This miniseries ties in directly with the whole Buffy Season 9 universe crossing all of the books. That being said, this is a continuation of a recent story arc within the pages of Angel & Faith, where Willow paired up with the vampire, the Slayer, and the vampire’s son-who-grew-up-in-a-hell-dimension-but-returned-home-and-had-his-mind-wiped. Yeah. I went there. By travelling to the dimension that Connor grew up in, and using the scythe that helped Buffy defeat the First at the end of Season 7, Willow was able to travel to another dimension where magic ruled. And this where Willow Wonderland spun off from Angel & Faith.
While I could see the main series continuing on television, this miniseries (and its sibling miniseries Spike) I could not. There’s too much ridiculousness and visual strangeness than would ever pass muster on network television. Basically, the entire series (which would be a made-for-T.V. movie) would have to be pretty much green-screened. But in a comic… The sky is the limit…. Well, the actual limit is the skill of both the writer and the artist, but this team had nothing to worry about when they were dreaming big.
Taking the “Wonderland” theme somewhat seriously, Willow has traveled to this magical dimension in an attempt to open a portal to Earth and restore magic to her home. Once there, she encounters a few interesting characters, including a caterpillar who also wields mystical abilities and a friend in Marrak, who appears to be a cross between the Cheshire Cat and Hellboy, and is about as happy as the latter. Marrak and Willow are on a question to find a Deeper Well, which will presumably help to give Willow the strength to open the portal. As they follow her divination spell leading them to the Well, they are attacked by bird-like creatures who are actually dreams given solid form. One touch and you’re under their spell.
Willow isn’t fast enough and ends up in a psuedo-dream which has her paired back with the Scoobies… but not. The team is faceless – literally. Buffy is even carrying the scythe, which is impossible because Willow has the remnants of it. This observation alone takes her out of her reverie and lets her realize that it’s an hallucination. She casts a spell to clear her mind and is reunited with Marrak (who also suffered from someone’s dream, but his involved nurses – which evidently both he and Willow admit sounded like a nice place to visit for a while).
So as to not let things settle, rustling occurs in the underbrush as the duo continues on. Marrak is bound by magic, whereas Willow confronts their assailant in a completely different way: she kisses her. The assailant knows Willow – and she should as she was one of Willow’s teachers of magic, who also is half snake: Aluwyn. After some introductions to Aluwyn’s companions, and a number of sexual innuendo phrases worthy of Xander, the group returns to the home of the magical companions which is formed directly on top of the Well.
The coven gathers their powers and helps Willow by restoring the scythe to its full potential, restoring its abilities as well. Willow uses it to open a portal to Earth and sees her comrades. They, however, cannot see her. It turns out that in order to open a portal that is more than a piece of glass (“looking glass” again?) magic also needs to exist on the destination end. But without magic… Willow is trapped.
Before reading this miniseries, I was not too familiar with Jeff Parker except within the pages of Marvel’s Thunderbolts. But taking on characters that have such a strong history as the Buffyverse takes talent, skill, and a love for the world they live in. Parker has concocted a script where I could see the personas of the characters taking form, even though there really was only one person from the show beyond a panel of two. But the nervousness, the strength, and the humor that embodied Willow on the TV screen still exists within this book.
Not being too familiar with Parker, as I said, I was wholly unfamiliar with Brian Ching when I picked up this series. That being said, his art suits the story. Dark when it needs to be, light in other instances. It even fits within the realm of the Buffyverse as I can see him being a strong companion to Rebekah Isaacs – their styles are similar but still unique, and both lean strongly towards that balance between serious and fun, much as the show did. I don’t know – it’s hard to describe. It’s art and you really do have to see it.
I’m glad that Dark Horse and Joss Whedon gave Willow this chance to shine. I don’t think she needs her own book on a regular basis, as this miniseries gives her a focus for a while and following suit for other characters in similar series would be great. This book is a detour to achieve what seems to be building for Buffy Season 9 and I’m glad to have enjoyed it immensely.