Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Short while after "Swell."
REVIEW: With #20, #21, and #22 really getting far away from the central cast of Season Eight, I was glad to have at least Buffy back in play for this issue. I was even more excited about the prospect of pairing her up with Andrew. When the spotlight shifts to that character, you can always expect to be entertained. I mean, just look at "Storyteller." In the face of darkness, he brings the much needed funny. On writing duties is Drew Z. Greenberg, who joined the writing staff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the last two seasons. This is by far his best work other than 6x18, "Entropy," but he still hasn't managed to elevate the season back to where it should be and was. The Andrew dialogue is very chuckle-inducing, but Drew Goddard wrote Andrew dialogue that made me crack up. The sheer length of Andrew's raves and rants about pop culture in this book is probably the funniest moment, but I do wish a bit more work had gone into refining each line of dialogue.
What was great here, though, was the relationship between Buffy and Andrew. It's a simple story, showing how Andrew is trying to make up for letting Simone slip through his fingers by catching her, but it's very well told. The comic made me feel like I was watching an episode of the series, and that hasn't happened with Season Eight in quite a while. Buffy's dialogue is on point, and the little we see of Xander was also very well done. I love what Greenberg did with Simone, having her attitude, headquarters, and especially her larger setting as a whole (an island that she basically stole; don't tell Ben Linus) speak for both the crazy place her head is at and how deep the hatred for slayers currently is. For what seems to be a minor part of the issue, it was a great piece of character and plot development.
The one major problem I had with this issue was the climax. This is going to be pretty spoilery for the end of the issue, so highlight to read. (SPOILERS:) After the Italian Branch of Slayers comes to rescue Andrew (and Buffy, as an after-thought, which was a great touch), Buffy frees a Ragna Demon (sort of like the spider demon from Spike's "First Night" story, but much nastier and less human-facey) and leaves the room, shutting the demon in with Simone's slayers. Very odd. Would Buffy really let a demon loose among slayers, no matter how misguided they were? A demon that previously managed to capture a slayer, no less? And wasn't this already done with Angel when he shut the W&H lawyers in with Darla and Drusilla? Repetition of story lines aside, this could have been a great, truly telling moment that showcases how grey Buffy's morality has become. It's hundreds of times worse than her robbing banks, and could have been the character's turning point for the entire season. But it's not played that way. It's played with her taking Andrew home, telling him that he's part of the family and they all mess up sometimes. When Angel did this, it launched an entire beige Angel arc that showed how much he had forgotten what it meant to be a hero. But, in this issue, Buffy just lets the demon loose and then move on. What is going on?
If the ending had been different, this would have been very, very enjoyable. I still like the issue, and still thought the majority of it was good, but I can't get over the carelessness with which the ending was written. The rest was good enough to still give the issue a very high score, though, so there's that.
Art: Jeanty is Jeanty. His likenesses are spot on. The art here does seem rather rushed, and he is definitely giving less detail to characters in long distance shots, which was once his biggest strength. Simone's reaction panel when the Ragna is let loose seems to have been done by a different artist, especially because the colorist makes her blond. On the other hand, there are totally exceptional scenes like the Ragna's "web" of iron and steel. Overall, another good job from Mr. Jeanty.
Covers: As usual, Jo Chen impresses. She gives us the first realistic, painted look at Simone. It's a wonderfully done piece. Her Buffy likeness just keeps getting better and better. When you compare this cover to Chen's first cover of the season, it's phenomenal how much she's improved as an artist. Fantastic work. Jeanty's cover is definitely funny, showing Andrew as a Bond-esque figure with Buffy as his Bond girl. I don't get the logic behind putting it as a photo on a wooden table, which is way too similar to Jeanty's #8 variant. It would have been a better cover had it just been the Buffy/Andrew image as the full sized cover.