One of the most important questions asked by anyone in the Buffyverse fandom is who you want Buffy to end up with: Angel or Spike? (Bangel or Spuffy if you’re truly a hardcore shipper.) Buffy’s relationship with both of these ensouled vampires was arguably one of the most important parts of the TV show as she had a close physical and emotional connection with both characters. Buffy Season Ten #16 comments on this relationship while also including a team up filled with slip ups and comic pratfalls between Buffy, Spike, and Angel against one of the demon goons of this season’s Big Bad, Archaeus. Archaeus is a demon lord, who has been seeding both Angel and Spike’s dreams with human killings that they may or may not have done. These shared dreams (and vampire bloodline) between Angel and Spike leads to this team up and the first chapter of the “Old Demons” crossover between Buffy and Angel.
Writer Christos Gage ensures that the Buffy/Angel crossover in Buffy Season Ten #16 fits in the plot while also exploring the emotional effect of Angel showing up in the early stages of Buffy and Spike’s fragile dating relationship. Artist Rebekah Isaacs balances making the characters look like the TV show (with a little extra age on them, except for Xander for some reason) with giving them detailed reaction shots that are mostly humorous. Gage channels the snark and awkwardly hilarious banter between Angel and Spike in Angel Season 5 while adding a darker tinge because of some of the events of the comics series, like Angel killing Giles in Buffy Season Eight.
Thankfully, Gage doesn’t linger on the melodrama and even uses Spike’s snark masterfully to defuse a long monologue about Xander’s anger issues and therapy visits. He utilizes the relationship between Buffy, Angel, and Spike in an extended action sequence between them and one of Archaeus’ minions, who was given a disgusting, neon green finish from colorist Dan Jackson. Their struggles with the demon shows how badly they need to sit down, talk, and get everything out in the open rather than teaming up against a powerful demon lord and his army.
Rebekah Isaacs uses characters’ positions in a panel to create interpersonal conflict. She shows Angel and Spike in a charging, action pose when Angel finds out Buffy and him are dating before pulling back to show Buffy try to play mediator. The silent (with a word or two of dialogue at the most) Angel reaction panels juxtaposed with a red background from Dan Jackson do a nice job by themselves to show Angel’s petulant, jealous behavior as he spent an entire season resurrecting Giles and atoning for his actions, but Buffy chose to be with Spike. This might sound soapy, but Gage and Isaacs continue to show Angel’s battle for redemption is ongoing and not particularly reward filled. The art isn’t perfect with Buffy’s hair occasionally changing colors and an early scene where it’s difficult to see if Buffy is eavesdropping on a private conversation. However, Isaacs and Jackson make sure that both the conversations and fighting against projectile hurling demons flow smoothly and have an equal share of tension.
Buffy Season Ten #16 is a successful start to what will probably be the climactic storyline of the Season Ten Buffyverse with its character driven storytelling in both art and writing with splashes of action. Gage uses the pre-existing emotional connections between important characters like Buffy, Angel, and Spike to correspond with the raised stakes in their fight against the Big Bad, Archaeus. Archaeus uses Angel and Spike’s pasts to tempt them to become soulless killers once again, and they must also confront their pasts with Buffy and each other in order to become effective allies to the Slayer and Scoobies. Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs effectively use both internal and external conflict along with one of the greatest fictional love triangles to kick off this mini-crossover in a way that will make fans smile and squee.