It's the issue that everyone's been waiting for, the first of the Buffy ongoing proper in months, the return of Joss as writer, and the issue where Spike gets more than a panel or two's worth of attention. This review is full of spoilers and, what gets revealed, you may not like. It's not safe out here in comic book review land. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross but it's not for the timid. With that Star Trek quote paraphrased, let's dig in with Buffy #36.
Full review under the cut...
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... no, wait, it's just a plane. And it's on fire! Angel surprises himself by flying (yes, like that guy with the big 'S' on his chest) and saves the plane and everyone on it. The powers that apparently mind control speak through one of the women he saves to tell him a)let's get it on and b) he's been given a gift that "makes Shanshu look like a sack a' crap".
Meanwhile, in jolly old London, England, Spike and his flying ship full of giant bugs is crashing into Big Ben like this is Doctor bloody Who. You need to reread that, just to make sure it's real? I understand. Take a minute. All set? Set-ish? Cool. Moving right along.
Angel is talking with the Powers that make me scratch my head through a number of different sources about how he has to give Buffy something to fight against in order for her to unlock her power whilst Spike is investigating this whole "Twilight as the symbol of resistance against slayers" thing and figuring out in short order that Twilight is Angel.
With that back story out of the way, we go back to "NOW." where slayerettes a plenty are rushing into Spike's ship while Buffy and Angel fight demons in the sky. Angel doesn't trust Spike, thinks his showing up is too convenient, that he has "an agenda" Buffy says that Angel gave her perfection and that what he did is what she'd want not just from the love of her life, but from the guy she'd live her life with. Willow turns Angel into a frog because she thinks he's a dick weasel and Angel and Buffy recognize that Angel needs to split town and do some world saving on his lonesome.
Finally Buffy makes her way into Spike's magical ship of bugs, thanks him for saving their collective bacon, then demands to know what he does without the use of "jokes, snark, or british slang that just means something dirty." Spike let's Buffy know in no uncertain terms he's not exactly pleased to smell Angel on her, gets his snark on anyway, and then it's off to exposition land we go. He tells Buffy that she gave birth to a whole new world and ditched it. He tells her she'd better pray that new reality doesn't come looking for mummy. He also tells her that they have to go find the "Seed of Wonder" which is what they need to stop demons from falling from the sky. The seed, if you recall, is that cracked, red, egg looking thing we saw in Buffy's glimpse into her "betrayal" future. The seed, by the way, is in Sunnydale.
Also, the Master has it. Duhn duhn DUHN!
Willow turning Angel into a frog was absolutely hilarious and it was nice to see someone holding him accountable for his actions. Jeanty's at the top of his game, too. This is the best his art has looked all year. Angel looks (and also acts) a lot more like he has in a while. Buffy and Spike's interaction felt pretty natural, too.
The whole thing moves along at a fast clip. it didn't bore me, that's for sure.
The Bad: I'm not sure I need any more comic book imagery so the whole "Angel as Superman" thing left me a little cold. I'm also really not thrilled that Buffy and Angel are talking to each other like they're the hottest shit on two legs. I'm not against them being lovey dovey together but, honestly, it happening here rings very false for me. Buffy talks to Angel like he's this great hero but, frankly, his choices as Twilight still seem awfully flawed to me and I'm not sure I believe that Buffy would let him off so easily.
And speaking of Buffy acting oddly, she's dreadfully curt with Spike. When I say their interaction felt natural, I meant natural for Season 6, not now. It's sad that we basically just get an "Buffy knew Spike was still alive but just didn't have the time to be arsed about it" rather than, you know, some genuine emotion and happiness. You'd think she'd give him a hug or something or at least say "I'm really glad you're not dead" but instead it's all business. If I were Spike, I'd say "Sod you, sod the world, I'm going back to IDW where at least I get laid".
The Ugly: It's coming. The ugly is what the fan reaction is going to be. I mentioned it elsewhere but I'll say it here too: Joss is determined to kill Spuffy stone dead with the biggest sack of hammers he can find. There's a bit of what I thought was meta in the comic in reference to the Spuffy fandom. Here's the part I'm talking about. Buffy and Angel are flying after beating up a few deamons and looking down on Spike's ship.
Angel: Buffy, I don't trust him.
Buffy: Angel, I don't trust you. But you have my heart, so what can I do. And he has a ship, so what can-
Angel: It's too convenient, him showing up now? He's got an agenda.
Buffy: Well it's likely to be a lot simpler than yours and, right now, it's useful.
I put an emphasis on the line "And he has a ship" for a reason. I feel like Joss is saying "Spike may have the biggest shippy fandom out there but, it doesn't matter, because Angel has Buffy's heart, whether she trusts him or not." Furthermore, he suggests that, like in Season 6, Buffy intends to use Spike. I don't see many fans being very happy with that. It's just my interpretation though.
What did you think?