First things first, Dawn isn't dead! Woo-hoo. As for everything else about this issue, well, we'll get to that, but let's just revel in the joy that for once, Joss Whedon didn't kill someone off.
The reason for the concern over Dawn's continued ability to exist is the Jo Chen cover, which features Xander carrying a very pained looking Dawn. It's funny, but when the cover first came out, I was certain that it was a fake out, then talked myself into it being a reverse fake out (that is, everyone would think it was a fake out, but it would turn out to be real). Then, somehow, I convinced myself that it was a semi-fake out, and that it would be Xander who actually died, not Dawn. In the end, neither of them died, and we get one of Jo Chen's prettier Buffy-less covers of the run. The Georges Jeanty cover has Buffy and Spike fighting side by side, surrounded by a hoard of demons. I don't think it's quite as cool as the two-page Buffy and Angel versus the demons spread from a few issues back, but Georges always has fun with the large amounts of demons, and I love the differing expressions on Buffy's and Spike's faces.
THE WRITE STUFF
Personally, I think this was one of the more confusing issues of the run, because there was so much talking. Really, the vast majority of the issues is characters talking, and with the exception of one or two of them, they're talking about things THEY don't understand, so that makes it all the more difficult for US to understand.
Also, for the large majority of this issue, there's a transitory feeling, like it's just getting all the pieces in place for the last two issues of the season. To compare it to a "Buffy" episode, it's a lot more a "The Weight of the World" than a "Spiral". And much like that episode, it takes a couple of reads to really get where everything's falling into place.
By the end, things really do fall into place, though the getting there was a little bumpier than I would have liked. I continue to be confused by the purpose of Warren and Amy at this point, though it does seem that the general is now playing a more important part. His scene with Xander was one of the better ones of the issue, and touched on something that has been quietly lurking under this whole season: whether Buffy's agenda is really the right one.
To that end, the issue ends with Willow teaming up with the Master to protect the seed (which seems like it's only going to lead to some Dark Willow badness) and Angel showing up possessed by Twilight (which for most of this issue was represented by that kick-ass lion thing from the end of the last issue) and getting ready to beat the shit out of Buffy and Spike.
THE ART STUFF
What can I say that I haven't said already about Georges Jeanty's work on this series. At this point, we're 38 issues in and he's drawn the majority of them, so either you like what you're seeing (as I do) or you don't. It's not like there's anything happening in this issue that's going to convert you.
That said, he does a good job with The Master, who is a decidedly easier character to draw because he's so distinctive, but that also makes him more noticeable if you get him wrong. Because this issue was so dialogue heavy, there aren't as many opportunities for those eye-grabbing art moments, but I did like the shot of Xander carrying Dawn at the bottom right of Page 7, in part because it broke out of the traditional page borders. I also really liked red-eyed Willow towards the end. A hint of things to come?
I know I generally don't grade issues until an arc is complete, and this issue is a good example why. I'd like to think that in a month, this will fit in perfectly as the transition from Issue 37 to Issue 39 (and obviously then, the wrap up in Issue 40), but right now it just feels kind of off.
Also, I was thinking about this the other day, before the issue came out: if you think about the seven season finales of "Buffy", only a couple of them wrap up in any kind of neat fashion. Season 1 ties things up pretty well and Season 4 ends with reasonable resolution to everything that's happened, but the rest of the time, there are significant questions left to be answered (even in Season 7, when there was no more show to answer them). I'm getting the feeling that's where we're heading in Season 8. I doubt things are going to be left as wide open as, for example, Season 2 (Buffy runs away) or Season 5 (Buffy dies), but we could definitely be looking at a Season 6-esque character scattering with lives pretty messed up. And I'm not just saying that because I think Willow's going evil again.
|<-- Previous Issue (#37: Last Gleaming, Pt. 2)||Next Issue (#38: Last Gleaming, Pt. 4) -->|