Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 31
Dark Horse (Vol. 1, 1998-2003)
Creators: Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (writers); Cliff Richards (penciller); Joe Pimentel (inker)
Setting: Season Four
T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Giles, Joyce, Riley, Willow, Xander, Anya,
Major Original Characters: Rebecca Stansberry (librarian); Cole (Initiative member); Ghost of Homeless Man (unnamed)
Summary: Buffy, bored during summer vacation, asks Giles for advice on suitable hobbies but to no avail. Sometime later, two vampires kill a homeless man and take a gold ring from the corpse. That same night, Giles is approached by a fan after one of his guitar/singing performances at the Espresso Pump. The fan, a librarian named Rebecca Stansberry, hits it off with Giles and the two arrange a date. A week later, Riley and a fellow member of the Initiative named Cole walk down an alleyway and are assailed by a ghost moaning "Give it back . . ." The ghost grasps Riley, and he collapses into a coma. Later, Willow's research uncovers a pattern of ghostly hauntings in that same alleyway. Buffy and Willow travel to the scene and rescue Xander and Anya from a vampire attack. The ghost manifests and gives Buffy some clues, which she combines with information beaten out of a bartender and from another vampire to track down the vampire which stole the homeless man's ring. Buffy slays the vampire easily and returns the ring to the alleyway, where the ghost manifests, takes the ring, and disappears. Meanwhile, Giles date has gone swimmingly, as it has ended in a kiss and a promise for future dates. Rebecca, however, wears a necklace with an insect in amber, an insect-shaped shadow seems to follow Giles, and the next morning a strange humanoid-insect creature is discovered by boys playing baseball.
Review: The A-plot, involving the ghost of the homeless man, is simply pretty dumb; we don't know anything about this guy, what the ring meant to him, why he's manifesting as a ghost to get it back, etc. The subplot, on the other hand, is far more fun, as Giles doesn't get a lot of action in the dating scene and it's fun to see him in romantic situations--even if clues indicate it may not last long. The artwork overall remains quite strong, and the likenesses of the characters are easy to recognize--a big improvement over some early issues of the series.
* Riley, you poor sap--making the cover and then getting knocked out in two pages.
* In the letters' page, editor Scott Allie promises "an even higher level of connection between the show and the comics, beginning with this story, set immediately after Season Four." I remain skeptical, but willing to wait and see . . .
* Here's Giles, getting his groove back.