I wasn't kind to Volume 3 in this series, but it deserved it. Let's not look at that, instead focusing on this volume. Buffy Season Nine Volume 4, Welcome to the Team (written by Andrew Chambliss, illustrated by Georges Jeanty), builds up to the inevitable final battle in the last arc, and manages to tell a pretty good story along the way.
Unfortunately, Billy is still here, but he's been relegated to background character by this point, and he'll soon be out of the series completely, which cannot happen quickly enough.
The marketing for Season Nine focused on returning to what made the show great, specifically the character-driven storylines rather than the other way around. Despite my negativity about this series in general, this arc balances the character and plot pretty well, making sure that everything that happens is rooted in the characters, and that the characters' motivations have tangible effects on the plot.
The storyline of Dawn fading from existence starts in this volume. Many fans have issues with this storyline, which surprises me as most hate Dawn. I'd think any possibility they might kill her would be embraced, but that's not the case. As I've mentioned ad nauseum in these reviews (only two more Season Nine publications and I can put this to bed), the way magic works here is wonky. At the end of Season Eight, Warren died instantly when the seed was smashed, as he was being held together by magic, and back in Volume 3 of Angel & Faith, Connor's fake family's fake memories went away at the same time. Given those examples, a lot of fans argue that Dawn should've started to fade or disappeared completely the moment that the seed was smashed. The fact that she's fading at all doesn't make that much sense, as it seemed like she became fully human earlier in the series, but I'm willing to let logic go for a good story.
What really sells me on this volume is Xander. In exchange for saving Dawn, he teams with Simone and Severin, betraying Buffy. Looking back from the perspective of seeing the end of the series, the biggest flaw was the lack of big character moments. Most the characters stayed in the same place throughout the season even though they should have been evolving, but Xander manages some real development here. Sure, it might be pushing him in a direction that people don't want to see, but this is what I find most interesting in characters: being pushed to do things they never want to do and think that they never would by circumstance. It shows a lot more dimension to a character, and adds the possibility of later conflict that could make things really interesting, which is exactly what they do with Xander here.
Willow returns after her excursion to Wonderland, but the main trio isn't reunited quite yet. Plus, she doesn't do much here, so talking about her in any detail doesn't really make sense until the next trade, when she's a big part of the story again.
Looking at the extras, Georges Jeanty meticulously keeps his sketches in a way that reminds me of what I see in Rebekah Isaacs's books, and I'm glad because I love extra features. He especially loves brainstorming ideas for variant covers, to the point that he'll come up with eight for one issues and they need to cram them all onto one page, making them too small to see much, but you can still see the main idea behind his unused covers. It has a script page with his highlighting and layout sketches, which really helps you get into his head and understand how he goes from words to images. As I've said before, I love getting into the heads of the creators, and while the notes were written by someone else, they still give insight that I wouldn't get from just reading the comic.
Overall, I give this a tentative recommendation. I'm tentative because I know where this is going and I don't want people to get too invested, but taken on its own, there's nothing really wrong with this volume and enough right that it's pretty good on its own. The $17.99 cover price might be a little bit higher than the individual issues, but add in the extra features and the fact that trades just look better on a bookshelf that individual issues, and I think it's worth the extra money. If you're interested in the story but don't want to pay all that, you can buy the physical issues individually for $2.99 each, and there's a digital bundle of all five issues for $8.99, and if nothing else, it gets a definite recommendation for that price.
Zac Kandell (known mostly on the internet as Mischlings) is a little surprised at the fact that he's recommending this, but if it works, it works. If you find what he says interesting, follow him on Twitter at @Mischlings or check out his personal blog.