Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8, Issue 20
"after these messages... we'll be right back!"
Script: Jeph Loeb, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Animation: Eric Wight, Ethen Beavers & Adam Van Wyk,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt, Colors: Lee Loughridge, Exec Producer: Joss Whedon (Buffy demi-god)
Cover: Jo Chen
Blurbage: Buffy's had a lot to deal with lately: her sister's a centaur; she broke the heart of a Slayer; traveled through time to battle the future Slayer, Fray, and kill her best friend; and the Slayer command center in the Highlands of Scotland has been destroyed. And yet, Buffy manages to keep her cool by focusing on her duty - protect humanity from the hidden evils of the world, even as that world turns against her. Is Twilight to blame for humanity's distrust of the Slayers? The aggression of the U.S. government? The defection of the rogue Slayer, Simone, and her band of thieves?
Only time will tell. Until then, it's about time Buffy got some well-earned sleep.
Page 01: Buffy stands with the Scythe, looking gorgeous in all her battle ferocity. She warns someone or something that if they move any closer, she'll wack 'em.
Page 02: She lops the head off of some monster with it, telling it that she can't say she didn't warn it.
In a different time and place, she shoots a crossbow into what I believe is a visual homage to Marvel Comics Man-Thing... she repeats it can't say he wasn't warned.
Commentary: This page is especially eye catching because each of the two panels are in a different color palette. I also like the detail of the frog in the foreground on panel two, but not for any particular reason I can articulate. Just the attention to detail, I guess....
Page 03: In a different time and place, Buffy thrusts a sword through the middle of another monster, repeating her line about his being warned.
In the second panel, a vampire gets staked. "Can't say I -- oh, grrr, I guess I can...."
Commentary: Obviously this was meant to be mildly cute, but to work she should have said, "Oh, grrr, I guess YOU can...." Nice try.
Also, throughout these pages, Buffy has been thinking to herself about how she never gets any rest now and that things have gotten so hard. She wonders if they've always been this hard (yes, Buffy, they have been).
Page 04: Buffy is in the new HQ, now that the one in Scotland has been destroyed.
Commentary: Oh, how we'll be talking about this again, once we reach Twilight's identity, which yes, you all know by now, but comic-reviewy wise, we're not there yet.
Anyway - Buffy is complaining at Xander because he's disturbing her and she so wants to sleep. Xan and her agree on hoping that when Dawnie is done being a centaur (which I've complained about already), she'll turn into a giant robot-monkey. What they don't agree on is where Buffy is lying. As Xan tries to point out that she's gone to the wrong room and is in his bed, she falls into sleep.
Commentary: Now, one could say it's the new place and she didn't know where she crashed, but I find it interesting that she fell into Xan's bed. Not that I'm putting too much into it - but after her dream, where she invited Xander to sleep with her in "The Long Way Home", I find this mildly intriguing... is there something sub-conscious going on here, perhaps? In her dream, she was interrupted from getting Xan naked by his head popping off (not a euphemism) and here nothing can happen because she's exhausted, and Xander has sort of put his dreams of a rendevous way on the back burner by now. But still... intriguing.
Page 05: The artwork suddenly switches here to being more cartoony as we enter Buffy-dream. she's also sleeping here, but is quickly awoken (within the dream) by shouting that she needs to get up for school. At first she resists this dream, but that doesn't wake her up.
Commentary: There are a few things I like about this concept. One - I like that they're putting the aborted Buffy cartoon to good use by visiting it here. With this being a dream, it is the perfect place to show off what the animated Buffy and gang would have looked like, without it ruining the more serious aspects of Buffy's (the comic) current storyline. Two- The animated Buffy was supposed to revisit Sunnydale High, so it is appropriate for Buffy's dream to do so as well. Three- I like that Buffy's dream has included Dawn, as her memories would include Dawnie being present in this past timeframe, even though she wasn't actually there. Four- I like the revisit with these characters as we used to know them before life got so much more complicated and difficult for them. I also like that Buffy is transitions back and forth between who she used to be and who she currently is, and I like the undertone of her complicated feelings toward Angel (for obvious reasons, which I can't bring up here - but that everyone should know by now).
I DO have a caveat to put here, though. While the visiting the past works in this setting (a dream), it also presents a problem I've been wrestling with for a while re: Joss and Buffy. I couldn't put my finger on it for a long while, but in a comment to a post, eleusis_walks articulated it perfectly. I'll replace Mutant Enemy with Joss Whedon, but otherwise... "[Joss] is constantly lost in nostalgia when it comes to this show and these characters".
This is a problem that I'm having with S8 in general... to me, it seems like BTVS is continually looking backward, instead of forward. Angel, Spike, Warren, Dark Willow, Dawn feeling useless, Buffy/Faith fisticuffs... all of these elements are being revisited, and largely replayed with some changes in the exact lyrics, but the same music and words being used. I LOVE that Buffy remembers its own history - I don't like how Joss' works feel like their unable to move away from those histories, if that makes sense.
Page 06: The yelling for Buffy was, of course, Joyce and she's accompanied by Dawn. They think she's acting weird, which from their perspective, she is.
Page 07: Joyce wonders if Buffy is coming down with something, since she's been out every night. Buffy lets slip that a Slayer's work is never done, but Joyce doesn't know about that, yet. Buffy quickly covers by telling her a Player's work is never done -- cause she is thinking of going out for the volleyball team.
Commentary: (snark on) And even in her dream, she manages to have Joyce not react appropriately to a daughter who got sent to a psychiatric hospital for a short stint for mentioning her new life as a Slayer. (snark off) It was understandable in the series (well, not really - because they didn't need to include that detail retroactively in Buffy's personal history) since they hadn't decided that Buffy had tried to tell her mother and father about what had happened to her while they were still in L.A., but here it is just clumsy storytelling. I just don't see Buffy's dream as having Joyce react as if she isn't aware of her daughter's stay in the hospital here.
Page 08: Buffy goes back to high school, and we have Cordelia make a special verbal attack on Willow (very WttH of her). Buffy tells Wills not to worry over it, as maybe someday Cordelia will be dead and she'll be a sorceress supreme.
Commentary: What is interesting is that Buffy still knows that she is in a dream. She mentions that Ethan (even though he's dead, too) could have dragged her back into her dream space again. I do find it to be a small missed opportunity that she doesn't mention the delusion-causing poison in "Normal Again" here. It's also interesting to me that when dream-Buffy sees dream-Willow, looking all S1, her first response is still on her killing Dark Willow in the Fray-timeline, rather than thinking of her alive and well best friend in her current reality. The confrontation and slaying of Dark Willow is still weighing very heavily on her mind, despite it occurring in a possible, far off, maybe-future. I didn't really like the Cordelia crack - that seemed to be a bit callous.
Page 09: Xander's only-once-seen skateboard makes a return visit! And, we see that Buffy's dream includes Principal Snyder, rather than Flutie. Snyder conviscates the board and tells Xan he can get it back at the end of the school year.
Commentary: Sly way to explain why we've never seen Xander try to ride his skateboard again, but this would have worked better as a joke if it had been Flutie, since we didn't see it again after WttH... which was months before Snyder started his entertaining reign.
Buffy pulls out her future knowledge again, by telling Xan that maybe someday Snyder will get eaten by a giant snake and he'll be all cool with an eyepatch and commanding a large bunch of women. Willow doesn't like that joke much, and Buffy remembers that Willow doesn't yet get she's gay. She clumsily changes the subject to Giles.
Page 10: That night on patrol, Buffy has a huge grin on her face. She has missed when she, Willow and Xander were just Scoobies. But, her dream isn't going to let her forget that this was also the period where Giles was constantly getting in the way of her actually living her life with Slayer duty.
Page 11: Giles tries to update Buffy on a vampire cult who worships something called Morgala, whose exact nature eludes him. But, this being S1 Scooby Gang, they're busy talking about a party that evening.
Giles berates them, as he tries to impress on Buffy how huge the risks are if she fails to find this cult of vampires and put an end to them. She's says no sweat.
Commentary: I love Giles' asking them, smartassedly, what they think Harmony is going to wear. I can very clearly hear how ASH would deliver that line and I laugh. Oh, I miss snarky, superior, glaring Giles.
Page 12-13: Giant two page spread of Buffy kicking a stake clear through a Follower of 'Morgan Freeman', while everyone else watches and Xander provides sportcaster-commentary.
She very quickly and relatively easily kills the three vampires.
Page 14: In the after-battle giddiness, the gang prepares to go off to the party, while Giles poo-poos Buffy getting off that easily. She mentions the image of a dragon that the cult guys were worshipping. Buffy blows a gasket, telling him that she used to be able to have so much fun, before the whole Calling thing. She especially mentions how one day there would be 1800 Slayers in 10 squads and they'd be calling her "ma'am", which she doesn't appreciate. She insists she is going to have a night of fun and storms off.
Commentary: Hmmm... an interesting commentary about Buffy's current feelings toward the activation spell? Is she finding that not "standing alone against the vampires and forces of darkness" hasn't turned out the way she hoped? Has disillusionment settled in where once she was smiling at the remains of Sunnydale with a small grin at facing a world where she had plenty of 'sisters' to stand with her? After the business with Simone, you could certainly forgive any feelings Buffy may have that she might have made a mistake.
Others certainly wonder if she has... *cough*Twilight*cough*.
Page 15: Later, Buffy is in her room and looking for something to wear. She briefly pauses, fiddling with the cross he gave her (which looks nothing like the cross he gave her). She sighs over him and her and what it was like for them back during this period of time.
Joyce comes in, expressing concern that she doesn't know anything about these people her daughter is going to party with. She's worried there could be danger, which Buffy finds funny in a sad way. Buffy hugs her and tells her that sometimes she wishes she could live there at home forever. Joyce tells her that even after she leaves, she can "always come home again", which is ironic or something because of course Buffy won't be coming home exactly since it is destroyed, while at the same time she did "come home" when she had to mount a rescue mission for Willow to Sunnydale's ruins.
Page 16: On the way to the party, Buffy's spider-sense tingles. She goes off to investigate, only to find that it is Angel. She sighs at the sight of Angel as he used to be in her eyes, before she learned all about Angelus and everything he put her and Giles through. Angel congratulates her on her defeat of the Five Disciples of Morgala, that he heard in the understreet that she defeated already.
He notes that she's wearing the necklace he gave her (despite it looking utterly different), and she claims she wore it only, ONLY, because it went with the outfit.
Page 17: She nearly-apologetically tells him that they were never really good at the talking thing, but expresses the other part of it was good. She also asks him if he would tell someone, if he knew something important about their future. He tells her he probably wouldn't, so she just sighs and leaves him on the rooftop watching after her.
Page 18: As she arrives to the party, thinking back on how Angel turns into the baddest-bad and makes her her saddest-sad, something he said bothers her. She thought balloons their conversation. At first she thinks about his compliment, but that isn't what is bothering her. Next is his commenting on the necklace, which she shouts 'No!' to. Then she thought balloons Angel's comment that she's beautiful, and complains to herself that he didn't even say that, as she waves her hand through the bubble.
Finally, she remembers that Angel mentioned five disciples, but she only staked three. Annoyed at the bad luck, she complains that maybe she'll have time to get back from the cemetery before the party ends and storms off.
Commentary: I liked the humor on this page, since we had a touch of the old Buffy/Angel angst that I have moved on from and wish they would, as well....
Page 19: She locates the last two disciples, but before she can slay them, one of them is able to summon a dragon....
Commentary: If you've seen the clip of the animated episode that was released, you'll find that the dragon and cult are reflections of what would have been an episode of that cartoon series, also. It's a bit different here, but Buffy's dream adventure is mirroring the animated episode, somewhat.
Page 20-21: The Dragon chases her and they end up far above Sunnydale. In a very Buffy moment, she comments on seeing her house, and more importantly, the house with the party that she's missing.
Page 22: Above Sunnydale, Buffy loses her boot and despite this being a dream, she apparently is aware of Cordelia ragging on her for not making the party and being hit in the head by the falling boot. That has never happened in a dream of mine - I'm always there when I dream of somebody else's dialog scenes.
Anyway, Buffy is able to pry the gem from the dragon and it poofs into non-existence. She falls to the ground and at the same time hears Xander's voice telling her that she isn't in her own bed, but his.
Page 23: Back in the 'real world', Buffy wakes up with Xan complaining that she's stinking up his bed. Dawn is in the doorway complaining of her smell and Willow has come to report in that Andrew's come up with a larger vampire nest in Madrid than expected. Buffy is excited to see the gang. She pulls the "I had a dream and you were there, and you were, etc." which Willow spotlights by asking about Toto.
Buffy tells them that while she was in the dream, she kept thinking about how things were so much simpler then, and yet just about the same.
Commentary: While I kind of get what they wanted to do here, it doesn't work. One, why is everyone crowding into Xander's room? Okay, maybe Willow came to update Xan since he's the 'Sargeant Fury' to the Slayers, these days. But Dawnie just has no reason to just be hanging out in the doorway of his room. Two, Buffy's reaction to 'being back' is entirely overdone - it wasn't like she believed herself to be trapped in the past or anything. She knows she was just dreaming. It's weirdly written, unless she's just really loopy from lack of sleep. Three - please, no more 'Dorothy in Oz' jokes... you already used it as far back as 'Nightmares' when Billy said the nearly same thing. It isn't that clever, nor all that funny. Four - her reaction to Willow is even more over the top. I can sort of see, if I squint, how they're having Buffy react this way because she's still holding the Dark Willow events in Fray in her mind. But, that doesn't work, because Dark Willow wasn't in the dream and Buffy has already seen 'regular Willow' since she killed Dark Will. This reaction would have made sense if she'd had to fight Dark Willow again in her dream... even better if she hadn't realized it was a dream... but she didn't.
Which actually leads me to the disappointment of this fluffy issue. They should have tied this more into Buffy's current issues by referring to Simone, Dark Willow, or the Initiative. Yes, none of those things existed in the S1 that Buffy is dreaming about, but they could have had her exclaim that she wasn't supposed to have to deal with them yet and then dismiss them with a bon mot and a storm off. Then she could have awoken, seen Willow in her not-Dark Willow-ness and had her out of proportion reaction. Or, they could have had Buffy not realize that she was in a dream while it was occurring, and in keeping with S1, perhaps relive the 'Nightmares' episode with the gang being more threatened this time around, which would make her more relieved when she found out she was just dreaming and the gang were fine, just as she left them.
The way this is set up here though just doesn't work, despite the relief Buffy might feel on seeing Willow whole and hearty without the black eyes and hair. This page is just... wrong.
Page 24: Buffy continues her thought about the more things change, the more they stayed the same, by pointing out that they have a world to continue saving. She thinks to herself about Angel's words regarding being unable to change a person's past and how trying to change their future might lead to unexpected consequences. She admits that for a brief moment, it was nice to go home again, though.
Commentary: Again, this monologue is... off... wrong... mistaken. Again, this almost works. Buffy's thinking of "chang[ing] a person's past" could be referring to the reservations she may have expressed about the Slayer activation spell while in her dream. And the not changing a person's future by revealing facts may be referencing Willow becoming Dark Willow and Buffy's killing her because of it. If so, then her "but it was great to go home again" would make sense, if she thought she were there and had a chance to change everything coming up from her new reference point... but that didn't happen. While in the dream, she was aware she was in the dream, so the changing a person's past line doesn't make sense at all. And, the changing of Willow's future has nothing to do with 'going home again' at all. Plus, the references are so obliquely made, that I'm not sure if the writer's were actually thinking along this line at all. I am failing to grasp why they felt the need for Buffy to 'learn something' from this, rather than just having it be an offbeat dream issue and leaving it at that. No one learned anything from 'The Wish', and I loved that episode - there didn't have to be a specific lesson for Buffy to learn here. In fact, it would have worked better had they left this out completely and instead just had her sigh something like, "I guess we should get back to work" or "I guess I better see to Andrew"....
The Good: I like the idea of the shoutout to the Buffy Animated Series that didn't happen. I really like that they used the same artwork here as they would have used there. And, placing it in the context of a dream was an excellent idea.
I want pages 1, 2 and 3 as a wide poster on the wall.
I love Giles' faux-excitement at the thought of the party and what Harmony might wear, followed by his frowning glare. I hear ASH using that tone when he was complaining about Joyce and the zombie mask.
Also, loving the Buffy arguing with her thought balloons page.
The Bad: Some of the dialog is clunky and ill-fitting.
Those last two pages are chock full o' problems. And, since this ran 24 pages, they weren't needed.
Other Thoughts: Maybe it's just my dreams, but it seems like there are three panels - 1 with Giles and 2 with Cordelia that seem unlikely to be a part of Buffy's dreams, since she isn't actually there and ergo, would probably not break from her dreaming about her own actions in order to join them. The Giles one I could let slide (it's just him muttering after the others have walked away from him), but the Cordelia-at-the-party panels are out of place.
I understand this is a one-off that was just highlighting the animated series that didn't pan out, but this could have done more anyway. This is especially true since it appears that they tried to tie Buffy's wanting to go back home in with her current difficulties, but failed do so in a convincing way, if that was their intent.
The Score: Cute, but slight and it could have been so much more by giving Buffy more thoughts about what was happening around her life now. Or, if they didn't want to do that, but just wanted to be cute and slight, then they could have replaced the last two pages with something keeping in tone with the animated dream. Buffy could have broken the fourth wall and commented on how different everyone looked, for instance, and making a joke about it. Or, Dawn could have been left out of the issue, so that Buffy could have joked about how even her dreams have been retroactively re-imagined by the monks to include Dawnie where she wasn't.
They really either needed to go with 100% jokey, or add just a bit of pathos beneath the one liners at the end. By kind of not doing either and both, but muddled doesn't serve well.
Sorry, but 2.75 out of 5.