Timing: Directly after "Time of Your Life Part III."
REVIEW: After a nearly two month long wait, Joss Whedon and friends deliver the conclusion to the hyped Buffy/Fray crossover, "Time of Your Life." After some still-good-but-slightly-off-if-you-know-what-I-mean issues, Joss finally lives up to the standard he set in the fantastic #16, which kicked this arc off. Revelations--huge ones, in fact--are made, confrontations are had, and things get all sorts of stabby when Buffy faces off against the many, many people in the future who either want her dead or want to prevent her from returning home. With everything on the table, it's definitely the second-best conclusion to an arc we've seen thus far, ranking in just below Drew Goddard's fantastic #15.
There was a lot of plot to tie up here, so it's no surprise that the issue got a few extra pages. The awesome, but non-essential stuff was dealt with in a quick and neat manner, which enabled the story to focus more on the core of the arc and its ramifications on the characters. Harth presents a threat but is taken care of (not dying, obviously, as that's Fray's business if there's ever another series), Gunther's fate is revealed, and the Xander/Dawn fight their final battle with the Green Magic Serpent Things... along with some help from the woodland creature. Wow, never thought I'd type that sentence.
A lot of the main conflict, which can be boiled down to Buffy vs. Fray/Buffy vs. Dark Willow, is made up of action, but the dialogue and the final resolution to the conflict (c'mon, you don't think I'd give it away, did you?) is at once terrifying and sad. There are a few images here that you won't soon forget, I'll say that much.
Also, a major Who Is Twilight? theory is either proven or debunked in this issue (not sayin' which). Let's just say... what we learn leaves us asking more questions that ever before, yet is somehow satisfying. For now.
Looks like, thanks to Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, Scott Allie, and co. taking their time to make sure this issue gets done right, Buffy: Season Eight is back on track. I've had a damn rough past two days, but this issue sort of helped to take my mind off the shit. Thanks, guys. Loved the issue.
Art: Karl Moline is a force to be reckoned with. I thought we might have had to sacrifice a bit of quality in the pencils in order for Moline to get this issue out on time, what with the script being so late, but nope. His work looks good as ever. I will certainly miss his take on the Buffyverse characters, because he really put a lot of his own style into it, all the while making them look like them. There were a lot of epic action scenes and even more epic emotional shots that Karl Moline just nailed. Ah man, I love this 'verse.
Covers: Jo Chen has given us some of her best work for this arc, and this cover is just another shining example. Well, maybe shining is the wrong word. Veiny? A veiny example? The cover is a close-up on Dark Willow, and it's probably the most accurate likeness Chen has gotten. The reflection of Buffy in Willow's eye, the shape of her nose and lips, the crude veins stretching down her forehead and cheeks... stunning. Jeanty's cover, on the other hand, is his least impressive in a while. It's detailed and all, but it's just not as dynamic as his images usually are. His Fray likeness isn't really that great here, though his take on Buffy is awesome as ever. I just wish it were something a bit more than Fray and Buffy standing side by side, no matter how cool the future/present background is.
Characters We Know: Willow, Buffy, Fray, Erin, Gates, Harth, Gunther, Xander, Dawn, Amy, Warren, Twilight, SPOILER!: Riley, Kennedy. Wow, loaded issue.