After a bit of a slow burn in the last couple of issues, things really come to a head here. The pacing is brisk, and there’s no mistaking the urgency in tone. As Xander says, “I think this is the finale, Will,” alluding to the fact that the penultimate issue to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer portion of the Hellmouth event throws us right into the climax. Truths are learned but don’t necessarily feel earned, the implications of a shared soul between Xander and Willow begin to get more complicated, and an unexpected ally shows up to help.
Jordie Bellaire really gets things going here. From the point that we get into the Willow/Xander stuff, things just keep rolling. There are a couple of sections of exposition heavy bits that kind of gum things up a bit, such as the CliffsNotes version of what Xander is. While they do clear that up a bit, it also feels like something that had to be thrown in because Xander’s state has been so ambiguous, intentionally or otherwise, until then. What’s less clear still is Robin’s involvement with the Watcher’s Council. Actually, Robin, in general, is a bit of a mess right now. We learn the truth about his mother, which is not shocking, but his aspirations are rather befuddling, and while he’s definitely more emotional than logical there, it’s rather out there. His motivations regarding befriending Buffy are also nebulous. I did, however, really appreciate how Kendra was introduced to Xander and Willow. There are certain parallels to her original introduction and the obvious subversion, too.
David López turns in some of his strongest work here, with one exception. López’s strengths are creating really dynamic and atmospheric visuals which really elevate the setup for the climax; however, his likenesses aren’t the most identifiable, and while that’s generally okay when we’re dealing with very distinctive character models, it’s more problematic when you can’t recognize a character that’s literally setting up the cliffhanger. If you’re like me, it’ll take a good bit of obvious eliminations and a quick reread of some old issues to arrive at the logical answer. Raúl Angulo’s colors continue to elevate the artwork, with the climax being some of the creepiest atmospheric work I’ve seen in a while. Ed Dukeshire’s letters do so much to establish tone, voice, and intent. The different lettering for when Xander vamps out is such an effective way of letting us know which Xander is in the scene, and the crackly and amorphous text bubbles seen at the end tell you immediately that the voice is monstrous and powerful.
Overall, while barreling to the end, Bellaire and Co. do a pretty good job of keeping our heroes from being eclipsed by the epic scale of the evil they’re facing. I can’t wait to see how Kendra is going to lead a ragtag team to victory.
Creative Team: Jordie Bellaire (writer), David López (artist), Raúl Angulo (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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