In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 11 #8

The Slayer is down, but not out as Faith arrives for the fray. Recommended.

The covers: Faith is back and she’s helping the Slayer take down some foes who have been causing problems for the last few issues. But look closely — Faith has the scythe! Now that she’s powerless, can Buffy no longer wield it? Is she even still considered a Slayer? Artist Steve Morris has planted the seed of uncertainty in this fantastic cover. The characters look great and the colors are fantastic, with pink highlights on characters under a blue sky outstanding. I’m also a huge fan of Faith, so seeing her enjoying what she does is plenty to please me. The Variant cover features script by Christos Gage, art by Rebekah Isaacs, colors by Dan Jackson, and letters by Comicraft. Buffy spies an elderly woman on the street trying to take her groceries up some stairs to her apartment. Lifting the first bag, the former Slayer winces in pain, unable to do as she said. A solution is found, but not to Buffy’s liking. This is a funny and sad cover that sets the stage for what readers will find within. All the contributors to this cover also do the book’s interiors. Overall grades: Both A

The story: Buffy and Willow have had their abilities removed by the government so they can return to their apartment in San Francisco. After asking about prison tattoos, Xander asks if they really have had their powers drained, but Buffy interrupts that they should talk inside; two drones are hovering above them, symbolizing the government has them under close watch. In the apartment, Buffy pounds donuts while the gang wonders what their next step is. Buffy walks into her bedroom saying, “They’re watching to see if we do anything suspicious. Right now, the plan is for all of us to be boring and ordinary. Later…we’ll see.” A few days later, jogging through the park at night, Buffy encounters a former Wiccan being accosted by a big thug. Naturally, Buffy intervenes, but things don’t go exactly as planned. Page 5 will give readers pause and 6 will make fans wince. However, 8 and 9 will make elicit gasps; if you think you know the Slayer, you don’t know this powerless Slayer. As if these pages weren’t painful enough, Willow is shown encountering a friend on 10 and things don’t go as planned either, though with an equally strong emotional punch. Scripted by Christos Gage, every characters’ speech rings true, especially with 11 and the pair who speak at the top of 12. I really enjoyed how one character is referred to in the third panel on that same page. Two returning characters enter the story and their appearances don’t exactly bring calm to the group, though it does lead to Willow making one of the best statements to Buffy. Ever. Kudos to Gage for that dialogue. A plan is hatched, Faith returns (And that’s no spoiler, since she’s on the Regular cover!), and the gang makes their move to make things right. The issue ends on a cliffhanger with the promise of some major fisticuffs. This issue addresses if the leads are only valuable because of their abilities. “Ordinary People” shows that powers don’t make someone heroic. Another awesome read. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: Rebekah Isaacs continues to show she can tell a story and communicate emotions without dialogue. Even if one hasn’t read any previous issues, a reader can tell on the first page that Dawn and Xander are happy to see Buffy and Willow. The second panel continues the happiness between characters, with the third panel introducing a familiar weapon that takes Xander aback, rightfully so. The final panel introduces the Big Brother element to the issue excellently. Buffy’s posture and garb on the second page is the visual definition of someone who’s just done and is checking out of the world for a while. I’ve never seen the Slayer like this in a comic and it’s fantastic. Page 4 sets up a traditional Buffy battle, but 5 takes it in a different direction, with that final panel being visual gold — from the look on the character’s face, to the angle that the character is shown from. I’ve read every Buffy comic from Dark Horse, and Page 8 contains the most savage image I’ve ever seen, followed by the most dramatic response. There’s no dialogue on 9 and none is needed — Isaacs makes the reader feel everything the character feels. On 11 the reader gets to see Buffy sport something she’s never had before and I couldn’t take my eye off of it. Faith’s entrance is spectacular that, even though I knew she was coming, was outstanding. Page 21 also contains no dialogue and it features a very exciting, yet silent, entrance to a location. Isaacs continues to be one of my favorite artists working today. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: After being set in the colorless Safe Zone, Dan Jackson starts the book off with a nice explosion of color on the bus that Willow and Buffy return on; it’s almost a visual cue that the real world is being entered. The girls’ apartment has neutral colors on its walls, so Buffy’s clothes are bright, to get the reader’s attention and make her stand apart from Xander and Dawn. Willow also stands out with her bright hair and top. The conflict that happens in the park has some very bright colors to intensify the characters’ actions, but the red used on 8 is absolutely horrific. This is the panel that will be memorable for its actions and colors. The absence of colors that follows in several panels undeniably increases the character’s emotion. Pages 19 – 21 are set in exteriors at night, but rather than darken them so heavily that the artwork disappears, Jackson rightly cheats using dark blues to create the night sky. Jackson is a sensational colorist. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt are responsible for the book’s scene settings, yells, dialogue, story title, sounds, whispers, and the tease for next issue. The scene settings used for this book, this series, are continually bold and stand out, as do the sounds which punctuate all the major actions of the book. Normally I’m a strong proponent for sounds being in every fight, but given the action on Page 8, I’m glad that there weren’t any — it would have been too much. The final page features three characters whispering and it’s done so that the reader can still read what’s being said, but is small enough for the reader to know from the visual that it’s whispered. Every book done by this pair is excellently done. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Buffy and Willow have been prepared for any foe, except being powerless. Outstanding story as the two question their worth in the world sans abilities. The visuals continue to be superior, with one image being the most savage panel in the Slayer’s history. The Slayer is down, but not out as Faith arrives for the fray. Recommended. 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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