Nearing the end of Buffy
Season 8, the final arc is starting soon but to make up the summer gap between issues we've got a Riley one-shot by Jane Espenson, drawn by the Fray
team of Karl Moline and Andy Owens.
Specifically, Espenson takes us back a bit to see how Riley agreed to take on the role of double agent in the Buffy vs Twilight battle. Considering the last time we saw Riley and his wife Sam on the TV series they were loving being the crime-fightin' duo¹ it's a bit weird that this starts with them trying to settle down on a farm back in Iowa, but it soon becomes clear that Sam in particular is not as sold on the idea as she makes out. For much of the issue she's trying to convince Riley to take the job, which is particularly suspicious since it involves working for his ex-girlfriend. As they follow a convoluted trail that leads them to Angel/Twilight and, inevitably, appearing to accept his offer, it becomes obvious she wants him to do it to make her feel better about that fact that, should a more dangerous job than growing corn present itself, she'll accept it in a heartbeat.
It's a bit slight for an extended issue but with Espenson writing at least it was entertaining enough to keep up my interest first time around - the lack of story is really obvious on a second read though. I was also left wondering what to make of the ending, where they stand in the dark openly discussing the fact that he's going to be a double agent, and it turns out Twilight and his army are there waiting for them. Presumably, given the convoluted nature of his mission, Twilight himself probably doesn't care whether Riley's loyalty to him is real or not, but what about everyone else there? Did they just all not hear a word of it? Still, it's nice that a little time was given in the comics to a character often ignored (I was never a Riley-hater; I liked the character, it was just Marc Blucas' chemistry with Sarah Michelle Gellar that was non-existent and made their characters' relationship fall flat. And it wasn't entirely Blucas' fault either, as his scenes with other actors sometimes showed.)
The sub-plot features another nice little touch from Espenson, who brings back a really obscure character, who even I'd forgotten about - Whistler, the Doyle prototype who got Angel out of the gutter. It makes sense, too, that (despite a rather vague connection to the PTB) this was someone who'd saved Angel before and therefore would be able to convince him of what is, after all, a rather extreme course of action. (Raise an army, become a pretend supervillain, start a war with the Slayers with the intention of creating a new dimension of existence and possibly detroying the current one for reasons whose benefits, I have to admit, I'm still not hugely clear on.)
Overall the issue's a decent bit of filler, but it's filler nonetheless.
¹actually hadn't Riley acquired some scars on his face by that episode? I don't think the illustrators got the memo about that.