In previous issues, Willow had ventured to the Hell dimension where Angel’s son Connor had grown up in order to open a gateway to this mystical realm where magic ruled, in the hopes that she could open an additional portal to Earth and restore magic. (That sums up about 4 issues of Angel & Faith and the previous 2 issues of this series.) Willow found at the end of the previous issue, though, that it was not possible – in order for the gateway from this realm to Earth to be opened, magic has to exist on both sides. Well, that’s the problem and what Willow is trying to resolve. Dang.
Really, this issue left me a little dry. Half of the issue was Willow coming to terms with the fact that she may be trapped while her friends in the coven in this dimension try to convince her to be happy to stay. If you look back, though, you can see that this may be a bit of subterfuge – they are seriously trying to convince her to stay, especially Willow’s old mentor. Various members take their turn to make her comfortable and to accept the fact that, without magic, she is trapped but she is not alone. Everyone but Marrak, the only male in the issue who was dismissed by the coven for daring to touch the Slayer’s axe. He’s the only one who sees sense and seems to understand the spell (pun intended) that they are casting upon Willow.
Willow, it seems, has been seduced by the power of magic in this world. After living without it for a while, its energy is overwhelming and she is falling under its spell again. OK, not evil Willow time just yet, but there is that urge. Marrak is using the power of the dream birds they had previously encountered to enter Willow’s sleeping thoughts – while she flies naked amongst “boob clouds” as she puts it – and lets her know that he may have found a path to the font of magic and wants her to join him. Willow, however, seems reluctant to join him which is a tad out of character based on how much she went through to get there. He opens her mind up to think of where she came from and she sees her friends – the Scoobies – who are still on Earth. She had forgotten about them while succumbing to the haze of this “mystic opium den”. The realization that she is, in fact, dreaming and not in control knocks her awake…
We now wait one month until the final issue where we see Willow’s actions and how this can be resolved.
Although this was my least favorite issue in terms of action, it was one of the better ones for Willow’s characterization. Writers Jeff Parker and Christos Gage got the old high-school Willow-giddy-at-the-cutest-thing activity going on and it reminded me of the first few seasons of the show. That also explains why Willow seemed to revert to an older persona, as it seemed like the darkness of the last few “seasons” of the Buffyverse seems to have been pushed to the backburner of her memory. It will be interesting to see how this series wraps up and the impacts on the Earth crew if magic is restored… as that may open up a whole new can of worms for the arcs going on in both Buffy Season 9 and Angel & Faith.
Brian Ching’s art was good here. I’d like to say it was great, but at some points I think he was trying to give it the feeling of the main book’s art for consistency and it came off as somewhat copy-esque. I am not saying it was bad – there are some panels where you can tell it’s his unique style, but in others it really is like trying to be a carbon copy and that removed my enjoyment from it a little. I think the scenes with Marrak were some of the most unique simply because we were dealing with non-humans, and so he could stretch a little more, but many of the scenes with Willow just seemed like it was trying for the main range. Now, whether this is the fault of Ching or inker Jason Gorder, I am unsure – sometimes it’s the inker who gives it that feeling, where other times it’s the penciler. Regardless, it didn’t push me to that great level here (but again, perhaps due to the lack of action).
This is definitely a penultimate chapter in this series and as such is setting up for the big conclusion. I hope. After this issue I do have some reservations, but this whole Season 9 arc has been carefully choreographed, so here’s hoping it ends on a positive (or at least) interesting note.