Previously, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Things are tense between Buffy and Robin right now… teenagers, they talk a lot but maybe don’t communicate all that well? The silver lining, though, is that Buffy and Willow seem to have mended some of their damaged friendship. Meanwhile, Willow’s experiments with astral projection lead her to discover a dark alliance that may have some major implications for the fate of the slayers, and perhaps the Scoobies as a whole.
Things pick right up from where we left off last month, with Willow witnessing some mysterious encounter between a big red demon and a hooded figure in the astral plane. Meanwhile, Robin meets Faith, a new Slayer in town, who has no real inkling about what a Slayer is or that vampires and other demonic brethren are real. Along for the ride is a doofy, new Watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. As the eighth issue of this arc rolls to a close, here’s where the group stands: 3 active Slayers, 2 Watchers, 1 major vampire threat, 1 powerful witch, 1 puppet master, and a new player who seems to want to end the whole Slayer deal.
Issue #20 (presumably) marks the end of another 4-issue portion of the “Ring of Fire” arc/event. The first bit was really kind of slow, and things have picked up somewhat since then. Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert have in the last four issues built up a pretty good balance between page-turning mystery and character moments. That being said, the balance still isn’t perfect since the aforementioned Ring of Fire is still a giant cipher. While things are definitely moving now, I’m not sure if the average reader is okay with waiting 8+ issues for a concrete idea of what is actually happening here. Perhaps this is why I’m going to spin the #StoriesMatter initiative on its head a bit from the angle of editing. A good story can be made into an amazing one with the right editorial touches. Speaking as a reader and having read the last 8 issues of this arc, I feel like this whole story could have been better told with a bit of reorganizing of the story beats, so that the urgency kept building. That critique aside, the “Ring of Fire” event has some really intriguing plot points going for it, and that final panel really lands a solid punch!
Ramon Bach’s artwork has much of the same strengths that I’ve praised before: The characters are expressive and, often, there’s a lot of visual humor that takes place, selling the moment; however, while I’ve generally liked Bach’s artwork so far, there were a couple of moments that kind of took me out of the moment. The first one is in the panel with Faith first talking to Wesley. There is no visual cue for why she even reacts to a bush in the first place, and it really feels a bit disconnected from the logic of the scene. The second issue I had with the artwork is that likenesses generally matter when you have two characters with similar traits in the same story; Bach’s Anya and Buffy are virtually impossible to tell apart, aside from context cues. Back to some positives, Raúl Angulo’s colorwork remains as atmospheric as always, whether it’s the eerie green cast of the astral plane or the neon glow of a diner. Ed Dukeshire’s lettering is stellar as usual, and if I read the issue correctly and interpreted the context cues accurately, actually serves as a mild spoiler at one point.
Overall, well, it would appear that the gang is all together now, and loyalties and betrayals are going to become a major plot point 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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