‘Willow: Wonderland #3’ Review: The Calm Before the Storm?

The third issue of Willow: Wonderland was released this week, and while writer Jeff Parker finds himself joined by Angel & Faith writer Christos Gage in the writing credits department this month, after two intriguing and engaging chapters, Willow: Wonderland #3 feels a little lackluster. Let’s hope it’s just the windup for the “punch” that’s coming in Issue #4.

SPOILERS BELOW


Here’s a quick summary of Issue #3:

This issue opens with Willow reeling from her failure to use the slayer scythe to connect her world to a new source of magic. When Marak grabs the scythe and attempts to try for himself, Aluwyn and the other members of her coven magically exile him to some sort of mystical wasteland.

Afterwards, Aluwyn comforts Willow, telling her they will work together to find a way to restore magic to Earth. When Willow wonders what will happen if they can’t find a way, Aluwyn tells her that Willow will mourn and, in time, the pain will stop with the help of Aluwyn’s support and love.

Over the next few days, the coven attempts to help Willow find a solution to her problem. Despite receiving a cryptic vision of her future that labels Marak her teacher, an underwater form of enlightenment that ends up being a hazy memory at best, and a battle with a Cthulhu-like demon, in the end, Willow is no better off than when she started.

When Willow falls asleep one night in the arms of her snaky lover, her dreams are interrupted by Marak, who has hijacked a feral dream in order to contact the witch despite his exile. Despite Willow’s displeasure with having her dream invaded, Marak communicates to her that the coven is the equivalent of a “mystic opium den” and that she is being manipulated before Willow forces him out of her dream. Waking next to a still sleeping Aluwyn, it is apparent that Marak’s words have left Willow with a feeling of doubt about her new circumstances.

The Good

Willow’s epic journey. Looking back on the last three issues, the journey our witch has taken during Willow: Wonderland has been appropriately mythical and heroic. Pair that with her previous journey to Quor’toth in the pages of Angel & Faith, and I believe it’s fair to say that Dark Horse has given us a worthy example of what a cinematic budget could’ve done for a Willow Rosenberg-focused story, TV movie, or otherwise. I’m still hoping that Willow: Wonderland wraps up with a strong finish, but with what has come before, it’s hard to not applaud what Dark Horse and its team of writers and artists have already accomplished.

The Bad

Willow looks a little “off.”  While some have complained about artist Brian Ching’s pencils from the beginning, I’ve really enjoyed his vision of Willow and her magical journey. That said, this issue struck me as different. While some panels seemed perfect, others appeared hastily drawn or too exaggerated, specifically regarding Willow’s facial expressions. Still, count me a fan of Ching. Every artist struggles with an issue here and there.

This issue’s feeling a little predictable. I don’t want to be too harsh here, because I also have the instinct that this is a transitional issue and that when this story is reread in trade paperback form, this “lull in action” will seem entirely appropriate and serve the overall story. Still, the story is starting to drag, and most of the things that happen in this issue seem fairly “old hat.” I think we all knew Willow staying in the coven indefinitely is the wrong choice for her and one can easily assume that Aluwyn, “the trickster,” has some slightly shady intentions. Let’s just cut to the chase already . . .

The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )

Fan reaction has been generally “meh” (official term, there) for this issue, but Willow: Wonderland #3 still got positive reviews from Light_Watcher and Comics Grinder.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but that’s kind of a cliché.” This line of Willow’s featured in the current issue seemed to strike a certain level of irony for quite a few readers. While they seem content to wait and see how the rest of the series plays out, the consensus for this issue seems to be that many readers were left bored by the predictability of this month’s Willow: Wonderland.

“Hey, Buffy, I can fly naked, too!” *snicker* (Credit goes to Whedonesque forum member Moscow Watcher for this one.)

Illyria? Dawn? The Siphon? A lot of interesting suggestions were thrown out regarding how the rest of this series will play out and how Willow will return magic to her world. The main component to most of these theories seems to revolve around who will open the portal between dimensions, so that Willow can go home. Illyria has recently shown up in Buffy: Season 9 with her portal-opening abilities restored. Some have suggested that Buffy’s little sister, and the former dimensional “key,” may still have this power somewhere buried beneath her skin. Still, another theory suggests that The Siphon will be the necessary component. While all this sounds very interesting, it pains me to remind fans that while Willow may return to her friends, given what we know of the Fray universe, the return of magic to Earth is in no way a certainty.

That’s all for now, Scoobies. I’ll be back next week with a review of Buffy #17.

’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer

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Post Author: Barbra J. Dillon

Barbra J. Dillon is the Managing Editor of Fanboy Comics (FBC) and the voice of Katniss Everdeen in the fan-made audio drama, The Katniss Chronicles (www.thekatnisschronicles.com). For more articles, reviews, and podcasts by Barbra and the FBC staff, please visit www.fanboycomics.net.

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