Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8, Issue 37
"Last Gleaming, Part II"
Script: Joss Whedon & Scott Allie, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Jo Chen (cover love!)
Blurb: Temperatures run high when Buffy and Angel reunite to fight all manner of evil things. Enter Spike- former vampire, former lover, latest prophecy keeper. Needless to say, things get complicated. In order to save humanity from crumbling in on itself, Buffy must elicit the help of those closest to her and take the fight home.
Page 01: We open the issue with a shot of the Bug-Crew's ship racing toward Sunnydale. Spike asks Buffy if she'd like a bit of exposition.
Page 02: Aboard, Buffy is in Spike's suite fresh from washing the ick out of her hair. She's not looking forward to having to revisit 'Suckydale'.
Spike shares about the Seed of Wonder being the source of all the world's magic.
Page 03: Spike gives us a quick history lesson on the Seed. Way back when, the Seed arrived on Earth along with all of the demons, probably from some other realm. The Seed acted/acts as a cork, keeping the energies of this old dimension from bleeding back through to their origins. It is why the Buffyverse is filled with magical creatures and spellworks.
Page 04: Buffy and Spike banter a bit, and he's obviously pissed about her and Angel shagging... probably not only because they created a Universe that would like to kill off this one. Spike mentions that there is a Guardian of The Seed, but that's for a tale later.
Commentary: And, one could wonder if this is what happened to the Seed's dimension. Perhaps if Buffy and Angel had remained in the proto-Universe, the Seed would have migrated there next. Or perhaps, even, the Seed was the ultimate expression of an Ascension by one or more somebody's in the previous verse. Perhaps Angel and Buffy would have ended up as glowy-things powering the New Universe until their replacements eventually arose. Perhaps this is a regular cycle in the birth/death of universes, even.
Page 05: Buffy points out to Spike that her and Angel didn't exactly purposefully try to destroy the world. It just kinda happened because of the Universe deciding everything old must go.
Spike doesn't want to hear the details, but Buffy points out that he's the one she pours all of the stuff out to since S6. They kiss, with Buffy raising his shirt, which sort of justifies Angel's concern of Spike being back in the picture and his not being there to diffuse sexual tensions between the Slayer and her Other Vampire Lover.
Page 06: Spike innuendos that he has an idea of how to stop this unfolding disaster. Buffy has admitted to still being under the influence, so despite the fact that she is clearly ready for more sex, Spike leaves her to take a nap and sleep it off instead. (And, I would like to see Spike get equal time with Angel-Twilight in the sex department, but I'm glad it isn't happening here since there are the 'how much consent does Buffy actually have' questions at this time.)
Page 07: Meanwhile, elsewhere on the ship, Xander is talking Dawn down from her bug-panic. He does this by telling her they should get a place together and maybe give up the monster-fighting for regular jobs and domestic life and all that jazz. They're being overheard by one of their prisoners, which presumably will be important later.
Right now, Dawn expresses doubt of their making it through this particular apocalypse (which, y'know... I'm having a hard time seeing anyone not making it through yet another apocalypse, so what is coming was very effective for me - I didn't see it coming).
Page 08: As Spike's Bugmen-ship is rife with drama, the Japanese contingent of Slayers are fighting a giant, six-legged, talking demon-monster thingie. They're saved by Angel's arrival and a little head tearing-offing.
Page 09: Back aboard the bug-ship, it is some time later after Buffy's rest. Spike has just informed everyone of what we now know. Giles is disappointed in himself for not having realized what is happening, but Willow assures him that he had a lot of prophecies to sort through, so it was completely understandable if he happened to miss this one.
Xan wants to know how Spike happens to know all of this, but he answers with the enigmatic answer that he speaks Fyarl. He tells everyone that as soon as The Seed appeared, Twilight was an inevitability. He suggests that Earth's time may simply be up.
Xander answers, "But we're gonna go with the other theory, right, where it's not." (Which I just plain liked, so the quote.)
Willow suddenly gets a dizzy spell.
Page 10: Willow has been summoned to meet with Aluwyn... her snake-lady lover on the side from which she learned more magical secrets. Aluwyn reveals to Willow that she is aware of what is transpiring on Earth. She's also very worried. She tells Willow that Spike or Giles is going to soon reach a conclusion to keep the New Gate from opening, but the effects are going to be just as dire.
Commentary: Here's where the explanations get a bit... foggy, though. Aluwyn and Willow keep referring to the world being sucked into Hell and Twilight opening a gateway to Hell. But that doesn't really jibe with what the purpose of the New Universe is. It isn't trying to suck Earth anywhere, so much as allowing the Old Guard of Demons to retake what was technically theirs anyway. It's really allowing the status quo to be reasserted, where the demons weren't pushed out and humanity isn't the dominant species.
I can understand Willow seeing things this way, because she isn't privy to what Angel and Buffy did exactly. But Aluwyn strikes me as someone who does know what is happening and what the endgame is. She shouldn't be referring to Earth going to Hell exactly, rather she should be referring to Earth returning to its previous occupants. I think that would have been a better explanation for her to give to Willow, rather than the way that it was phrased.
Page 11: Aluwyn further states to Willow that if The Seed is broken, instead of destroyed it would remain anchored on Earth. Using Spike's analogy of the cork in a wine bottle, she equates it to a broken cork. It becomes impossible to get it out, trapping things the way they are now. But, as a side effect of this, new magicks wouldn't be able to enter the current Universe. All witches would immediately lose their access to manipulating magick, new portals would be impossible (until Angel & Faith, where they find a workaround for the story of course), and no new Slayers would be called. As the current supernatural entities die out, presumably no new entities would replace them -- and we'll end up with Fray's timeline where magic and Slayers are unknown (until Dark Willow finds a way to intercede) and the Watchers are just a bunch of insane cultists.
Aluwyn is saddened that they are facing this, as she will miss Willow very much. She also suggests that Earth doesn't realize just how much we need magick, but we need it all the same. Willow mentions Buffy's vision that someone would betray her and asks Aluwyn if she knows who it will be.
Commentary: Obviously, I like this explanation of what Twilight is trying to do, as it continuities into the Fray future nicely. It does suggest however that this cannot be stopped, because Dark Willow has to intercede in the future to bring magic back. On the other hand, with Dark Willow's intervention, it's possible that this can now be averted creating a new timeline in which Fray's future becomes just one tract... which is why I hate time travel stories, in general and probably why I found "No Future for You" unsatisfying. But at least we're skirting that timeline here.
Page 12: Obviously, we're not going to hear who is betraying Buffy and how, or whether Aluwyn could tell Willow the details she wanted.
She does awaken from her trip, telling Buffy that they must protect The Seed, though. We then jump to Angel helping out another group of Slayers to destroy another eldritch being.
Commentary: 'Natch, this suggests that Angel is the betrayer. Except, that Joss likes twisty-turnsy-trickstering, so this could also be a fake out so that we don't see who the betrayer is. I shall not state the answer here, but I will say it isn't Dawn and I always thought that she should be the one to betray Buffy to undo what is happening. There would be something darkly poetic in Dawn being saved from Glory by Buffy's sacrifice for the world just for her to 'sacrifice' Buffy to do essentially the same thing.
Page 13: Angel continues super-dupering around the globe, fighting off the humongous beings suddenly invading/returning (I think this may be a clever nod to Anya's telling the gang that real demons, untainted ones, are much larger than what they're used to before The Mayor ascended in S3).
Commentary: Also, I like the Giant Tower of Red Squid-Thing. This is the sort of inhuman thing that they should be fighting, instead of the usual orcs, goblins and dino-monsters. I'm also really bummed out that they didn't find a way to include Illyria in this action. It's interesting to wonder just how she's reacting to these events and it would've been really awesome if Gunn, Kate, Connor and Lorne saw Angel on the news with the Superman powers. Obviously, this wasn't an option since the rights to those characters rested with IDW and they weren't ever Buffy characters so there wasn't a loophole, but a fan comic showing them during this arc would be awfully cool.
Page 14: Angel admits to himself that Buffy was right in his needing to help the Slayers after what he did to them as Twilight (uh, not really all that 'making up for' though in my opinion -- on the otherhand, Cosmic Mind Control/Prophecy, so ... yeah, kinda has a ready made excuse for it all anyway I guess).
Meanwhile, Faith is gazing out of one of the bug-mobile's windows and looking forlorn.
Page 15: Giles has joined her, and shows that he recognizes that this wasn't exactly the way she had imagined things. Remember, that her and Giles were supposed to be the team working somewhere that Buffy wasn't, and ergo making Faith the big hero instead of Buffy's understudy. She kinda blows this off and tells him she's ready to asskick.
Page 16 & 17: The bug-ship arrives over the Sunnydale Crater, where giant demons are appearing by the dozens through more portals. The Airforce has scrambled against them.
Buffy feels her usual responsibility, despite being set up by a whole Universe.
Page 18: Willow implores Buffy that no one get near The Seed. Buffy promises her no one will. She senses also that this is the final Slayer war, somehow.
(Only if there are no more Buffy titles, of course.)
She flies out of bug-ship, and Spike grabs onto her to be taken with.
Commentary: And I wonder why Willow hasn't already teleported ahead of her... and Amy, too, for that matter. In fact, if I was Willow I'd be keeping Amy close.
Page 19: Willow goes to fly out of bug-ship, but Xander stops her. He tells her that she isn't going out to fight in Sunnydale again without all of them with her.
In the meantime, Buffy arrives in the deep pit (presumbly though the tunnel that the U.S. Army dug when they discovered Amy and Warren).
Page 20: In the pit, The Master appears from the dark similar to Prophecy Girl and easily backhands her with enough force that her super-strength doesn't look all that super at the moment.
Spike realizes that this would be The Protector. He throws himself at The Master/The Protector.
Page 21: Futile Gesture.
He's batted away as easily as Buffy, and he comes out much more bloodily for his efforts. The Protector complains that Angel was supposed to be the one with Buffy, and mistakes Spike has having the Twilight Power. He gets Spike in a neck grab and tells him that he isn't worthy of Twilight's (the dimension's) creation.
Commentary: More interestingly, and startlingly - he refers to Spike as a soulless shell, despite that as far as we know, Spike is the second ensouled vampire. Hmmmm. This was written by Joss, so it is definitely not a continuity error... it can't be that simple.
Weirdly, The Protector seems to actually be speaking to Twilight itself, when he speaks to Spike as if he was a third person in the conversation. Spike tells him he's really just the distraction, as The Protector gets beamed in the head (though uselessly) by a Buffy thrown rock.
Page 22: With The Protector's attention back on her, Buffy power-punches his head into the ground (awesomely cool moment).
"My hero," Spike drily says.
Page 23: Elsewhere, Angel is surveying the battle damage from the latest fight as the surviving Slayers he was helping pull themselves together. The area is littered with destroyed building rubble and the dead.
He's interrupted by a cat and a bird stuck in shadowed silhouette, who he takes to be the Power That Be which was the canine and saved woman.
It apparently is (which doesn't really make sense, unless it just needed to gather its powers up before The Big Reveal), but also REVEALS!!! that it is the embodiment of the Twilight Dimension.
Page 24: It merges into a new form, stating that the real It hadn't been born yet (god, more wishy-washy-timey-wimey). Now it is in the cool form of a winged lion, whose mane is eldritch energy -- a Manticore.
It tells Angel that he's going to complete what he started, dammit (except he doesn't use 'dammit' and really should have).
The Good: Gorgeous Cover (which doesn't impact scoring, but I LOVES it).
I continue really liking Spike and Buffy's interactions.
I really like how there are callbacks to previous issues in Aluwyn, Buffy's vision of a traitor (where she has asked Willow if it would be her - and it's tough not to suspect that it will be her ultimately over The Seed and what to do with/about it), Fray's timeline, Faith's contentious relationship with being in Buffy's shadow and how it was supposed to be her and Giles, the hint that the invading/returning demons may be the bigger purebloods Anya spoke of and (despite my own feelings about time travel stories and their inherent logic issues) the way that timey-wimey manipulations is in the equations which again leads back to Fray. This of course leads to considering Dark Willow, and this again leads to our having to wonder if Willow is going to betray Buffy in this battle.
The Bad: Nada, again. Yay!
Other Thoughts: I don't think we needed quite so many cutaways to Angel fighting the demons. We got that was what he was doing and that story space could have been used so much better with showing everyone else's reactions to having to return to Sunnydale to fight an apocalypse... again... even after the damned place was blown up real good.
Which leads directly to my thought throughout... HOW COULD YOU MISS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW WARREN, AMY AND ANDREW DISCUSSING RETURNING TO SUNNYDALE?!
I'm really liking the artwork, again, too. It seems Georges and company put more time into the artwork, including the backgrounds, with these closing season 8 issues.
The Score: This issue is surprisingly good, considering that it is a 'middle issue' of an arc. I was really interested in the explanations and the callbacks laced throughout. Okay, there were a few things that sounded minorly off-key (like Aluwyn's dialog, as mentioned in the review), but minor is the operative word. I was very happy with this issue.
3.75 out of 5
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