Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Season 12, Issue 01
"One Year Later"
Story: Joss Whedon, Christos Gage; Script: Christos Gage; Pencils: Georges Jeanty; Inks: Karl Story; Colors: Dan Jackson;
Lettering: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Stephanie Hans
Blurb: Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been saving the world from the forces of darkness since she was a teenager. Alongside vampire-with-a-soul Spike; her best friends, Wiccan Willow Rosenberg and normal guy Xander Harris; her sister Dawn; and her mentor Giles, Buffy has found nothing they can't face together.
Four years ago, Buffy journeyed to the future to team up with Slayer Melaka Fray against Fray's vampire twin brother, Harth. Fray thought Buffy's knowledge of the future would change history, erasing her world... but it didn't.
A year has passed since rogue government forces tried to enslave magical beings and steal their powers. While humanity knows the supernatural exists, it has returned to the shadows. And there have been other changes...
My Notes: So. Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes to an end for Dark Horse Comics. I'm very sad to see it end on a 4-issue short arc. Especially, since I don't keep up with the comic news, so didn't know this was all coming. At first, I'll admit to y'all at being quite annoyed by the year forward shift from the end of last season. I don't even know what year Buffy is actually in. I'm sure I could figure it out, but I'm also equally sure someone somewhere has already posted a BTVS Timeline which includes the comics.
I was also quite annoyed - and still am, but less so - at the changes wrought. It felt like the book was trying to return a close-to-status-quo world to Buffy and her friends. Since this is the wrap up, now I understand it a bit more... but not really. I like when status quo isn't god. But this arc was not badly done, so I'm more-or-less happy by the end of Issue 4.
But then we have BOOM!Buffy returning next year. This series will follow Buffy anew, but with a starting point of 2019. I'm less than thrilled. Much less than.
I have no desire to go back to the beginning and start all over. HOWEVER, I've already gotten the first few issues on order from "Things From Another World", and I'm willing to get at least the first season before I throw down my toys and stomp home. So, yes, despite my temper tantrum/winter blues rant earlier that I would LOVE if everyone pretended didn't happen, I will be posting at least Boom!BTVS [yes, that is how I'm going to TAG those reviews] season one & then we'll see.
But - this is about Buffy S12, so let's get on with it....
Page 01: We open in the 23rd Century, and as hinted with an anvil in the blurb, we'll be visiting with Fray. We're starting on seeing Harth Fray, vampire and all around nogoodnik. He's having a bad day.
Harth is currently bound by a wizard, as magic has made its come back after the devastating, but justified, killing of Future!Dark Willow by the time travelling Buffy.
Our wizard is torturing Harth because he wants to know all about Harth's Slayer memories-- especially the details of that event so long ago called The Reckoning. It was the last stand of the Slayers, and the event that caused the disappearance of the demons, the virtual end of vampires [the few remaining becoming Fray's "lurks"], and left magic virtually stripped from Earth when the last standing Slayer exiled herself to Hell and took everything supernatural (except Willow) apparently with her.
Now wizard-bro wants to know what exactly happened at that final battle, and he wants Harth to share what slayer-memories he has inherited due to a quirk in that he is also Melaka's twin. She got the physical powers, and he got the Slayer experiences -- which is actually why he decided to become a vampire -- because he's mad, and twisted, and evil even before the fangs - though he managed to hide it all from his sisters.
[And *WHEW*, that was quite the data dump. So sorry.. but there is a lot of history built into this opening.]
Commentary: So, immediately I am happy that we're revisiting the last battle of the Slayers, because it's been hanging in the air since Buffy's first time jaunt to meet Fray: What happened? Can Buffy prevent the Slayerpocalypse? Would they really end the season (remember, I didn't know that this was the end of the license for DH) with Buffy stripping the world of its supernaturalness and exiling her to a Hellscape??
Page 02: Bad Wizard-bro is one of those bad guys who CAN'T STOP TALKING. He reveals to Harth that he intends to use the newly restored Scepter of Veils to follow the "marks in time" that Buffy left behind her when she time traveled. He boasts that he'll use the magic-armeggedon (somehow) to become all powerful, then return to 'now' and kill Melaka to become ruler of the world.
[Yeah, wizard guy is a Bond villain up and down the cliche line.]
Harth compliments the plan, but tells Wizard-bro that it should really be himself, however. Wizard-bro power rants about Harth being nothing but a lurk, and he can destroy the vampire utterly.
Page 03: Which is somebody's cue to jab him through the rib cage from behind with something pointy. As Wizard-bro falls under the fangs of more lurks, and the toll of that fatal chest wound, Harth shares that the man was an idiot.
Y'See, Harth got himself captured on purpose - AFTER - he had already had his minions turn all of the Wizard-bro's posse, co-opting them to Harth's benefit. And he let himself be captured in order to get close to the legendary Scepter. It's hard to know how much of this Wizard-bro can get before he's quite dead, but Harth is a monologuer anyway, so he continues to explain that all of the information about The Reckoning that Wizard-bro had, and the fact he found out about Harth's connection to the Slayer histories all came from carefully placed leaks by Harth himself to entice his "capture".
And now, obvs, Harth will put the Scepter to use - along with the memories of The Reckoning - to basically follow Wizard-bro's plan.
Commentary: Excellent opener! I loved the puffed up Wizard-bro not having enough brains to watch out for contemptible lurks having been his brutal downfall, and I like that Harth will once again be our Big Bad so Buffy and Fray can team up. I'm was left just a little giddy, truth be told.
Page 04: We time skip backward to the 21st Century, but a year following the defeat of another power-hunter, Joanna Wise.
Buffy is cuddling with a baby, who turns out to be her sister's. Dawn's miffed voice shouts at her from off panel for wearing her Scythe around the baby, again.
Page 05: The baby, a daughter that Dawn has named Joyce, is retrieved by Dawn. She tells Buffy, but not too seriously, that she's banned from baby privileges until she respects the 'no-deadly-weapons' rule. Buffy accuses Joyce of ratting her out.
Dawn's parenting has come via Xander, who has re-established coupledom with Buffy's sister. They now own a home out in the suburbs.
Xan takes Buffy aside, as tonight is a house warming for he and Dawn's place, to warn her that Spike would be there. Buffy assures Xan that there are no bitter feelings on either her side, nor Spike's as far as she knows, over their breakup.
[There it is Spuffies, (Spuffers?). The undoing of the Spuffy relationship, again. I honestly thought you guys were going to slip out of this with your relationship intact, but no. At least it didn't drown in angst on its way out.]
Spike comes in just then, startling Xander. The vampire warns that a welcome mat is the same as an invitation to vampires to come on in. Something that Dawn and Xan should've known by now and avoided.
Commentary: Annoyance number one: Spuffy. There was zero reason for Buffy and Spike to have split, until you know that this is the last season of current Buffy, and so everything has to be put as close to status quo for the next guy as they can manage. Even though the 'next guy' is starting a new timeline. Which makes the falling back on status quo pointless. And that leads right back to their being no reason for Buffy and Spike to have seperated. Except Buffy must not be allowed in a longterm relationship, because.
I'm not even a Spuffy fan, but I'm standing in solidarity with you who are - because this 'wave aside' of the 'ship sucks.
Page 06: Buffy and Spike have a bit of banter, but they're both really fine with not being together. It all ends in a hug.
Page 07: Later, with all the Scoobies arrived, we also see another change over the past year: Giles is Giles, again. Apparently, they'd run across a spell to age Rupert back up to his actual age. [Yep - hand waved that away just that quick.]
Willow has started a series of Women's Empowerment Centers, with Slayers helping them out against daily threats for being magic, or being uppity-women. Will's real concerns though aren't the neanderthal contingent, but hangover fears that the government may target them again. But she also trusts Riley, when he says he isn't allowing that to happen.
Commentary: Annoyance number two: Giles. I don't exactly dislike Rupert being back to normal, but the way it was done as a few sentences really rankles me. This was a huge deal. It shouldn't be something that happened off-panel! And besides that, again, there isn't any reason for the return to quo here -- Rupert could've been kept as teen-Giles and it wouldn't have impacted anything and would've avoided the dreadful reset button. I'm even more irritated about this, than I am Buffy/Spike's relationship ending.
Page 08: Sometime even later, Wills joins Buffy who is sitting alone and mildly sulking. BFF asks Buff if she's alright with Spike being there, but Buffy assures her that she's and they're fine. She and Spike just realized that with the past year being so quiet, they really had nothing to hold them together: They are best with one another when there are things going wrong.
But she's also realized just now that she's been stuck, again. She's thirty years old, and she's still doing the same old-same old against the occasional monster. Dawn and Xan have a house and a baby, but she's still only consulting for the police -- like she's been doing for the past few years.
This moping is interrupted by the door bell, and Willow excitedly says that she thought Andrew wouldn't be able to make it.
Commentary: Poor, Buffy. I'm less annoyed by this moping about her life thing, even though it's repetitive. It's more of a character quirk, so I accept it. And at least it isn't about how she can't hold onto a boyfriend.
Page 09: But at the door, it's not Andrew waiting. It's Angel and Illyria from out of the blue, so to speak.
Buffy comments on people who live in England dropping by without calling, but Angel says that the phones keep changing and it's confusing.
Angel tells them that he's not there on a social visit.
Illyria, wanting to ensure no conflict, tells Buffy that there need not being any conflict over her now being Angel's lover. She's willing to make arrangements with Buffy to avoid any such concerns -- perhaps some form of brief loan, if Buffy would also agree to share secrets on taming Fred's hair.
Angel embarrassed waves that all aside, as Buffy and Spike are together, causing another quick round of "we broke up, but we're both fine with it, it was mutual and there are no bitter feelings".
Commentary: I did like this - having Angel here for the last battle before we say goodbye to current Buffyverse. It feels right that the last big battle of the series would have Angel and Spike side by side with Buffy.
The Angel/Illyria whatever-it-is remains yucky, though.
Page 10: Angel whispers to Illyria that he's trying not to look smug about the Spuffy-end. She returns in a normal tone of carrying voice that mortal relationships are far too needlessly complex.
Buffy quickly turns attention toward the crisis that caused Angel to travel to California in the first place.
Angel shares that his sources have warned of a dark confluence of baddies converging near San Francisco, including the down-but-never-out Wolfram & Hart. There's to be, according to his sources, a coordinated strike against Willow and the Slayers working with her.
But what's more, if his sources can be believed, everything is being headed by a time traveller vampire. He's using some sort of knowledge of what was happening in the here and now to arrange the attack.
Buffy immediately twigs that this could only be Harth.
Commentary: Uhh.. okay. This was a bit clumsy to get into the meat of the conflict. I mean, those are some pretty knowledgable sources, Angel. Especially having knowledge of a future vampire who can use his future knowledge to plan attacks on Wills and company.
After we've seen Harth's powerplay in the future, I'm not sure that rushing into this fight is wise at all.
Page 11: As Buffy goes to collect weaponry, Giles suggests Illyria could send the interloper back to the future. But she's hesitant because her powers are limited by Fred's body, and her time shifting has been difficult to control [which is fair, we just spent a season in Angel seeing this]. Angel shares that Faith is involved, and she's keeping an eye on their foes.
Willow suggests that the fact that Harth came here has already changed history. If they can strike fast and hard before he can get his allies organized, they can put a stop to the time-foolery before it can do significant damage to what should be.
Xan tells Dawnie she'll have to stay behind, due to Joyce, which she isn't at all happy about accusing him of being sexist -- but he points out that he can't breast feed her.
Page 12: At the new W&H headquarters in Silicon Valley, the demons that Harth has taken on as allies are gathered in front of the building.
The more racist of the demons are, of course, bristling at taking direction from a mere vampire but Harth points out that if they actually follow his memories they're about to have a guaranteed win. If they don't, they're probably just going to get beaten.
Page 13: But Buffy likes the plan where the demons don't follow the winning idea. Presumably with the help of a Dawn portal, the entire gang is very suddenly standing there, ready to kick ass, which Faith very soon joins.
Commentary: And, yep... I was also VERY pleased to have Faith on board for this last story. I love comics-Faith.
Page 14 & 15: As the team gets to fighting, demon lord Ocypete tries to tempt Illyria to their side with the promise of restoring her to her true self and all of the power that entails. But she points out she used to use that power to crush pretenders just like him. And she's having a good time doing that right now, already.
Willow angrily shouts at another demon lord that he dared to plan to attack her people. He replies that to be fair, he was against trying that, but he's still going to pulp her now.
Buffy shouts at Harth [it's amazing just how much conversation you can have while fighting for your life] that he messed up by changing history by coming here in an attempt to jump the gun on forcing the end.
Harth shares that Buffy is deep-level dumb, and tells her that he already has memories of this very conflict from her own point of view: And they're ready for this!
From out of Wolfram & Hart's office building, comes a new return player -- Mayor McSmiley! It's the former mayor of Sunnydale in his giant snakey form, for just as Illyria wasn't stopped by having her body destroyed, so too can pure demons make a comeback from death.
Page 16: Buffy points out the obvious, and the Mayor snarks back that his being blown up wasn't pleasant but a little thing like that wasn't going to stop a pure demon made flesh. He pulled himself back together and went into the private sector. And what-do-you-know, without his leadership, Sunnydale really went to hell.
Faith, having recovered from the shock, shouts at her former mentor that he made her into a murderer. He disputes that by pointing out that he only gave her guidance she desperately needed. She made herself into a murderer.
With a growling yell of rage, Faith charges at Mayor Wilkins.
Commentary: Eh. I'm a bit less enamoured of old foes week. But it does make sense that if an old god can come back from physical destruction, then a pure demon could as well. Not objecting, but I don't think the Mayor's return really adds anything for the plot.
Page 17: Alas for Faith, her axe can't get around a quick tail whip, and she's sent away with a broken face for her trouble.
As more giant-variety demons join the fight, Buffy twigs onto the fact that Harth set them up with Angel's intel so they'd walk right into the trap, and they fell for it.
Wills suggests a quick retreat to regroup.
Page 18: Xander shouts that if they could buy a few seconds breather, he can get them out of this. Angel leads them to a reinforced records room from his memories of the layout of the old W&H place in L.A.
In the meantime, Giles, Willow and especially Illyria's time slow manipulation buys them the time they need for a retreat - although, definitely not a safe haven for long.
In the meantime, Xan texts for an emergency portal out.
Page 19: The Mayor busts through the door, but by that time, Dawn has gotten Xan's text. She berates that she knew this was a huge mistake and shouts at them all to get through the portal home.
As they do, one of the demons - Barbatos shouts that they had them right in their grasp, but The Mayor isn't worried. He confirms with Harth that things actually went exactly to plan. Harth confirms that this first battle was exactly as he remembered it... now, the real fun begins.
Page 20: Back at the Harris', Faith rages about having their collective asses handed to them. Spike is equally angry that there has to be a way somehow to have a choice in how this all goes down. Wills offers that without knowing what Harth knows, the chances are that they'll actually choose what they did before that led to the future as Buffy saw it.
Surprisingly, Buffy actually caught that, and she reports that she has thoughts. She clues everyone in on the huge library of Watcher lore that her future counterpart has access to. Now that they know a specific point in time, those books should have the history that Harth is relying on.
Angel turns to Illyria for a portal to the future, despite the extreme risks. Willow offers that she can help Illyria focus on when they need to be by tracking Buffy's "footprint" from the last trip she made forward. The problem is her accessing the time stream at all. The last time they pulled this trick, it was under a very specific circumstance in a very specific point.
Dawn offers that if she opened a portal is space time to retrieve them, then perhaps she can use a portal to access the timestream now.
Commentary: I really like this scripting, a lot. It is giving everyone something to do, including Giles' expertise in the library and archiving sciences to know where to find the information they need if they reach the future. I'm very much enjoying this issue.
Page 21: So, with the combination of Willow access Buffy's footprint in the timestream, Dawn's opening a portal to access the time stream, and Illyria's ability to manipulate the time portal/stream to move them forward, our gang is able -- with a lot of mutual effort -- to access New York of the 23rd Century.
Page 22: Alas for Buffy, she finds herself looking down the barrels of the Fray sisters' guns. Melaka accuses Buffy of trying a second time to wipe out her world with her shenanigans, but that isn't happening. She orders Buffy's team to turn around and take their asses back to where/when they should belong.
[And since this is a cliffhanger page, we don't yet know how Melaka and Erin know that Buffy's team were on their way... but I've no problem with an explanation that Harth made sure the information would make it to his Slayer sister's ears. Which leaves a dangling, disturbing possibility that Buffy and teammates already made this trip in the original timeline and Harth knows that... yikes.]
The Good: I completely adored the opening with Harth manipulating his way into getting what he needed from Wizard-bro. It showcases the danger that Harth Fray represents because he isn't just a lurk. He's retained his personality and smarts from his human beginnings, and he's got the extra ummph of having the Slayer memories - and in much more detail than Buffy or Faith have ever shown.
I am so happy that Angel and Faith are going to be front and center with the Scooby Gang for this last adventure.
I am also really glad that the brilliant plan to attack Harth quicker than he could ready his assault actually happened before in the original timeline. Bringing up that everything the gang thinks is a new tactic could easily be things that they thought up before, so they're just repeating what didn't work is aces plotting.
The Bad: The handwave to Spuffy and especially to teen!Giles really bugs me. I'm also not a fan of Angel/Illyria being a regular thing.
Other Thoughts: The Wolf, Ram and Hart thing has gotten pretty stale. I wish we'd stop seeing them as among the Big Bads, when that was pretty much destroyed in the IDW run of Angel. Send them into the "gone forever" pile, already.
I'm also a bit 'meh' on including Mayor Wilkin's instead of leaving him in the past, too. I don't hate it, I just could've done without the return engagement. I'm really hoping this will end with Dick's permanent death, and at Faith's hand.
The Score: I enjoyed this set up issue A LOT. I'm very much looking forward to the Fray/Summers team up to take down her brother (again, hopefully permanently) and putting this HUGE plot thread (Buffy goes to Hell to stop the demons and usher in Fray's world) to bed. I kinda would like to see that history doesn't get changed, but I don't see that happening. That would be a bit too radical to end the series with Buffy sacrificing everything, and Willow doomed to end up as Dark Willow in the future. However they get out of it, though, I'm liking this as our final story (for now).
4.00 out of 5 stars