(Dark Horse Volume 1, 1998-2003)
Creators: Scott Lobdel & Fabian Nicieza (story); Cliff Richards (pencils); Will Conrad (inks)
Setting: After Season Six
T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Anya, Angel, Faith, Pike
Major Original Characters: San Sui (Chinese Vampire)
Summary: Buffy and her friends had heard word of a secret demon gladiator ring in hidden chambers underneath Sunnydale University, and now Buffy fights her twenty-seventh challenger in the last four days! She recognises it as a vampire named San Sui she thought she dusted years ago. Meanwhile, nearby, Xander, Dawn, and hundreds of Sunnydale residents are held captives by the demons. Anya, in her vengeance demon form of Anyanka, is apparently undercover and tells Xander that the demons are extracting the pain and misery of the captives to use in a narcotic called Soul Drops. Elsewhere, Faith and Angel arrive in Sunnydale and survey the damaged scene of a fight at the Magic Box--
Angel says he's unable to track Buffy's scenet. Back underground, Buffy keeps fighting and unleashes her inner anger on the demons. Suddenly, machine gun fire kills a demon and a motorcycle appears. The driver tells Buffy to hop on the back, and they manage to escape to the town limits. Buffy thinks from the motorcyclists apparel that it is Riley who rescued her, but it actually turns out to be someone from much further back in her life: Pike!
Starting with the end, it was an awesome twist that I didn't see coming. I haven't thought about Pike in a long, long time and I'm really curious to see what Lobdel & Nicieza do with him. Clever writers! The main story with the underground fight ring and the kidnapped townsfolk is interesting, partially because we're not 100% clear on exactly what went down prior to the events in the story. I'm used to Buffy comics spelling everything out scene by scene, but I don't mind imagining some backstory for myself. I'm anxious for Faith & Angel to get involved after their excellent scenes in the previous issue. As far as I'm concerned, I'm sold on the new writers and the new direction. Bring on Issue # 49!
* A few days before reading this issue, I was telling a friend my theory that pretty much every genre supernatural genre series I can think of has at least one story involving a demon fight club: Angel, Lost Girl, etc. I don't mind too much.
* That art cover is awesome. Poster-worthy. People who bought the photo cover because it included Angel and Faith would be disappointed to see they're only on one page of the comic inside.
* Intriguing mysterious subplot about the demons Buffy is fighting having been ones she's sure she's killed before. I had to do some research to remember that San Sui is the kung fu vampire she dusted way back in Issue # 1!
* It's really interesting really the advance solicitations released for this story arc to see how much the final product has changed. Apparently, these four issues were going to be called "Hellmouth to Mouth." This issue, for example, was supposed to include Giles, Oz, and Willow (who would be tempted by dark magic) but they don't actually show up at all!
* The Pike reveal was pretty cool.
* The issue includes a very, very early ad for Firefly. "Joss Whedon gave new blood to vampires. Now he turns his unique vision to space."
Note the different version of the show's logo font and the firefly symbol.