This might be my favorite Jo Chen cover of the entire run. The imagery of the supporting characters is spot on. I'm not sure I've ever seen Faith (Eliza Dushku) drawn so accurately before. And I actually like the symbolism of Buffy dealing with all these conflicting opinions bouncing around in her head. Meanwhile, the Georges Jeanty cover is an homage to Uncanny X-Men #138, which also actually works for the issue itself. Buffy finds herself cast out from the rest of the group (and you'll notice that Angel isn't part of that background group). Also, just like that Uncanny X-Men cover, the background of Jeanty's cover is made up of previous Buffy Season 8 covers, which are a mix of his covers and Chen's covers.
THE WRITE STUFF
Because of the sex in the last issue, a lot of people glossed over the actual story, which really changed -- or supplemented -- a lot of what we knew of the Slayer mythology and the purpose of The Slayer. This issue hashes that out more from both ends. I think Brad Meltzer did a solid job being tasked with such a heavy burden.
When you're going into something like the Slayer Mythology, which people have preconceived notions of (including notions from non-canon stories that color their opinions even if they shouldn't), you're bound to piss off some people. But I actually like the idea that THIS, rather than the elimination of all demons, was the true destiny of the slayer. And I like even more than Buffy rejects it, because, as she says, "I never do what I'm meant for."
While this issue was very dialogue heavy, I think it was necessary. Remember, Buffy and Angel never got to talk after they had sex the first time, at least not on a reasonable level, so this was a conversation long in the making. It's also amazing that they've now had sex twice (I'm counting all of Issue #34 as a single marathon session, not separate instances) and both times its been destiny altering.
Now, as for the big reveal at the end of the issue ... I'm giving you one last SPOILER ALERT to get out of here if you really haven't read it...
Having Angel be Twilight was tough enough, but adding Spike into the mix really messes with things for those of us that are still sticking with the ongoing IDW series. Back when the Angel/Twilight reveal was spoiled, there were even mixed messages from both Dark Horse and IDW about whether the continuities would work in harmony with each other. Now with Angel and Spike both appearing in the Buffy book and both having their own IDW series, there are three continuities that have to make sense with each other (and we still don't even really know the timeline of Buffy Season 8, though we can safely say it doesn't coincide with Angel Season 5 like it would have if it was on TV).
Putting that issue aside (and it shouldn't be a complete shock, since there was a "soon" panel with Spike in the last issue) the giddy Buffy fan in me is just happy to see Buffy, Angel, Spike, Xander, Willow and Giles all forced to work together.
THE ART STUFF
Wow, it took me awhile to get here, but the artwork in this issue is definitely worth mentioning. Unlike last issue, when the fucking distracted from the actual story, the Buffy and Angel scenes were drawn very sparsely, particularly later in the issue when they were basically between dimensions in front of an all-white background.
I really liked how Georges drew Buffy and Angel in period-specific costumes that called back to the Slayer history (and that was also a fun story point by Meltzer, since the shared history and memories of the Slayers hasn't really been referenced much in canonical Buffy material outside of The First Slayer, but has been a huge part of some non-canonical novels and comics).
Jeanty also did a good job conveying the chaos that was actually going on with the group back on Earth, in scenes that reminded me a bit of "The Gift" and a bit of the final scene of "Not Fade Away" (or, at least the moments that we should have seen after that scene). The two page spread of Buffy and Angel fighting side-by-side was pretty freaking kick ass.
This was definitely a game-changing arc for Buffy Season 8, and has some greater implications for the entire series as a whole. While some people have reacted negatively to the Angel revelation, I think it was handled very well, and the aftermath -- with Buffy choosing her friends and that reality, like she did in "Normal Again" -- was completely in line with the characters we've come to know. Even Angel changing course and going along with Buffy, rather than continuing the creation of "Twilight" was a nice throwback to the Angel of old.
I'm giving it a 4.5 out of 5. I can't go lower, because I really enjoyed it, and I gave "Retreat" a 4 out of 5. And I can't go higher, because that would be a perfect score, and this arc wasn't perfect. At least, I can't tell if it's perfect until the last arc comes out and ties everything up. And that arc starts on... SEPTEMBER 1, 2010?!!?!?! WTF?! Oh, I can't possibly wait that long. Scott Allie, Georges Jeanty, you need to hook me up with some spoilers, ASAP.
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