Issue three of The Reckoning, the penultimate issue of every Buffy comic season as a whole, is at least the best of this new miniseries to date. This episode feels like the show on every conceivable level and nails one of the things that the TV series was always best at when it came to the end of the season. It’s these little moments before the big battle, where we not only just get to spend time with the characters, but when we truly establish the stakes. By the end of this issue, we absolutely get the feeling that some of these characters won’t make it out alive, or that they even all could die. It’s a finale after all, and it’s entirely possible that the next issue might take that leap, extreme as it is.

Even aside from the stakes, though, spending time with these characters is so important at this stage. Fans have been following these characters in continuous comics for over a decade now. Simply by virtue of being the end of Season 12, the next issue will be the end of a massive chapter in the Buffy legacy. We have no idea when we will see these characters again, so we need to take these moments of last looks to allow us as readers and fans the chance to say goodbye. From the moment Season 12 started, it’s been building momentum and leaping from one thing to the next, to the next. This issue, more than anything, finally offers us the chance to breathe. As much as I’ve enjoyed this series so far, I am very, very grateful for that.

In one of the most emotional moments, Andrew Wells comes back and is being his traditional self. This is the first time that he’s actually made an appearance in The Reckoning, as well. Given the impact he’s had over the course of these comics and the amount of character development we’ve seen from him, it would be impossible to end it without him. On top of that, his scene in this issue is in many ways a perfect ending to this character to show how much he’s truly grown. Acknowledging that no matter how the battle turns out he is still too old to do this forever, Giles hands the entire reigns of the Watcher’s Council over to Andrew.

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Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 2.09.17 PMFor someone who never really felt like a part of the group, with whole stories revolving around whether they could ever truly trust him, this is a genuinely powerful moment. It doesn’t make up for any of Andrew’s past wrongs, it does show that he has learned from them and that he has finally been accepted by the Scoobies.

In another great moment—despite his cringe-worthy “I’m the man” bit—Xander has to stand by and watch Dawn go off to war, essentially. Eventually he promises that if they go down he wants to go down by her side, but this is a really strong moment even still. Dawn has been the most sidelined member of the main cast for so long, even in the comics. In the show, she was defined by it. Now she’s a part of things. She is a fundamental, core aspect of the group and a—pardon the pun—key player in the final fight.

While it’s not as emotionally poignant, the scene between Angel and Fred on the rooftop is important because these two characters have been so closely related for so long and even if the relationship between Angel and Illyria is weird and new, this moment makes it feel almost natural. It reminds me somewhat of the moment between Oz and Willow in “Innocence.” Fans were not on board with that pairing until the show actually pumped the breaks and took a moment to deal with it and where it could go. Fred giving Angel her blessing with Illyria is as crucial to all three characters as it is, still, weird.

Buffy Season 12 #3We end the issue with Faith and Willow and while it might seem to be a quick wrap up and a way to simply express Willow’s doubts and fears about the fight, it’s actually a moment that truly shows how much these characters have grown throughout both the TV series and the comics. Faith and Willow hated each other for years, pretty much from the first moment Faith was introduced. There was a lot of jealousy there. Faith had an strong, instinctual connection with Buffy that Willow could never have. And then Faith betrayed Buffy and Willow felt protective for her best friend. Back when they were teenagers, Faith was a character that Willow could never understand.

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But now Willow understands Faith more deeply than anyone, maybe even more than Angel, because they’ve done similar terrible things and they both did them while they still had a soul. There’s an understanding between these two now that had never been there before and this scene definitely takes a moment to reflect that, which I am very grateful to see.

Georges Jeanty’s art continues to be stunning, proving once again that he nails the emotional moments between these characters, moments that could easily be boring in an action/horror book. He’s been such a fundamental part of the Buffy comic universe since the first issue of season eight and I couldn’t imagine ending this without him. That finale is rapidly approaching, but this issue did everything it needed to build anticipation for that.

WICKED RATING: 8/10