"You Don't Have to Go Home"
Writer: Mariko Tamaki, Artwork: Natacha Bustos & Eleonora Bruni, Lettering: Jodi Wynne
Cover: Mirka Andolfo
Page 01: We find Willow in a small restaurant agonizing over writing a postcard. Her thoughts state that she feels like she should talk to someone. But she doesn't know who to talk to, or what to say. She makes false starts to Buffy and Giles, but doesn't complete her attempt to reach out.
Page 02: Willow's thoughts go back to the Hellmouth, and the world coming apart. Obviously Xander's death sits bitterly, and her exposure to Hell - which she handled fine when it counted, is now plaguing her.
Commentary: I'm all for big events not being waved aside for the next episode/issue, so I like that Willow is still stuck with trauma from what so recently happened in Sunnydale. And, you'll recall, her decision to study abroad was driven by Xander's loss, in part.
Page 03: She ponders if maybe some feelings (like the pain at Xan's death) is meant to be permanent. She reminds us that she chose to leave for a study opportunity to get away from Sunnydale. And that, at first, she was at least somewhat stoked for an adventure abroad. But then she was sitting in the airport, and realizing that normally she would text someone that the plane was boarding... someone who might care if it falls out of the sky.
She readies to send a text to Rose, "I'm leaving on a jet plane", but decides it's not really appropriate since she did break up with her and all.
Commentary: Rose continues to be a small thorn with me. Or rather, I guess, her relationship with Willow. That was badly handled, and we only got to know Rose via her talking with Cordy. Nothing about Rose/Willow was developed beyond letting us know that Boom!Willow came to the realization that she liked girls much earlier than prime-Willow.
Page 04: Willow continues to ponder her state. As it turns out, going to England didn't actually improve anything. She still feels like crap. And Mary Poppins and Agatha Christie lied to her, as England has been full of grey, rainy days. She complains that she hasn't even met any cool witches.
Commentary: Willow's early fanfic coupling Mary and Agatha as a super couple is cute, though.
Page 05: Willow has, in fact, met a group of witches, but they didn't provide whatever she needs. She tells how they would discuss the Hellmouth, and since she was there, she thought she'd have a lot to contribute. But it turned out, that she wasn't interested in sharing. In fact, she realizes now that she wasn't ready to meet new friends.
Page 06: We skip forward to Willow's return from her study semester. She's at Sunnydale's airport, where nobody greets her return. She thought she was ready, but then stops outside of the airport and realizes again that Xander Harris is no longer there.
Page 07: Willow tells us that she just couldn't do it -- go back and face everyone with this core of loss sitting there. So, she told her parents that she received an extension of her studies, while what she was actually doing was cleaning out her savings for a bus ticket to whereever she could get to, and have a few bucks for...
Page 08 & 09: ... her second escape. She complains the bus smelled like tuna fish, even though no one was eating tuna fish.
Page 10: Willow gets off the bus at another random, nondescript gas station convenience store during a stop. The moment she walks in, the old man behind the counter harrumphs at her.
And when she asks if the store has grape soda, he turns hostile, telling her that they don't need her kind around there.
Page 11: Willow reacts with insult, but the man tells her that he can smell the magic-stink on her, and he doesn't need that. He orders her to leave. She's pissed, having protected this a-hole from the impending overrun of demons onto Earth. But worse for Willow, is that the bus isn't where she left it. And her cellphone isn't getting any signal.
She wanders off down a path, not sure where she's going.
Page 12: Willow finds herself wandering into a small village called Abhainn. When her stomach starts painfully growling, she looks for a place to eat. The village seems oddly very quiet, almost like it's devoid of people.
Page 13: She finds herself in the diner, where we found her at the beginning, still trying to compose her thoughts for who-she-knows-not-whom. She's taken to using paper, rather than trying to boil down her feelings onto a postcard.
She writes to herself that she feels truly alone, and it's not related to Rose or Xander this time.
Commentary: This is another situation, where I feel the need to apologize to y'all. There isn't a lot to running-commentary on, since this is very obviously a set-up issue. We're mostly focused on Willow's emotional losses, but comment on every page would be redundant. I will insert here, that my ending observation of Boom!Buffy 14 now appears mistaken. Rather than Willow having gone to a sunny otherspace, it appears it was just a representation of her hopes as she arrived in England. So... ooops, that's embarrassing.
I'll have to edit a note over there.
[Also last seen was a possible-Slayer Willow in a differing reality, which presumably is also tied to that reality's Hellmouth. It would be nice if that comes up again, here somewhere.]
Page 14 & 15: As Willow is sitting, a woman approaches uninvited, and as she approaches, something wild happens to Willow. She starts getting flashes of elsewhere/when:
Rose with black eyes; Buffy and Giles standing before a portal; Robin being decked out in monster hunting gear & being looked on by what could be Watchers; Buffy with a stake fighting an older version of herself with the Slayer Scythe; the dagger that The Mayor gave to Faith; Xander with white eyes and wrapped in bandages, like a mummy; another older-older version of Buffy with the Slayer Scythe; & a black void.
Commentary: I liked the inclusion of Buffy with the Scythe. She looks much more closer to what Buffy would actually start looking like in the first pane with the Scythe if Comic-Time hadn't of kept her from aging along with SMG. And, it's intriguing to see a more elderly Buffy still holding the Scythe and looking ready for a battle. I also liked the reference to original Buffy by including the infamous Faith dagger.
Page 16: Willow comes to with her waitress at her table. She tries to grasp what just happened, while also maintaining a normal interaction with her waitress.
Page 17: As Willow is pondering what happened, and looking at the postcard that she was going to send to Buffy or Giles, the woman who was approaching her table starts up a conversation, apropo of nothing.
The woman introduces herself as Aelara, and asks how Willow found herself in Abhainn, while inviting herself to sit down. Willow is immediately taken with the very attractive woman, as she comments on Willow's impeccable cursive. Willow tries not to be a dork.
Page 18: After some conversation, the woman invites Willow the following evening to join in on a bonfire during the full moon the following evening at her estate. Willow offers she doesn't know where she's staying, but Aelara tells her that there is an inn up the road, and they'll give her a good rate if she mentions her name.
Page 19: That night, Willow is a little weirded by the inn having no wi-fi, or television, or a phone. And by a strange woman inviting her to a bonfire out of nowhere.
Page 20: As Willow turns in early, with nothing else to do, out in the night, a woman runs for her life through the forest.
Page 21: She collapses against a tree, and is quickly caught up to and surrounded by strangers. She begs to be allowed to go home.
Page 22: At the inn, Willow is tossing and turning. On the nightstand is the postcard. She's written of her confusion over what she's supposed to be doing now, and wonders if she's supposed to be in this little village. She mentions that the odd but hot woman, Aelara seems to think so.
She begs her brain to stop yapping at her, so she can go to sleep [it may help, if she didn't appear to have not undressed... that can't be comfortable].
On the nightstand, we see the postcard with its reference to Aelara quietly disintegrate into ash....
The Good: I like all of Willow's malaise and her voiceovers to herself/us. I especially liked how going to England didn't change anything, and it wasn't the adventure that she expected it would be.
The flashes of other places, including prime!Buffy and future!Buffy were certainly interesting.
The Bad: Nothing.
Other Thoughts: There wasn't much to comment on, or any really strong scenes - for the good or bad. This is a set-up issue, and mostly deals with Willow's emotional dullness and lack of direction in where to go from the Hellmouth. For that, it is some good writing.
The Score: 3.25 out of 5 stars