Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Directly after "Wolves at the Gate Part III."
Me Being a Dick: Probably a bit dick of me to insert this here, but please check out my other blog http://www.tvthatdoesntsuck.today.com/ and comment. I get paid for it, so yay me. Plus, if you like reading this, you'll like reading that. So yeah, sorry. On with the Buffy goodness.
REVIEW: Easily the best conclusion to an arc so far, which alone justifies the rating I'm going to give it. But there is so much more at work in this book that just makes it a really stellar end to a good story.
We get an inside look at Renee's final thoughts with the first few pages, which leads right into the big clash of the Slayers and the Japanese vampires. The tragedy of the thing really hits home for those pages, but we're only given a moment to digest it. The huge battle kicks into gear right then, which sort of felt surreal to me, much like the climax of Serenity. We're hit with the Big Wash Death, then expected to be attentive enough for a heart-stopping battle. It's such an amazing writing technique, and it worked to a T here.
What I thought was admirable, and very true to the nature of the show, was that the book didn't lose the comedy in the midst of all the tragedy and intensity. There was a particularly funny moment with Giant Dawn battling a huge "Mecha" Dawn robot, which could have been the biggest flop of all time. Hell, when I saw it, I was ready to throw the comic across the room. Buffy can be and has been purposely campy, but please. A freaking Giant vs. Robot fight? They can't possibly make that work? But see they did. Seeing the robot imitate Dawn ("I like blue jeans. And irony.") was quite possibly the funniest moment of Season Eight. And Andrew, knowledgeable as he is in the field, coached Dawn through the entire thing. Gold.
And speaking of ______est moments, Dracula showing Toru what's really good was by far and away, no holds barred, what-the-f**k-are-you-kidding me, the most BAD-ASS moment of any Buffyverse comic we've seen so far. I'm not saying the outcome, but not only does that moment (and the one that follows) (and hell the entire issue) totally sell Dracula as a character I'd be glad to see recurring, it just is an amazing scene. Talk about taking an arc to the next level at the eleventh hour.
There's a lot more too. I'm purposely not really delving into much of what happens in the issue, because that's something you'll need to see on your own. Just some stuff to look forward to:
+ We finally find out a little about WTF was up with Snake Lady Jones from #10, as in what her name is and a bit about the roll she'll play in all of this
+ A very Buffy-like end, that definitely would have a song playing over it (think the end of "Seeing Red")
+ Xander growing as a character
+ Vampire slayage
At least as good as "Anywhere But Here," maybe as good as "A Beautiful Sunset." As near to perfect writing as we've seen. Great, great issue.
Art: Jeanty, at times, feels a bit too comfortable here. I feel like the likenesses are coming a lot easier to him, so he feels that he can kind of blur past them in the action scenes. Comparing the facial detail in the battle scenes here to that of, for instance, Buffy #4, Jeanty is obviously not trying as hard. However, in the moments that truly matter--the emotional impacty scenes, which this issue overflows with--Jeanty hits it out of the park. He still does a good job, and the only other little complaint that I have is that I wish he'd made an effort to make Dracula and Toru look a little different. They're both pale vampires with long dark hair, so it's quite easy to confuse them if you're looking at anything but their clothing.
Covers: This is Foster's best effort since #12 and is a marked improvement over most of his other covers. Dark Horse, however, decided to give this issue the exact same border colors as #14. I was searching for this in the comic store, picked it up, thought it was #14, and put it back. Looked like an idiot in the comic shop. C'mon. Give us a bit of variety. The variant cover here is Jeanty's best. 'Nuff said. After those attractive but consciously-campy covers with nearly flourescent colors in issues 13-14, it's very fitting that this emotional end would have such a solemn cover. Plus, the state of the sky kinda ties into the Twilight theme of the season.
Characters We Know: Xander, Willow, Buffy, Renee, Leah, Satsu, Rowena, Dracula, Dawn, Andrew
Season Eight Recurring Characters: Raidon, Kumiko, Toru, Saga Vasuki (snake lady from #10)