January is Buffy Summer’s birthday month, and, boy, did Dark Horse Comics have a gift for fans this year when it comes to the latest issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10! Written by master scribe Christos Gage and featuring fill-in artist Megan Levens, while Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #11 might be missing the undeniable talents of regular artist Rebekah Isaacs, it is so chock full of Buffy goodness that it might just be the most delicious issue of the season so far! Gage has a real knack for channeling an authentic “Whedon” feel into his plots and dialogue, so it’s no surprise that, as we head into part one of a new story arc titled “Love Dares You,” it comes with a big side order of our old friend, “the pain” (for “the pain” creates “the drama,” my friends).
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #11:
This issue opens with Buffy taking a swing at speed dating in an attempt to find new romantic possibilities in her life. The night is a complete flop, but Buffy’s not the only one feeling the pangs of love. Xander and Dawn continue to struggle with the inorganic nature of their current relationship, admitting that it’s “not like it was before.” Willow and her demonic lover Aluwyn begin to realize that their relationship is also prone to the occasional down swing. And, Giles visits Olivia and is forced to deal with her inability to continue their physical relationship given his new, younger form.
While the core Scoobies deal with their beleaguered love lives, Andrew, with the help of his new friend, Julie, comes to the realization that he might be gay. And, Spike, attempting to avoid romance all together, deals himself in for a few hands at the local kitten poker game . . . and ends up bringing several tiny tabbies home to live with him and Xander.
When Willow, Buffy, and Dawn get together to commiserate over ice cream regarding their romantic entanglements, the discussion ends with Dawn suggesting that Spike is a near perfect match for Buffy, that she’s never given him a chance since he got his soul back, and that maybe she doesn’t really want to be happy. When Willow agrees slightly, Buffy storms out, miffed over her friends’ opinions.
Later, when Buffy joins Spike on a little police work that involves “hitting things,” her sister’s words have an effect, causing her to look at her vampire co-worker in a different light, given that he always seems to know exactly what she needs. Catching the blonde vamp off guard, Buffy pulls him close and lays a serious and extended smooch on her former lover.
Happy Birthday, Buffy (and Spuffy) fans everywhere. What a great issue to release during the week of Buffy’s birthday! It feels exactly like the mid-season finale that it is designed to be, featuring a lot of juicy plot development and a chance for every character to have the focus. The disintegration of Dawn and Xander’s relationship is clearly destroying Xander and is absolutely devastating to follow. Andrew’s coming out is not only a huge moment for the character, but a moment that was long overdue in order to help fully move the character from humorous caricature to well-rounded, full member of the Scooby gang. The scenes between Giles and Olivia are written beautifully and continue to illustrate the dramatic potential of the character’s resurrection in his younger form. Nothing is wasted, and I could practically hear the rising music during the shocking and squee-inducing kiss at the end. It’s a moment that’s been building between Spike and Buffy since the first issue of this season, and Gage and Levens knock it out of the park.
Rebekah Isaacs’ cover. While Isaacs might not be providing the interior art for this issue, she does deliver a cover depicting our various romantic pairs in all their glory. It’s a gorgeous image and an obvious reminder of why Isaacs is beloved by the Buffy fan base.
No one can replace Rebekah Isaacs (but Megan Levens does a damn good job). Levens brings her A-game to this issue in a way that makes me overjoyed that she’ll be returning next month. Temporarily replacing a beloved regular artist is no easy gig, but Levens does such a great job depicting the humor, romance, drama, and action necessary for Buffy that I predict she will quickly join the ranks of fan-favorite Buffy artist like Issacs, Jeanty, Moline, Chen, Miller, and others.
Officer Hardwicke’s lil’ crush. Cause that’s just cute.
The return of kitten poker. It’s been a while.
The return of kitten poker. Because it’s never good for the kittens involved.
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
Fan reaction for this issue been very positive. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #11 received great reviews from Bloody Disgusting, Major Spoilers, The Pullbox, Comics Grinder, Fangirl Nation, and Geeked Out Nation.
Where do we go for here? Many in the fan base are overjoyed, but curious, as to what could be next. Will Buffy and Spike really make a go at it? Can romantic happiness ever really be a possibility for those characters? Does Dylan’s recent appearance in Season 10 forecast disaster?
Pulling a J.J.? J.J. Abrams may be talented, but it’s also been suggested that his stories spend a lot of time riding off the fumes of nostalgia for what’s come before. These suggestions have also been brought up in regards to this current issue of Buffy, given that Spike and Buffy are kissing again, another character is realizing their sexuality, and Xander and Dawn are having problems again. To me, this is a paper-thin argument and will be put to bed when we can see that these plot points are being tackled in a serious and meaningful way next issue. Gage has delivered, time and again, and has never been one to rehash what has come before. I don’t believe that he’ll disappoint us now. Have faith, my fellow Scoobies!
My Anya theory. Fans seems to still be speculating in regards to Anya, so I wanted to offer my two cents. My theory seems fairly obvious to me, but I could very easily be proven wrong down the road. I believe this is the genuine spirit of Anya (ghost Anya, if you will). Given that after the magic in our universe was rebooted, vampires gained certain abilities based on humanity’s perception of what they could do, I believe the same has occurred with Anya. She is our perception of what a ghost would be (an incorporeal, dead former love attempting to help someone in the living world). I can’t explain why only Xander (and kittens) can see her, but I feel like I’m pretty close to the mark here.
That all for now, Scoobies. I’ll be back soon with my review of the latest release from Angel & Faith.
’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!