Review: Buffy #28, “Retreat, Part 3”

Right on schedule, Buffy #28 was released this week. This is the third part of the “Retreat” storyline, written by former “Buffy” TV writer/producer Jane Espenson.

COVER TWO
After last month’s issue didn’t feature Buffy on either cover, this time she’s on both of them. I love the Jo Chen cover -- her renditions of the characters actually look like the actors that play them, and the Willow/Buffy meditation moment seems to fit with this issue very well. The Jeanty cover has a subtitle slapped across the bottom, which I think was kind of unnecessary, though it didn’t obscure the artwork very much.

THE WRITE STUFF
At first, I didn’t like this issue, because of the Andrew focus of it, but upon re-reading it, I realized that it wasn’t an Andrew issue, he was just the vehicle used to tell the greater story at large (in a nod to Season 7’s “Storyteller”). The actual story itself has moved ahead nicely from the last issue -- there’s no specific indication as to how much time has passed, but the entire submarine has been buried and partially dismantled, so it’s been awhile.

Things I liked:
-The Buffy/Willow interactions (it’s nice when the cover also gives a nod to a key story point). Buffy admitting to Willow that she killed Dark Willow in the future was a huge weight off Buffy’s shoulders, but it wasn’t this overly heavy moment. It actually felt very much like something from Seasons 3 or 4 in that way.
-Giles enlisting Andrew to spy on the Slayers. Giles has always been the guy willing to do the less-than-savory things, and this is just another good example of that.
-SPOILER ALERT... Amy’s spy turning out to be the cat. It was completely unexpected, funny, and a nod to witchcraft all at the same time. Very well done, Ms. Espenson.

Things I didn’t like:
-The Willow/Oz scene. I didn’t get Willow’s objection to Oz’s ability to supress his magic, and though Espenson’s writing seemed to capture some of early-years Willow’s scattershot rants, it didn’t make it any easier to follow what was going on. In fact, in this issue, Willow vacillated between being too worried and too calm. Maybe she was just acting calm around Buffy to keep Buffy from worrying, and then venting to Oz, but it just seemed weird.
-Xander and Dawn... kissing... No. Just no. First off, given the timeline of the series, Dawn is either still jailbait or just beyond her 18th birthday. Xander should be about 23. Also, from a creative history standpoint, every single love interest of Xander’s has either turned evil or died, and in many cases it’s been both of them. I don’t want to see an evil Dawn. I don’t want to see a dead Dawn. But most importantly, I don’t want to see Dawn -- who’s always been a little sister to the whole gang, not just Buffy -- sucking face with Xander. It’s just weird (and yes, I know they laid the groundwork for this back in Seasons 5 and 6, but I don’t care).

THE ART STUFF
I feel like I keep nitpicking Georges Jeanty’s work -- which is solid for the most part -- but in an issue like this, which bounces so quickly between so many different characters, his style can serve as a detriment. Unlike past Buffy artists (from the pre-Season 8 days), Jeanty hasn’t tried to re-create the actors/actresses, instead choosing to interpret the characters in his own way. For the most part, that’s been fine, but there are times -- and it happens a lot in this issue -- where it’s hard to tell the difference between people like Kennedy and Faith and Dawn, or even Oz and Andrew. Fortunately, when there needs to be focus on a character (like in the Xander/Dawn scene), he does a good job of distinguishing them.

WHO IS TWILIGHT
No appearances from Twilight or even hints about him in this issue, so no update. I’m still going with Graham, though I’d really love an Ethan Rayne twist (sure, it would blow continuity from past issues, but it’d be so awesome I wouldn’t care).

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