In the upcoming miniseries from Dark Horse Comics, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow - Wonderland," writer Jeff Parker ("Thunderbolts") and artist Brian Ching ("Skaar: King of the Savage Land") take Buffy's longtime magical best friend Willow through the wringer. The story teases out the ramifications of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight's" conclusion and the destruction, at Buffy's hand, of the seed of magic, following events currently unfolding in the pages of Christos Gage's "Angel & Faith." The first of the series' five parts hits shelves November 7.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow - Wonderland" is very much Willow's story as she heads out on her own and learns a bit about herself on her way to restore magic. Key supporting characters will make some brief appearances, but in possibly unexpected places.
"They won't be directly in the story," said Parker. "We'll connect to them in strange ways. Someone from Willow's distant past will be figuring in though, as well as the snake-demon-woman Aluwyn."
As the gang's resident magic-user, it comes as no surprise that Willow feels the pains of a magic-less world more severely than the rest of the "Buffy" crew.
"She feels fairly alone in this," said Parker. "So much of what's wrong with the world having no magic is very clear to her and no one else. It's not just witches and warlocks not having power (though part of that equation really bothers her), but it's that magic informed our life in constant and subtle ways -- and the populous doesn't know what they've lost.
"At the same time, Willow is possibly misleading herself about how much of this mission is for the good of humanity and how much is for the good of Willow."
Willow's search for a new source of magic will take her deep into other worlds and other realms, armed with only Buffy's broken scythe and a thread of hope.
"Getting to other realms of the universe via magic is nearly impossible now," said Parker. "But heroes are all about making that slightest chance work, and Willow realizes she can take advantage of a loophole and make her way to where she thinks there will be a source of magic to draw upon.
"There are a lot of freaky weird creatures in Wonderland," Parker continued, "and some bizarre laws of nature, but I think her biggest challenge is understanding herself or being honest with herself. Like most of my favorite series episodes, no matter how horrific or fantastic the premise is, the underlying story is always something very basic to human nature ... Along the way, she finds out a few interesting secrets of the universe, and how magic works. And, she'll find what's essentially Witch Paradise."
Parker is, himself, a longtime fan of the original "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television series, though stepping into the role of scripting "Buffy" stories was not without its challenges.
"I watched [the episodes] when they ran, but since that's been a while, the editors kindly lent me the DVD set so I had everything possible to draw upon, along with the comics," said Parker. "The show was always a blast, it used to really help me decompress and enjoy myself during long workdays.
"Since the comics really count as further seasons of the show in a way licensed comics usually don't, the stories have to follow a direction and logic that Joss Whedon wants," he continued. "Since I don't know him, I rely heavily on the editors who do work closely with him to keep it moving on that course. It's different for me, but it's turning out great."
Parker has found an ideal collaborator in artist Brian Ching, someone who has been able to fully immerse the story in strange and wonderful other worlds.
"Brian is amazing," said Parker. "If you describe to him a place with different physics and flora and fauna and insane magical creations, he gives you even more than you imagine ... I feel he's getting across this enigmatic quality to the story and cast that makes you comfortable as a reader, but a bit on edge as to what might happen. There's a tension throughout, even when Willow appears to be fine and in control. The Buffyverse is a tall order for artists because you can't throw a bat symbol or a spiderweb mask on a character and make them believable as the character fans know, you have to get the acting right along with the likenesses and be true to your own style. Brian does all that!"
In setting Willow off on her solitary journey to restore magic to the world, Parker and Ching are also, in many ways, setting out what will define Willow as she progresses as a character. Willow Rosenberg will not return to Sunnydale quite the same as she left, and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow - Wonderland," will likely have ramifications that ripple outward into future tales of the Buffyverse.
"[This journey] will really determine how Willow interacts with everyone going forward," said Parker. "She really gets to see who she's become in the past couple of years."
"Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Willow - Wonderland" by Jeff Parker and Brian Ching hits stores November 7 from Dark Horse Comics.