Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8, Issue 15
'Wolves at the Gate' Part IV (final)
Script: Drew Goddard, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy, Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Cover By: Georges Jeanty, Dexter Vines & Michelle Madsen (and much as I love Jo Chen's gorgeous painting like covers, I think this is my favorite of the series thus far)
Page 01: Toru pushes Renee off of the end of the Scythe, big grin on his face. Renee's eyes are wide in shock, her chest and face awash in blood.
Page 02: Everyone looks shocked, but none more so than Xander. We see them all from Renee's perspective and stay with her through her last thoughts as everything is washed out with white.
Page 03: Xander cradles her. In the meanwhile, the vampires start misting in around the Slayers. Buffy orders them all to close ranks around Xan, as he's looking into Renee's face.
Dracula orders Buffy to get Willow (and by his tone, he IS ordering her) but she screams back that she's not leaving Xander alone. He fangs out and makes it clear that he isn't alone....
Commentary: One of the more interesting aspects of this arc (if not wholly believable) is the relationship between Dracula and Xander. It's clear here that Dracula is outraged on Xander's behalf, despite not giving a damn about Renee - It's interesting, coming from a Buffy villain. I'm not sure how much I can get behind another Buffyverse vampire being redeemed though - especially if we never see him again - and when we know that he hasn't turned into a good guy, either.
Page 04: We didn't see it because our focus was on Renee - but Willow has been tackled by the vampire-witch through one of the highrise's windows. Buffy shouts to Satsu that she's in charge, and goes out onto the ledge to summon Wills for Dracula's plan.
Page 05: Willow is busy, though, being slammed around by the vampire-witch. The vamp gets a bit cocky, allowing Willow to grab her face and start a spell. Far more interesting, is that the vampire-witch reveals to Willow that she's also a student of Saga Vasuki, the Lamia that Willow basically had a sexual liason with while on her magical sojourn!
Page 06: During Willow's attempts to (if I understand this correctly) find out Saga's part in what is happening at now, she sees a horrible and fire drenched vision, with the Scythe prominently displayed. Saga Vasuki intones that she can't hide from her, nor what is coming....
Willow is knocked for a loop.
In the meanwhile, Buffy summons the nerve to do a skydive out of the window to intercept the floating mystics.
Commentary: And this vision, and Vasuki's words actually acts as the first scene of the next arc. This arc is the one where Buffy meets Fray through a time travel spell. And, that makes the next review the Fray TPB.
Page 07: Buffy falls onto the back of the vampire-witch, staking her at the same time. She grabs Willow and starts yelling for her to wake up before they splat!
Commentary: I want to bring up the Godzilla shout out in the last panel also. Godzilla shout outs are a big part of this issue with Giant Dawn and the funniest part of this issue coming up. Right now though, the billboard has a Mecha-Godzilla head on it - a sly foreshadow of what is coming, as well as giving love to the Toho creation.
Page 08: Out on the streets, the Slayers are in battle with the vampire army of Toru. Rowena is in charge, and she orders a retreat as the Slayers are threatened with being over run by the constantly shifting vampires. She's about to be leaped on by a panther-ire, when Dawn's giant foot comes down on the pavement, squishing the black vamp-cat.
Dawn says, "We don't run".
Page 09: Dawn takes charge of the Slayers, ordering them to charge the office tower of the Toru. Rowena yells at her to look out, but it is too late, as she takes a fist to the face....
"Oh my God!" Rowena exclaims.
Commentary: I love Dawn taking charge. Now I think she's only doing it because she thinks Buffy needs help in the tower, but I still like seeing indications that Dawn will be doing more than being estranged from her sister in this series.
Page 10: As Dawn looks up from her place flat on her back, she sees Mechi-Dawn! The giant mecha roars and punches Dawn in the jaw.
Commentary: Not only is this funny in and of itself, but Mechi-Dawn's design is an extremely clever nod to Mechi-Godzilla. Just compare:
courtesy of: http://kaiju.boomcoach.com/gallery/mechazilla.html
It's silly, it's over the top, it doesn't make much sense for the "tech division" to have created it in this specific shape, but I LOVE IT anyway. I love it even more when it actually mocks Dawn in a few pages...!
Page 11: On the roof, surrounded by guards, Toru orders the lens powered up. He stands with the Scythe ready to incant the counter spell to Buffy's empowering-the-Slayers magic.
Toru's right hand man complains to a scientist that he hears a strange noise underneath the humming of the lens..., like screaming....
Page 12: The scream is more of a yell of rage. It belongs to Dracula, who busts up through the roof, tackling Toru and causing him to lose his grip on the all-important Scythe. Dracula yells for the Slayers to grab it.
Satsu leaps into action, snatching it out of mid-air, but she also dives right over the edge of the highrise roof....
Page 13: Below, at street level, Willow has managed to transmorgrify sidewalk into water to save her and Buffy from a harder landing. Willow notices Satsu falling and mentions it to Buffy, saying "your girlfriend". Buffy points out she's not a 'girlfriend' in that sense.
Willow tells her she needs to be careful with the other woman. She tells her she has to show solidarity with a sister and doesn't want to see Buffy hurting her. And also, that she never wanted to sleep with her, so she should just not even think that would be a possibility.
In the background, Dawn is being shoved into a building by Mechi-Dawn.
Buffy assures her that she never considered a tryst with Willow, anyway, to which Will expresses gratitude. Finally, she mentions that they should go and catch her before Satsu splats.
Commentary: In one sense I like this scene between them, and their casualness to Satsu falling from the sky. In another, I don't really understand why Willow took this particular moment to get into Buffy's sudden experimentation or wanting to be clear about the lines between them. This seems like a weird place and time for this conversation to take place - especially with the Slayers still battling it out with the super powered vampires and Xan's obvious heartbreak going on back in the tower.
Page 14: Back on the rooftop, the Slayers are fighting - and one lucky Slayer has axed a vampire right through the face! Toru's right hand vampire calls in for a retrieval team to go after Satsu and the Scythe.
But she appears, sword in hand, with Buffy - who has the Scythe again. Both are being levitated by a flying Willow. Buffy tries to cut him in half, but he fogs.
Seeing Willow, Dracula summons her to him. He tells her to use his sword and a specific incantation to neutralize the vampire's shifting powers....
Commentary: And, presumably, Dracula is here deliberately sacrificing his own shape shifting magic as well. One wonders if this is out of pride to defeat 'the thieves' or if his mind is on saving Xander....
Page 15: Willow manages it, and a huge white flash robs the vampires of their advantage.
Page 16: As the flow of battle shifts into the Slayer's side, Mechi-Dawn is mocking Giant Dawn: "My name is Dawn. I am a teenage girl."
It's is also giving her a pretty good beating. Andrew, from another rooftop, he tells Dawn via radio that he can help her defeat her mechanical double.
Page 17: Mechani-Dawn: "I like blue jeans. And irony. I cry a lot. I often let boys take advantage of my weak emotional states."
While Dawn is trying to stop the giant robot from slapping her around, Andrew is telling her to rip its head off. She asks how he could know that will stop it and his dialog is great:
"Hi, have you met me? My giant-sized teammate is fighting a mechanized version of herself on the streets of downtown Tokyo... I've been preparing for this day my entire life!"
Dawn does as he says, while disputing Mechani-Dawn's views about her. It's head rips right off for her.
Page 18: Back on the rooftop - Toru's right hand vamp grabs Buffy from behind and swings her around. He tells her that he bets that she tastes sweet.
"You have no idea," Satsu says, as she stakes him in the back. "I can't believe I just said that out loud."
In the meanwhile, Dracula calls for his sword from Willow, but when she throws it, Toru grabs it from the air.
Commentary: I can't believe that Satsu was allowed to say that, either!
Page 19: Goru goes to attack Dracula with his own sword, but very quickly finds himself losing not only the blade, but his arms and legs, too. Dracula points out that he has been killing men on the battlefield long before he became a vampire.
Commentary: This is an awesome page. Dracula suddenly shows us the power and regalness that he was really denied in Buffy vs. Dracula and throughout this arc. And the last panel of the page, with Drac is shadow except for the huge blood stained sword and a portion of his forehead and eyes is really poster-level gorgeous.
Page 20: With Toru limbless and bleeding out everywhere, he defiantly tells Dracula to finish him. He tells him he can't leave him in this condition, and still call himself honorable.
But, Dracula tells him a) he has no idea what honor is and b) it isn't his place to slay him. He offers his sword, handle first, to Xander.
Commentary: I love this page. I love Dracula's attitude, I love his leaving Toru to Xander, and love his turning the sword handle to Xander in a show of absolute trust and honor and I love the artwork.
I do have to point out that according to current Angel, Season 6 - vampires can regrow hacked off limbs though. While here Toru sounds like he fears being left with no hands or legs permanently - perhaps he just doesn't realize that they'll grow back. Or, Angel's creative team are clumsy - if vamp's limbs grow back, why did Angel make sure that Spike's hands were re-sewn (or he was given donor hands - I don't remember which - his originals should have dusted when they were hacked off) when Dana cut them off? But this is Buffy, not Angel - so we'll discuss it more eventually over there.
Xander beheads Toru.
Page 21: Toru's vampires scatter, clearly defeated. Buffy orders them hunted down and exterminated - no prisoners - she walks over to Xander. As Satsu relays the instructions over their microphones that not one vampire is allowed to leave (excepting Dracula), in the background, Xan has fallen to his knees and put his arms around Buffy's waist.
She's holding him and stroking his hair.
Page 22: Back in the Japanese compound, it's at least a day later, probably a few by Xander's scruffy face. Dracula comes up behind him and reports that his ship is in port so he'll be taking his leave. He asks Xander if he'd like help with his "little ceremony" - as if he's mocking it, but we've seen enough and heard enough via Andrew's lecture to know that he is feeling for Xan here, despite himself.
Page 23: Xan tells Dracula if he keeps referring to him as 'manservant' he'll kill him in his sleep. Dracula suggests 'lackey', then 'minion', and finally 'houseboy', but Xan says he's still getting killed.
We have a feeling it's not serious on either side.
Within a bedroom, Satsu admits to Buffy that she thought everything would be fine and they'd just act like nothing happened, but she can't do that.
Page 24: She asks Buffy to promote her to Aiko's position so she can stay in Tokyo.
Page 25: Buffy agrees. She worries that she's hurt Satsu, but the other Slayer tells her that she hasn't. They end up agreeing to spend one more night together before Buffy returns to Scotland.
Page 26: In the harbor, Dracula tells the ship's crew that they have a cold journey ahead. He offers to stand watch, allowing them to seek what warmth they can (becoming more humane through his interactions with Xander?).
In the meanwhile, Willow is meditating and communing with Vasuki....
While Buffy and Satsu are naked in bed, kissing passionately....
And Xander pours Renee's ashes from an urn into the garden.
Commentary: I just want to mention how thankful I am that this issue was allowed to run longer than normal (22 pages) so we could have a proper wrap up rather than abruptly end.
The Good: First, that cover is gorgeous. The best that Georges has drawn up to this point.
Renee's death, from her viewpoint.
Giant Dawn vs. Mechi-Dawn.
And, the blatant shout out to old fashioned, 60's and 70's Godzilla strewn in the Giant Dawn vs. Mechi-Dawn.
And, Mechi-Dawn's robotic mocking of Giant Dawn.
Dracula giving up his shape shifting powers without a moment's hesitation, and his not being even slightly diminished by it.
The extra pages to wrap up the Buffy/Satsu, Xander/Dracula, Xander/Renee plots.
The Bad: Not a thing.
Other Thoughts: Only that I want to quote some of the outrage in the letters pages, so we need to wait a few issues to get to them. I don't have them with me and I wasn't expecting to be ready to post the reviews tonight. I'm going to do an individual post for responding to the objections to Buffy/Satsu and shoot them down.
The Score: This issue was exciting and tense and funny and sad. The fight scenes were great, especially the liberal use of blood. I liked that Andrew and Dawn were given their own roles in the conflict and both did well. I did find the scene with Willow confronting Buffy regarding Satsu as odd timing, but it wasn't enough to be objectionable. I think they took the easy way out by having Satsu stay in Japan, but I like that Buffy and her didn't end up bitter or angsty about their being sexual. And that last page - panel 3 - wow.
4.0 out of 5
And that means the average for 'Wolves at the Gate' comes to: 4.0 - an excellent arc that I'd recommend to anyone who isn't a comics fan, but has always loved Buffy. This is one TPB that would be worth spending on if you don't want to get the individual issues.