Last time we were in Sunnydale, Buffy and Kendra seemed to have made their peace with each other. Xander’s a Big Bad of sorts, having gone full vampire and kidnapped Jenny Calendar for some reason. And, after a few months’ absence, Willow is back!
After a brief sojourn to England to follow the rise of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce through the ranks of the Watchers’ Council, we return to Sunnydale to a new group dynamic. Buffy and Robin are still making eyes at each other, Rose and Kendra are a sorta item, and Willow’s feeling a bit like a fifth wheel. Still hanging over everyone is Jenny’s abduction, and Xander is still at large.
Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert return as co-writers, and things really do seem to pick up quite a bit, after a rather decompressed start to the “Ring of Fire” arc. My only real criticism of the writing is that it does occasionally feel a bit disconnected from the earlier issues. It seems a bit like some of the exposition is meant to catch us up to a plot pivot that feels like it’s happened offpage. Other than that, I’m really glad to see the plot really start to move again. The other bit of the writing that I really liked about this issue is how they’re handling Willow’s return and the complicated feelings of the group towards that development. Instead of just going the easy route and having Willow get welcomed back into the fold, you feel the slight uneasiness of having a new element coming in. The Scoobies never really felt like an earned family in this iteration, and so the way they’re handling her reintegration makes sense. #StoriesMatter when they feel authentic; while these characters are “familiar,” it has to be recognized that they aren’t the same as their original counterparts and they will, therefore, have their own drives and arcs. One of the ways in which BOOM!’s version of the Buffyverse works well is in how it challenges preconceptions; while we started out with what seemed like a very familiar Scooby dynamic, this essential element has become heavily remixed recently and that really keeps things feeling fresh.
Ramon Bachs is back on art duty, and his work gamely splits the difference between likenesses and a slight cartoony vibe. The character work is expressive, and I do really like some of the background work. The one area which I’m rather apprehensive about is the outfitting of some of the characters. Willow and Buffy’s outfits seem a bit skimpier than in most of the previous issues and in contrast to the more modern vibe of this series, the outfits feel a bit 2005. Raúl Angulo’s colors are consistently impressive and they really do bring such an atmospheric vibe to many of the scenes. It deftly translates from romantic to violent to creepy. Ed Dukeshire’s lettering continues to be a standout, especially in the subtle shapes and font choices he makes. The scenes with Xander are a great example of this, where it’s instantly obvious that while he isn’t a demon, he isn’t quite human either. It carries so much menace and malice.
Overall, with Xander making his play and the stakes being raised for the new Scoobies, things are going to get really dark (and interesting!) soon.
Creative Team: Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert (writers), Ramon Bachs (artist), Raúl Angulo (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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