The difference between Hellmouth and the other tie-ins is a great change of pace. None of the other books lose the atmosphere or tone you are used to from them, but then you jump into Hellmouth and it turns into a horror story. Not a bad choice if you ask me. If there’s one way to throw these heroes into the fire, then it is to do it quite literally!
This was a tense issue if you ask me. It was through an issue like this that we really were hit with the reminder that despite everything which Buffy has already been through, she is still not where she needs to be as a slayer. Some might find it off-putting that this version of Buffy is still the one who struggles with trust, following her own gut, and not second-guessing her choices. However, that is exactly the things that she should be trying to overcome during this period. This isn’t the Buffy who has full faith in her friends having her back, or faith in the idea that she can trust anyone who isn’t human to really be on her side against the forces of evil. Honestly, after our introduction to Kendra in the Buffy series? The state of mind makes complete sense. Its just something that you have to grow out of from getting your hands dirty and seeing the world through a different lens.
Now there was only one problem I had with this issue that I’m glad was finally addressed. When it came to Buffy and Angel, it was pretty unclear as to where we were at with the two. Everything about this crossing over was moving so fast that we shot past a lot of the things that we eased into during the show. Namely the period where Buffy and Angel got to know each other. It caught me off guard to see exactly where they were at in what could have been a relationship formed, but better now than later to add some clarity for some of us that would have needed things to be spelled out. Especially after the look Buffy gave Angel when she saw him transformed and blood-soaked.
With that said, this wasn’t a bad issue for Angel entirely. Yes, this was going to turn into a low point for him, but there was no denying him the experience that he is getting during his “early days” when it comes to being upfront about the way he engages people. This could have easily been another case of drama involving truths and lies, but it matters a lot when it involves this vampire who comes with a lot of baggage and dangerous secrets.
Aside from this, the rest of the time was spent well adding development to this Hellmother. This story stirs a lot of questions, but none more than who this new big bad is and what motivates her. By the end of this issue everything did begin to make sense. Nothing complicated, just straight to the point which is probably for the best considering the point we are at in the overall story.
The interior work for this issue was excellent because there was two things we needed to get out of the story visually. One was engagement from these characters as they are faced with drama which stems from withholding the truth from one another, which we got. The other was needing to see more of this nightmarish Hellmouth twist the heads of Buffy and Angel. There was no disappointment there either. The great thing about not seeing the Hellmother till now was knowing that she was anywhere and everywhere. The fire rising from the ground, the stalagmites shaking, the many illusions Buffy and Angel were struck with. Aside from that, again I liked the lettering with the Hellmother. When her dialogue popped up, it was always the one thing which jumped out at you more than anything else. Rightfully so when her voice not only narrated certain scenes, but could be heard by everyone at once.
As the penultimate issue, Hellmouth #4 met expectations when getting us to that point where things could not have gotten any worse for these heroes who get in their own way more than the big bad herself. It should be very interesting to see what can turn the tides of this situation when it is almost impossible right now to see the light at the end of the tunnel.