Writer: Mariko Tamaki, Artwork: Natacha Bustos & Eleonora Bruni, Lettering: Jodi Wynne
Cover: Jen Bartel
Special Note on Reviewing: I do have Boom!Buffy 18, but Willow is centered in that issue as being back so I'm going to hold off on reviewing that one until after Willow's solo-venture.
Page 01: We open on Willow wearing the green sweater she bought in Abhainn. The sweater this morning has a loose thread at the sleeve. Willow muses on how she has always felt like the girl with the loose thread, just slightly undone.
[I notice she's also wearing the flower bud that she had picked from the rare flowering plant that only grows in Abhainn, as well.]
Page 02: Willow hangs around town, at a bakery where the women playfully bicker between adding more sugar or more lemon to a recipe. At a loom weaver's, watching the young woman ply her skill. At a garden where there is another good natured argument between squash and pea shoots.
Throughout, Willow realizes that she's always felt like she was a bit of an outcast, but then Xander came into her life and she saw that he was a loose thread, too. And then it didn't matter so much.
But, now she feels like she actually belonged in more places than she had realized... like in Abhainn, where she feels like she has a place.
Page 03: Willow goes on to muse now being in Abhainn feels so totally different than when she was in high school. It feels more adult, and everyone is so accepting and nice. And, well, there is also her obvious attraction to the woman who introduced her here, too, but she insists that it isn't only about Aelara.
Commentary: I'm still feeling that pacing is an issue here -- though, it continues to not be a major one. But, at the last panel, Willow was confronted by a girl-squad on the outskirts of Abhainn that nearly ordered her back to the village, and one of those girls gave Willow a backward glance that was fearful.
Now, Willow is totally back in la-la land as if nothing happened, and it isn't written like we're supposed to take this for some sort of magic-whammie that she receives while she's sleeping to keep her cooperative. It feels a lot more like we're obsessed with Willow's repetitive internal dialog about feeling different and out of whack with 'real life' back home. But, it feels like we've covered that ground already, so it shouldn't take us another three pages (+?) to rehash how comfortable Willow feels here, as compared to her old life. We've gotten that, now.
Page 04: Willow is sitting with Aelara that evening, going through books on magic that she had suggested. She tells Aelara about her studying the craft in Sunnydale, where it was mostly about trying to stop the bad stuff happening. Aelara is impressed by Willow's knowledge of Welsh and Irish lore, which our young woman puts down to a geeky level of interest in medieval trivia.
She expresses her interest in Abhainn historical lore, and Aelara tells her she wouldn't find that information in the outside world. Willow asks about a large tome sitting on Aelara's cabinet, and is told that it is Agricultural Incantations.
Commentary: Color me doubtful.
Page 05: Attention is diverted to that dangling thread on Willow's sweater, which Aelara offers to fix for her. While she's doing so, she offers that Willow has become the town's favorite new student to teach.
Page 06: As Aelara returns the sweater to Willow, and intimately helps place it over her head, she tells Willow that she's become a particular favorite of her to teach. This brings out Willow's inner-geek a bit to her chagrin. Aelara invites her back for dinner later, for a bit of a gathering.
Page 07: Outside Aelara, Willow berates herself for overusing cool, instead of meaningful words. She reminds herself that words from her mouth are like fish hooks, and that she does so much better in written form - like poets.
When she returns to her room at the Inn, she hears a thump from within her should-be-empty room. Cautiously, she edges the door open, only to be grabbed and yanked inside.
Page 08: The girl in the dark, the one who gave Willow a fearful glance from the path the night before, is there. She covers Willow's mouth and insists that she not scream when she takes her hand away.
Page 09: She then completes a circle with some seeds from a bag. When this is done, she again gives Willow a fearful glance. She asks Willow for help in leaving Abhainn, not wanting to stay there any longer.
Page 10: The girl tells Willow that she needs her help in finding a way to leave Abhainn. Willow isn't sure what she means, so she clarifies: "You idiot. We can't leave."
Willow offers, "Well, maybe don't call me an idiot if you want my help."
Our leaver-wanter is upset over not being able to contact her family, and Willow ends up promising to help her get away later that night.
Commentary: This whole scene feels awkwardly written. I do understand our flee-er coming to Willow, because she's still new to the place and may be open - but the way she went about this feels dangerous and sudden. And I don't understand Willow not pushing her on whether she just went to Aelara and asked to leave, or pressed her about the weird girl-patrol in the woods, or any other details about why she feels like she's trapped.
Page 11: Willow is left a little uncertain about this encounter and thinks that maybe she should try to reach out to Buffy, though what she might say, she isn't clear on. But it's mute anyway, because she finds her cell phone missing from her nightstand where she'd left it.
In the lobby of the Inn, the desk clerk insists that she hasn't heard anything about anyone finding a cell phone, but offers that they're of no use in Abhainn anyway without cell service. But she offers to keep an eye out for it.
She "casually" asks after who Willow had in her room. When Willow denies knowing what she means, she offers that she heard Willow talking upstairs. Willow puts this down to her habit of talking aloud to herself.
Page 12: That evening, Willow is having dinner with Aelara and three others. Conversation revolves around Witch movies, and Willow's interest in witchcraft being an escape for her when she was younger.
Page 13: Aelara asks if Willow's real experience with witchcraft has lived up to her fictional fantasy, and she admits it's been more complicated but Willow offers that she may not be alive if it weren't for being a witch.
The party drinks to new friends.
Commentary: These two pages were slight, with a few girls taking witch movies way too seriously, but I liked the way the writing had overlapping conversations. Even when everyone was tossing in comments across conversation, I still had the feeling that Aelara and Willow were having their own. I liked how there is an intimacy being portrayed, drawing Willow further and further away from her renewed suspicion, everytime she's with Aelara.
Page 14: At the end of the supper, Aelara escorts Willow to the front porch. She's put leftovers in a jar for her. They discuss Willow's enjoyment in being there, and Aelara invites her to make her stay permanent. She further offers that Willow could move into her home, but assures her that the house is very large for only one person, so she'd have plenty of her own space.
Page 15: Willow, flustered, drops the jar - which Aelara tells her to not worry about. She asks Willow if she'll stay, and she immediately agrees, before backtracking that she'll think on it.
Page 16: Out in the border woods, heading toward the village, Willow starts calling quietly for what's-her-name, but only gets 'shhhhh' and footstep crunches coming towards her from the woods.
Page 17: Suddenly from out of the woods, comes what's-her-name, shouting Willow's name. She looks like she's not about to slow down, and if Willow doesn't step aside, she may get plowed over.
Commentary: I'm sorry, if they gave a name for our Blonde Runaway, I don't recall it. It's annoying. I've taken to calling her 'Cassie', but that may not be accurate. It's also annoying to me - maybe a relief to you from my babble - that I don't have more to say as commentary. This all feels like we're treading the same ground, and while the issue isn't badly written at all -- it's also not giving me anything interesting to catch my eye and brain.
Page 18 & 19: What's-her-name shouts at Willow to run, as behind her she's being chased by wolves. No ordinary ones, though. These appear to be more energy apparations made of violet light.
Page 20: Our blonde falls at Willow's feet, warning her that she told her that they wouldn't be allowed to leave Abhainn. The violet wolves face down the two witches, but Willow pulls out a bit of pink-ish red magic of her own.
Page 21: With a mighty 'No!', Willow lets loose a blast of light energy, that engulfs the wolves and lifts them from the ground - dissipating them.
She turns to the blonde and tells her emphatically that they're leaving. But from offpanel, another voice says her name.
Page 22: It is, of course, the mysterious Aelara. And she's looking much less warm and inviting at our two girls. At her side, another wolf stalks, as her hands glow with blue energy. She tells Willow that she can't leave....
Commentary: Finally, the shoe drops.
The Good: I do like the more 'domestic' scenes, that gives Willow a reason for not staying suspicious of things around her. Except for what's-her-name, the spooky crows, and the wild girls wandering the woods occasionally - I could see why Willow isn't more on-edge over the things that felt a little off earlier. However...
I'm glad the penny has finally dropped on Willow's being trapped along with everyone else, even if they did want to also leave.
The Bad: ... it does feel like there are too many little things that are adding up. I don't like that Willow continually forgets that she was suspicious of something five seconds ago and that she'd not be doing any addition when it comes to the many small things that add up to something being off about this commune. This is especially true with the disappearing cell phone. First, Willow is clearly suspicious of the desk clerk casually asking her who she has in her room - which is none of her business. You'd think the cell phone disappearing would be a red flag, when added to everything else she was suspicious of. And also, I don't understand the point of taking her cell phone. There is no service. She couldn't do anything with the phone, so why be super sketchy by taking it from her room?
Other Thoughts: I'm not crazy about the meeting between what's-her-name and Willow in her room. It felt clumsily approached, and of course, Willow was remarkable in her lack of questions about what what's-her-name thinks is going on, or why she believes that she isn't allowed to leave. And there is no explanation whatsoever for why what's-her-name would risk approaching Willow for help - or how she thinks that Willow could help them leave, if she already feels like she can't escape. Why would she think Willow would have any more luck - even assuming she believes that Willow isn't already co-opted by the coven?
The Score: 3.0 out of 5 I'm still asking why this couldn't be a subplot in Boom!Buffy.