and Andrew narration are all created by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. They all look great, and the variety of fonts are the perfect visual clues for readers that a change has happened in speakers or thinkers. Overall grade: A
The final line: The perfect starting point for new readers and the a fantastic continuation of the misadventures of the Scooby Gang for long time fans. Fun, frightening, and Corben! 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.