I'm going to keep this spoiler-lite. A new threat is introduced, and things are going to get very difficult for Buffy. Meanwhile, Buffy’s self-loathing continues, and her competitive/antagonistic relationship with Kendra hits a new low, resulting in a serious injury to a mutual friend.
Whew… while it may feel like not a whole lot happens in this issue, Jordie Bellaire drops some serious angst on us on several fronts. Bellaire and Co. seem to be taking this new arc to set up the new status quo in Sunnydale, and the more decompressed pacing seems rather deliberate. The new threat plays a bit with some of our expectations, given the imagery and language, but the reveal shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you’ve been paying attention. In my review of the previous issue, I pointed out that “[Buffy] pulls away from the people in her life, not seeing that it’s not just hurting herself, it’s also hurting the others around her.” Buffy’s internal turmoil is still front and center, but unlike the previous issue, she now sees how her pulling away from those who can help her can have dire consequences. This issue’s #StoriesMatter observation is brought to you by Robin Wood when he says, “I just wish you liked yourself,” in response to Buffy’s self-flagellation. It’s a lesson that not all of us are fortunate enough to learn in time, but self-loathing is a common trope in fictitious work aimed at young adults, because so many of us can relate to it. Unfortunately, that inner pain can manifest in very destructive ways, though I guess we’re all lucky that we aren’t Slayers with the weight of the world on our shoulders… It’s probably a cliché to say, but good clichés bear a nugget of truth: changing the world for the better requires us to recognize the good within us. You need what’s within to affect the without.
After David Lopez’s extended stint on this book (Issues #5 – 12), it’s pretty surprising that we’ve yet another change in the series artist. Ramon Bachs takes over, and while his work doesn’t quite have the sophisticated likenesses from the previous issue, it’s very dynamic and expressive. Raúl Angulo’s colors wonderfully convey mood and atmosphere; whether it’s the danger of the villain’s lair, the romantic wash of a first date, or the poisonous air of the big fight scene, Angulo’s colors effortlessly take you there. Ed Dukeshire’s letters are fantastically understated in this issue, except for when they really need to pop, and then, boy, do they get in your face, in a good way, of course.
Overall, while in general uneventful, Bellaire et al. deliver some great character moments with the promise of more heartache to come. While I do appreciate the decompressed pacing, I’m chomping at the bit to see how this “Ring of Fire” arc plays out. A BtVS multiverse sounds like a really cool prospect and could have the potential to get fans really excited.
Creative Team: Jordie Bellaire (writer), Ramon Bachs (artist), Raúl Angulo (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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