Previously, on Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer: We were introduced to the new “normal.” Thess is full-fledged Slayer who daylights as a pier worker in Santa Carmen. Speaking of Santa Carmen, there seems to be a nefarious undertow in this beachside town, and I don’t mean the riptide. Thess’ new crush also seems to not entirely be on the level… which feels very much like Buffy’s influence rubbing off on her. Speaking of Buffy… well, she’s still with Spike and they’re on a romantic getaway of sorts, but things are rather… off.
We start this issue off with a brief glimpse at the development of Santa Carmen, which may hint at why demonic activity seems to be so much higher in the area. While Buffy and Spike finally reach an honest place about what’s been bugging her, Thess and Anaya butt heads. Things generally seem pretty bad all around for Thess: demon hotspot town, overbearing substitute Watcher, shifty love interest, always being covered in demon ichor, etc.
Casey Gilly wastes no time in propelling this storyline forward. The Buffy and Spike bit is resolved quite nicely, and it’s nice to see that Spike really does understand all the nuances of her idiosyncrasies. Gilly writes Anya as a bit more of a caffeinated pest than her OG universe characterization, but she’s endearing in the way that she’s really trying to look out for Thess. Her concern also seems to extend beyond just her duties as a substitute Watcher during Buffy and Spike’s absence. My biggest gripe with the writing of Thess, thus far, is that even as a stately twenty-one-year-old, she still acts like a stroppy teenager, which I guess is partly the point? With this being the third outing of this storyline, I’m really hoping to see Thess’ character actually start to mature.
Nicola Izzo joins Oriol Roig on art duties, taking on the opening flashback sequence. Izzo’s opening pages have the whimsy of a Studio Ghibli-does-vaudeville production, and Gloria Martinelli’s colorwork imbues the proceedings with a warm, diffused, and almost golden tone for the most part. Roig’s work on the rest of the pages builds on his strengths: great dynamic panels, dramatic angles, and some great expressive work on some of the characters. The last panel of the issue has some serious emotion working for it. Martinelli’s ability to switch up palettes to truly get the mood right for each sequence is commendable, whether it’s the dark, moody lighting of the patrolling sequences or the psychedelic colors on a dance floor. Ed Dukeshire rounds out the team as usual with his stellar lettering. I really cannot express how much I appreciate how well Dukeshire conveys tone, volume, and vibe in every panel.
Overall, a solid second issue that builds upon the groundwork set, peppered with moments of levity, conflict, and mystery.