Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #28
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #28 is smack in the middle of the final storyline for this “season”. “Own It” began in issue #26 and concludes with #30 in August. In it, the vengeance demon D’Hoffryn has captured the book of Vampyr, making him super-powerful and capable of rewriting the rules of reality.
Of course, the series will conclude with a battle for the fate of the world, but it’s the character work that makes me call this an adaptation that gets everything right and, at times, even improves on the source material. And the reason I’m talking about this particular issue, although in the middle of a storyline, is because I was impressed by how well writer Christos Gage treats these characters as more than fantasy fighters. They’re adults, with realistic motivations and fears and concerns and struggles, in spite of their supernatural (and occasionally ridiculous) adventures.
You can tell from the variant cover by series artist Rebekah Isaacs (shown below) what the relationship challenge this time around is. Spike wants to break up with Buffy because he’s concerned that their feelings are a distraction from the ever-important battle against evil. Yet the two have to go on a road trip together to enlist allies for the coming war. While occupied, they talk about what they mean to each other.
The dialogue is just great, with allusions that demonstrate Gage’s knowledge of the characters without putting up walls to those who may not have that kind of fan memory. He also doesn’t forget that we still need to see mystical creatures and battles, since that’s the premise of the series, fighting monsters, but that approach has always come with a subtext.
Significantly, the advice Buffy and Spike give themselves is sensible and reflects real life lessons. Gage’s cast members have grown in major ways, to avoid retreading overly familiar ground or seeming two-dimensional, but while still true to their original conceptions. It’s a tricky tightrope for a shared-writer universe writer, but one Gage has mastered. Isaacs’ art captures likenesses but more importantly, visible feelings and reactions in terrific partnership.
Meanwhile, Dawn and Xander are fighting their way back across alternate dimensions, which gives Gage and Isaacs chances to come up with amusing one-shot worlds full of odd creatures and challenges. That’s another way the comic gets things right: showing bizarre combinations, like head-swapping, without worry over cost or how good the special effects will be.
This storyline will be collected at the end of the year. Season 11 will launch in October. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)