I'll just come right out and say it: I'd hold "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10" #19 up there alongside some of the television show's high points. Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs start with what seems like a one-off gimmick -- allowing Giles 48 hours to temporarily become an adult again -- but quickly bring us down an emotional rollercoaster that touches on several of characters.
The regressed-to-a-preteen version of Giles has always seemed like a slightly strange choice for the series, but one that's worked out well enough. In the case of "Freaky Giles Day," though, we're getting the full impact of how this kind of setup can work, as the issue gives us some strong, engrossing storytelling. At first, Gage builds up the comic in ways where we know what's going to happen: Giles' reunion with Olivia for an evening of passion, test-driving cars, legally drinking. Similarly, Buffy and Dawn's lunch with their wayward father heads down the same sort of predictable path, with a reminder of his irresponsible and never-there nature.
Then, of course, Gage flips everything on its side. Giles realizing the downside of his proper age is to be somewhat expected, but what took me truly aback was the emotionally crushing conclusion of the comic. The one-two punch of Buffy being asked to stay away from part of her own family and Buffy and Giles's reconnection with his role as a father figure are palpably strong here. Gage carefully unspools those emotions in a perfect manner, with the revelation timed in such a way so both characters arrive at their peak at just the right moment.
All the while, though, Gage adds more than just emotional catharsis. There's some humor (primarily but not exclusively from Xander), some action sequences, a reminder of the good parts of being younger and even a nod to how Dawn and Willow have both managed to create real-world pathways for themselves, too. It's a well-rounded script that gives a little something in each category and does so excellently.
Isaacs has proven her skill time and time again (both here and on "Angel & Faith"), drawing likenesses as part of her strong, energetic style. Here is where we get to see her add Anthony Stewart Head to her repertoire, and he looks perfectly on-model while never seeming posed or fake. That said, as good as that is, it's the scene with Buffy, Dawn and Hank Summers that completely slew me. I love the moment where Dawn looks ready to spit-take while Buffy is not only blase but looking to be just on the edge of actively pissed-off. Both of them are drawn so perfectly, without being exaggerated, that it sets up the end of the next page where Hank drops the real bombshell on the sisters and we learn even Buffy can still be emotionally dropkicked by her father. The stunned, empty look on her face when that rolls around is pretty near-perfect.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10" #19 is a high point for "Buffy" as a whole, comics or otherwise. The art is great, the script is great and there's even a pair of snazzy covers from Steve Morris, Isaacs and colorist Dan Jackson. If you've written off the "Buffy" tie-in comics, think again. This comic reminds us that a media tie-in comic can not only be good, it can be fantastic. Highly recommended.