The nitty-gritty: After an issue exploring Kendra’s past to give her appearance some context, we finally get to some “Ring of Fire” realness. This issue is definitely setting up where this arc will go, and it’s – for the most part – successful. Relationships are set up to fall apart, so this is pretty par for the course.
At the core of the issue is Buffy and her insecurities about her relationships. On one hand, she has lost Xander and Willow. On the other hand, she has a burgeoning friendship/flirtation with Robin Wood. Her relationship with Kendra is competitive at best. Then, there’s Joyce’s (understandable) overprotective schtick since the whole Hellmouth deal. Parental tensions aren’t solely the purview of just Buffy though; Kendra’s deliberate separation from her family by the Watchers’ Council is briefly, but significantly, addressed here by Giles. Speaking of Giles and his relationship with Buffy, this becomes a straining point between him and Jenny, and I think that the reason why will surprise many.
Jordie Bellaire does an amazing job building up Buffy’s angst in this issue, addressing her problems with letting people in. Whether it’s her deflecting Robin’s interest or her mother’s concern, it’s very Buffy. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and how many of us are isolated from our friends and family, it’s become increasingly obvious why #StoriesMatter: They help us connect to a common human narrative, even when we’re alone. Buffy’s sense of loss and fear of rejection is amplified by her supernatural circumstances here, but it’s still a very recognizable story. Even though she’s no longer the only Chosen One, she still doesn’t know how to share the burden. She 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.
Where this issue falls a bit flat for me is the Giles/Jenny bit. Unfortunately, because their relationship was never really established, except for just being a thing, the fallout (despite being a really crucial moment to the philosophy of the series) just doesn’t carry nearly as much angst. The end is a major “?!?!” moment, and I’m glad that we’re going there though.
Julian Lopez and Moisés Hidalgo take over art duties here, and their work is pretty solid: good likenesses, clean lines, solid facial expressions and body language. This is the best the book has looked since Dan Mora’s run. Raúl Angulo and Francesco Segala’s colors are evocative and convey so much mood, whether it’s the warm familiarity of the library or the violently clashing palette of Buffy’s nightmare. As usual, Ed Dukeshire’s letters are top-notch, adding emphasis points in a way that basically allows you to “hear” these characters.
Overall, this is a solid start to an intriguing new arc. I’d really like to see what this “Ring of Fire” really is.
Creative Team: Jordie Bellaire (writer), Julian Lopez and Moisés Hidalgo (artists), Raúl Angulo and Francesco Segala (colorists), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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