Preview pages: the "team" pictures Giles to guide the spell. On the next page, he's alive, but his first words are to tell them to stop gawking so that they can start working on the new apocalyptic threat. They show him his reflection to explain their reaction - he didn't realize that, although his mind is still fully intact, his body is a twelve-year-old boy. It seems the change is due to Lavinia and Sophronia picturing him as a child. He's furious, the aunts are barely abashed, and Angel's just glad it worked at all. Faith leans in close to ask Giles if it's really him, and he finds himself staring openly at her chest.
Lil' Giles confirms that it's really him, memories and all, then rants about how they've brought him back as a child until Alasdair brings him back to task. Angel wants to tell Buffy; Giles asks that he doesn't yet. They work on their strategy for dealing with Whistler, Pearl, and Nash, with Angel sending everyone on different tasks. Angel, Giles, and the aunts meet back at the Giles place, though instead of getting weapons the aunts have returned with clothes for Giles. Fed up, he slips away to the roof, where he finds Faith and a bag of weapons. She's crying, and they have a talk about the current state of things, Faith's daddy issues, and his own predicament, concluding that everyone may have wanted adult Giles back, but none of them really need him anymore.
Giles visits Alasdair, and the two of them discuss his resurrection and speculate that he's a few years older than the aunts pictured him because he was fighting his own regrets about entering the Watcher Academy too early. Finally, the entire group reconvenes at the Giles house and plans for the battle. They need to destroy the magical items that Whistler & Co. have stolen, either with mystical energy or molotov cocktails. They all agree that it's likely a suicide mission, but that they're in it together and none want to be raised if they die (except for the aunts). Their allies have been contacted, though not reached.
They use an enchanted lodestone on a map to locate the items/opponents. It first turns up the Deeper Well, then breaks as it shows that what they're looking for is right in London, which means that Whistler is unleashing the plague at this moment. Angel and Faith take off, weapons in hand, and as they run we see Nadira following them and a voiceover from Whistler saying that it all ends here. On the last page, Angel and Faith burst in on Whistler, Nash, and Pearl - who seem quite prepared for them.
Maybe I've been sluggish about getting these up because timely updates is a lost cause by now. Maybe it's just that I can't form an opinion until everyone else has. Anyway, here's where I landed: I liked this issue.
I'm happy that Giles is back. I'm happy that he's got his memories, his personality, his health. After everything that could have happened, one thing is clear - the resurrection wasn't a tragedy. Sure, that means that there's tragedy coming yet (TWO CHARACTERS WILL DIE), but whatever that is, it's preferable to the entire season of doubt being validated by Angel failing at his one desperate attempt to rescue his victim. If mini-Rupert dies again, so be it. At least we've heard from him again, found out for sure that he was saved from Eyghon, and had some closure for his relationships with some of the other characters. If he lives, great! He'd be a great addition to either series, regardless of how the cast is distributed. If he lives but gets aged up again...nah, that's not gonna happen. Don't know why, I just don't believe it.
And sure, I enjoyed the humor, which was essentially cuteness and the weird mental tickle that we get from seeing something cute where we don't expect it. Wasn't everyone right there with the squeeing over his flailing sleeves? Did we not love it when he poured himself a drink and then sheepishly let Alasdair replace it with a soda? Can't we forgive the aunts just a little bit for the clothes they picked out for him? It sounded like a lot of readers felt a little uncertain about the way this pivotal issue turned out to be so lighthearted, and I'm not totally sure if that effect was intentional, but it was definitely a surprise - not the heart-pounding, can't-wait-to-turn-the-page kind of surprise, but the kind that gave us feelings we weren't expecting, and I expect that in the eyes of a comic writer that's always a win.
Paging back through the issue, what I'm noticing is that there's a lot of dialogue, and now I'm thinking no wonder I liked it; this is my kind of comic. A good chunk of it is exposition, but it's necessary exposition, and hey, what do we most remember from Giles in his early days on the show? And he's using big words and politely vehement exclamations and ahhh, I love Giles so much, how could I not be happy about this development seriously he is best character haters to the left forever and ever. His talks with Alasdair and Faith were my favorite parts. Of everyone in the Buffyverse, he's the one most likely to approach a problem, task, or relationship with his rational mind, guided by not overtaken by his empathy. His pep talks aren't pep talks; they're genuinely helpful. Faith really does need to grieve what she never got from her family before she moves on. Alasdair didn't need any affirmation, but he was the best choice for analyzing Giles' magical snafu, and I'm sure he appreciated being acknowledged for that.
Then there's Angel. Of course I'm still ready to come to his defense as regards his choices in this series, especially now, but I'm seeing some self-satisfaction from him now that it's done which is probably going to get a harsh remedy. I think it's clear that this wasn't for the sake of making Buffy happy - he didn't think about informing her until someone else mentioned rallying the troops, and as much as the idea pleased him, it also seemed to surprise him, like this was an unexpected bonus. Whatever her reaction will be (and I'm assuming here that she will find out, because any alternative is just too cruel to us readers), I can't imagine she'd like seeing how happy he is right now. The Angel she knew was solemn and hesitant to take credit for anything, even passing on good news. Something's amiss.
Along with the reactions of the other characters, what interested me most about Giles' transformation was the way it affected his mind. The joke about the roll of pound coins was frankly pretty gross and unnecessary, but his own frustration with himself was intriguing. He even admitted that his initial outburst was no more than a tantrum because he wasn't getting his way, and obviously he wouldn't have dreamed of being attracted to Faith if he were in his old body. So I'm reading this as a look at the way our physical selves influence our mental and spiritual selves. Hormones change things, and hormones are straight-up biology. Being highly intelligent and stable feels a lot different from being highly intelligent and "humming with nervous energy". Here's hoping that this will be explored more in future issues.
So, the rest of the issue is what? Basically an announcement that we're about to enter the final battle with Whistler, Nash, and Pearl, and that Nadira will be somehow involved. Nothing particularly notable about that. I did like the reference to the Deeper Well; not sure anything will come of it, but it's nice to see the unity of the world being kept intact.
Everything else is the art, and nothing hurts. It's the attention to detail that amazes me so much. It's possible that no other artist could have captured the appearance of a young Anthony Stewart Head and make us believe it, but her achievements in this issue aren't even limited to that. In the first few pages you can see different stages of the comics being called up just by the colors being used - the black and white background to the aunts' flashback, the red gleam from the Seed chamber, the lifelike winter from Giles and Faith's partnership. Later, there's the utterly delightful wonderland of Alasdair's house. Not only is it complete with mythical critters, not only is it showing signs of being ransacked, but the mythical critters are helping with the damage AND there's a mini-fridge in a liquor cabinet. Also, props for the way Angel's facial wound from the last issue was accounted for and gradually faded in accordance with his fast healing.
I love this series. No reservations.