It's been a genuine pleasure having Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs in charge of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10," having done such a good job with "Angel & Faith" the past couple of years. Now that actor Nicholas Brendon has co-written his second issue with Gage, aside from a bit more of a focus on Brendon's character of Xander, you'll be relieved to know that you can't tell the difference.
Gage's ideas on how to mix up the Buffy-verse have been incredibly entertaining; not only have vampires' abilities shifted into the more dangerous, but the revelation last month on how the universe could literally be rewritten has been a dangerous and intriguing time bomb for all involved. Here, with Dracula holding the book that can alter reality, Gage mixes humor and drama effortlessly.
After all, just having Dracula and once-more-minion Xander alter Dracula's powers wouldn't be that exciting if played entirely straight. And so, Gage puts in just a touch of humor; not too much so that it overwhelms the story, but not too little either. It'll keep you chuckling even as darker revelations are unleashed upon us.
In particular, I have to hand it to Gage for how well he's handling Dawn's storyline this season. She felt in the background for most of the previous series, but her story is surprisingly affecting as we learn how her fading away and then being rebuilt during "Season 9" has altered her. It's a nasty little twist, one that makes perfect sense even as it's depressing. For the first time in a while, Xander and Dawn's relationship feels like it's something genuinely interesting.
Here's the best thing about the writing, though: everyone has something to do under Gage. Some characters have smaller roles than others as the overall story dictates this issue, but they're not getting lost in the shuffle. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10" has a large enough cast that it's easy to see them drop out here and there, and Gage (and Brendon) have kept a good eye on them all.
Isaacs' art looks good as ever. I almost feel like a broken record at this point, but for those who haven't seen her work in the Buffyverse before: she's great not only with character likenesses, but also in making them feel vibrant and alive. I love Andrew's goofy Dracula-esque outfit and his expressions to go with it, and Buffy's irritated look as she casually stabs a vampire is wonderful. Dracula's other appearance looks good here, and the simpering Xander has just the right level of minion-ness. Best is Dawn's devastated look when she explains why Xander was right when he left in the previous issue. It's a little heartbreaking, with Isaacs bringing that expression to the page perfectly.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10" #4 has the series chugging along quite nicely; if this level of quality continues (and I can't imagine why it wouldn't), this will be the strongest of the three comic book "seasons" by a long shot.