This issue is quite Xander-centric, with a rather deep exploration of Xander’s insecurities. It’s a whole new side of Xander that we’ve never been privy to before, and while this is an alternate universe version of him, there are moments that definitely ring true and hit kinda hard. Sarah Gailey allows Xander’s plight to drive the plot here, depicting a darker side to his happy-go-lucky persona. With the introduction of a familiar face, things seem to be getting more urgent, and it would seem like the actual Slayer would need to step in soon. All that being said, this hasn’t made for a seriously compelling series so far. “What if?” stories are a bit of a mixed bag for me. It’s one thing to exist as an interesting side thought, but my personal take on things is that they should absolutely matter more by actually impacting the main narrative. On that criteria, I’m not quite sure if we’re there just yet.
Michael Shelfer takes over on art duties, and his linework jives with the earlier issues. There’s a lot of character work in here, with an emphasis on Xander’s reactions for the most part, and Shelfer’s artwork offers quite a bit of sensitivity here. Likenesses aren’t really a factor, but Xander’s emotions get to stand front and center. The colorwork by Valentina Pinto is pretty solid with the excellent mood-work. A slight criticism I have is that there seems to be a bit of a disparity with the coloring of Spike and Buffy’s eyes, where instead of the usual blue for the former and green for the latter, the coloring seems to have shifted towards brown and blue. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but it’s definitely a detail that jumped out at me. Ed Dukeshire does his usual with the lettering, which is not to say that it’s anything to sneeze at, but at a certain point, we come to accept excellence as the status quo.
Overall, after a pretty heavy exposition type issue last month, this issue takes a bit of a break from that and focuses primarily on Xander’s emotional state. With the stakes picking up quite a bit, I’d expect for the next issue to pick up quite a bit.
Creative Team: Sarah Gailey (writer), Michael Shelfer (artist), Valentina Pinto (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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