I can't help but think that, down the line, people are going to look at the previous five issues of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight" as a good idea that turned out to be a mistake. The problem isn't so much the individual issues themselves, but rather that five stand-alone issues back-to-back did an impressive job of derailing the ongoing story of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight." The end result? When Jane Espenson comes on board to tell a story that starts moving the book towards its conclusion at #40, it's easy to have forgotten what was actually happening.
It doesn't help that Espenson chooses to start the book in media res, with Buffy and her group under siege and with what appears be some notable developments happening between issues. Normally that might not be a problem, but after the long delay in actually seeing the main Buffy and company story moving forward, I ended up having to look through the last half-dozen issues to see if this was something I'd forgotten about, or if it was brand-new. Still, the story itself isn't bad even if it's serving as a massive transition point, shifting the action to a different point on the globe entirely and starting to make the characters a little more proactive in the fight against Twilight. So while I can see what the book's trying to achieve (and it does make me look forward to next issue), it is a bit unfortunate that it feels like set-up more than anything else.
Espenson also writes a slightly more nuanced Buffy than we've seen in a while; strong and tough on the outside, but secretly vulnerable and conflicted on the inside. Seeing her reveal that other side worked surprisingly well, perhaps because of the one character for whom she's willing to let her guard down. After big bad Buffy when she appeared in the previous half-dozen issues, it's nice to see her being a more well-rounded character.
Unsurprisingly, Georges Jeanty and Andy Owens bring their always-great art. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Jeanty and Owens make the prospect of working with licensed character likenesses positively easy, even though it's actually anything but. All the characters are instantly recognizable as their television counterparts, but without looking posed, stiff, or being traced off of studio-provided stills. They're definitely part of what's made "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight" such a hit, and if there's a "Season Nine" series to follow, I hope Dark Horse does everything possible to keep Jeanty and Owens around.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight" has definitely gone through a slight rough patch as of late, but I'm starting to feel like the light is finally at the end of the tunnel. For writers who can potentially pull the book back up to its former glory, Espenson's on the list. With a nice cliffhanger to the next installment, I'm actually feeling a little excited again about this book.