Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow #4
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Natacha Bustos
I don’t think I’ve ever given a bad review for a comic on this site. I’ve said books were of average quality but I don’t think I’ve reviewed a bad comic. As a reviewer, I feel I should be as impartial as I can. I like Willow, the character. Alyson Hannigan did a great job playing the character in the TV shows. One of my favourite Buffy characters next to Spike and Buffy herself. Mariko Tamaki has done a good job on the previous three issues. This issue of “Willow” was a bad comic though so it can’t get a free pass based on all that. Let’s get into the details.
The last three issues of this series have been building the same idea. Willow is looking for a place to fit in and has found herself in this mysterious town full of witches. She finds herself drawn to one witch in particular, Aelara. There’s something creepy going on and Willow has slowly been realising it despite her enjoyment of the town itself. One unnamed witch in particular seems to be trying to hint to her that bad things are afoot. It’s the stereotypical teen drama setup. A young girl is trying to fit into a new environment and finds herself torn between two kinds of people. The popular crowd represented by Aelara who seems to run the place. The unpopular ones represented by this unnamed witch. It’s the usual teen drama that Mariko Tamaki has become famous for but with a supernatural twist.
I like Tamaki and her reliance on this type of story isn’t the problem itself. The problem is that this issue largely undoes the previous three. Willow had been drawn to Aelara and had become more popular as often happens in teen dramas. Usually, in these stories, the protagonist will eventually realise the popular group isn’t as nice as they seem. They’ll then end up with the outcasts and find that they fit in better with them. Meanwhile, the popular ones try to humiliate the member who’s left them. The protagonist puts them in their place and realises where she fits in. Happy ending. Simple but effective storytelling.
So, what’s the issue? At the end of the last issue, we saw Willow take the hint that the town wasn’t right. She saw this scared girl who was being escorted around by other witches. The protagonist realised that something was wrong and vowed to do something about it. Willow made an active decision to take action against the town and Aelara. In this issue, she’s happily having dinner with Aelara and the town members. She’s hinting that she’s attracted to the woman while thinking about how she finally fits in. There’s no conflicted emotions or even a sign of the Willow from the last issue who was going to take action. Willow doesn’t even do anything until the scared witch shows up and practically forces her to leave town with her. The character development of that previous issue is abandoned and our protagonist is entirely passive.
So, yeah….Tamaki undid everything this series had been building towards to write an unnecessary filler issue. Anyone who expected this to have Willow actually doing something after the last issue is going to be disappointed. She doesn’t even seem to think anything is wrong with the town anymore. By the end, Willow joins the unnamed girl to help her leave and they get attacked. It takes that to make our protagonist once again realise that something’s wrong.
The artwork is fine. It’s decent just like the previous three issues. Natacha Bustos continues to do a solid job on the series, although her art isn’t quite as consistent here. There are some panels, especially with large groups in them that aren’t up to Bustos’ previous standards. Faces look odd in them and it can be difficult to tell who each character is. I’d also say the one horror moment near the end of the book suffers due to the art style. It’s a pack of wolves hunting the girls through the forest. It should be impactful and scary but Bustos’ art makes it look more like something from a kids tv show. She’s done creepy stuff in dream sequences in past issues so I don’t get why Natacha couldn’t make this work. It’s a bit disappointing.
The lettering is the strong point of the issue. It’s been a strong point for most of the series. There’s the frequent use of onomatopoeia and it helps give an otherwise uneventful story some impact at key moments. Different sizes of text are used to indicate when someone is whispering or speaking normally. There’s also a single use of a spiked speech bubble to add some urgency to the final chase with the wolves. We see the return of the pink narration boxes to show Willow’s thoughts which draws the reader’s attention. Alongside this, the standard bold letters to highlight certain phrases are used throughout the book. The lettering is legitimately good in this issue.
If you’re enjoying this series and read the last issue then I’d recommend skipping this one. It is an utterly pointless filler. There’s nothing in this issue that adds to the story. Willow becomes completely passive to the point of feeling pointless in her own solo series. Tamaki is just wasting time here, presumably because her story clearly wasn’t enough to fill the five issues planned. You’re not missing anything by avoiding this issue if you’ve read the first three. Willow ends up in the same place as she did at the end of the last issue. There’s nothing particularly interesting visually in this issue either. The lettering has been better in previous issues too, even if it’s good here. Hopefully, issue five will at least provide a decent finale to this series.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow #4
This issue was terrible. The only good thing it had going for it was the lettering which was solid but to be quite frank, I've seen better from this series. Tamaki regresses her character and phones in a filler issue where nothing really happens yet it somehow manages to make Willow look like a helpless, passive character instead of the one that was ready to take on a town of witches last issue. The issue also ends with her in the same position as she was at the end of last issue so it's a bit of a pointless book to read. Even Bustos' art which I usually praise felt weaker than usual here. This really does just feel like a hastily-made filler issue created because the story couldn't fill out the number of issues. Not worth reading.