Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8, Issue 34
Twilight, Part III
"Them F#@%ing (Plus the True History of the Universe)"
Script: Brad Meltzer, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Jo Chen
Spoilers present and accounted for
Blurb: Following a massacre of Slayers, werewolves, and humans alike, Buffy taps into her inner Superman - and reels from the revelation of Dawn and Xander's new relationship. But greater revelations present themselves concerning both those new powers and the elusive Twilight.
Page 01: We open on an ink blot. I'm sure that there are some images in there, but I've never been good at those things. I can sort of see weird, nearly human heads connected in a kiss. I can see long semi-colon things that could be sperm cells (considering the title of the issue and the body of the 'story' in this one). There may be a distorted shape of a breast bone merging into a pelvic bone (again in keeping with the sex-centricity of this issue). I could be seeing a possible grouping of trees in a tower like configuration, that may symbolize the Garden of Eden (again in keeping with the body of this tale)... or it's none of these. Like I say, I'm not good at the inkblot deals.
We also have a voice over talking about the joy of reunion kisses.
Page 02: Willow and Amy have succeeded in opening a portal into Twilight's headquarters, where they find Faith seriously injured and Giles tending to her as best he can. Warren spots Andrew with his get-up and is immediately pissed with Andy touching his stuff, especially Captain America's shield.
Page 03: Giles fills in everybody on Twilight's identity, which obviously shocks everyone. Amy is excited about this, as the whole thing has become clear in her mind... nobody else'... but she seems to think it was obvious in hindsight. Dawnie spotlights that "Twilight is Angel" is coming out of nowhere for the rest of them.
Giles also understands what is happening, and Willow quickly joins the other two in getting that this is about Buffy and Angel's pent up love and passion. As we'll see though, Willow doesn't really grasp the intent of Twilight, yet, though Giles seems to know.
Commentary: I like Dawnie leaning on that 4th wall again by her playing the audience surrogate: She both calls back 'Ben is Glory' and she straight out tells Amy that Angel being Twilight doesn't make any sense... which is exactly where we the reader are at. It doesn't excuse that the storyline is a mess, but at least we're getting acknowledgement that the plot twist is confusing. Hopefully, this means that we're about to receive explanations... (uh, 'your mileage may vary' on that).
Page 04: In the meantime, Buffy and Angel are in a forest sexing it up to make up for all the time when they weren't able to screw. Buffy is very clearly handing Angel through his boxers, though we're given a discretion shot here with a fallen down fence in the way.
Page 05: The sexfest continues, with lots of body kissing.
Commentary: My stomach sort of started to drop here, as I started to think that this was going to be a non-stop sex-a-thon, ala Buffy and Riley in 'Where the Wild Things Are'. Alas, yes, this is mostly true. So, like with that episode, the better parts are actually when we return to Twilight's headquarters. Note, I say 'better parts', not necessarily good. But onward and upward, right?
Page 06: Speaking of which... back at Twilight HQ, there is some sort of mystic quake because we see everyone double for a moment before returning to normal. Suddenly, Faith's wounds are healed, just like that. Meanwhile, Satsu says she's connected to ground radar and is tracking Buffy & Angel's location. They're fortunately close enough for this to be an option, although how this is working through all of the forest, when they're actually standing mostly still... I don't know. Whatever - let's continue.
Faith confronts Giles on knowing more than he's telling and since it involves Angel, with whom Faith shares a bond, she swears at him to fess up to what he's figured out.
Commentary: Again, with the *F* word. Why are the creative team obsessed with using that word, when they can't spell it out without symbols?? At least I can buy Faith slipping the F-bomb into her conversation, especially when she's kinda pissed. It's far more convincing here than when Willow tried it last issue... or trying to use it in the titles.
Page 07: Giles tells them that the thingie that he suspects is happening, is just a Watcher myth. That the last time whatever was suspected of happening, thirty Watchers committed mass suicide by poison for fear of facing the whatever. And, obviously they were wrong since the whatever apparently didn't take place since if it did, there would be some sign of it.
Commentary: Wha? You think that they're really dragging out the explanation in order to fill up pages because this arc isn't really a 4-issue type story?
Huh. I'm totally not getting that vibe. I think it is integral for Giles to speak in a circle around the subject, instead. (Is my sarcasm showing?)
Page 08: Buffy & Angel. Censored Sex.
Page 09: Buffy & Angel. Censored oral sex by Angel onto Buffy.
Page 10: Satsu gets an image of Buffy and Angel and decides she's done monitoring them (understandable, considering her feelings for Buffy). Andrew is also deeply disturbed by the display onscreen.
Giles tells everyone listening that the universe is answering... though that is a rather vague statement. Something that Xander points out when he demands that Giles get with the explaining.
Commentary: Yes, Xander, please shake the hell out of Giles until he stops taking up valuable story space with vague pronouncements.
Page 11: Giles goes on to say that nature is never wasteful. She uses everything and gets rid of anything that isn't serving a greater purpose. It boils down to a balance, one which they've altered by activating all of the Potentials.
Commentary: Which, no, doesn't make any sense -- but Giles is about to address the "one Slayer in all the world" vs. hundreds, if not thousands of vampires at any one time across the world where the Slayer can't reach, so I'll wait to address this point.
Page 12: Giles and Willow quote the 'into each generation', with Giles specifically stating that the Slayer isn't meant to ever win the battle. Her lot is to fight and lose, but to be reborn and continue without ever winning the war.
Page 13: Giles continues on the 'balance' theme, but Willow and Xander point out how bad a plan the whole thing was. The Slayer is so far outnumbered that she was never put in a fair position... Giles points out it was never about fairness, only balance.
Dawn and Andrew, meanwhile, are receiving extremely disturbing reports showing that the weather worldwide is being disrupted in violent ways because of whatever is happening that Rupert continues dragging his feet in naming.
Commentary: So. Balance. Because the thousands to one odds against the Slayer actually being able to stop the spread of evil = keeping a balance. WHAT THE HELL?!? How is the muther is this even close to making some sort of muther-sense?!?
And why is muther-effing Rupert still blathering on in the most circuitous route to telling us what the effing-hell is going on?!
CRIKEY, I HATE THIS PLOT! (Okay, breathe... next page....)
Page 14: (Breathe...) Giles reports that Buffy is now being driven by some sort of overwhelming pull... something so primal that the omniverse itself does quake.
We discover that Willow's return of her powers, along with the other mystics and the Slayers was due to Twilight and what is happening right now. It was a shockwave traveling down the timestream of an event of universal proportions that is fast approaching.
Commentary: One must assume that is also what we saw this issue with the double-effect and Faith's insta-healing. Shockwaves traveling along the timestream and impacting the mystical forces on Earth, like the Slayers.
Page 15: Giles voiceovers that the very Universe is actively working on some far larger and cataclysmic (for us) plan for Buffy that her and Angel's longing and attraction is part of.
Commentary: I actually don't have any problems with this particular plot point. Basically Buffy is Becoming a Goddess and each Goddess needs her equal. It makes complete sense that this would be Angel. And, considering the amount of prophecies surrounding him, his being between worlds as far as vampire and human and his deep involvement in the Buffyverse it does now make sense for him to be at the center of the arc. It could, really, have been Spike in this position just as easily but I'm fine with Angel being in this role in retrospect. I still hate the plot and the writing is still bothering me by wasting so much pages and time not explaining itself but I can go ahead and withdraw my complaint about Angel being dragged into this title.
I do still deeply resent what they've had him do throughout this arc, however. Especially the whole, 'You are not draining the powers of your fellow Slayers' thing, when if this is so, then NONE of his actions against Buffy's comrades make any sense. Twilight's wearing down Buffy in order to make her hate Angel for what he's done doesn't make any sense. Twilight wasting any time with the whole 'turn the world against Buffy' only makes a bit of sense (I could see him/it using this tactic to try to turn Buffy away from defending the world, so that she'd be more in a mind of allowing a new reality to spring forth -- but revealing to her that Angel is out slaughtering the Slayers flies right in the face of its larger goal... it's just ... frustratingly counterproductive and senseless, as far as I can understand this whole thing).
I'm also completely left shaking my head in confusion how any of this is supposed to justify or explain anyone getting their powers back. Especially, as we get a firmer grip on what the Universe is up to at the end of this issue and into next issue. It just gets more and more muddled.
While Giles is only beginning to explain what the hell is happening in this arc, Buffy and Angel... well, more sex. Sex, Sex, Sex.
Page 16: Buffy/Angel - World Disrupting Sex, Mountain Exploding, Sex.
Page 17: Buffy power orgasms. Xander asks Giles about the Universe giving Buffy super-duper powers just so she can have Destiny Sex.
Giles clarifies, with Willow getting more horrified, that Twilight has actually expanded Buffy's powers in order to help her protect herself for what is coming: The birth of a new reality, in which the old will pass away. Buffy has been evolved up the rungs of the ladder, leaving the rest of them behind. (She is apparently joining Twilight in this new reality... a tough-titties for the rest of the world, which unshockingly in a moment will then not make sense, but I'll explain that at the end of this issue.)
Page 18: Giles goes on with an explanation that Reality has been looking for the one Slayer throughout history that will measure up to its (rather brutal) test so it could use her for this whole Twilight thing.
Willow guesses that it is tied to Buffy doing what no other Slayer has ever done... shared her power.
But Giles corrects her: She, Buffy and the Scythe didn't just share power... they created that power. By activating the Potentials, they - in effect - created a new evolution in humanity... a new breed... The Slayers.
Buffy and Angel in the meantime are having orbital sex. Apparently, the glow effect is able to make Buffy immune to needing oxygen just like Twilight/Angel.
Page 19: Warren questions Angel's place in this, but Willow now understands that Angel was always Buffy's yin to her yang. She's not just the first Slayer to share her power, she's also the first to fall in love with a vampire (and I'd speculate, get that vampire to love her in return just as deeply).
Commentary: So, I'm speculating that the point of this is that Angel was chosen specifically BECAUSE Buffy and he are 'soul mates'... which is why Spike wouldn't have been able to take on Angel's role here. Buffy and his feelings for one another, however deep or sincere they may have been, simply could not compete with the Buffy/Angel bond. Twilight used Angel to ensure that Buffy would be ruled by her feelings and help in establishing this new reality that it's been working toward.
Page 20: Buffy and Angel, still wrapped intimately around one another, plunge back into the atmosphere from their orbital banging with Buffy on the verge of another climax.
But back at Twilight HQ on Earth, Dawn reports that she's lost track of them and Willow confirms that they've both disappeared from the plane of existence....
Page 21: Willow (I think, anyway) gets flashes of the near future and herself three days ago when her powers were returned by that temporal wave. She realizes suddenly in a burst of mystical (I think) insight that the Universe isn't just setting her up, but is actually urging her onward to complete its plans. Buffy, herself, is just as much a pawn of Twilight as Angel has been, but neither of them realize it.
Page 22: Willow realizes that everything that has happened in the past year has been part of the Universe's plan to bring Buffy and Angel through Twilight to this here and now.
Giles agrees, and points out that both of them are a combination of human and demon. Angel has a person's soul. Buffy has demon in her through being the Slayer. They're, technically, a breed apart. And when they truly become one with these disparate natures and with one another... humans will no longer hold any relevance at all.
Commentary: Yeah. If you say so. I still don't see how Twilight's actions have been coherently leading Buffy to want to bang Twilight, ascend or become or whatever, and kick start a new reality. I still don't see how one Slayer/thousands of demons = a balance. I still don't understand what the Universe was going to do if Willow had been convinced not to bring Buffy back from the grave, or if Angelus had stayed in control of Angel, or if Faith and the Mayor had won or ... blah, blah, blah.
Are they now trying to retroactively suggest that nothing Buffy had gone through and risked hadn't meant a damned thing because she was never in any actual danger since the Universe needed her to perform this task? Or are they suggesting (as I am TRULY hoping) that the Universe just recognized the opportunity at the conclusion of CHOSEN? I could even go along with the Universe helping Willow to complete that task for its own ends, explaining Willow's white-hair of goodness and her sudden "Oh... my... goddess!" exclamation... she could feel herself one with this Universal Consciousness.
Yeah. I like my explanation to explain this hideous mess without ruining past stories. I still think this greater-than-reality plot sucks, but at least I can get along enough to get through this and move onto the better and smaller in scope S9.
Page 23: Amy reports that rifts are opening and demons are raining in onto Earth by the army-full.
Faith asks Giles about Angel's reference to him searching for something during this growing crisis that only he seemed to suspect. He reports that he was looking for a totem that is rumored to be able to take down Buffy and Angel/Twilight if they grew too powerful, but he hadn't located it. He tells her that it is too late for that now anyway, as the Twilight is here.
Page 24: In other-world, Buffy wakes up from her after cosmic sex napping. She and Angel are in an apparent paradise. Angel welcomes her to Twilight... the reality....
Commentary: So, remember how "protecting Buffy" doesn't make sense with her upgrades... Unless her having sex in orbit and then plunging into the atmosphere was completely necessary for the dimensional rift to the utterly idyllic dimension, just what the hell does she need the super powers for? I could see her needing them to open the rift/create a new reality, but "to protect her"... from what? The end of the current plane of existence? She's kind of already protected by not being here. Shut Up, Giles. You're not helping to explain the bad plotting away.
The Good: I like our main players being brought back together, minus Angel & Buffy.
The obvious impact of Buffy/Twilight's actions are having on the world are neat in their descriptions. They're reflective of global warming effects, while being just as subtle, at least before the demon invasion, that they could be easily explained away by the world at large as just random anomalies. (However, see Other Thoughts)
Buffy and Twilight's sex-a-thon being integral to birth, and why they needed to be the ones is interesting for a 'reality coming undone' plot (but see The Bad & Other Thoughts).
I like the way that the comic book is pushing the envelope on depicting our characters as the adults they are beyond (but see The Bad).
The Bad: Dragging out Giles' getting to explanations was ham-handily done, and I don't know why since they actually placed two extra pages in the story. Pages that would not have been needed, if Giles wasn't being obtuse about what was going on; that is just bad writing.
Okay, so the apparent plan is for The Universe to kick off a new reality using Twilight (the impulse/power), Angel and Buffy and basically writing off the old one. So, why are the mystics and Slayers getting their powers back just in time to be able to explain everything/fight off the demon invasion? A complete side effect that doesn't impact anything and ergo isn't of concern/interest to the Universe? I can buy that. But the way Faith's injuries are handled with insta-heal doesn't convey this... it seems too purposeful, which leads back to the badly handled plotting/writing of this whole crazy arc.
Speaking of which, it also makes Twilight's whole method of driving Buffy and Angel together retroactively not just a waste of time and angst for Buffy - but actually downright potentially counterproductive. And, if Buffy isn't receiving power boosting from the Slayer deaths after all, then Twilight/Angel's targeting them is USELESS! It's not like their numbers are germaine to stopping the Twilight phenomena or anything... it's not like their deaths impacted Buffy in a positive way for the Twilight plan... it's not like killing them is serving ANY purpose whatsoever (the Army targeting and killing them, yes, because it makes Buffy more likely to turn against humanity -- but this can only work if she remains ignorant of Twilight's actual role in things, and she doesn't because TWILIGHT via Angel itself tells her it is responsible). Fuck this whole thing.
The number of panels devoted to Angel and Buffy's sexual positions is just more wasted space. We get it. Was anyone, anywhere, happy with the amount of screen time that "Where the Wild Things Are" devoted to Riley and Buffy having sex?! Did they think we'd think it was all more erotic and engaging being Angel? No, it is just as wasteful.
The way that this is tied to a balance is... CRAP. It was never balanced. If anything, the TWILIGHT realm should be being created because the Universe has given up on trying to create a balance that wasn't existing even with the Potentials activated. So, the cosmic consciousness of the Universe decides to stop trying and letting the Old fall back into Darkness, but creating a new form of balance by the Twilight Realm's creation into Light. If anything, maybe that is what is being implied. If so, it's writing fail in a big way via Rupert Giles' exposition... something that is just so wrong in a meta sense. If anyone should be able to explain the plot to us, it is the Giles character!
Other Thoughts: It is unfortunate that they didn't introduce Mother Nature reacting to the Twilight vs. Buffy plot long before now. It could have been a building thread throughout the arc, getting more pronounced with greater disasters as Twilight and Buffy moved toward their confrontation. Note that this wouldn't make Twilight/Angel's plans make any more sense, but it would have given us a vital clue that there was something Earth rattling going on with all of this.
The development of Buffy and Angel sufficiently integrating their demonic and human heritages to be classified as another species is certainly interesting and worthy of exploration. I also like that their actual reunion sex has been engineered toward 'child bearing' in the sense of a new reality being brought forth, and the story itself is referring it as a birth. But, the horrible plan of getting Buffy to go along with this is daft beyond any sort of sense. I don't understand how this arc's mapping and development didn't ask this simple question: WHY WOULD BUFFY WANT SEX WITH ANGEL AFTER EVERYTHING HE'S DONE AS TWILIGHT?!? It makes it impossible to justify where the arc leads without some heavy duty mind manipulation taking place, which is just continuing to damage Buffy's role in her own story by taking away her providence on top of damaging her basic character with the whole bank robbing thing. Why does Joss keep wanting to strip Buffy of the inner strength that he purports to love her for? What the hell, Creator?!
It's nice that Buffy and Angel are able to explore their need to be with one another, again. Even though I could also have lived without them ever hooking up, I don't object to a story development in which they can explore renewing their relationship... both emotional and physical... without Angelus in the mix. But, I don't like the way this was shoved into a larger-than-life, Universe Altering storyline. If anything, this should have been developed as a quiet side story very personal in nature between Angel and Buffy with all of the other characters being kept in the dark. Buffy and Angel would explore whether there was more than their years of sexual frustration at not being intimate between them, still and it would have brought up discussions of Angel leaving L.A. or Buffy leaving heading the Slayers to Giles/Willow/Faith/Xander to join him. It could have broached the subject of them retiring quietly away from the world saving (like Oz has done, with Buffy identifying with and being envious of Oz, rather than Willow playing this role). They could have placed scenes of Dawn and Willow making comments or asides in Buffy's presence that (unknown to them) added to the pressure on Buffy over this choice. They could even have guest-starred some of the Angelverse characters where Angel is also weighing his decision's impact on his extended family (there may however have been contractual issues between IDW and Dark Horse about this... the publishing rights to shared-universe characters can get really involved and amount to hair-splitting). I really regret we're not going to get any of that because of the cosmic storyline we're getting instead.
Why did someone think that using 'F#@%ing' over and over was clever? Is Brad 16? 14, maybe? (And, yes I know the @ sign is actually a copyright symbol, but I don't know how to insert that with my keyboard and since it isn't clever, I don't want to look it up.)
The Score: Oh, the scoring. Putting aside what I wished we'd gotten instead of what we have, I still have to say that this arc is not hanging together well. The writing has just failed to account for too many contradictions and counter-intuitive actions of Twilight that would make its ultimate goals way more difficult to carry out without a large dose of presumed mind control/emotion manipulation. Giles' explanations are not only unnecessarily vague to fill up pages, but when it finally does come out, it's garbage.
Having said this however, and whatever I feel about this plot and direction, we are at least getting explanations for the whole plot. It's badly written though, even without pointing out how it makes so much of Twilight-Angel's actions stupid in retrospect. But, is it bad enough to earn an anti-recommendation? Is it worse than last issue?
I don't think it is as bad as last issue, without understanding future plot developments (see that review for 2 scores and the explanation as to why), but it is somehow more badly written within this issue than that one was within itself (I know what I mean!). I'm not giving this one an anti-recommendation, but I am giving it a:
2.0 stars out of 5
On the side: I'm definitely going to be doing two or three other reviews before diving into Last Gleaming, if only to make sure that I don't judge that arc too harshly because of my unhappiness with this one. One of them will be Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I'm not sure if the second one will be SPN or a movie. If I also do a third review first, it may be a movie or an X-Files episode. I probably would like to do all five (Buck, SPN, X-Files, two movies) before heading into Last Gleaming, but I'll limit myself to two or three, just so I can get out of S8 of Buffy, finally (excepting the eventual revisits for Best of/Worst of).