Boom!Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Writer: Jordie Bellaire, Artwork: David López, Sas Milledge & Raúl Angulo, Lettering: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Marc Aspinall
Uh, why does Willow look like Gillian Anderson, instead of Alyson Hannigan??
Page 01: We open on Willow in the aftermath of giving up a piece of her soul in order to tie Xander's to his now-vampiric body.
She's complaining of feeling tired all of the time, and not being able to feel anything. She's having trouble sleeping, too.
Commentary: I am very happy that such a huge thing as Willow giving up a piece of her soul isn't being brushed off. And I like the obvious "zombiedom" she's suffering through the artwork.
The only thing I'll complain a little bit about, is the panel of Rose laughing and hugging an unresponsive Willow. Rose has been such a lack of presence in Willow's life that she may as well not exist. I don't know why they introduce support characters that are supposedly important, only to treat them so offhandedly. We should already know Rose as a character, and she shouldn't be portrayed as not noticing the sudden change in Willow -- and only through a one panel, dialogless cameo, at that -- but should've had an active part in pointing out to Willow that she seems distant and is worrying Rose.
At least Jenny Calendar's bungled introduction was made up for by having her involved in Xander's situation. Rose is just a prop.
Page 02: It turns out that Willow is confiding in Giles. He tries to comfort her that what she's going through is completely normal after what she did. This only brings Willow to the brink of exhausted tears. She complains that Xander went through a trauma, too, and he's back to his old self except for drinking packets of blood.
Commentary: I explained in issue 1 or 2, I think, that I liked seeing a more taciturn Giles, still under Council sway. But this scene felt so very off, to me. Willow had done something extraordinary, and now she's straight up telling Giles that she's falling apart, and his response is a shrug and a platitude?
We're talking about a partial soul extraction! Any signs of impact on Willow should be treated seriously, but when she's telling you she can't sleep and is feeling divorced from everything around her? When she's tearing up in front of you, because of how she's feeling after the ritual?
You blow it off?!
Page 03: That evening, Willow again tries to sleep.
And this time, exhausted, she manages to pass out.
Page 04: But it isn't a restful sleep, as she immediately falls into a nightmare.
Willow recognizes that she's having a nightmare, and that it must be 3:00am again.
Page 05: As she sits up in her bed, a dark figure appears in the doorway to tell her that they need to get going. When Willow asks where, the figure reveals itself to be Dark Willow.
Page 06: Willow states that she belongs in her room, but Dark Willow is more concerned with herself. She pushes Willow to the floor, roughly.
Will shouts for Buffy to help her, but Dark Willow takes Buffy's form to tell her that just because Buffy is her friend, doesn't mean that she also doesn't need herself. Willow starts to chant at herself to wake up.
Commentary: I'm a bit put-off by already referencing Dark Willow this early. In fact, with what the original 'verse comics have already done with Willow's darker aspects, I could've gone through this series without seeing her at all. It's become, uh, rote, to have Willow going dark-eyed through a bit of overuse.
Page 07: Dark Willow tells Willow that she can't escape where she's gone, now. She hints that the stable part of Willow may have been given over to Xander, leaving this competitive, quick, astute better self left over.
Commentary: Of course, Dark Willow is putting a more positive spin on this. It would also suggest that Willow's thoughtfulness and self-control was given up, which is much less a good thing.
But my real problem with this dialog, is that if Willow is talking to herself here, she's utterly ignored that Willow hasn't been competitive, quick or astute since the Soul Tie spell. She's been the opposite, unable to "be present" or care about anything happening around her.
The issue with this conversation, is that it's not consistent with what we've just seen the pages before. Which makes this almost a non-sequitor.
Page 08: The scene switches to a flower garden, where Dark Willow goes on to tell Willow there's so much more to a person's mind and soul. That Willow feels like she's missing a discreet part of herself, but things are far more intertwined than that.
She takes on Xan'd form, and tells Willow that the light and dark need each other to exist [I'm trying to interpret this blather... I think it's Willow reasoning out that she didn't just give a part of one half of herself away, that she's not less good now, but that a total mixture of things were given to Xander, leaving her with a mixture left, still].
Page 09: Black-eyed Xander tells her that Xan and Willow always needed each other, and Willow insists that she did all she could when he needed her. But Xander says it wasn't enough, as he points out his gravestone.
Willow freaks, and shouts that this is a lie, and Xander alive.
Page 10: Xander vamps out, and asks with a laugh if Willow would call his current state living.
He turns back into Dark Willow, where she gets in Will's face some more. Willow offers that maybe Dark Willow was the part that was put into Xander, because she's the least important part of her. She walks away from her nightmare counterpart.
Commentary: I'm almost getting what is being discussed here, and it fits in with the nightmare modus operandi of being confused and not quite linear. But man, I wish we'd not done this dreamstate thing with Dark Willow as the central image, and used Xander/Vampire Xander instead. It feels like Willow's mind would be far more argumentative with herself about whether she really helped Xander, than with maybe a shadow self of her own taking over -- or whatever is happening in her psyche to manifest a Dark Willow image.
Bottom Line: Dark Willow wasn't needed for this, and she's out of place since Willow hasn't done anything destructive yet.
Page 11: Willow sees images of Buffy, Xander and her together. She sees kid Willow and kid Xander in his bedroom, and offers that she doesn't need Dark Willow as she has a good life.
Page 12: Willow watches her and Xan's children self. Dark Willow points out that when Xander was sick, she wanted to be sick, too.
Willow states she misses this feeling between them. A feeling she hasn't felt since....
Page 13: Dark Willow becomes Xander again briefly to point out to her counterpart that Xander shouldn't be here anymore.
A demon, wreathed in fire, then appears to accuse Willow of letting Xander die.
Page 14-15: Demon-Xander is joined by an army of dark demonic creatures, and Willow is surrounded by fire. Demon-Xan tells Willow that they're all going to suffer, now.
Page 16: Dark Willow reappears. She berates Willow for giving up the only piece of themselves that could've protected them from what is coming. She stabs Willow in the gut (looking a bit too much like Faith, actually). She tells a Willow, lying on the floor and bleeding out, that it's up to her now to correct regular Willow's gruesome error.
As she walks away, she drops the knife she used on her counterpart: It's the Egyptian Dagger central to Drusilla's plans.
Commentary: So, I think what's happening here is that Willow is getting flashes of insight through her soul connection with Xander. Xander is getting insight into Drusilla's plans, because of the partial siring he went through. And all of this is being filtered as a warning about what Dru will bring down on Sunnydale, if she's successful.
But being filtered as it is, the connective tissue isn't clear to Willow, yet. Right now, she's still too concerned over what happened inside of herself to realize that this all isn't just a nightmare about possibly losing the best part of herself to the Soul Tie, but that she's actually getting forewarnings.
Page 17: Bloody Willow gets herself up off the floor, while Dark Willow laments that together they would've been capable of good things, but alone, Dark Willow...
She's interrupted by Willow stabbing her in the back with the dropped dagger. Dark Willow calls her counterpart a fool and implores her to surrender to her darkest impulses, but Willow starts viciously stabbing her shadow self over and over, while shouting that she won't give herself up to anyone.
Page 18: When Willow is done, she finds that Dark Willow looks like herself now. The fires continue to rage around her, and dark shadowy hands reach up for her from underneath the floor.
Page 19: The fires of doom close in on her, causing her trouble breathing and the hands continue to reach for her legs to drag her down.
Page 20: The floor gives way under Willow and she tumbles down into a lake of fire, where the arms wait to capture her.
Page 21: Willow is sitting under a tree with Xander, where she's been relating her nightmare. She tells him that she hasn't told Giles yet about her experience.
Xan reaches a hand out to touch hers and Willow puts herself into his embrace. She's worried that she's falling apart, but Xander assures her that she's the most put together person he knows. She offers that he means for somebody with only a half of a soul, but he jokes that maybe she was just too good with a whole soul, and her big brain, and her good heart. It was making them all look bad in comparison.
Commentary: I like this sweet moment of them still being the closest of friends, despite her soul trauma and his being half-dead and vampiric. And I can buy his shrugging off what Willow is trying to make someone understand, because this Xander can't be the fully human Xander that they knew. He just can't be.
It makes more sense for Xander to not really hear her under these circumstances, than it does for Rupert, who should be actively looking for any signs of instability in both Willow and Xander. In fact, in keeping with his Watcher-persona, he should be on constant alert for any signs that the Soul Tie isn't doing its job in Xander, or is actively harming Willow. I'd have written him as nearly paranoid that something destructive would happen in the aftermath of that spell.
Page 22: Willow asks Xander is he's really as happy as he seems. She ties this to his being like he was before, but Xander admits to her that he wasn't very happy. He goes on to admit that he's not sure he can every really be happy, but at least for once in his life, he feels lucky. Lucky to have Willow and Buffy in his life. And lucky to be alive, and he's happy about that.
It's enough for now.
Willow switches subjects to his actually trying to combine pig's blood with pizza, and he ways he's gotta eat with a laugh.
She asks what they're supposed to call him now that he's a half-human/half-vamp, and he throws out some portmanteau choices.
Willow jokes that they're all horrible and so is he. She demands her part of her soul back, and he jokingly shouts never.
On the ground nearby where they were talking sits a brochure. It's for the museum and if Willow had only noticed it, she would've recognized the dagger on its cover.
The Good: I very much like the impacts on Willow of what she's done to herself, and I sorta like that she can't articulate it well enough for anyone to understand just how heavily its dragging on her.
I liked that Willow was confiding in Xander about her nightmare, her concern that he's not really like he was before, and they're ending up being jokey with one another [but I interpret Willow's demand for having her soul-part returned as only half joking].
The Bad: It's really just ridiculous that Rose wasn't given some major dialog somewhere in her, noticing Willow's change of character! One panel of her being obviously oblivious is not enough for this character.
I reject Rupert Giles blowing off Willow's complaints about what she feels is happening to her and her constant exhaustion in the aftermath of something as monumental as her having a piece of her soul energy removed. It flies in the face of his being a Watcher! This would NOT be something to be ignored.
Other Thoughts: I don't like that Willow's psyche post-trauma is represented by Dark Willow, a being that only has meaning to us because -- again, unnecessary referencing -- because we know the import of her. Willow would have zero reason to conjure this image in her nightmare. It's almost irksome enough to go into The Bad... almost. Xander/Monster-Xander would've been so much more logical for Willow to use to argue with herself over what she's becoming/her worry over what she's lost to Xan and whether it'll help anything in the end. Really guys, you wanted to make your own updated version of the Buffyverse, so cut the strings.
I feel like the arguments that Willow was having with herself in her nightmare was horribly muddled. It's in keeping with her being trapped in a nightmare, so avoids the bad, but it also felt like the writer isn't exactly sure what he's trying to have her argue with throughout some pages. I liked the dream content containing warnings about Dru's goals happening, and I do like that Willow is too worried about herself and Vampire-Xander to understand that her dream is containing actual warnings.
Back to Dark Willow's use: The moment when Willow chooses to stab her opponent to death to reclaim herself would've been much more powerful if it had been Vampire Xander. She could choose to withhold that part from her telling Xander about it, and it would've given this resentful undertone toward her best friend in the world over having "forced" her to do something so drastic to save him. That could've led to some great character work for her and Xander.
The Score: I want to like this issue more than I do, because of the choices which were made in how to tell of Willow's struggles with what she's given up for Xander. There's some interesting things going on, I think, but I feel like I'm doing most of the work to see them, and I shouldn't have to.
3.25 out of 5 stars