Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 43
(Dark Horse, Volume 1, 1998-2003)
Creators: Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (story); Cliff Richards (pencils); Joe Pimenel & Will Conrad (inks)
Setting: After Season Five
T.V. Character Appearances: The First Slayer; Buffy (flashback only); Dawn; Willow, Tara, Spike, Giles, Xander, Anya
Major Original Characters: Mr. Richardson (school principal); Coma (seller of mystical items)
Summary: After Buffy's death, Spike drinks alone and mourns her loss. He locks the broken pieces of the Buffy Bot in a chest. Elsewhere, at a nearby school, Dawn gets into a fist-fight with another girl in the hallway because the girl called her "Gravestone Girl". Dawn is taken to the principal's office for solving her problems through violence. That evening, Willow, Tara, Xander, and Anya are returning from a double-date when they're attacked by a pair of vampires. The vampires are defeated after a difficult struggle. The next morning, Willow and Tara, who are staying at Buffy's house, receive a phone call from Principal Richardson. They've been pretending that Buffy is still alive so that Dawn is not taken away, but are quite upset when they hear that Dawn was in a fight. Principal Richardson insists that Buffy meets with him, but the women come up with an alternative: they send Giles instead. Giles is able to persuade Richardson that Dawn will stay out of trouble, but the other Scoobies are torn over how to take care of Dawn now that Buffy is dead.
On a hillside overlooking Sunnydale, a trio of older gentleman vow that on this return to the town, they will not leave without "the scrolls." Later, they find the mysterious bandaged woman known as Coma in the sewers underneath the town. They demand the scroll, and when she resists, they kill her bodyguard and take the scroll. Coma vows revenge. Meanwhile, a frustrated, angry, and grieving Xander kicks down the door to Spike's crypt, planning on staking him through the heart.
Review: It was a great idea for a storyline to fill in the gap between Seasons Five and Six, and the creative team did a solid job with it this issue. One can definitely imagine Dawn getting in trouble at school and the rest of the Scoobies trying to figure out how to take care of her while also dealing with their own grief. Too early to tell about the plot development involving the mysterious scroll, so hopefully it'll be something good; this creative team has done an excellent job on characterisation, but often come up with rather dull plots.
* The issue opens with a flashback of Slayers throughout history; I recognize the First Slayer, what I think is Yuki Makimura from issues # 35-38, and the Chinese Slayer killed by Spike during the Boxer Rebellion. There's a few others that I think probably come from the Tales of the Slayers short stories or comics, but I don't have time to look them up unfortunately. One is a Slayer in what looks like French Revolution times, one is dressed as knight during the crusades, and one is a blonde woman killing a Nazi vampire.
* Dawn really picked up some combat skills during her time watching Buffy. She beats the crap out of the girl who was taunting her. I'm not exactly sure why the girl is taunting her with "Gravestone Girl", since Buffy's death has been kept a secret. Have the other kids seen Dawn hanging out at the cemetery?
* The letters' page starts with a scathing but (I think) quite well-argued letter about the poor quality of some past issues (# 39 specifically). On the other hand, the other letter writers seemed to think # 39 was super-keen, so who knows . . .
* Fantastic artwork on this issue's art cover. The series finally got away from the heavily cartoony/manga style that I don't think worked well.