Joss Whedon pulled a giant plot twist in his recent “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” arc, “Retreat,” regarding Buffy’s former flame Riley Finn. Fans could have been satisfied with the explanation given in those issues, but instead we get to see much more — with Riley’s version of events.
In stores today (August 18) from Dark Horse Comics is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley,” a brand new story from television writer/producer Jane Espenson and artist Karl Moline. Espenson gets the chance to tell what really led to former Initiative member Riley Finn becoming a double agent for Buffy.
The one-shot is the second we’ve seen during “Season 8” (the first being Willow’s spotlight), and is actually titled “Commitment Through Distance, Virtue Through Sin.” It's intense, but have we come to expect anything less from Buffy’s love life?
THE GOOD: Riley, of course. He was never my favorite of Buffy’s boyfriends, but it always makes for good drama when someone like him returns to a story. Speaking of which, we also have a humongous blast from the past in this issue that I don’t want to spoil, and that I wasn’t expecting at all. I also wasn’t expecting Twilight (a.k.a. the recently revealed Angel) to play such a large role in the issue either, but he’s an integral part of the story which all comes together slowly but surely.
Even though this one-shot is Riley’s, it’s still all about Buffy in one way or another. (Wasn’t it always?) Espenson shows us Buffy through the eyes of two men who love her deeply and would do anything for her. It just so happens that’s what she’s asking Riley to do here. He’s in a voluntary retirement from all things life-threatening, taking over half of his family’s corn farm in Iowa when Buffy calls, asking him to infiltrate Twilight’s camp. As we now know, Angel’s time as Twilight was all for the sake of Buffy, but his journey there was not as cut and dry as you’d expect — and in fact, it’s kind of awesome.
THE BAD: Riley’s wife, Sam. She annoyed me back then, and she annoys me still. I guess that’s her reason for existence though, isn’t it? Espenson’s story overall appealed to me but her scenes with Riley and Sam in the first half of the issue felt like they were wasting valuable time saying the same thing over and over. For my love of Riley's parts of the story, I feel a little cheated that Angel played such a large role. This was a Riley one-shot, after all.
As I mentioned earlier, “Fray” and sometimes-alternate “Buffy” cover illustrator Karl Moline takes on artist duty for the issue. Some of the pages worked well but a lot of them didn’t seem up to his usual standard. It also seemed odd that there were a great many wide shots or characters being viewed from the back or the side, which meant their detail was totally lost. I want to see the characters' faces, their emotions — not a cornfield.
FINAL WORD: Despite its flaws, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley” is still a must-have for die-hard fans. Even though I had a PDF to review, I’m still going to my local comic shop to buy it today. A former “Buffy” episode writer, Espenson is no stranger to this world and knows it’s characters very well. She knows what Buffy means to the world and the power she holds over her men. That being said, this one-shot is not mandatory reading for “Season 8.”
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley” is in stores today.
Did you/are you picking up this comic today? What do you think? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter