How does one review a comic that contains one of the biggest moments in not only Season Eight but in the whole of the series? Is there really a way to criticize this singular issue based on the merits of the issue alone without taking into account what came before and theorize what might come afterward? In a word: Nah. Well, maybe, but I don't think it makes sense to do so. In lieu of that, let's dive right in and discuss.
First of all, let's make it official: Angel is Twilight. There were folks thinking we might have been foiled but let me assure you that it's true and that it's one of the most compelling decisions in the comics so far. This is not the issue that answers the question "Can Angel be redeemed for what he's done as Twilight?" although I don't think Angel was capable of true redemption even before that. It's not the issue where we get the explanation for why Angel and Buffy are more super powered than usual. It's just the moment that we finally acknowledge how much everything has changed, and not just between Buffy and Angel. Buffy changed the world. That's what this whole season has been about: the consequences of changing things on a global scale and this is the issue where it starts coming to a head.
Let's make no mistake: you'll either love this issue or hate it. There isn't going to be a lot of in between feelings. On the surface it's about as straight up Bangel as you can get. Yes, there is talk about a shared destiny between them and, yeah, spoiler alert to the max, there is snogging. There's fighting too. There's raging against the dying of the light and there's fear and confusion mixed in as well. It's absolutely huge for anyone who want to see these two characters together and it's anathema for those who don't but the future is still wide open.
Angel asks Buffy this question: "Don't you want to be happy?" and what happens afterward might worry some that the writers are saying something as simple as "Angel is what makes Buffy happy" but it's much more complicated than that. We've known from the start that Twilight's agenda is to end all magic and, to me at least, that means Angel being human and Buffy not being the Chosen One anymore. That is what would make them both happy but that happiness seems as though it will come at a terrible price. That's what I took away from the interaction between Buffy and Angel. Despite the hugeness of the moment, the subtext is pretty subdued. This issue is just the first taste and it's just enough to get you hooked back on the comic if you fell out of love with it somewhere along the way.
There's great moments with other characters, too. In particular, Andrew fans will be pleased to see that he's ready and willing to fight the good fight even in the face of impossible odds. It's a simple moment but one that really reminds me how much Andrew has grown during Season Eight. There's some interaction between Willow and Amy, too, that I thought was amusing. Meltzer really has the voices of all the characters down at this point and the flow of the issue really felt cinematic.
Georges' art is top notch almost all the way through. The notable exception, unsurprisingly, is Angel himself. There are panels where he looks perfect but there are quite a few where he looks a little silly. I'm thinking especially of the second to last panel in the issue which I won't describe in full but, sufficed to say, faces don't move like that.
I can't judge the foreshadowing of the "true history of the universe" that Angel hints that Giles knows about. It's left very open here. There's a smell of potential retconning but I'd rather burn that bridge when we get to it.
All in all, Buffy #33 is one of the best issues of the season, period. It's epic and exciting and it's going to piss off damned near everyone. If you're shipping the Bangel, I'd enjoy this moment because this is the last happy one I bet you're going to get. If you're a Spuffy, a Bander, a Biley, or anything else... well? This might feel like a bit of a bummer, maybe even a punch to the face but I'd stick in there because there's a lot of story left to tell and some blond vampire guy with a soul whose appearance could still be right around the corner.
There's a lot more analysis that can be done but I'd rather hear from all of you. What did you think? What's your hypothesis on what's coming? Can you get me a soda? More questions to follow but, for now, courage...