Buffy the Vampire Slayer
"Last Gleaming, Part IV"
Script: Joss Whedon & Scott Allie, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Richards Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Jo Chen
Blurb: Temperatures run high when Buffy and Angel reunite to fight all manner of evil things. Enter Spike - vampire with a soul, former lover, latest prophecy keeper. Needless to say, things get complicated. In order to save humanity from crumbling on itself, Buffy must elicit the help of those closest to her and take the fight home.
Spoilers Abound. But also - I obviously couldn't NOT post the page-cap of the death of a major character.
Page 01: Our first panel is of Faith fighting alongside two soldiers and a fellow Slayer, who are killed around her. She has the Scythe, still, but she's so outnumbered that things don't look promising.
A blurb over this is Willow continuing her spell to release the powers of The Seed.
Page 02: Except, last issue her spell was supposed to be to help The Guardian, a.k.a. The Master. Now, however, she's bound him in wrist chains of magic. And though she has red hair still... her shadowed outline in front of The Seed's glow suggests her Drusilla-Dress of her future Dark Willow self.
Meanwhile, Buffy and Twilight-Angel continue to fight. They both have their super-powers still, but this time when they hit one another, they're able to inflict damage because of their nearness to The Seed.
Spike sees Buffy get punched into the cavern rock wall again, and engages the mentally dominated Angel.
Page 03: This probably wasn't wise. Twilight-Angel grabs him by the throat, and informs him the sun hasn't set yet. Spike is flown up, through the ground and out into the sky, where the sun affects him in the way the sun does to vampires that aren't Twilight-powered.
Buffy follows and bats a smoking Spike out of Angel's grip. She tells them both that she liked it better when they were kissing. Naturally, it can be assumed that she meant kissing her.
But, since Joss loves to Slashtease, he has Spike in the background saying, "I'm fairly certain I never mentioned..."
Page 04: Spike has his loyal Bugs, though and as he's falling toward the ground and getting ready to burst into ash they swoop in with the Bugship, its hanger bay door open to intercept him aboard.
Meanwhile, Twilight-Angel grabs a fighter jet out of midair, tearing it open and then throws the flaming wreckage right at Buffy!
Her thoughts reveal that who she's fighting now doesn't seem like Angelus or Angel-being-Twilight. This is a new aspect... Cosmic Vengeance. And being Buffy, she feels she has it coming.
Commentary: I love this page's artwork.
Page 05: The thrown jet impacts the ground, right in the midst of the fighting humans below Twilight-Angel and Buffy, killing who knows how many instantly and burning who knows how many more. Faith is seen in the foreground fighting two demons, and she looks to be losing her last fight (NO!).
Aboard the Bugship, Spike is streaming smoke from his burned skin. His focus is on Angel and Buffy.
Meanwhile, our two superpowereds continue their knock-out-drag-out.
Page 06: We join the soldiers and Kennedy on the ground. The human soldiers and the non-name Slayers are getting badly mauled by their opposing forces.
Xander is overlooking the carnage and realizes they can't win this one.
In flashback, we see Giles' words to Buffy about unlikely alliances and how allying with The Master didn't seem any worse to him than her alliance with Dracula (implying Giles keeping close tabs on Buffy, even when he was going incommunicado with Faith on some wetworks jobs).
Angel slams Buffy with a double-handed punch and sends her careening into the ground.
Commentary: Xan's role here is interesting, because he's always been the one to believe that the Scoobies would ultimately triumph. He may have wavered in S7, after he lost his eye, but by the time the last battle with the Turok-Han and The First had come, he was back closer to his pre-eyeloss self.
So, you can see why he'd be tapped by Joss and Scott to represent that this battle is different, even in context of the grimness of that battle against The First. If anyone else had muttered the line about all being lost, we may have just rolled our eyes but because this is Xander the statement has some weight to it when you think for a moment about the character in relation to their other battles.
Page 07: Giles' blurbover continues with his statement to Buffy that a demon tied to this world doesn't want the invaders to win anymore than they do.
Commentary: I have to say here that I'm mildly disappointed. I understand in retrospect why this voiceover blurb text was here: It's setting up Giles' upcoming decision that we'll see, but I had thought it was setting up Dracula leading a Calvary-to-the-Rescue vampire army over the rise as soon as the sun completed setting and I was all ready to get giddy - especially if Xan was included fighting side by side with him on the field, since their interaction was a lot of fun (even if I'm still finding their 'relationship' straining my suspension of disbelief muscles).
Alas, since this is about Giles and not Dracula joining in the war - we don't get any of that. Oh, how a Dracula vs. The Master fight would have been cool (after the invasion is stopped of course, 'cause you know they'd both be interested in retaining and accessing The Seed's powers). Ah, well....
Page 08: Giles saves Leah from a torching from above.
Meanwhile, Willow is power-tripping on the energy of The Seed. Her whole plan of helping The Master has gone out the window as she's accessing that power for herself.
She's still Willow with the red hair, but her dialog is a bit worrisome, as well as the sillouette which is still suggesting her future Dark Willow persona.
Page 09: Willow teleports above ground, where she warns the Invaders that they've attacked Mother Earth, as she unleashes power-magicks on their asses. Willow is able to summon the fire element and she spears an alien demon with a giant, sharp root from the Earth as she's connected to the center of the Earth again, suggesting her summoning of the flower from Hawaii to England in "BTVS: Lessons" from S7.
Page 10: Willow is attacked from a monster over her shoulder that is... well... a toothed vagina thingie.
Meanwhile, Twilight-Angel heads back underground to The Seed to stop Willow from interfering.
Commentary: I have no idea whether we're supposed to be reading something into this, or if it was just "getting something past the censors", the way that much of Buffy/Angel's sexfest was and the way that Joss was fond of doing during the run of the show.
Page 11: Giles intercepts Faith. He tells her that he needs to relieve her of the Scythe for Buffy.
We can guess how she feels about that, but she turns it over. The distraction though, allows her and her team of surviving Slayers to get attacked by a demon with life-sucking spells...! (NO!)
Commentary: I don't know if it was another nod toward IDW or not, but the visual effect of the impact of the life-draining on the Slayers suggests the same type of hideous affect that Non had on her captured Slayers in "Spike: After the Fall", which was a nice touch if deliberate.
I do have to point out a knock against the artwork though... the perspective of that Scythe in the first panel is awful. The polearm suddenly looks short as a club, before just as suddenly resuming its size again. I don't recall size-changing as one of its abilities.
Page 12: Faith power-back hands him with double fist (apparently this is something that Georges likes in his fighting scenes), breaking his neck.
Commentary: And, note how Faith appears vs. how her anonymous background Slayers appear. Clearly they took the life-drain far worse than her for no real reason, except that she's a 'name' and they're not. I prefer to see this as partial protection due to her being one of The Chosen Two.
Meanwhile, we join Amy and Warren to see that they're not on the battlefield. They abandoned our gang when they made their escape from the Bugship. Amy is second-guessing this decision which leads to another mild argument with her boyfriend.
Plus, provides foreshadowing of Warren's fate.
Meanwhile squared, as Willow fights the toothed vagina demon, its joined by what can only be described as a demon with a butthole in its forehead. Xander has wandered back down into the caverns with unknown intent. The Master spies on him.
Commentary: Oh, man. How cool would it have been if The Master fanged Xander and we think he's been killed or is being turned. But then, on page 22 we find out that The Seed replaced The Master with Xander as Guardian by having him transfer his powers! And then, Xander gets to go up against Twilight-Angel and unleash some of that long held rage against Angel/Angelus.
Oooohhhhh.... *Doesn't happen. Dammit.*
Page 13: Kennedy is intercepted by Andrew with news that the fighter jet squadrons helping them have all been taken out. He's punched by a sudden-demon-appearance and we see a large "krack", suggesting that we may have just seen Andy's neck snapped!?!
Commentary: This is, of course, both playing on the neck-snapping we've already seen and is foreshadowing a different member of the gang actually getting killed in this way. The whole issue is leading toward..., but we'll get to that (I'm sure if you're reading this review, you're well aware).
Meanwhile, below ground, Buffy followed Twi-Angel, and body slams him into the ground as Xander skulks closer to The Seed. We still don't know what he is intending to do (and it still isn't to get superpowered and to go up against Angel as equal in strength to him, which would have been so appropriate I would have gladly had an issue devoted to nothing but they fighting mano-a-mano).
Twilight-Angel brings up to Buffy that she created a world that she can't just turn away from [I'm just starting to wonder, too, just how long he was going to be wasting lots of time trading blows with her when he was supposed to be helping The Seed join Twilight, the realm].
Page 14: Twi-Angel throws out that Buffy was Chosen by the Universe. The Master comes up behind Angel and rakes him down the back with his claws, quipping that he sounds real original.
Twi-Angel spins around and head-punches The Master, his fist going right through his skull and dusting him.
Buffy gives Angel proper-props, as she follows through with a high kick to his face.
Meanwhile, Giles arrives in the same tunnel as Xander is lurking in carrying the Scythe.
Page 15: With Angel and Buffy back in proximity to The Seed, they're again able to draw blood with their battling.
Giles tells Xan that there isn't anything he can do down there. He also shares that while Buffy and Angel are being fed by The Seed, they're also vulnerable to its emanations. And, The Seed is also feeding the now glowy Scythe.
Xan yells at Giles to throw it to Buffy, but Rupert is worried that she'll hesitate to use it to dispatch Twi-Angel. He plans on killing Angel, himself.
Page 16: Or, actually, it only sounded like he was going against Twi-Angel. In actual fact, Rupert uses the Angel/Buffy distracting fight to approach The Seed with the Slayer Scythe.
It doesn't work out. Yes - it's THE SCENE.
Twi-Angel intercepts Giles and before The Watcher can react, Angel snaps Giles' neck!!
He berates Buffy for abandoning him (i.e. Twilight consciousness/realm) for her friends and decides once they're all gone, she'll understand her true purpose.
Commentary: Okay. *Breath*. Let me just chat a bit about Rupert's death because I feel differently now, than I did when I first read this.
I was, initially, outraged by his killing because it felt too repetitive of Jenny Calendar's murder, which since this is Angel-not-himself killing another too-close to Buffy for it to be shrugged off killing was surely meant. It already feels like the battle with Twi-Angel had basically been recycling conflicts with Angelus and calling back a bit too much to events that happened throughout TV-Buffy.
This was, like, the final nail in the coffin for me on Buffy S8 playing too much with rehashing. It pissed me off that they invoked Jenny by having Rupert die exactly as she had by the hands of the same person.
Now that I've gotten over the shock of seeing Angel kill Giles, though, I think this was appropriate if difficult as a fan of Rupert to take. For this battle to mean as much as say The First's, we really needed someone close to Buffy to die. In a way, this death is being used in the same way as Jenny's was to motivate Buffy to end this conflict by realizing that Twi-Angel isn't really the point. It also acts in a way reflecting back on Tara's death to Willow -- driving Buffy to a desperate act of vengeance against The Seed and Twilight, which will have devastating results.
I'm still convinced that Dawnie here would have been a better A-plan, or having Buffy be too devastated to react and having The Master pass his powers to Xander as the B-plan to fight Twi-Angel, but I do understand where this plot point came from and I'm okay with it... now... mostly.
I think though, that I may have preferred Willow to get killed here if for no other reason than she's connected to Buffy mystically now, so it would have been even more keenly felt for Buffy to have experienced Twi-Angel killing her. Plus, Willow's magic has been a sore point with me all season (and Amy's too) in that it's been misused and mis-characterized as being the Deux Ex Machina everytime they need it to do something. Willow as a mostly depowered spirit would have worked for me better with S9 Willow speaking to Buffy in her mind as a ghostly presence and could have been interesting as we're unsure whether Ghost-Willow is real, or only in Buffy's mind as a result of their link when she was killed.
And, this would have actually fit quite well in with Buffy's current issues in S9 in the aftermath of what she'll do to wrap up this season.
But... I'm okay... mostly, with where we've gone with this scene. Mostly... almost.
Page 17: So, Buffy has some sensed shocked into her and realizes that Twi-Angel and she can't just keep trading blows, now that clearly Twilight is specifically planning on murdering all of her friends in some wacked out way to get her to 'understand'.
She power belts Twi-Angel and grabs up her Scythe....
Page 18: But, it isn't to kill Angel or send him off to another dimension again. Buffy turns her Slayer Weapon on The Seed itself. With The Seed's shattering, both Twi-Angel and Buffy herself gets a 'blank-brain' look.
And not just them, either. Above ground, the Slayers also get stunned-mind look (WHAT THE?! How could Faith NOT have a panel here!?!) and above them, Willow yells out in pain.
We see the levitating demons being yanked away into portals.
Commentary: Just as an aside - it doesn't really make much difference to me - considering the explanation for what has happened with The Seed's destruction, it strikes me as wrong that these convenient portals are able to open to pull the alien demon invaders away.
Also - SPN/Buffy crossover request: A story where Cas is with Dean/Sam and he's cut off from Heaven and his Angelic Powers by what Buffy does here. Dean/Sam/Castiel hit the road to find out what is going on with him, and it leads to a confrontation when they discover the source of his problem....
Page 19: Back with Amy and Warren, the results of Buffy's actions are catastrophic to their relationship.
Amy collapses in a pile of stun. Warren collapses in a pile of 'not-being-held-together'. He literally falls apart into a pool of gore.
Meanwhile, Willow has fallen to the ground and is freaking out at losing contact with The Seed.
Commentary: Again, I think I'd have preferred Willow die here - maybe even in addition to Giles. It just seems to me to make more story sense that since she had been tapped into The Seed, she shouldn't be able to continue reciting dialog... maybe a several-issue-spanning coma would have been appropriate, at least?
Page 20 & 21: As everyone is reacting to the sudden loss of The Seed, the interdimensional portals continue to open all around them and yanking the invader-demons off to their presumably home realms.
In New York, the Coven reports to Vi that they've lost contact with Sunnydale.
Meanwhile, Kennedy rushes up to the ranting Willow. The witch is still having an emotional breakdown, and calls out not to Kennedy but to Saga Vasuki/Aluwyn.
Page 22: In the Twilight realm, the Manticore wanders all alone.
Above the Sunnydale crater, demons continue being pulled home.
Aboard the Bugship, a slightly cripsy Spike watches on the viewscreen in relief that Buffy found a way to beat the invasion and Twi-Angel's plans.
Page 23: Well, except for the toothy-vagina-mouth demon who is able to resist the pull and takes off for safer ground. Spike orders the Bugship in pursuit.
On the ground, Kennedy is trying to calm the hysterical Willow, afraid that she broke some ribs in the fall (as evidenced by the blood on her face, and foreshadowing the results of Buffy's actions that we'll be exploring into S9).
We see a shellshocked Xander spying on Buffy and Angel.
Page 24: He sees Buffy lying on the ground curled up in severe pain... the very image of herself that she saw in the future!vision in "Anywhere But Here".
Nearby, Giles lies dead.
Angel startles Xander from behind, but he's looking just as devastated and in shock as Xander looks.
In the foreground of the last panel, we see The Slayer Scythe shattered....
Commentary: Similar to Willow, it feels like Angel shouldn't be walking around here. I wish they'd have had Angel lying unconscious on the ground, had Xan speak Buffy's name as she's lying there and then had him pick up the remainder Scythe blade and walk toward Angel. The last panel would be Xander standing over the prone Angel with the Scythe blade above his head.
The Good: There are some really great action scenes throughout this one (but I have a small caveat in Other Thoughts).
I liked the little character moments in single panels... Willow's glee at being in contact with The Seed, Faith and Rupert's interaction over the Scythe going to Buffy, Giles and Xan discussing Rupert's plans to intervene, and yes - Twi-Angel's taking out of Giles (Jeez, when the hell exactly did that happen?!).
I liked the resolution of Twilight's defeat, and the way that it hints that this may not be all good, at all. Bonus point for Buffy's vision being referenced on the last page.
The Bad: Nothing, again!
Other Thoughts: The action scenes. I loved the Faith ones. I liked the rest, but I did think that the Twi-Angel vs. Buffy scenes were repeated too much and that space could have been used to focus on other aspects of the story and other characters that would have been much more emotionally interesting. After all, we already saw SuperBuffy and Twilight-Angel beating the hell out of one another several times.
I also think there were several missed opportunities to do much more with Xander and Dawn in this arc, as mentioned.
The Score: I really did like this issue a lot.
4.25 out of 5