Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8
Script: Joss Whedon, Pencils: Paul Lee, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Jimmy
Page 14: The woman compares our protagonist’s body proportions to Buffy, and our girl is smart enough to get the idea. She’s to be Buffy. And, not to be snarky, but how the woman could say with a straight face that our ‘faux-Buffy’ will need to pad her bra is both comical and ridiculous.
But never mind that. The point is that the plan is to send her down to the Under-community to do some reconnaissance… the Slayer organization don’t know a lot about them. And, to confirm if the name they’ve been hearing… Yamanh… is really gathering an army to invade the surface. If so, she’s to keep him occupied and, hopefully, convince him to back off by making it known that Buffy knows what he’s up to and is there to stop it cold.
Page 15: As our young woman is rappelling down into the Underworld, to meet the denizens, she is replaying the woman’s words to her – guessing as to what ‘Buffy’ was thinking herself:
“Did I get the hardest, darkest path to walk ‘cause I’m strong, I’m good, I can handle the heavier burden? Or am I weak. Expendable. The one that won’t be missed. The truth? There is no truth. There’s just what you believe.”
Page 16: ‘Buffy’ is confronted by the denizens of the Underworld… in addition to the fairies there are some slug-type guys. It’s more than obvious that the two races don’t get along and can barely tolerate each other.
It’s also obvious that if they don’t find a way to work together and watch each other’s backs they’re going to be wiped out by Yamanh.
Page 17: ‘Buffy’ could just leave right here. She could have reported back to the surface with what she knows. But, she doesn’t. She plays the role that they need her to play, just like she played the role that the Slayer Organization needed.
The slime-guy complains that she’s feeding them to the wolves, but she points out that the wolves are already there. The only thing to do is fight or die.
Page 18: We flash back again to when she was Called. As she’s lying on the ground a semi-truck loses control and comes plowing through the schoolyard. Our protagonist kicks a picnic table containing her friends out of the way, leaps to her feet and throws the football jock out of harm’s way….
Commentary: Thankfully it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds… even the picnic table kicked away part looks convincing.
Page 19: … and gets nailed by the stopping semi. She gets thrown, but of course survives. And this leads back to page Page 2 where the jock asks who she is.
Page 20 & 21: Back to the Underworld, where the Slugs, the Faeries and ‘Buffy’ are fighting with Yamanh and his army. Also of note is that on page 21, we see that Katsu and a squad of Slayers arrive through a breach into the outside world, rappelling to the rescue (remember, the Slayer sent the Faerie-woman to carry word that the demon army was rising – obviously she found the Slayers). The artwork here is really great stuff, but even more important is the dialog… because it sums up everything that this issue is about regarding the Slayers and this woman in particular, so I’m just going to quote the whole damned thing:
There’s always a name. Lincoln. Hitler. Gandhi. The name can inspire terror, awe… sometimes great things. But there’s millions of people go into making a name. People facing things they couldn’t imagine they would. In the moments that matter, even our own names are just sounds people make to tell us apart. What we are isn’t that. The real questions run deeper. Can I fight? Did I help? Did I do for my sisters? My comrades, children, slimy slug-clan… There is a chain, between each and every one of us. And like the man said, you either feel its tug or you ignore it. I tried to feel it. I tried to face the darkness like a woman and I don’t need any more than that. You don’t have to remember me. You don’t even know who I am.
Page 22: But I do.
And, our Slayer dies knowing she made a difference - holding off the invading army just long enough for the rest of the Slayers to arrive, and inspiring two species who could barely stand one another to fight as one. All on Buffy's name recognition - and she did it with no bitterness that none of them would know who she really was... in fact, her own name wasn't important, only what her actions showed her to be inside.
The Good: I found this story really touching. And it’s really all down to those last three pages, because for most of the issue it was jumping around so much that it was hard to be emotionally involved.
The traces of humor throughout were important because of the darkness of the tale and the fact that we were warned up front that our focus-character wasn’t going to make it.
The faerie character was really well rendered. They made me buy it.
I liked the bits we’re given regarding how they’re locating these Slayers around the world and how they go through ‘orientation’ to figure out why they can do the things they do.
I thought it was interesting that this soon we’d get an issue where there isn’t any of our three primary characters… not even cameos: Buffy, Willow and Xander. I think the story was more than strong enough to carry it, though.
What’s also interesting is how much of an impression we get of our character’s personality and style, and yet we don’t actually know her. We only get tidbits and then she’s acting as Buffy… and yet we can still grieve when she’s killed at the end because we’ve spent time in her head.
The Bad: This one is going to require a few reads to keep track of what the heck is going on, what with all the flashing backward and forward to different points in the character’s history.
Some of the questions asked seemed to be dropped without exploration… I’m thinking of the whole ‘fascists’ thing… unless I was just reading way too much subtext into it.
The first time through, I’ll admit it was a hard slog – it’s hard to get wrapped up in a story that is so broken up with jumping around in time.
The Score: I really liked this one and it stayed with me after I had put the issue away, despite not much liking it the first time through. The main character is sketched in quite well so that we feel like we know her, even though we have so few details about her life. I found myself grinning at some of the humor, especially involving the faerie character. And, I appreciate that we learn just how the whole “send pretend-Buffy’s out there” came about
My score is 3.75 out of 5 Stars.