Available now from Boom! Studios, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #18, continues the Ring of Fire arc with delicious intrigue and twists. Writers Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert continue their run with illustrator Ramon Bachs, colorist Raul Angulo and letterer Ed Dukeshire.
Something’s not quite right with the Scooby Gang. Of course, making such a statement about the Buffyverse seems obvious. But there’s something more abnormal than the usual supernatural goings-on in this new issue.
If you’ve been following along with Buffy and the Willow spin-off series, you might have noticed some curious elements in the past few issues. Some symbols appear to have crossed over from the Willow series, while the meanings of others are becoming clear.
Putting It Together
Since the beginning of the Willow spin-off, I’ve wondered how its timeline aligns with the main Buffy timeline. In the Willow spin-off, Willow is still not Sunnydale. However, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow’s been back since the end of issue #16. Now, we have some choices on how to interpret this. Option number one is the Willow spin-off is running completely independent of the main timeline. Option number two is Willow’s timeline run concurrently with the main timeline.
Based on my reading of issue #18, the answer is option two with a twist. The Willow in issue #18 isn’t really Willow. Real Willow, meanwhile, is still in Abhainn. There are a few clues in the issue that lends credence to my theory.
Our first clue is Willow’s inner monologue and dialogue. The issue opens on a medium shot of Willow’s face looking tired and bemused. Willow asks, in her captioned inner monologue, “Why does it all feel like a dream? Is it my fault everything feels so… disconnected?” Later, Willow curiously accepts that Rose and Kendra are an item with aplomb. She then invites Rose over to her house with no ulterior motives. Bellaire and Lambert’s writing here combined with Bachs’ heavy inks and cross-hatching paints a mysterious picture.
As someone familiar with the show, I’m reminded of season three, episode sixteen entitled “Doppelgangland.” In it, Willow and Anya accidentally conjure Willow’s evil vampire doppelganger, which leads to confusion and comedy. While I don’t think Lambert and Bellaire are going for an exact adaptation of that episode, I think something along those lines is happening here. When considering the meaning of The Fool tarot card from issue 16 and what Xander has been doing underground, it all makes sense.
The final act of the issue reveals that Xander is forcing Jenny Calendar to perform magic. When he says, “I need her with me,” it’s obvious he’s referring to Willow. So, he must be forcing Ms. Calendar to conjure Willow somehow. If this is the case, then perhaps a botched spell resulted in a Willow doppelganger.
The only symbol I can’t explain in the context of this issue is the crow. A single crow appears in a single panel in the middle of a conversation between Kendra and Willow. Because crows appear in two issues of the Willow series, I doubt this crow was just thrown in. Letterer Dukeshire gives us a loaded moment in which Willow saying “happy,” in response to Kendra’s comment on the Robin/Buffy relationship, happens at the same time the crow squawks. Perhaps this crow is a sign of bad things to come, especially relating to Buffy and Robin’s relationship.
Alas, nothing comes easy in the Buffyverse. Lambert and Bellaire continue to layer the story, stoking the flames of their ring of fire. By the end of the issue, Bachs dramatic cross-hatching and Angulo’s supernatural green send us on a dreamy journey with Willow’s astral form as she meets Xander. Now that he has her, the question is: Will the Scooby Gang kill one of their own? Given that the Willow/Xander storyline seems to be an adaptation of the Buffy/Angel relationship from the show, we’re due for some heartbreak in the ensuing issues.