In Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 12 #4

The Slayer's Seasons come to an end.

The covers: A trio to pick up for the Slayer’s final outing. The Regular cover is by Stephanie Hans and has the scythe planted in the foreground, like a supernatural Excalibur. The ground is smoking from its entrance into the soil. Walking away from the iconic weapon, Buffy Summers is shown turning her head into the sun, which could be a symbolic rising or falling on her future. Her hair in the breeze and the steam coming from the scythe give this some good animation. The colors are beautiful, with the sky absolutely stellar. Solid final cover considering what the first issue of Season 8 was. Willow’s energy shield is collapsing and all the evils that want to kill Buffy and friends are straining to get to her while she takes out Harth. This Variant cover is by Georges Jeanty and Karl Story with Dan Jackson and it’s awesome. I love covers that have the title disfigured by the illustration and this has top text crumbling under the monsters’ entrance. The creatures are great, Buffy looks sensational as she lays down the pain, and she’s already got an eye going towards the beasts behind her. I also like Harth’s reaction to getting some slayer smack. The colors on this are also great, with the energy from the shield looking sweet and the variety of monster hues spectacular. Everything about this is awesome. This was the cover I had to pick up and I did. The final frontpiece is the Ultravariant cover by Steve Morris, and I had to pick this up as well. This features all the protagonists looking at the reader as though they’re going into battle. Going clockwise from the bottom center is Buffy looking beaten but still holding the scythe, Faith about to raise a mace, Spike lurching forward for a lunge, Illyria is holding an ax, Angel holds a massive sword high, Willow hovers in the air with energy escaping her hands, Xander is held upright by wife Dawn, Fray is in armor and looks ready for the fight, and Giles is about to stand after being knocked down. The Scoobies are surrounded by debris against a violet sky which could stand for the dawn of a new day or the twilight of their lives. My physical copy of the book is much darker than the images I’ve found online. Overall grades: Regular A, Variant A+, and Ultravariant A 

The story: Buffy gives an animalistic cry of frustration at Harth’s words that closed last issue, but her mood changes to one of surprise when he grabs the scythe, takes it from her, and then kicks her to the ground. This causes three of her allies to consider this shouldn’t be happening because men can’t have Slayer powers. Faith answers, “They can’t. It’s, like, rule number one.” Fray believes it’s her fault because Harth is her twin. “That’s how he got the Slayer memories in the first place.” Giles chimes in on their comm units that men have had the power in the past, but they can’t endure it. “The power and memories that come with it drive them mad…Being a vampire is the likely the only reason he can do this. The lack of a soul must spare him from the insanity to which a human male would succumb.” He urges the Scoobies to run because history has been changed and they need to regroup. Angel, Spike, and Illyria shoot this down and attack Harth while Buffy rises bloodied. Willow and Dawn try to keep the portal up, but Willow’s powers are weakened and she crumbles. The demons enter the battle. Harth revels in his new Slayer boosted abilities. The demons are thrilled their leader has delivered on his promises, while the heroes wonder what they can do to stop them with Buffy down. This is IT! Joss Whedon and Christos Gage, with Gage providing the scripting, have one character make a sacrifice and it’s completely in line with this individual, but solves the evil throng’s threat too quickly. Better is the action on 9 – 12. This was much more effective because it got the pacing and pages it deserved to make it work. Pages 14 – 16 give closure and a surprising future to a pair of characters, while the final six pages deal with the fates of the survivors of this finale. Highpoints include the pair that start 16, the conversation that begins at the bottom of 17 and concludes on 18, and the narration that begins on 21. I was surprised by the conversation on 20. It felt tacked on to give a character a conclusion that never happened on the small screen. This neatly wraps up the five seasons that went beyond the show. I do have one major question for the creators of this tale: What song should be played for the final page? It’s killing me! Overall grade: A-

The art: I really enjoyed the artwork on this issue with the pencils by Georges Jeanty and inks by Karl Story, Andy Owens, and Dexter Vines. I do wish Dark Horse had stated which inker was responsible for which pages so I might praise them specifically. The opening panel of the issue is a terrific introduction to the title character with a tight close-up of her eyes, the blood of her victims around them, and the scythe before her. The next panel introduces Harth, who grabs the weapon, which has Buffy’s anger change to surprise, which will undoubtedly match the reader’s. The shock on Fray’s face at the bottom of the page is great. And, hey!, look in the background to see a famous television creature attacking the heroes that will soon appear in a Stranger book from Dark Horse. When the pair of heroic vampires attack Harth it’s great because the villain revels in powering up. Notice how Buffy is in the foreground and looks devastated at what’s occurred; this is a great visual reminder to the reader not to forget the protagonist. The shield that the witches create is epic and its fall at the end of Page 3 is cool and sad to see, as it focuses on Willow apologizing for not being strong enough. Harth’s reaction at the top of 4 is great and the third panel on the page is a great rouges’ gallery illustration. The third panel on 5 is a heart breaker, because every fan of this series will know what it represents. The shape of the character on 6 will be familiar to those that read a specific Dark Horse Comics series from last year, and the four split panels at the bottom of the page give the action tremendous motion. The fate of a character on 8 left me cheering and the arrival that ends the page was so cool! The progression to the action that ends 9 had me on the edge of my seat and lead to a spectacular visual collage on 10. The emotions on every characters’ face in the fifth panel on 11 is perfection. The progression on 12 is equally stellar, with the small visual in the fourth panel being a great trigger for what happens in the final panel. The bottom of 14 is a great visual to show a change. The outfits on the characters that begin 17 made me so happy, and the setting on 18 had me instantly realize what the final image of the book would be. Before that happens, there are two conversations that gives some characters closure and gives the reader some strong visuals to remember them by. The last page is a full-paged splash and if that’s the way this series isn’t going to go out, it’s a good one. Overall grade: A

The colors: Beautiful work on this finale from Dan Jackson. On the opening page Buffy’s eyes stand out on her perfectly colored face, while the splotches of red gore lead nicely to the scythe. With the artwork pulling away from the lead, the background is shown and receives some dark oranges to increase the tension. The bottom panel of this page has Fray get the brighter colors, being in the foreground, while those behind her are colored more darkly and the background is chaotic with yellow flames and tans for the burning sky. A turn of the page and cool blues communicate to the reader that Giles is looking at several computer screens. When Buffy rises at the bottom of 2 she’s colored very darkly, which dismisses her from the action and shows the mental state she’s in. The shield that Willow and Dawn try to brace is a powerhouse in yellow. Its fall has the background become a startling change to brown and dirty gray. The two giant sounds on the next page are fantastically bright that increase the power of the actions that created them. Blues dominate the end of 5, being both pretty and ugly. The crimsons in the fourth panel on 8 are shocking, but absolutely appropriate and had me cheering what they signaled. I really like the coloring in the first and last panel on 10, but to reveal what they comprise would spoil the story. Colors complete the change that is shown on 14, and readers of this series, and earlier seasons, will know what they signal. I like Jackson’s work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt have created this issue’s yells, vampire speech, sounds, dialogue, transmissions and narration (the same font), and scene settings. I can never complement this duo enough for their work with vampire speech, which is always a perfect match for the visuals of the specific speaker, the sounds, of which there are many epic ones this issue, and their scene settings, which always catch the reader’s eye with their bold font. Having the narration and transmissions be similar fonts don’t bother me in this finale because they’re not used at the same time. Overall grade: A

The final line: I would have preferred this been a longer series, because the fights are very quick and two characters’ conclusions are too rapid. However, Joss got to end this way he wanted and that made me happy. The final battle’s conclusion is clever and cool and made me happy. The final page also made me happy. This series made me happy. Best of luck in the future, Slayer. Hope to see you and Scoobies again. I’m really going to miss new adventures of the Slayer and her friends. 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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