For many people, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 12 is a big deal. Why? Because this is the end of Buffy’s seasonal format. We are literally reaching the end of “continuity,” and it stings. Starting with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season one, episode one, through a full seven seasons of television, five season of it’s spinoff series, Angel, comic book continuations of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel & Faith, Spike, Willow, Giles, Angel, and the futuristic exploration of the Buffyverse in Fray, this final season attempts to bring everything crashing together in what’s sure to be an epic conclusion. I don’t want to say goodbye, but alas, all good things must come to an end.

I’ve made it no secret that Buffy and Angel hold a special place in my heart. I grew up with these shows. I learned from these shows. The characters became more than just characters for me. They became friends that would visit weekly, then monthly after the shows ended and the comics began. In many ways, this show helped me discover and define my own sense of identity. Since 1997, in one way or another, Buffy has been a constant in my life, so the fact that Season 12: The Reckoning, is the final season, is a little hard to swallow. That being said, I have faith in Joss Whedon and Christos Gage, and I’m confident they’ll deliver.

This issue kicks off one year after the events of both Buffy and Angel Season 11. The past year has been quiet as far as the paranormal is concerned, but life doesn’t slow down just because there’s no apocalyptic threat. In fact, all of the characters have grown quite a bit within the past year. Dawn and Xander have moved to the suburbs of San Francisco and they’re hosting a house-warming party. It’s the perfect introduction because we’re getting to catch up with the characters as they catch up with each other. We’ve got the usual suspects, Buffy, Willow, Xander, Dawn, Spike, and Giles, and they’re all handled with such care and poise that the opening pages exude likability.

There’s now a baby in the mix – though I’ll refrain from revealing whose baby it is. Giles has made progress with his mystical/ physical scenario, and Willow has found her calling, while Buffy feels… stuck. She’s 30, still in the same job, still fighting vampires, and, along with Spike, has come to an agreement that they don’t actually work as a couple unless there’s an immense threat to bring them together. So, yes, while there’s a lot of change, it all feels completely natural because it isn’t change for the sake of change. In fact, I’d hardly consider this change, but more so character growth – an aspect that is lacking far too often in comics.

With this growth, there’s also relatability. Each character is at a different point in their life, so readers won’t have any problems finding someone to connect with. For me, it just so happens to be Buffy. Like her, I’m 30, working in the same field that I thought would ultimately serve as a stepping stone to a “better career,” and I’m still trying to figure out my place or role in this crazy world. And just like that, I’m warmed up to this book because, for what feels like the millionth time, Buffy helped me feel like I’m not in this alone.

The characters play off of each other well, and if you’re familiar with the television series, then it’s easy to hear the actors’ voices speaking these lines as only they can. Of course, the happy can’t last forever. In a rather predictable turn of events, there’s an apocalypse on the horizon and it requires immediate attention. Yes, this is a bit cliché by now, but aren’t apocalypses part of the reason we keep coming back?

Where the plot may prove to be a little predictable, various character appearances add a jolt of surprise and suspense. Joining the Scooby gang – or perhaps rejoining is more appropriate – are Angel, Faith, and Illyria. Considering they’ve each headlined or co-headlined their own titles, simply including them ups the ante for this run. They’re not the only familiar faces who pop up in this issue though. We are treated to numerous surprises stemming from both television and the comics – specifically the inclusion of the Buffyverse in the 23rd century. That’s right, Fray is joining the… umm… well… fray.

As Buffy has always done, the story builds heavily on what’s come before it. This greatly aids the script, which moves at a break-neck speed. Considering this season only has four issues to bring everyone together, establish the threat, and resolve the conflict, Whedon and Gage have been tasked with quite a feat! With less capable writers, this story would crash and burn under the weight of its own expectations. Thankfully, the history of these characters and this universe allow for Gage to inject dialogue that carries worlds of weight and context in quick, simple strokes. We see textures of characterization and sub-plots infused with such subtlety that it can easily be missed or written off. But make no mistake, the script of is a masterclass example of writing. In fact, the only other script that I can think of that’s had a comparable task is Avengers: Infinity War in the MCU. There’s just a lot that needs to happen in a very short amount of time.

The quick pacing of the narrative had me hyped with my guns blazing. Whedon and Gage manage to introduce all of the major players, set up the conflict, and approach the climax within a single issue. Yes it’s fast, and yes, I wish the creative team had more time to tell their story, but I can’t deny that I was sucked into the pacing early into the issue and just went along for the ride. Which is exactly what I recommend you do. Just go along for the ride… But hold on, because we’re about to travel through time!

 

The Art: I’m not going to lie, initially I was a little disappointed that Georges Jeanty was slated as the artist for this season. Aesthetically speaking, he’s not my favorite artist. His ability to tell a story is incredibly strong, but the look of his characters always bug me. There’s usually little consistency from panel to panel, and his proportions are all over the place. I’d even go so far as to describe them as blobby and childlike in appearance… But this is, perhaps, some of the best work I’ve seen him do! The problems I’ve had with his art in the past aren’t as noticeable here, and there were plenty of pages where I thought, “This looks great!” That’s not to say the problems listed above aren’t apparrent, just that they’re not nearly as noticeable.

Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.

Spoiler

The Good:

The Scooby Gang. Buffy and Angel have both told some incredible stories during their various runs, but what people really grab hold of and connect with are the characters. I referenced this earlier, but each character is so relatable and likable, that you want to come back. As a reader, you feel invested. You care for these people and you want to see them succeed and find happiness! But in their relatability and likability, they’re also incredibly complex. Simply, Joss Whedon created some of the best characters in fiction today. I’m talking about all forms of media, not just television/ comics.

Joyce. Oh. My. God. Dawn and Xander had a baby… and they named her Joyce! Be still my heart. To this day, I cannot watch “The Body” without crying like a baby, so this hit all the feels for me.

The Mayor. Holy $#!% this was a surprise! The Mayor made for one hell of an interesting villain in Buffy season 3, and when he was revealed here, I let out an audible, “No way! How?” Turns out, it takes more than a bunch of bombs to take out a pure demon… His inclusion is a welcomed one, and while I found his dialogue a little off-putting at first, Harry Groener’s cadence came back to me for my second read. The dialogue felt perfect the second time around!

23rd Century Slayer. The most exciting aspect of this arc is the inclusion of Fray and Harth as prominent characters! The story of Maleka Fray has shaped Buffy’s entire comic run, so it’s the natural choice for how to end the series. The question is, how will it end. We know the future because of Fray, but Buffy and team spent all of seasons 8, 9, 10, and 11 trying to keep that future from becoming a reality. So far, it doesn’t appear they’ve succeeded, and now Harth is here to guarantee his future remains unchanged. This is so *beep*ing epic! *Beep* yeah!

The Bad:

The Pacing. The fast pace of this narrative serves the story well in a number of ways, but in the end, I’m left wishing we had more. More issues. More pages. More time. I’m ok with Season 12 being the final season, but I really wish Darkhorse would’ve given the series finale a full twelve issue count – or at the very least, six. There’s so much to cover, and having those extra pages would’ve really allowed Whedon and Gage to dig in rather than quickly pulse character beats and moments throughout. My fear is that characters like Angel, Faith, Willow, and Illyria will ultimately be severely underused when all is said and done.

Illyria. The one character that didn’t play well for me is Illyria. The dialogue for her felt off. The cadence was weird. I mean, Illyria’s cadence is weird already, but it felt weird for her.

Recommended if:

  • You always tag along with the Scooby Gang for their adventures.
  • It’s Buffy meets Angel meets Fray for a final, epic conclusion!
  • Five words or less: Out. For. A. Walk… Bitch.

Overall: Christos Gage, Joss Whedon, and Georges Jeanty deliver an extremely fast-paced, well-written set-up for one hell of a conclusion. Not only do we catch up with our characters one year after Season 11, but Angel’s narrative gets folded into the story, as well as Fray’s. The story feels huge and epic in every sense of the word, and I’m waiting anxiously for the remainder of the series because I know Joss isn’t going to let the end of Buffy serve as our only sacrifice. Is it July yet? Cause I’m ready for issue 2… And 3 and 4!

SCORE: 8.5/ 10