Writer: Joss Whedon
Artists: Karl Moline (p), Andy Owens (i)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Let me break it down for you. Since all the other Buffy comics (with the exception of Tales of the Slayers and maybe Spike & Dru) suck, this is the one to read. The ones written by ME (ie Joss-trained talent) or Joss himself come closest to capturing what the show is about, with or without using the same characters.
And it's not really like there's much difference even when they don't. Cat burglar Melaka is Faith gone semi-good (or at least not yet driven mad). Her sister Erin is Kate from Angel season one, torn between duty and emotional loyalty. The old couple from the ghetto are, well, a kindly old couple, full of that wisdom that Joss gives his average decent joes. Mentor demon Urkonn is Skip from Angel (or Giles from "A New Man") … I won't tell you which season. The giant dragon she finds herself inside on page one is the Mayor after his ascension, only female and ready to give birth to monsters. Brother Harth is - well, actually, he's the freshest part of this story.
Melaka's brother, long thought dead but discovered to be so much worse (ie, a lurk = vampire), lobs all the same insidious, insightful verbal barbs that come so easily to Angelus or Spike. However the familial relationship twists the knife in a different way for Melaka than did their amorous attentions to Buffy. Amorous attention is something Harth (killed when adolescent) has never known, will never know. To make it worse, he and Melaka had already twisted the Slayer legacy, by accidents of birth. They divided the power in two, so he got all the knowledge and instincts while she only got the Slayer strength.
Melaka fights well not because of magic, but because she's always had to fight. Thanks to Urkonn, and the events of this series, she now realizes her role and destiny against the newly risen lurks. In this issue, she must literally slay the dragon, and luckily she has that axe that Joss so brilliantly introduced in the final season of Buffy.
She's also got to deal with Harth, with Erin, with her street boss Gunther (an urban-dwelling aquatic mutant), and with her - but that would be telling. Joss ends his series with style (perhaps, along with witty dialogue, his greatest ultimate strength), leaving a lot more surprising openings for future tales than I expected.
Moline's art is better for me in static splash pages than in action sequences, which tend to lose detail and coherence. Still, he achieved memorable designs for Gunther, Melaka and Urkonn, and also had a lot of fun imagining a world of future tech every bit as grubby as our own. Dave Stewart's colors are as ever definitive, setting the tone for Melaka's violent, fluid future (notice how her pink skin and the red blood on the axe on Moline's striking cover contrast with the greenish background). This is one series, despite the many delays, that was worth the extended wait.
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