Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8, Issue 30
Retreat, Part V
Script: Jane Espenson, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt
Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Cover: Adam Hughes
Commentary: First, as you can probably tell, I love this cover. I use it as my icon for my BTVS, S8 reviews after all. I love the gold lettering that blends into Buffy's old style stake (back in S1 & S2 when they looked like whole tree trunks were stuffed in her purse), which is glowing. Buffy is caught in a snowstorm, playing on the ending of this very issue, where she will be lying unconscious and be snowed on in the mountains (before the twist ending). Sarah's likeness is caught wonderfully in Buffy's face and she has that look of determination that we love. Just love it.
Page 01: We open with Buffy, right now however, outside of Oz and Bay's home. She's dressed in her camo-helmet and ordering her troops to advance.
Page 02 and 03: Xander and Dawn are organizing the no-powers Slayer troops and order them forward to re-take and hold territory being evacuated by the army as they retreat from the Three Goddesses' assault. They're much more effective against tanks than the werewolves turned out to be... go figure.
Skinless Warren complains that this all wasn't necessary as he could have turned Andrew to their side and captured the Slayers before this got out of control. Amy thinks his idea was due to failure, because it was a lame plan.
Army general wants to call for a retreat, but Twilight wants to see what will happen next....
Commentary: Also, note that the whole plan to summon the Goddesses was about getting the Slayers and witches powers back... Faith seems to be the only one worrying over this detail, and she's rather unhappy that no powers appear forthcoming. And now, they have to deal with Goddesses on a rampage without their superstrength... uh, yeah. Not such a great plan.
Page 04: Buffy calls over to Xan and Dawn to help her and the others tip over a Jeep. She tells them that she has to drive into the middle of the new battle to retrieve something.
Page 05: In another area of battle, Giles and Andrew are handing out more rifles to waiting Slayers. Andrew is disappointed that the Goddesses aren't going to be stopping things as quickly as they all figured.
Meanwhile, an injured Oz is sitting with his seriously injured wife. She tells him that 'they' shouldn't have come there... but it's unclear if she means the Goddesses, Buffy's team, or both.
Page 06: Buffy, Willow and I believe Kennedy are racing through the battle zone in an effort to get to somebody in the thick of the action. Amy, Warren and Twilight are watching from a distance, and Twilight notes that the summoned Goddesses nearly killed them. Warren complains to Amy that he didn't get a set of binoculars.
Page 07: Kennedy is barely able to swerve out of the way of the big blue goddess' foot. Behind the Jeep, Buffy realizes that the goddesses aren't focusing on the soldiers, but are killing her Slayers as well.
Commentary: This situation reminds of a trio of movies out of Japan called the Daimajin series. In that series of movies from 1966, oppressed peasants pray to their god to strike at their oppressors through a giant statue god. But, though their prayers are answered, the Daimajin turns on them as well after defeating the oppressing army. The Gods always have their own agendas and those summoning them in the belief they can be controlled and directed only place themselves in peril as well as their enemies.
Page 08: Buffy tells Willow, to her confusion, that not only are they not getting their powers back, but that they've made a horrible mistake in waking these Earth gods (again, reflecting on the Daimajin trilogy).
At the temple, Dawn has come to the same realization and Xander starts calling in the Slayers from the field.
Commentary: THIS is what I want to see for Dawnie. She's taking charge here, she's not glued to Buffy's side and she is working in tandem with Xander - rather than being shuffled into temple where she can be useless and protected and whine some more about not helping anyone. The Dawn here is proactive in her fate... a situation which I complained about in her earlier arc, where everything happening to her was still about Buffy. Here it feels like Dawn is living her own story, rather than being a plot device to explore Buffy's insecurities.
Page 09: In the temple, Andrew fills Oz in on the backfired plans for the goddesses. A Slayer asks Faith if they're going to get their powers back and she flatly says no.
Page 10: On the field, Buffy finds Riley and orders him to be taken back to the temple. Kennedy thinks it strange to have risked their lives just to take one prisoner, but Buffy is more worried about Riley being hurt than explaining her orders.
Page 11: As they race back, Willow is yelling to everyone who can hear her as they go by that the goddesses are going to kill everyone. She orders them to retreat to the nearest sheltering woods. When they make it back, Giles helps Buffy get Riley inside.
Commentary: And we see more werewolves vs. giant goddesses... where the lycanthropes are literally biting and scratching at their ankles. It's such a completely ridiculous image and I have to wonder just what they're trying to accomplish.
Page 12: Buffy drags Riley in and orders a field kit be brought. She looks for Xander and throws herself into his arms, worried when she didn't see him. She holds onto him a bit too long, which I don't think he notices, but I do think Dawn might.
Page 13: Dawn asks Buffy if Riley is a prisoner of war. Buffy reveals here that Riley had been working with her as her mole in Twilight's organization. She needs them to get him conscious as soon as possible, so that he can give her any intel he was able to secure.
Oz points out that waking Riley might be a stretch....
Commentary: I do have the Riley one shot that explains his mission. I plan on reviewing that issue next as part of S8... first though, there will be some tv episodes to review and the Angel's S6 issues 31, 32 & 33 before we return to this title.
Page 14: Amy wonders why Buffy took prisoners, but Twilight twigs to the fact that Riley was on her side the whole time. Warren starts to question if Twilight already knew that, but Amy interrupts his inquiry by telling him to shut up. They get into another heated argument, much to Twilight's consternation.
Page 15: Taking a moment to be alone with Riley, she begs him to wake up and give her an out on this situation. He does wake up, but he tells her that he can't tell her how to stop the goddesses and take out Twilight... what she needs is a miracle.
Page 16: From a ridge away, Twilight impassively continues to watch the goddesses tear through the valley. They've taken a particular disliking to the Slayer submarine buried in the Earth and dig it up to throw at the army men and Slayer girls.
The General wants to pull his troops out, but Twilight is uninterested in their lives. He tells the General that he wants them to continue and after the goddesses move on, they'll be in a position to take prisoners.
Commentary: This part doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Twilight could easily allow the general to pull his troops to a safe distance and let the goddesses focus on the remaining Slayers. He could then still order them back in afterward to find any survivors. The General is right in this situation.
[But, there is a sense to this in retrospect, when we find out Twilight's plan... it's just here that everything seems pointless and a waste of resources and lives.]
I also find it interesting when we see the goddesses turn their wrath on the buried sub. It's just three panels and there isn't any commentary on it, so I'm not sure if it was just a "cool image", or if there was intent there. It would be interesting if part of the goddess' anger was specific to this foreign, water-based technology being encased in "their domain" ... but that is something that I could just be reading into it.
Page 17: At the temple, Buffy admits to her Slayers that they're out of options but one. She orders that the goddesses be left alone. She also wants them to go out and collect the injured of both sides and bring them back to the temple. She orders them to do nothing that might attract the goddess' attention and that their only to engage to protect their base of operations.
Page 18: From within the temple, Oz and Riley watches. Riley asks Oz if he thinks Buffy knows she'll lose this one. Oz says she does and Riley admires her for continuing anyway, instead of running for the hills and leaving the wounded behind. Oz admires all of them.
In the meantime, Buffy is with her team issuing orders to only grab anyone who appears to have a chance of making it... sacrificing those who will likely be dead even with their help. They're in full triage mode.
As she's doing this, a soldier draws a bead on her....
Page 19: One of the Slayers (Kennedy, again? Satsu? It's hard to know because of the lack of facial details) tackles Buffy out of the way, while shooting the soldier.
But, Buffy goes stumbling right into the grasp of the giant, blue goddess. She's picked up and examined by the giant, and then dropped to the ground, where she slams rather sickeningly for someone who isn't superpowered.
Page 20 and 21: We time jump to five hours later.
We see that the Slayers have been taken captive at the temple and are being marched away. The goddesses aren't in immediate sight. Buffy has apparently been left as not rescueable, as per her own orders, as she is lying in the snow storm that has moved in covering everything in a blanket of white rather than being at the temple as one of the wounded.
She wakes up, and seems to have - somehow - avoided crushing injuries, as she is able to sit up. She sees down below that her troops and her friends have been routed and taken into custody and closes her eyes against her failure.
Commentary: While I do love these pages for the artwork, I also have to wonder how she got up on the side of a mountain after being dropped straight down by the goddess and just where the heck all of this snow suddenly came from. Winter weather moving in hadn't been set up as a probability at some point before this, so suddenly have Buffy nearly buried in a snowbank - other than being convenient for her to not be captured - seems like its coming from left field.
Page 22: When Buffy re-opens her eyes, she exclaims in shock... she's suddenly and without explanation, levitating far above the field of battle!
Commentary: Whoa! Is Buffy dead? Or near enough to be astral projecting? Or is this the 'miracle' that Riley mentioned she needed? Could the PTBs be stepping in??
The Good: I like the continuing plot of this one and how it is handled. Buffy simply cannot fight a whole army without any Slayer powers and magick at her disposal. She's on the defensive and giving ground the entire time until she's finally overrun.
I also like that Riley wasn't a betrayer, but was working for Buffy the entire time. This is much more in character and avoids the taint of "evil!Riley" fanfic. I'm very happy with this development.
I like that summoning the goddesses wasn't the same as controlling the goddesses. They're not interested in Buffy's battles and they're pissed off at being awoken from their slumber.
The last page was certainly a WTF moment (in a good way, of course).
The Bad: The artwork was severely limiting in this issue in an irritating way. Because of the lack of facial definition, it was hard at certain points to know if we were hearing a Slayer we should know, or if this was Random Character #33 speaking at any particular point.
Other Thoughts: [In retrospect this won't bother me so much, because we find out what the endgame is but here...] Again, we have Buffy being undermined by the writers by having EVERY SINGLE command she makes be a wrong choice. It feels like they're just piling on her and this undermining her character by the writers is feeling a little too much like why I didn't like S6 so much... it feels like they're just disrespecting the character by having her fail at every single thing she tries. But, I will say that it has been well written and I've been liking the dialog as things get more desperate, so it stays out of The Bad. It does bug me, though.
It also feels like Riley's inclusion was ultimately pointless. He doesn't share any insight, he doesn't have anything on Twilight's goals to reveal, he doesn't do anything to affect the plot or storytelling....
The Score: 3.75
And that gives the score for the "Retreat" arc: 3.55, a good arc that was really only dragged down by Retreat, Part II - which I found relatively dull.