Here’s a quick summary of Issue #8:
This issue opens with Buffy grilling Spike and Xander over the missing ‘Vampyr’ text that controls the new rules of magic. Despite Willow’s protection spells, someone walked off with it. The gang quickly realizes the the absent Andrew is the culprit and sets off after him, tracking him via the magical “signal” of the book. His destination? Sunnydale!
Meanwhile, the crater that once was Sunnydale, California, is now the host of an annual Halloween party described as “Burning Man with cosplay.” It provides the perfect cover for an actual demon to attend, a demon who is on a quest for vengeance against the Slayer line after his wife and spawn were slain. A demon on a crash course with the current slayer, Buffy Summers!
Andrew makes it to Sunnydale and unearths a bomb shelter from his “Trio” days. Andrew activates a digital version of Jonathan and describes his plan to resurrect his friend to make up for murdering him by using the DNA the “Trio” stashed in the bomb shelter. He just has one thing he has to do first. Attempt to resurrect Tara McClay using the all-powerful text he is in possession of!
It’s easily the best issue so far. Both Gage and Isaacs are in top form in this issue. Many fans expected this team that was such a success on last year’s Angel & Faith series to soar again, but I have a feeling they’re just starting to spread their wings.
The return of Jonathan. It’s always a joy to see a beloved character return, and I don’t think fans will ever get tired of the everyman geek portrayed on screen by now accomplished screenwriter Danny Strong. This version of Jonathan might be just a digitized backup of his consciousness, but any version of the character is a welcome treat and his interactions with Andrew are perfectly scripted by Gage.
Seeing the Slayer from the demon’s POV. Multi-award winning artist Richard Corben illustrates the depiction of the demon’s tale of love and loss, providing powerful and unique visuals to match the unconventional voice of the story. It’s a neat addition that makes a fun addition to the issue, and Gage once again writes as if he shares blood with the Whedon clan (or, at the very least, been in the Buffy writing room since Season One).
Warren’s buried skin. This was a nice touch by Gage, especially the bits about Warren’s funeral, the brutality of Willow’s actions against him, and the lasting effects it still has on her.
Gage keeps a little Spuffy in the mix. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I continue to get a wiff of Buffy and Spike romantic flirtation in Gage’s writing. Even if it is only my imagination, there are some well-written scenes in this issue between the two blondes in the main cast and some interesting examination of Buffy’s feelings on ensouled vampires feeling guilty for their pre-soul actions. Gage has masterfully captured the specific intimacy and trust that Spike and Buffy share, and Isaacs nails the odd beauty of the moment with her visuals, especially her eerily breathtaking depiction of the buried Sunnydale.
The final reveal. Wow . . . The potential resurrection of Tara McClay is something that hits every Buffy fan like a troll war hammer to the heart! Like many other readers, I don’t believe we’ll actually see Tara live again, but if this is Gage tackling head on the elephant in the room created by Giles' return to the living, then kudos to the writer for having the courage to now show us why every character can’t (or won’t) be resurrected, despite Angel’s success with the Watcher he murdered.
The problem with Andrew. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but this pattern of Andrew making the worst decisions possible, over and over, is wearing thin on me. It’s especially bothersome given the number of “Andrew’s learned a lesson” or “Andrew’s accepted as a member of the group” episodes and issues we’ve had previously. Why are the writers and the character stuck in this pattern of maintaining his status quo as an untrustworthy idiot? Will he ever really learn? Is this because of the limited way the writers view the character? Where is the slickster Andrew from Angel’s ‘The Girl In Question?’ Where’s Andrew, the Watcher who volunteered to sacrifice himself to Simone to prevent further bloodshed? And, furthermore, how can The Scooby Gang deal with a member who they openly admit they can’t trust? Maybe I’ve been misreading the characters, but I felt Andrew was past his “dumb evil” stage, but, apparently, he still has a few miles to walk in those ill-fitting shoes.
The Google glasses were dope, though.
We’ll miss you, Scott! How much do I wish it wasn’t Scott Allie’s final issue? A whole heck of a lot! Scott has been a trustworthy shepherd for the Buffy comic verse for 16 years, and we’ll miss him greatly, but he’ll be stepping down from the series and passing the torch to Dark Horse’s Sierra Hahn with this issue. Allie will still continue his work at Dark Horse Comics, but it’s his time as guardian of the Slayer that will always keep him close to the hearts of me and my fellow Scoobies.
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
Fan reaction for this issue been extremely positive. Angel & Faith: Season 10 #8 received excellent reviews from Bloody Disgusting, Pop Wrapped, Infinite Comix, Unleash The Fanboy, The Fandom Post, and Geeked Out Nation.
Is Tara coming back? No. That seems to be the general consensus on the matter, but readers seem torn on whether this is a cheap way to tease fans or an intriguing exploration of a world where resurrection has become a concrete possibility.
How’s this ensouled thing actually work? While Gage broke new ground by having Buffy admit she considers pre-souled Spike a different person than ensouled Spike (similar to the Angel/Angelus personality split), it did spark some debate among fans. This post by Stoney at Whedonesque.com seemed particularly insightful to me:
“The way Buffy talks about it always seems to see that break in a more complete way than it exists to me. As others have pointed out, Spike didn't fight for his soul to change himself and let someone else take over his body, he did it to be a better man, to gain those moral boundaries. Angel isn't on a path of redemption because someone else committed all of those crimes and he doesn't struggle with his internal demon and yet remain entirely separate to it. I can see why Buffy has wanted to keep the dividing line so strong, but they obviously aren't completely different people and it reduces their stories to see them like that and makes their guilt illogical.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Gage and Dark Horse tackle this take on the issue or if Buffy’s understanding of the issue will be the final word on the subject.
That all for now, Scoobies. I’ll be back soon with my review of the latest release from Angel & Faith: Season 10.
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
If you’re craving more goodies from the Whedon comic-verse to feed you addiction, then don’t miss my “Comic Patrol” posts every Friday at www.whedonopolis.com! “Comic Patrol” is a regular, weekly feature pointing out articles, previews, and tidbits relating to the Whedon comic-verse, and it’s hosted by your friendly, neighborhood Comic Book Slayer! I’ll see you there, comic book sniffers!