We've all seen this story before: main character gets sidetracked on a quest, offered up their heart's desire and decide to abandon their quest in favor of the new prize that was found. Eventually, they have to shake off their new discovery in search of the original quest, and life goes on. So with that in mind, I need to hand it to Jeff Parker, Christos Gage and Brian Ching. They may be serving that up in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow Wonderland" #3, but in doing so they've created a situation that feels like the main character could actually and legitimately stick with instead of waving it farewell.
Parker and new co-writer Gage manage this in part because of how they write the relationship between Aluwyn and Willow. The pair of them relate to one another in such a comfortable way that this doesn't feel like the typical trap-disguised-as-honey plot. As Willow finds the strength of being in this mystical coven, it's a scenario where you can believe that Willow would decide to stay there for a while.
At the same time, Parker and Gage still offer up that kernel of doubt with the reminder that everyone else back on Earth is still counting on her to try and bring magic back to the world, even as we're learning how nearly impossible such a task is turning out to be. Even as it's hard to entirely trust Marrak, he ends up being the voice of reason. But still, Parker and Gage have made the idea of Willow staying put attractive enough that it makes you hope that perhaps when everything is over, she could still slide back over for an extended visit.
The one downside to this issue is that it feels like it's a little longer than it should be. By the time Marrak finally tries to bring reason into the picture, you almost want Willow to leave just so the pace will pick up again. I like Willow in the coven, but tranquility is a hard hook on which to hang a story for too long a time period. With that clearly coming to an end next month, all in all the pacing isn't too bad.
Ching's pencils are a little variable from one page to the next; in some panels Willow and company look very blocky and overly simplistic, while in others there's a much more expressive look given to them. It's a little frustrating, because I think that Ching is turning out some good pages, but I want them all to look that good. Still, if nothing else, when it comes to someone needing to draw an adorable little flying octopus, look no further than Ching. He's definitely your man.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow Wonderland" is proving to be a fun little side story to the main two "Buffy" titles being published right now. Will it end in victory? That's actually part of what's keeping me reading; I feel like it could go anywhere from here. While there might be a touch of predictability to this one segment, it's to everyone's credit that the conclusion is still anyone's guess. That's a good thing.