The final issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow is here. This series, written by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Natacha Bustos, colored by Eleonora Bruni, and lettered by Jodi Wynne, has been a shining light in the grim atmosphere of BOOM! Studios' lackluster Buffy comics. Can this finale live up to the standard set by the first four issues?
This is an interesting one. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow has been an unusual, unconventional book that, in this issue, comes to an unusual and unconventional end. The book starts the climax as a magical battle between witches that starts to feel a bit too superhero-esque. Then, Tamaki's script pumps the brakes in a major, major way. The resolution then happens through conversation as Willow makes a very simple point to Aelara about the illogical nature of keeping people against their will and still relying on them. It's hard to believe that Willow was convincing here and that Aelara hadn't already thought this through. Because of how the last issue ended, this issue's effectiveness hung on the reveal of why Aelara is keeping people in Abhainn and how Willow stops her. Neither of the answers felt well-thought-out or poignant, rather feeling like an awkward misunderstanding that somehow led to an otherwise awesome miniseries.
What's missing from the climax and resolution is the catharsis that makes both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel such a memorable series. The problem is that Willow's characterization is so good throughout that the reader expects the story to follow through with a satisfying arc and, when nothing really happens, it ends up feeling like it fizzled out at the end a little bit. The art is beautiful, and Natacha Bustos is far and away, without any qualifiers, the best artist to have worked on interiors for a BOOM! Studios Buffy title. Even with the way the series just kinds of ends with little payoff, Tamaki gets the characters here in a way that the creative team of the main Buffy title does. Willow is, don't get me wrong, worth reading.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow has just been so, so good that the strength of the first four issues left me with no doubt that Tamaki would follow through with a terrific ending. That didn't end up being the case, but this is still, by far, the best Buffy title coming from BOOM! Studios. If more thought had been put into an ending that pays off everything that the first four issues built, this would've been a total win. As is, it's an okay ending to a great series.