While the Hellmouth above pulls out everyone’s darkest impulses and demons, Buffy and Angel within struggle to overcome a world which brings theirs to life. If you were ready for the usual big bad encounter? This crossover has made it clear that we should prepare for something much more than the usual. Especially when this greater evil is pulling strings that no one yet can see.
The crazy thing about Hellmouth is the way that this crossover book has turned into somewhat of a psychological thriller in contrast to the tie-ins. Those parts of the story are much more straightforward as the enemy has come knocking at their doorstep, whereas Buffy and Angel suffer the struggle of dealing with enemies who know how to plague the mind. I mean where this issue picks up was a big twist to take in. All this time you would have assumed Drusilla to be the big bad. In most cases that is her because her motivations were always self-serving and chaotic for what she is willing to do for power. It was probably for the best that there is actually something more terrifying than Drusilla lurking behind the scenes. For as much as you want to see what happens when Drusilla really gets what she wants, there is no denying how much more of a challenge this becomes when the danger is something further outside of the threat-level of a vampire.
Now the big thing for this issue of course was how this creative team planned on pushing the envelope for the increasing tensions between Buffy and Angel. For some fans out there, it will suck that these two are at such odds with each other. However, this is also a solid approach for the fact that this is still during the period where the two don’t really know each other yet. Where Buffy has not yet been fully exposed to both sides of Angel. You know, the other half of him which can be the stuff of nightmares with just the sleight of tongue. Personally, I find this welcoming since anything is better than playing back into that cliche where the girl falls head over heels for the undead guy who is ‘Mr. Cool’.
In general this adds a huge obstacle which keeps both from making this mission as straightforward as it would be. You can’t argue with the effort put into making them work for their success.
It was an interesting development that they decided to go for with Angel in this chapter. We all know that Angel at the end of the day wants to be human more than anything else. Though this was the last time where you would have thought that he would have to deal with that desire in contrast to being the hero he is destined to be at the same time. For now this works considering Angel was due to experience something which hit closer to home for him. I only hope they don’t beat him down too much without looking for ways to raise him up as the one true monster fighting on the side of good.
With this chapter in particular, there was a stronger appreciation for the pencil work from Carlini. Stunning work from start to finish taking on a rough touch to bring out the intensity of this situation. Not to mention the intensity which is slowly being brought to the surface from these characters. Where this pops out most is definitely in the way Carlini draws vampires. It goes without saying that she sets the bar for these three books as someone who does not skip a beat in giving us he full look for wrinkles to demonic eyes. Seeing as I called this story a psychological thriller above, the only way to truly get that feeling is visually. This art team nailed the execution with this issue in particular through the twisting of this hellscape to show Buffy and Angel that they are not in control. Considering we don’t have a physical presence of the Hellmother, it made a big difference that her presence could be felt through these heroes having the ground betray them from below their feet. That aside, the lettering was excellent once more with the understanding of who this voice in the background belongs to. It has been bold that Dukeshire went with a red bubble with white lettering, but it does manage to stand out overtop of the dark pallet used for a majority of the interior work.
Just when you think you knew where all of this was leading to, the events of Hellmouth #3 shakes up your expectations. Not a bad thing either when this is a story where you should want to expect the unexpected. I think we’ve all come to a point now as fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where we know that there will always be something more to worry about than a vampire.