“Anywhere But Here”
Plot: Buffy and Willow go on an info-gathering odyssey, but the most unexpected things they learn are about each other.
Comments: Vaughan did a wonderful job with Faith and Giles in the last arc, but there’s nothing like having the master behind the reigns again. Joss delves immediately into serious character arcs, exploring the ever-evolving Willow/Buffy relationship from the new angle of both of them being fully fledged in all their amazing grrl powers while also being alive and not evil at the same time!
So, the issue begins (as the lovely Jo Chen cover presents) with Willow flying sans broom through the air at a considerable altitude, with Buffy clinging to her back. Inside the funny dialogue starts up, as the two friends and warriors play “Anywhere But Here,” fantasizing about amusingly exotic interludes with impossibly alluring lovers. Guest artist Cliff Richards does an admirable job of keeping up with George Jeanty’s appealing verisimilitude (requisite with this title based on recognizable actors), and comes up with some intriguing visuals especially for the demon the women go to visit.
That seeking useful knowledge from evil thing is something Whedon has tried before, and it always affords many opportunities for surreal mind-trips. Here Richards comes up with a sort of dragon with Buddha masks for a face, and we also meet an interesting new character named Robin, a sort of “minder” of demonic portals. She’s been created for “Season 8”, but she’s easy to imagine one day being cast by an actual actor, and when she and Willow get together reality and time get out of order in fascinating ways.
Meanwhile, back at the castle, Xander does his best big brother routine with the still-giant-sized Dawn, who reveals a few more reasons why she still hasn’t made it back to human-sized. It’s all very adolescent and very guilty and very Dawn.
Back to the demon lair, the creature reveals some harsh truths about Willow to Buffy and vice versa. Both have selfish and very human reasons for recent questionable actions, and finding them out doesn’t drive a wedge so much as reveal an ongoing estrangement, despite their evident closeness. Soldiers in the same army don’t always share the same goals, and the same girls who can together defeat their crafty oracle (Buffy slices him up with a blade of Willow’s magic fire, pretty nifty) with such ease and power can sadly stumble when it comes to just talking things out honestly.
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