In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 11 #3

It's impossible not to read this book and scream at the characters and thrill to the visuals. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: The typical twosome for fans of the Slayer to track down and both are, again, outstanding. The Regular cover is by Steve Morris and it shows Buffy and Spike walking through the destruction caused to San Francisco in Issue #1. Something to the right has caught the pair’s attention. Buffy puts a protective arm up to protect her lover. The looks they’re giving show them to be surprised at what they’re seeing. Increasing the tension is the text at the bottom that proclaims “Fight? or Flee…” The devastation in the background looks great and the characters fantastic. Morris has been doing covers for a long time for Buffy books, is there any chance of him doing interiors for an issue in the future? Can I send my money to Dark Horse Comics to assist? The Variant cover is another “Extended Scene” frontpiece, showing an event that occurs before this issue begins and it’s one to find! The script is by Christos Gage and the art by Rebekah Isaacs, colors by Dan Jackson, and letters by Comicraft. It shows Giles trying to dress appropriately for his age, which is thirteen. He took it upon himself to use a “top pop singer as a guide” and the results are roll on the floor funny. Willow and Buffy’s reactions, in dialogue and visuals, are hilarious. Priceless is the word for this cover. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: “A House Divided” Part Three by Christos Gage begins with a couple walking down a street at night who suddenly begin to run in fright after spotting a figure leaping over them, building to building. A surprise is revealed on the next page and Xander and Dawn, out for a walk themselves, witness what transpires. They’re not happy with what occurs, but are powerless to do anything to stop it. Meanwhile, Buffy and Giles are dealing with a forger who’s created a birth certificate and social security card so that the youthful Watcher isn’t taken away to a “Safe Zone” — an internment center for magical creatures. The papers are good, but the forger decides to up his fee after the fact. He says that “Princess” can pay or they “could just be Karlock’s dinner” — the muscle for the crook. Buffy and Giles share a look and it’s on! He uses his magic to incapacitate the man and she her fists to take down Karlock. The fight goes as one would expect, but the forger’s parting words to the Slayer are incredibly painful and true. Reunited with the rest of the Scoobies, Willow reveals what she thinks she’s going to do for her fellow Wiccans and it sounds incredibly like Dark Willow is rising. Making matters worse is the news that Spike brings to the group, which is compounded by an arrival on Page 8. What follows this arrival had me screaming at the book. The dialogue between the title character and the antagonist is incredible. I admit to cheering at the one word of dialogue at the bottom of 12. Gage sucker punched me on 14 and 17 floored me. I didn’t see that conclusion coming! I was an absolute wreck for the remainder of the issue and stunned with where this series is going. I mean, I knew that “that” location would have to visited at some point, but not like this! Christos Gage’s storytelling continues to give my heart palpitations. Overall grade: A+

The art: Artist Rebekah Isaacs sets up several surprises expertly. The first page follows all the expected visual tropes of a couple being stalked, but the first panel on Page 2 throws the reader in a 180, changing how he or she should have looked at the premiere page. The visage of the antagonist is savage, and foreshadows future troubles. Xander and Dawn look lost, making the events of the second page immensely sad. Buffy and Giles dealing with the forger and his muscle is a great visual sequence, with the art telling much of the story. Look at the really nice subtle movement Isaacs places in the fourth panel on 3, with Buffy’s hair splaying out as she jumps from her seat. I love the absolute calm on the speaker’s face at the bottom of the same page, absolutely unaware of whom he’s dealing with. The first panel on 4 is pure Isaacs, with no text in the panel, but the look between the characters speaking volumes. What Giles does to his opponent is awesome — love the reaction in the light! — and Buffy’s solution to her threat audible. The look the protagonists shoot one another as they leave the setting, again, tells the reader much of what they’re thinking. Willow’s close up at the bottom of 6 gave me goosebumps; she’s a woman on the edge and she looks as if it won’t take much to push her over. The action sequences are sensational; I can’t remember the last time this much space was devoted to a fight, let alone in such an enclosed location. The two panels on 15 are awesome — I swear I could hear music swelling as I looked on these. And look at the character’s face on the far right in the bottom panel: Holy cow! The last panel on 19 is a heart breaker! The characters at the bottom of 20 are even sadder, and try not to have your heart fall at the second panel on 21! OMG! I’m practically dying on every page! Reliving the visuals wears me out. Whew! Isaacs sends Gage’s tale into the stratosphere. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The first panel uses oranges and yellows to give a gaslight tone to the visuals, instantly transporting the reader to a classic horror chase. When the antagonist appears, notice how the colors get darker, emphasizing how hope is lost. They brighten when Xander and Dawn are given a close up and provides a smooth transition to the Buffy and Giles’s scene. I like how Buffy is given red to wear in the scene by Dan Jackson, which is a lighter shade than what Karlok is wearing, though if it were darkened they’d both be wearing the same shade. This is a nice visual play by Jackson that makes the final words on 5 even harsher. The coloring of Willow’s close up definitely has me on edge for what she’s planning. The bottom panel on 12 has a spectacular orange on black to inspire cheers. Pages 16 and 17 are Jackson’s high points in the book, but I cannot say what’s occurring without spoiling things. Jackson is gold. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt create dialogue, the story’s title, yells, sounds, an “official order”, the passage of time, and the tease for next issue. I’m a sucker for killer sounds and there are plenty to be had in this issue, but it’s the dialogue that really hits hard. It’s a simple technique, italicizing some parts of characters’ speech so that the reader “hears” their words more precisely, but I swear that the antagonist’s dialogue echoed through my being because I knew exactly how she sounded. Wow. Overall grade: A+

The final line: It’s impossible not to read this book and scream at the characters and thrill to the visuals. This is the best book of the week. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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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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