In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #18

Action and characterization are always equally high in this series. Highest possible recommendation of the week.

The covers: Before a page has been seen, Steve Morris has set a fantastic tone with this frontpiece. Buffy is walking away from an upset Angel at an airport. Her cross necklace is tossed aside as she proudly makes her way from him. The emotion on both characters tells a story; it looks as though she’s finally made a decision about her relationship with her old flame, and she’s not going to listen to another word he says. The coloring is perfection, with the obscured moon and its reflection on the tarmac, the faded/foggy quality of everything in the illustration save Buffy, and the neon quality of her necklace. This is beautiful. Interior artist and colorist Rebekah Isaacs and Dan Jackson are responsible for the Variant cover. Angel and Spike are storming off somewhere, each eyeballing the other. Buffy is behind the pair, trying to hold them back by the tails of their leather jackets. She’s not having much success, as the boys are pulling her forward as evidenced by her heels creating a cloud of dust. Excellent layout and perfect colors. This image sums up the iconic Buffy triangle. Overall grades: Both A+

The story: Last issue’s penultimate installment of “Old Demons” ended with the demon Archaeus putting the whammy on Angel, who’s turned on his friends and began attacking them, starting with sticking a sword through the chest of Buffy’s new/old beau Spike. Being the undead has its perks, as Spike pulls the blade from his body and now has two swords to use against Angel. Buffy tries to keep the boys from killing each other but is interrupted by the Big Bad. As this is going on Andrew is using some of his nerd technology to analyze the artifact, the “Restless Door”, to see how it can be destroyed, while Willow, Xander, and Giles are providing interference with the minions. He determines that Giles is needed to get through the protections on the item, but the youthful mage is occupied. This is the traditional “chaos is happening everywhere” scene that’s found in most stories and writer Christos Gage does this superbly. There’s so much going on in every corner, it’s amazing that anyone can hear the other bellow at them. There’s a sensational turning point on Page 6 that was going to happen at some point, but I had not seen it originating from this individual. Doing this had this character grow incredibly, and strengthened the bond between this often warring pair. The conclusion of the battle isn’t really in question, but is expertly summed up by Xander, “It never goes well when I ask this, but…did we win?” The bottom of Page 14 shows there may be more to come. I loved the rage from the character that scolds the group on Page 15; he’s always good for some dark humor (bottom of the page) and some foreshadowing. It’s what follows this character’s exit that the book went to the stars for me: it’s all character development. The characters say their good-byes now that the fighting is over and Gage shows how their relationships have changed or remained the same (the third panel on 17–You’re killing me, Gage!). Every panel on every remaining page has an honest, almost gut wrenching line, where someone is putting their heart on their sleeve for someone to see or disregard. The big question is what’s Angel’s take on Buffy and Spike’s relationship, since it went so badly previously. This is why you’re buying the book and this is why you want this issue. I was on pins and needles when the two vampires had their scene — I thought there’d be no topping it, but the shoe drops on Page 21’s final panel and all of 22. Only Willow is around to hear what’s said, and it’s haunting. Damn, what an ending! Overall grade: A+

The art: I’m completely biased when it comes to the artwork of Rebekah Isaacs. Everything she illustrates looks outstanding. Take a look at the first page to see the amazing talent she puts before you. A tight horizontal panel that contains the story’s title shows a tight close-up of Spike’s back with a bloody sword sticking out of it; this shows/reminds the reader of last issue’s cliffhanger. Next is the largest panel on the page establishing several characters and their locations: Willow knocked down from a supernatural blast, the oversized demon laughing at the dueling vampires, Buffy beginning to rush over to the boys, and Angel holding the sword that he’s spiked Spike with. The next panel has Spike giving Angel a left, allowing him (in the next panel) to pull the sword from his chest. The final panel is the “heroic bad-ass” panel, as Spike looks at the reader from Angel’s perspective; he’s holding both blades, with the bloody one that just impaled him in the forefront. Wow! A reader could understand everything that’s going on without the dialogue because the characters’ faces and stances communicate exactly what the text is stating. Page 5 has a great moment for a pair of characters, with the battle’s duration showing on their faces, yet they resolve to continue strong. The top of 7 has two good parallel panels that show the reader why someone is making a change. The choreography that Isaacs is setting up with all the characters going after Archaeus is outstanding, as she’s constantly moving the perspective around, giving the massive fight a slick sense of motion. My favorite action is the top of 13. After the battle, the conservations that take place in the girls’ apartment are just as great, with Isaacs pulling in tightly on characters when they say something strong, which happens often with what Angel and Spike have to say. This should be a textbook for up and coming artists on what to do. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The first half of the book takes place in a warehouse and the last half in an apartment. These locations don’t exactly scream a coloring challenge. Anyone would be expected to make the former brown and gloomy and the latter some sort of cheap, faded color. Thank heavens for Dan Jackson! In the first panel he shows that color can put an extra punch into every image: the metal blade drips crimson against a green background. Reality’s colors appear in the second panel to show where this action is occurring, but Willow is smoldering in sickly green smoke, the flesh and bone of the Big Bad dominates, and Buffy’s lime green top makes her a reader’s focus. When Spike swings at Angel, the background goes orange to emphasize the action. As Spike strikes his heroic pose, the background goes blue-green to highlight him and his weapons. I love the blues that emanate from Giles, the greens and oranges from Willow, the yellow-orange when the trio spring into action on 12, and look at the subtle color change when the Buffster and Angel have their moment: it goes pink — I’m a guy and it made my heart flutter. Nothing short of brilliant work. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Story title, demon speak, sounds, yells, dialogue, a passage of time and the tease for next issue (the same font) are created by Buffyverse go-tos Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt. Archaeus’ speech looks amazing and gives him an instant visual otherworldliness just with its style and the sounds are gloriously grand and gory during the battle with the Big Bad; WHTHTCH and SHHLKK being my favorites. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: Action and characterization are always equally high in this series. Highest possible recommendation of the week. 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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