In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #15

This makes me want to dig out my DVDs and start watching the series all over again.

The covers: Willow, Buffy, Giles, and Xander are walking past some palm trees onto the beach. Xander and Buffy are holding weapons, while Will and Giles spout pink energy from their hands. A colony of pink bats circle the group, with a blue mist swirling about their feet. This doesn’t faze them, as they all have on their game faces as they walk forward into battle. Another excellent cover by Steve Morris, and I love the Southern California setting. The Variant cover is by Rebekah Isaacs with Dan Jackson. I’m a fan of Isaacs, but I would have bought this cover just for the composition. Spike is being pushed through a glass window by a vampire version of himself. It’s some James Marsters on James Marsters action, making the Internet explode. Both Spikes look great, and I love that “Good” Spike is wearing a tee shirt that sports the book’s logo. I also like that the background is given a pale teal, so that both characters really stand out. Overall grades: Both A+ 

The story: The gang was confronting the demon Archaeus, when it convinced Spike to go over to the Dark Side and attack Buffy. “Relationship Status: Complicated, Conclusion” — which needs an award for one of the best story titles ever — by Christos Gage begins with a brief recap of the demon’s dialogue that turned Spike evil, which includes two flashbacks of his killing of past Slayers. Buffy can’t fight back, because she and the blonde vampire just renewed their love of each other, and she has feelings for him. Her friends can’t help because they’re too busy fighting monsters themselves. Archaeus continues to fan Spike’s fever to kill, and Buffy defends herself as best she can. The gang scream at Buffy to kill him and a decision must be made. There’s a lot of action in this book which squarely focuses on the trust Buffy now has for Spike, even when he’s gone back to being bad. Pages 6 – 9 are a fan’s dream realized. I can imagine the Internet comments now: “Why wasn’t this ever on the show?”, “I LOVE THIS!”, and “How could she do that?!” I like how Spike’s past killings were used to make him evil and how they constantly run through his mind as he’s trying to kill the one he loves. Every character contributes in a valuable way to this story, even Xander. I say this because Xander is clearly the weakest fighter of the group against supernatural creatures, but he’s one of the smartest. Once the fight has ended the gang goes back to their apartments to relax, and this is where Joss Whedon and his writers exceled, and this is where Gage excels. I’ve said it before, and I have to say it again: Gage could have these characters just sit in a room and talk and I would be thoroughly entertained. In this issue Dawn and Xander have a major conversation — and it made my heart stop several times, and Willow and Giles have a conversation that leads to one character using a lifeline to “phone a friend.” There’s a cameo by this individual in the final panel, who’s greeted too familiarly by the caller, and I can’t wait for this person to show up next month. Gage is always excellent on this book. Overall grade: A+

The art: Rebekah Isaacs gets to start out this book sensationally. Two flashbacks to William the Bloody’s killing of two Slayers, which then transitions to him holding Buffy closely, blood coming out of wounds in her shoulder, and Archaeus speaking over his shoulder like a demonic Jiminy Cricket. I love that Buffy’s expression is more of shock than horror–stunned that Spike would be doing this to her. The second page begins with an excellent setting panel, establishing where everyone is in relationship to each other. The focus then swings back to Buffy and Spike. The flashbacks continue for Spike and Buffy has to get a lot more aggressive in defending herself. Each of her moves suggest she could kill the vampire, but her face betrays the truth–she can’t do it. As with the story, Pages 6 – 9 are sensational visually, with the bottom of 7 being an absolute screamer. Page 11 is a wonderful heroic looking moment, and the next page’s change in point of view excellently shows what the heroes see. For all the excellent action in this book, it’s the quite moments I appreciate the most and Isaacs truly shines there. When people are just having a conversation every emotion on a character’s face changes the way I read or interpret the dialogue. A simple gesture, like a hand on an arm or shoulder, carries as much weight as swinging a blade at a baddie. The expressions on the speakers’ faces on the last two panels will leave readers with a smile on their faces in anticipation of what’s to come next issue. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Terrific work is also done by Dan Jackson who uses a wide array of colors starting right on that first page. I love the bright oranges of the flames and the shaded colors of the first panel, which spotlight Spike’s eyes spectacularly; the grey colors of a subway’s interior are a stark contrast to the first panel; the third panel has an emerald background which highlights the leads’ skin and hair; and the final panel turns crimson as Spike moves in to rip out Buffy’s throat with his teeth. Each panel increases in color intensity, matching the intensity of the story. Red in this issue is particularly strong, due to “bad” Spike, but it’s also used to highlight blood, sounds, and backgrounds for panels containing tense scenes. The lighting effects done on the magic conjured by Will and Giles is really impressive, which is often accompanied by a glare that makes their power more real. This is some good work! Overall grade: A+

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt provide dialogue, demon and vampire speak (the same font), the opening title, sounds, screams, yells, and scene settings. I love their demon and vamp dialogue and the sounds are great, with WHABAMMM being my favorite. Overall grade: A

The final line: Perfect reading in every way. This makes me want to dig out my DVDs and start watching the series all over again. 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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