Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8
"Time of Your Life"
Script: Joss Whedon
Pencils: Karl Moline
Inks: Andy Owens
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy
Cover By: Jo Chen (who DH must pay whatever is demanded - the covers are always stunning, like paintings)
The Blurbage: Today thousands of Slayers populate the world - forming squadrons, fighting vampires, demons, and, more recently, the U.S. military. Buffy and Xander continue to train an elite force of Slayers in the highlands of Scotland where they prepare to duel their fiercest foe to date: Twilight.
Buffy's fresh from another doomed relationship, and Xander has suffered another great loss. Now a mystical vision has directed Willow toward New York City and clues to the future of magic. And as for Dawn, well... she's still experiencing some serious growing pains.
(The vision Willow received should have been in 'Anywhere But Here', issue #10. But she refers to a goth vampire, instead. Anyway, the vision is believed to have come via the snake woman that we find out Willow dallianced with in that issue. Buffy and Willow were both also shown things that they were hiding from each other: Willow's keeping Kennedy away from Buffy because she feels like she put Buffy before Tara and consequently put Tara in front of Warren's bullet. And Buffy... well, she's been funding her Slayer operations with stolen money. Finally, Buffy saw a vision in which she's on the ground, in pain, betrayed by her closest ally. For a moment she thinks it may have been Willow. For a long while I thought it was Twilight - considering his identity - but now I wonder if it wasn't a riddle. Could the 'closest of betrayals' be Buffy's betrayal of herself... her principals... she's already started that with the robberies. And could it be her betrayal of everything she's grown to believe about being a Slayer that ultimately leads to the 'death of magic'? As we know from Fray's future, the last Slayer (hinted at as being Buffy) left the world in a portal, sweeping all of the demons and magic away from the world... for a few centuries at any rate. Oh, and speaking of FRAY, which is why of course I brought all of this up....)
Page 01: Buffy stands with the Slayer Scythe and she's heavily perspiring. She complains, "Bad day. Started that way, stayed that way."
Page 02 & 03: We have a two page spread of Buffy giving an upper cut to a familiar young woman's jaw. We can also recognize the background and both women go over the side of a building. We, and Buffy, have somehow ended up in Fray's future timeline. And the two women are obviously not getting along... even more interesting than all of that, though, is that both women are armed with the singular Scythe!
Commentary: And, if a very nostalgic Season One way, Buffy has paired hideous brown boots with a camel-color short dress that in no way was created to fight in... *sigh, nostalgia*.
Page 04: As Buffy and Fray fall toward the pavement far below (I'm starting to think Joss has a thing for Buffy falling off of buildings), she's wondering where she is, where everyone else got to, and what is happening to her sister - which we see in a flashback...
Dawn grabs her abdomen and screams out in obvious distress.
Page 05: Over Scottish Chinese take-out, our three leads are discussing the trip to New York based on the 'goth vamp speaking in tongues'. Buffy teases Willow a little about the really hot demon-snake lady being the one to send the message to Willow via vampire.
Page 06: Conversation continues about Willow's received message, which refers to the lost Scythe in New York... even though Buffy still has it with her in Scotland. It's all very mysterious. During the discussion, Willow makes reference to their having recently lost a fight (Which at first glance I thought was about Buffy's losing to Twilight, but no). There are some awkward pauses and glances at Xander.
Showing that he has come a long way (again), and yet hasn't really changed, Xan replies, "I appreciate the eggshells, but... Renee's dead. I'm dealing with it. By myself."
He turns the meeting back toward the possibly kinky doings with the demon-snake-lady.
Page 07: Leah breaks in on the private meeting to report that they have a problem with Dawn. Everyone rushes into the woods outside of the castle.
Page 08: They find that Dawn is no longer a giantess, but whatever Kenny did to her it is far from over: She's been transformed into a topless Centaur. She's very unhappy.
Commentary: It is about here that I started to lose interest in Dawnie's troubles with her ex-boyfriend, the Thrisewise. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to Dawnie's changes... i.e. there isn't any sort of subtext, that I can see, relating Dawn's physical changes to her cheating with his roommate, or her emotional or psychological feelings and thoughts about what she did to him. I liked the Giantess thing because I was hoping that there was a subtext relating Dawn's giant status to her giant mistake. With her having copped to that, I was hoping that this change was going to be about her next step in the process - making amends and then following a last change that would in some way reflect seeking forgiveness - I'm not sure what these changes would be, but I was relatively sure there would be three of them, starting with this issue since Kenny is a THRICEWISE (Three Wisdoms?). If this was the idea behind it, Joss lost me with the Centaur business.
Page 09: Meanwhile, back at back guy HQ, Warren is arguing with Twilight. He's built some doodad or another that he is convinced will defeat the Slayers. Twilight concedes it should do its small part, which pisses Warren off:
"Hey, I have no skin. Which means I don't have your cute little sunset symbol carved in it. I'm in this for myself, and myself is telling you right now that this baby..."
Page 10: "... is gonna bring the noise."
What we see is a rocket... very clearly a military grade rocket. It has been painted with mystic symbols and sits in front of a magic book. The rocket is covered in half melted candles.
In Scotland, Buffy and Willow load up on a copter to go to the airport for their flight across the Atlantic. Xander has been chosen to stay behind and deal with "Flicka".
Page 11: On the flight to New York, Willow makes a dig about Buffy's "mysterious benefactors", to which Buffy responds they do actually have some legitimate funding. She also tells Willow, cryptically, that she'll be taking a meeting while on the East Coast, but won't elaborate.
She's worried that Willow doesn't have any idea about what they might be heading into, but Willow replies they rarely do.
Page 12: At the airport, Kennedy and Willow greet one another leaving all of the baggage to Buffy.
Commentary: What can I say about Kennedy? I still don't see her and Willow as compatible. And, as we see more of Kennedy (future me alert!) I'm going to find myself liking WATCHERS version of Kennedy far, far more. That's all I'll say until I'm ready to rant about her attitude problem.
Page 13: We find out a few details on the way from the airport: Buffy is a geek for New York. Violet is heading the Manhattan branch of the Slayers. Kennedy insisted on her team taking point on this operation and Vi didn't object.
Page 14: At the planning session at Manhattan Slayer HQ, Vi reports that the city is jumping with mystical activity. She thinks that her mystic squad (so at least the major squadrons also have a mystic support team, as well) thinks they've discovered the mystical emanations Willow is interested in. She reports it seems to be coming and going.
Willow explains that is to be expected. She updates everyone that she thinks the event is a temporal and fluid anomaly from sometime in the far future. It is sending out ripples back through the time stream.
Commentary: I'm just going to admit here, too, that on first read, I was mostly left confused as to why Buffy has to go to Fray's time and what exactly happened to cause the events we're about to read. I'm hoping this time through, I'll notice something I missed and it will make more sense.
Page 15: As Willow continues on, I find Kennedy unlikeable - again. She takes this opportunity to bash Buffy for being in her 'experimental lez stage' and warns her that if she makes any moves on Willow, she'll "kill her like a chicken".
Commentary: Where in the hell did this hostility come from? Why is she so jealous of Buffy and Willow's friendship? Why does she even know about Buffy and Satsu, and why is she being such a bitch about it, including telling Buffy that she thought she was kind of a homophobe, before? Why is Kennedy coming off as such a huge psycho?
In the meanwhile, back in Scotland, Xander tells Dawn that they think she'll have one more transformation before the spellworks of Kenny play out. She complains this is the second time her ass as been huge - he tells her that she looks beautiful....
Scene 16: Xander continues to try to boost Dawn's self esteem. He tells her she's become a majestic creature of legend.
She isn't buying it. She feels like a freak, not least of which because she is peeing an insane amount of pee and she feels a desire to eat hay.
He suggests she stop whining to deal with it... she runs off in a huff.
Scene 17: As Xander is heading back to HQ, he spots Warren's rocket streaking in - too late to do anything about it, though. The Scotland Slayer HQ impressively blows apart in a green, mystical explosion.
Commentary: I'm kind of bummed about this actually. I don't think the Scottish castle location was used to its potential outside of the first arc. They could have done a ghost story here, a mystical armor arc, Scottish lore and mystical creatures (instead of Dawn's Greek transformation, for instance)... this seems like a waste of a really good 'set'. And, I have to wonder why the Slayer HQ is so vulnerable both here and in 'Wolves at the Gate', when everyone seemed so on top of things in 'The Long Way Home'... ah, well, what's done is done.
Scene 18: Xander is lying on the ground, looking at whatever and whoever is left in HQ.
In Manhattan, Willow and Kennedy are waiting on Buffy to arrive from her 'meeting'. Kennedy mentions Willow keeping her source so to herself.
Scene 19: Buffy arrives, wearing that camel-color dress and brown calf-high boots from the future scene as our story is obviously catching up to where we started... sort of appropriate, since we're dealing with time travel.
Buffy admits to not expecting that they'd have fighty-time, explaining her wearing a non-fight like dress (but not her choice of footwear).
Commentary: I do find it a bit odd that Buffy WOULDN'T expect a fight everywhere she goes, by now.
Anyway she offers to change, just as there is a flash of light and sound... suddenly in her place, a demon stands. Kennedy opines that the other look was really just fine (except, 'ew').
Scene 20: The demon on the roof comes equipped with a nasty set of chompers, body spikes, and long-clawed hand and an arm/hand that is actually just a large bone spike... I like it.
While Kennedy is being raked across the chest, Buffy is tumbling in new levels of pain for ... somewhere ... and since we know all about FRAY from my review, we know where and when she's headed, just not why.
Scene 21: Just after arrival, without any time to actually discover where she is, she receives a hard blow to the face that knocks her to the rooftop.
Commentary: We don't see Fray's face, apparently attempting some sort of shock review on the next page - but since we've seen the cover, this isn't the surprise it should be.
Scene 22: Fray, of course, stands over Buffy and holding her own version of the Scythe... she tells Buffy she's lower than a lurk. Buffy asks for English translation.
Commentary: And, as we learned, the lurks are vampires....And, what the hell is supposed to be standing over Fray's shoulder?! (I learned in next issue - never mind.)
The Good: I like the interaction between Buffy, Willow and Xander and that they make reference to events in other issues.
I really like the color scheme and artwork for the attack on the castle HQ.
The Bad: Kennedy's interaction with Buffy is really ... well... I keep returning to the word, 'bitchy'. It's too much and out of left field. I get that maybe Kenn might be harboring some suspicions about Willow and Buffy because of Willow's general secretive 'walk arounds' and because she's been actively keeping Kenn away from Buffy - but since that last part was already explained, I don't understand the reaction here.
I'm really disappointed that if Dawn was going to have another transformation, that they didn't draw on UK lore in some way - like with her as a Giant (That is U.K.-ish, right?). It seems like an obvious thing that was missed for a completely random choice.
Other Thoughts: As per commentary, I also think that the destruction of the Highland HQ, without any chance to explore its history or giving it some mysteries was a waste. Not a bad choice... just wasted potential.
I also suppose that a story bringing Fray and Buffy into the same story was inevitable, but I just find it unnecessary - and unless I'm missing something, largely irrelevant (but we'll talk about this aspect more after the 4th issue in the arc's review and Stormwreath is usually able to point out things I hadn't seen or noted, so maybe he'll have some insights he can share at that time).
The Score: As a set up issue, we're not going to get a lot of information on what is going on, but as noted - there was a lot that would have been appropriate developments, but were somehow missed. I'm also just generally ambivalent about time-travel stories and the paradoxes they set up, so I'm not in a good mind going into this story, which surely is affecting the review of it. I did like the artwork through most of it, especially in mid-range and close up perspectives of our cast. I also like the tensions being displayed between Twilight (which I'm not going to discuss until we reach the appropriate point, at which I will be ranting along with everyone else) and Warren (whose return I've already ranted about in my review for 'The Long Way Home' arc) pointing to possible treachery from Psychotic-Warren to come.
And, I really did like the artwork for the rocket attack, even if I think it is a waste of potential.
3.0 out of 5