Willow #3 Review: It’s A Cult, Isn’t It?

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Boom! Studios’ Willow is a five-issue limited series set in the Buffyverse. The story follows Willow as she leaves Sunnydale after the events of Hellmouth.

In the third issue, Willow learns more about the mysterious Aelara. But is Abhainn a witch’s paradise? Or something more sinister?

Check out our review of issue #3 below. (Note: review contains plot spoilers!)

Missed the first two chapters? Read about them here and here.

What happens in the story?

When Willow wakes up after a night of letting loose at a witchy bonfire, she immediately knows things have changed.

While she walked around virtually unnoticed and unacknowledged just 24 hours before, now everyone notices her. And they all want to stop and say hello, which weirds her out (what a mood).

Eventually, Willow runs into Aelara again. They magically grow some plants together (sure, why not?) before things take a darker turn. When Willow takes Aelara’s hands, they’re both granted a vision of Willow’s past – Xander at his darkest moment. Aelara ominously tells Willow soulless Xander resides in her heart.

Honestly, it’s a little strange that Willow doesn’t seem to recognize the strangeness in the interaction. A virtual stranger unexpectedly forces her to envision a painful memory…yet somehow she doesn’t see this as the violation it is. Is Willow’s inability to see Aelara as a threat a flaw in the writing, or an early indicator of Aelara’s dangerous power over the other woman? Right now, it’s too soon to tell.

Oh, and Willow asks her if Abhainn is some kind of cult. Aelara assures her their remote group of like-minded individuals united by a spiritual goal under a powerful figurehead is totally not a cult. (But if it looks like a cult, talks like a cult…)

Later, walking back through the woods, Willow notices birds behaving strangely. They appear to stop at an invisible boundary line. Then she runs into a small group of fellow witches. They’re cordial enough on the surface, but one of them gives Willow major “help me!” eyes. Yup, everything is not as idyllic as it seems in this witches’ paradise.

Willow #3 Review

Willow #3 cover 2

Willow #3 definitely builds up the story and the central unease about Abhainn. Even though Willow was so excited to find a group of witches, it’s clear she’s getting the impression that things aren’t quite right here.

I enjoy the way the mystery builds in issue 3. Everything in Abhainn certainly isn’t what it seems, and I want to know more. Those cult vibes are strong. Will Willow be able to help the witches there? (Do they even want her help?) And can she break the apparent spell Aelara has over her?

My biggest complaint from the last issue still stands: I’d like to see more magic from Willow.

So far the Willow series has done a lot of telling us we’re surrounded by magic and not a lot of showing us. However, Willow #3 definitely improved over the last issue in this regard. I think the biggest problem is when magic does turn up, it’s happening to Willow, not necessarily coming from her. But with the underlying darkness of Abhainn growing, hopefully Willow will own her power and unleash some impressive magic to save the day.

Willow #3 is available from Boom Studios now.

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