In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #19

Perfection on every level. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: Okay, Dark Horse. You got me on this issue. I had to purchase two copies, one for each cover. The Main cover is almost like a Norman Rockwell painting by Steve Morris that captures Giles bandaging up Buffy after the conclusion of a fight. They’re sitting at a table with a large window behind it. The Englishman is giving her words of encouragement as he tends to her and she listens to his every word with a smile. This captures the characters’ long relationship in one image. I wish this were print; Morris could name his price and I would have to have it. The Variant cover is by Rebekah Isaacs with Dan Jackson and it’s a take on Jack Kirby’s classic The Incredible Hulk #1 cover. It features preteen Giles transforming into his monstrous adult self as the Scoobies look on in shock. The title is “The Incredible Giles” with captions “The Amazing Boy Fuddy-Duddy!” and “Is he Man or Boy or…Is he Both?” A great homage with perfect art and excellent coloring. I really like the lettering on this, too. Overall grades: Both A+

The story: This is the story that one character has been waiting a long time for. “Freaky Giles Day” by Christos Gage and Nicholas Brendon (the actor who played Xander Harris on Buffy) have Giles getting his one wish: to be normal again. After he was brought back to life through magical means, he wasn’t his normal middle-aged self, he came back in his earlier teens. This has caused poor Rupert a tremendous amount of frustration since he no longer has the maturity to lead the Scoobies, retains his memories but is treated like a child by others, and can no longer have adult relations with any of his lady friends because it’s illegal. This issue opens with Willow laying out the premise: “Just for, like, a day. It’s not putting you back the way you were. It’s a spell that causes you to age rapidly. I’d have to reverse it, or you’d die within forty-eight hours. And it only works once…The reversal spell gives you a kind of immunity.” Giles quickly picks up his cell phone and begins to text someone while telling Willow “Now, please.” The B-story has Buffy’s father calling Dawn, telling her he’d like to meet with both of his daughters tomorrow. Buffy is not pleased that he’s contacting them since he never came out to see their mom while she was dying. Xander tells her he might have changed since then, but she’s not holding her breath. Two hours later at Giles’ apartment, the spell is cast and Rupert is changed. What’s the first thing he does? You’ll have to purchase the issue to find out, but it won’t be too surprising for long term readers/fans. As the day goes on Giles learns some hard truths about his life, as a “useless old sod” and as a child. It’s a fantastic character study with an ending that will make readers misty eyed. The meeting with the Summers clan doesn’t go well, and Buffy has an eye opening realization as well, with Page 11 being brutal. There’s also a good action sequence in this issue, and it, too, doesn’t go the way anyone expected. This stand alone story is superb. Overall grade: A+

The art: The first panel of this issue has a wide eyed, youthful Giles reacting to the news that he can be made an adult. It’s akin to looking at Pinocchio when he learns he can be made into a “real boy.” As Willow calmly relates what the spell can do, pay attention to what Giles is doing — it’s hilarious, with the expression on his face in the third panel perfection for the moment. Rebekah Isaacs has always been a master at putting expressions on characters’ faces and this book is a perfect example of them: Buffy on Pages 2, 7, 9 – 11, 19 – 22 (and, damn Isaacs, you had me right there with the characters in that oversized panel on the final page), Giles on 1, 8, 12, 16 – 22, Willow on 1, 3 (love that last panel), 6, and 17, and Xander on 2, 12, 16, and 17. My favorite panel of the book is the last one on Page 3: each character is blocked out perfectly, with their faces saying so much about each of them. There’s also a monster in this book and it’s something I’ve not seen before in a Buffy book and it looks great; when it opens its mouth it contains quite a nasty surprise. I admit that I first started watching the series after a friend’s prodding, justifying that it would have some fun action sequences and cool monsters. However, after watching every episode and reading every comic adventure, it’s the character moments that sing the loudest to me. These would seem to be the hardest for an illustrator to create, as there are no monsters or exotic settings: just people talking in an everyday space. The last four pages are gorgeous. They match the text seamlessly and each time I look at them while writing this review they’re continuing to tug at my heart. Isaacs creates images that make me feel the emotion of every word. I can’t look at the last page any more ’cause it keeps hitting me too hard. Simply wonderful. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: The incredible Dan Jackson does the colors on this issue. On the first page he shows his skills with a nice subtle change on Giles’ faces as seen through the lenses of his glasses. Look at the background work in the second panel as the uniform walls of the apartment are shaded in slight variations to create depth in the image. The lime greens on the third page when magic is used are spectacular; I never get tired of seeing the colors when Willow casts a spell. The final panel on Page 7 returns to a similar shade of green, but because emotional magic has kicked in. In fact, take note that whenever Buffy is angry in this issue, the background goes green. There is some outstanding coloring of flame when the monster makes his appearance. The highlight of the issue are those final four pages. Gage and Harris nail it with the script, Isaacs with her art, but Jackson sends it into the stratosphere with what he does with those clouds. Gorgeous. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Yells, dialogue, story title, phone text, settings, sounds, and demon exclamations are done by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. I like that Giles’ first words match the excitement in his face and the demon speak looks otherworldly. The job this pair does continues to impress. Overall grade: A+

The final line: One moment you’ll be cheering the characters’ actions, the next you’ll be tearing up at what is said. This is perfection on every level. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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