Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Season 8
Script: Doug Petrie, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt,
Exec Producer: some anonymous guy named... uh... Whedon or Wheaton, or something
Cover: Jo Chen
Blurb: Twilight and his goon squad bombed Buffy's Scottish castle, and forced the Slayers to flee their high-tech palace for more modest accomodations. Now they must reorganize and continue their fight against the forces of evil.
Unfortunately for Buffy, and Slayer legions spanning the world, the desire to protect humanity is underminded by a sudden need to hide from it.
Welcome to the new world order.
Page 01: Our title page has a pile of sharp implements sitting on a worktable....
Someone off screen is begging that it not be the knife.
Page 02: And old hand reaches into the pile of implements and pulls out a sharp blade. Off page voice is saying, "Not again".
Page 03: The old hands hold the blade very close to Dawn's face and her wide, blue eyes. Obviously, we flash back to Warren hovering over Willow and fear the worst for Dawn.
But this situation is slightly different. For one thing Dawn is small... really small. Think 'living doll' size. She also has a huge crack down her face already, which doesn't seem to be causing her much discomfort.
Now the knife close to her eye is still a disturbing image, no doubt, but the fact she isn't screaming over the giant wound in her head suggests she isn't suffering any physical pain.
Commentary: Dawnie looks beautiful, I have to say. I still wish there were much more thought about Dawn's transformations, however. For instance, Kenny's spell could have chosen this form as a way to turn Dawn's beauty against her by making her little more than that, or if could have made this transformation in order to express how small she feels because of her guilt in cheating on him. But, because of what has come before, we're left with just another interesting image as Dawn as something else. The forms are arbitrary and random as far as I can tell. If somebody has any theories tying Dawnie's forms together thematically, I'd love to read them.
Page 04: Dawn is picked up as the old man begins his work. Dawnie asks him how long he can keep doing this to her and forcefully tells her until she's safe.
Page 05: Back at the castle, Buffy is troubled. She doesn't like the thought that Dawn is out there galloping around the countryside (they believe she is still a centaur), while they're expecting an army of rampaging vampires to storm their new HQ this evening. This gets Xander immediately on board for a search & rescue to get Dawn back to the fortress before nightfall.
Page 06: Xander has told Buffy to head out after Dawn, but she declines. She tells him she can't leave right now with a huge battle closing in on them. She asks him to take a splinter group and go off after Dawn. He also declines, stating that he's the Command Central guy.
Commentary: I want to comment on this just a little. I really like a lot Buffy not running off after Dawn. This is complete keeping with S7, when Buffy decided she had to put her mission as a Slayer above even her family, but with a much less nihilistic feeling to it. I also like what we're seeing in Xander: He still uses the humor and he's still supporting Buffy emotionally to keep her out of the guilt-trips as much as he can, but he also refuses to run off after Dawn, even for Buffy. It gives me the impression that if the worst happened to her tomorrow, Xander would be able to hold at least his troops together to get through it and continue. He has also taken on Buffy's viewpoint about the mission first, which makes sense since apparently Xan and Buffy have spent the most time together in that year between S7 & S8. What I didn't like as well, is Buffy's use of the word 'splinter' to describe taking a team out to find Dawn. This is too much like 'splinter group', which is placing another subtle link in the connection between the Slayers and terrorists, just as General Voll and Twilight are seeing them. It's like she's starting to buy into this view on a subconscious level which may affect how far she allows herself and her Slayers (beyond the aforementioned bank robbing) to go. They could so easily degrade their mission into zealotry.
Page 07: Since Buffy & Xander have bigger things to worry about than a wandering Dawn, Xander sends Andrew in under cover to Berkeley to find Kenny.
Meanwhile, Dawnie makes a break for escape in her doll body.
Page 08: Dawn's escape attempt is quickly ended by the roomful of dolls. They're all animated and they won't allow her to leave 'home'.
Page 09: Back at the new Slayer HQ, Xander spots Cradle's army of vampires and is shocked...
... by the fact that it is himself and a few half-drunken converts. The Slayer army pathetically outnumbers them.
Commentary: Okay, it's very minor humor in there, but these sorts of things is one of the reasons I can go on reading the comic despite the [minor spoiler] Twilight debacle[end minor spoiler].
Page 10: With the huge war being done in seconds, Buffy turns to Xan to go after Dawn.
Xander tries to make Buffy see that Dawnie isn't like Buffy and she isn't even like she was when she first showed up. She's a different person.
Buffy tells him that she just wants things different for her that it was for Buffy when she was the teen Slayer, always in one danger or another.
Page 11: Buffy and Xander come across Dawn's tracks, but of course, they've changed again along with their form. Xander accidentally lets slip that Dawn cheated on the Thricewise, which is why she got bespelled in the first place. Buffy is disappointed that she didn't already know that.
Xander is annoyed with himself over his big mouth.
Commentary: I really want to say here what I've probably already pointed out before. Dawn, as a character, was conceived in order to give a reflection on Buffy herself. Dawn's introduction was a way to give Buffy adult responsibilities and then to see how she handled them. She also was the catalyst for the big storyline in season 5. A catalyst, however, is all that her character was conceived of to be. This isn't at all a bad thing. The problem is that as an ongoing character, Dawn has to have her own identity and that means her own storyline. Even with all of these things happening to her, this is barely about HER. This is still about Buffy's feelings of being an inadequate sister and not taking good enough care of Dawn. What she needs is to truly have her own story, where her actions and the developments that they cause are about her and her story. This Thricewise situation isn't really doing that. It's a side story that is still circling around to how it affects Buffy, what Buffy is feeling, Buffy's feelings of inadequacy, Buffy's being jealous of Willow and Dawn's bond; Dawn herself is still guest starring in her own tale of betrayal and consequences.
Page 12: In the Geppetto's cottage, the wood carver is telling Dawn that if she cracks open her porcelain face without him there to repair it, she'll be scattered to the wind. He repeats that he's trying to keep her safe and that she should consider herself home.
Commentary: Which is a problem with this latest kidnapping of Dawn... it's not only a repetitive motif for her character - and, so we can focus on Buffy's feelings - but it is repetitive even within this issue.
Page 13: Back with Kenny, Andrew is very clumsily spinning his tale about being into magicks. He tries to draw Kenny out on any mages that may be on campus. Kenny is ahead of him however, as Andrew tries to use a Yoda statue as a totem to give Willow something to lock onto.
Thankfully, the Yoda also has a transmittor and camera, so the Slayers back home know they've been made. Willow is able to gather a group of Slayers (including Leah) and transport them all directly into the Thrisewise's room.
Page 14: Kenny resumes his true form, rather than the handsome boy disguise. He makes a mad dash through the wall, escaping the Slayer team.
Page 15: Meanwhile, Buffy and Xander are tracking Dawn's tiny prints. Buffy and Xan are both aware that they have a stalker in the trees.
Buffy reaches down a grabs a rock, throwing it with Slayer accuracy and hitting their follower. It exclaims at her, but she shuts it up. She asks after who took Dawn and where. It refused to answer, she throws it through some bushes and happens to hear glass shattering....
Commentary: Interesting tidbit. Buffy has learned at least one foreign language successfully - at least as far as understanding it, whether she can speak or read it isn't answered here. Of course, I don't know what that is since the little critter is just referred to as a 'wood folk', which seems too generic to be a proper name.
Page 16: Xander and Buffy find Geppetto's cottage, but he as doll archers guarding it. They send a volley of toothpicks into Xander's neck. Alas, they're equipped with a powerful sedative and Xan collapses.
Inside the cottage, the dolls are grabbing mini weapons to protect their creator... Dawn says, "And obviously, Buffy is here".
Page 17: Dawn takes this as another chance to make a run for it, but when she slips under a door, she runs right into the old man.
Meanwhile, another volley of toothpicks are sailing for Buffy.
Kenny, though, has some teleport magic of his own and has appeared. He tells Buffy he hadn't meant for things to go so far. He offers help by blocking the doll arrows. He is also immune to the poison.
Page 18: In the cottage, old woodcarver is obviously angry at Dawn for continuing to try to run. It looks to me like he is threatening to snap her arm off.
Buffy smashes in his door with Ken providing backup.
Page 19: The Thricewise and Dawn have a moment as they stare into each other's eyes. Dawn apologizes and just like that the spell over her is broken. She returns to naked human girl.
Commentary: In general I like the artwork on this one, but Dawn's human nose is seriously not Michelle's! It looks more like Barbra Streisand's. Nothing wrong with that in & of itself, but it draws attention to itself by being completely drawn wrong. Did the artist fail to find a picture of Ms. Trachtenberg on the internet??
Page 20: Buffy mandhandles Geppetto, until the dolls exclaim for her not to hurt him because he protects them.
In the meantime, Dawn has gotten a blanket and Ken is escorting her from the cottage. Xan has also recovered - mostly - and is rubbing the back of his head.
Commentary: Well. Anti-climax, much? Is there some sort of comparison being drawn between Buffy/Dawn and Woodcarver/his dolls? Was there any reason that Dawn's transformations had to take 25 issues to resolve? Was there a story arc mapped out somewhere in here, or was it all as random as it seemed?
So, Dawn & Ken have a heart to heart.
Page 21: Kenny leaves Dawn, having forgiven her and she admits that she was scared of her intense feelings for him.
Commentary: Oh, this could have been interesting with a single line from Dawn: "And, I've seen what can happen when feelings get intense between a demon and a girl," AND THEN have her admit that she just wasn't ready.
How her feelings drove her to sleep with the roommate instead, I'm not quite grasping and it seemed like a haphazard reaction. Dawn could have at least expressed that she was drunk and afraid and confused and she made a stupid choice. The way it is written here is just inadequate, as her whole storyline turned out to be. At least if she had expressed the line above, we would have gotten that the entire Angel/Angelus/Buffy arc in Season 2 & 3 of BTVS had a direct impact on Dawn's view of relationships.
That could have easily been something that could be explored in future stories as well. Instead, this whole subplot feels so ... empty... and without purpose. *sigh*
Back in the Slayer retreat, Buffy immediately assumes that Dawn is upset because Buffy wasn't there for her due to her having to spend so much time with the Slayers.
Dawn tells Buffy that she can stop trying to protect her, because she can't keep her completely safe. And she doesn't have to.
Commentary: I feel like this is supposed to be making a point, too. I believe it is that Dawn has become an adult, but again, it just feels so inadequately written... like the theme of her subplot was Dawn becoming an adult, but it was so sketchily addressed, that you had to fill in all of the lines yourself to construct an arc that makes sense.
Page 22: Dawn admits she did something stupid. She wonders if maybe she did it so that her sister would save her again. She admits that the other Slayers do make her feel like she is surrounded by sisters competing for Buffy's attention, but she also knows she needs to get over it.
Buffy tells her she's being stupid. Even though she's got Slayers all over she needs to look after, she still has only one sister who means more to her than anything....
The Good: I really like the artwork in this issue and Dawn as porcelain looks gorgeous.
The small humorous asides are a very BTVS trait, so they're always appreciated. As is the habit of talking up something into a big threat, only for to turn out to be nuthin'.
Those Xander/Buffy moments still sparkle.
The Bad: This wrap up of Dawn's subplot is just plain inadequate, pointless and her whole story turned out to be empty.
The writing just failed to make any important observations about Dawn's psychology - she's still being used as a mirror to reflect Buffy and at this point, she should have her own character arcs independent of her sister. It looked like this is what we were doing in earlier issues, but her it just all fell apart into "nowhere to go" because the obvious parallels between her (admittedly false)memories of Buffy's hell with Angel/Angelus were completely unacknowledged or noticed. It's so disappointing.
The confrontation in the woodcarver's cottage was anti-climactic and ... just kind of there, taking up space.
Other Thoughts: My biggest problem with this issue is how empty the whole thing was and how it made all of Dawn's subplot empty, as well.
The Score: 2.50 out of 5 ... What a disappointment.