Or – “The More Things Change, The More They Aren’t Like They Used To Be Anymore…”

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There’s just something that’s irresistible about a cute, petite woman with a battleaxe big enough to dismember a diplodocus.  This sort of visual dichotomy is part of what makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer popular, at least to my mind…   She’s not an uber-buff American-Gladiators-type amazon warrior, (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…  Stop hitting me, Barda!), she’s just a woman, and a relatively small woman at that.  Sarah Michelle Gellar may be very slight, but this only serves to make Buffy’s superhuman agility and strength seem somehow more awesome compacted into her form, and I think that is part of the reason people love the character and her universe so much (though awesome writing doesn’t hurt either).

Buffy1.jpgPreviously, on “Buffy” Season 8, we became reacquainted with Miss Buffy Anne Summers, who died a lot, now ‘first among equals’ in a quasi-military organization of Slayers who continue her mission of combating arcane threats to humanity.  Her most devoted high-school pal, Xander Harris, acts as her comptroller and stand-in Watcher, and prefers to be called “Sergeant Fury.”  Her baby sister Dawn, possibly the most successful and accepted retcon in escapist fiction history, has been transformed into a giant through unknown means, and refuses to talk to Buffy about it, instead insisting that she wants to see M.I.A. sorceress Willow Rosenberg, instead.  The U.S. Government, aware of the rogue batches of Slayers, has combed the ruins of Sunnydale, and discovered crazy witch (in both senses of the word) and former Buffy antagonist Amy Madison in the ruins of the city, as well as a yet-unseen-but-monstrous something that serves Amy, and they have recruited her to take down Buffy, and by extension, the Slayerettes. 

Issue #2 continues the reintroduction of  our supporting cast, starting with a cheer-worthy bit of narration from my most-missed old-series regular…   “I used to be a watcher.”  Yay!  It’s Giles!  He briefly summarizes the history of the old Watcher’s council:  hundreds of Watchers, only one Slayer, then amusingly notes, “the scales have tipped of late,” as he steps to his window to see literally hundreds of Slayers in combat training.  It’s the proverbial cluster-schmozz, with each young woman fighting for herself with no teamwork or concern for the others.  As a testament to the quiet authority this man carries, Giles softly says “Enough.”  All the girls stop dead in their tracks to hear what he has to say…

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Is that Taster’s Choice, do you think?  Georges Jeanty hasn’t quite captured Anthony Stewart’s head in these images, but there’s still enough of the ‘disappointed father’ facial expression that it works for me.  We segue from Giles’ lesson directly to Buffy giving combat tips in her own inimitable style: “Leah.  Satsu.  Rowena.  Would the three of you please kick my ass?”  They fail, of course, and are easily rebuffed by their ‘general,’ who, by the way, has an extra SEVEN YEARS of training at this.  I’m calling Shenanigans, but I really love Buffy’s criticism of their tactics:  “So.  Three perfectly valid avenues of attack, good form —  on three seasoned well-trained CORPSES, one of whom, sidebar:  Has her best hair ever!  Satsu, you’re making me think I need a new look.  See me after.”  Heh.  As with any good montage (“Always fade out in a montaaaage), we transition from her dialogue to another lost sheep, with the phrase “The first clue that it was going downhill?  Clearly…” finished by Andrew with “…Lando Calrissian’s outfit.”  Andrew proceeds to recite a long, rather funny, but ultimately meaningless anecdote about Billy Dee Williams, The Empire Strikes Back, and his personal geekdom, barely touching on a Slayerette’s question about why they don’t carry guns.  It’s nice to see Andrew back in form, though his Angel cameo was very satisfying in a different way.  Sure, he’s grown up, but he’s still a geek at heart.  Meanwhile, up in the hills, Dawn and Sergeant Xander Fury have a heart-to-heart about her sibling difficulties (while Xander discreetly looks the other direction during Giant Dawn’s now-complicated bathing process.)

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These two characters are probably drawn the closest to their on-screen actor counterparts, by the way, and to good effect, here.  Dawn responds by dousing him with water (“You know I only have two of these outfits.”  Heh…), but I think Xander is onto something.  He always was astute, in a near-sighted kind of way.  Back at Evilness, Inc, the general in charge of excavating the Sunnydale crater returns to his secret underground base, angry with his subordinates insistence that their operation “should” be underway as of now.  He expresses his disbelief that Amy will actually be able to pull this off, and thinks that they’ll send in “that monstrosity she calls a boyfriend” if she fails, and is told by an ineffectual middle management suck-up that they will.  This pleases him not at all…

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Uh oh!  That symbol was also found last issue, and seems to be related to some sort of conspiracy.  Maybe it’s a new version of The Initiative!  Then we can have Riley to the rescue!  And then, maybe he can get accidentally decapitated!  (Sorry.  My distaste for Riley is brobdingnagian.)  Buffy and Xander are seen walking through the castle, after dark, as he explains to her the theory that Dawn intentionally became a giant to get her big sister’s attention.  Her abandonment issues are pretty humongous, having lost her mom, having her sister croak on her TWICE, and having her last living relative ignore her while taking legions of OTHER girls under her wing in a very parental fashion…  That certainly could mess with your head.  Buffy stops in front of her room, and wallows in misery for a moment, before asking Xander the $34,000 Question that about makes me fall out of my chair.  “Are you coming to bed?”  AAAAHHHH!  Y’know, I hate it when fan fiction makes couples I don’t approve of (Buffy and Giles will are not couple fodder!!!  That’s wrong on levels that I don’t have the words to express!) but the Xander/Buffy couple is so awesomely perfect, I can forgive the ‘shippers.  Problem is, things may not be what they seem…

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Stoopid dream sequence!  Still, it’s well done, an interesting peek into Buffy’s psyche and pretty funny (while also implying that what Buffy is imagining actually happened, at least once, though hopefully without the decapitation)  Buffy’s defenestration drops her smack-dab into the claws of a huge dragonesque monster, that then tries to rip her apart like a smoked chicken from Hy-Vee.  She screams in terror-slash-pain, and we suddenly find out the source of her dreamstate…

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Xander pretty much sums it up for me, too.  And are those Pogo jammies?  The arrival of the cavalry only slows Amy for a moment, as she stammers, “Wait, wait.  We can talk about this,” then immediately stabs her blade into Buffy.  “After,” she smirks, and is immediately shot, then pinned to the ground by slayers.  With any luck, she might “accidentally” crack a rib or something.  Or an arm.  Or a neck.  Whichever.  Xander looks horrified to see the knife sticking out of, presumably, Buffy’s heart, reaching out to take it.  “This is the crappiest sacrificial dagger I’ve ever seen!”  Heh.  He mocks Amy’s assumption that Buffy is unprotected, and shows that the dagger has bent and broken on the mystical shield around the prime Slayer.  “This isn’t open-wand night in Sunnydale, sweetcheeks.  You’re dealing with pros.”  Xander dialogue = excellence. 

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Quoth Tony Stark: “I hate magic.”  Also on Tony’s pet peeve list: due process, civil conduct, jurisprudence, rule of law, and other such outdated frippery.  (I find it’s best to channel my aggression against imaginary people in a written forum, the better not to accost people at the Wal-Mart at three a.m. wearing a trenchcoat, pajama pants, and mismatched shoes.  My crazy is a subtle crazy, but it’s mine and I deal with it.)  Where were we?  Oh, right.  Buffy is Sleeping Beauty, but who’s Prince Charming?  Xander questions Amy as the slayers on the parapets (one of whom is the girl who knew Nick Fury last month, implied now to have a Xander-crush) report zombies on the walls, and their exchange is priceless.  “So, this doesn’t have to be someone she’s in love with?” Xander inquires.  “No, I said, just someone who is in love with her,” Amy smirks.  “But not friend-love?” asks Xander.  “Right.  Someone who wants to kiss her, they’re passionate about her.”  Tom Grice, COME ON DOWN!  “And not a sister,” confirms Xander, having eliminated himself (presumably) from the running.  “Well, a TWISTED sister,” smirks Amy.  Xander ends the questioning with the best line of the month:  “HA!  But, no.  I hate you.”  I want a t-shirt that says that in five languages, since most of my coworkers are now bilingual.  The zombie issue is brought to his attention, and Xander scrambles the Slayerettes, as Amy teases him about whether he, indeed, wants to passionately kiss Buffy.  Meanwhile, in her mind, Buffy sees Prince Charming…

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So, Buffy’s true love is a bipedal humanoid who wears a long coat?  Way to narrow it down, Joss.  Jerk.  Okay, so I’m kidding.  We are obviously meant to suspect that this is either Spike or Angel, but not to know which.  The red shirt used to be a Spike trademark, but the coat is brown.  Spike’s trademark duster was black, but the chest looks too slim to be Angel and, of course, everybody hates Reilly.  I’m just gonna call him “Spangeilly” for now.  Oh, and Amy’s look of transcendent horror in that last panel comes for a very good reason.  Of all the core cast members who aren’t dead, licensed to IDW, or Faith, there’s one very pointed absence, by a woman who appeared in Buffy’s first episode, a woman has matured from flibbertygibbet to a serenely powerful presence who understands a dramatic entrance…

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Willow’s back, and that completes our trifecta.  No, I don’t know what that means, either.  In any case, she has the requisite power to deflect Amy, which is good as the young Slayers are close to being overwhelmed the Romero hordes on the battlements.  But what’s up with the mysterious “guy with a monocle frowning?”  Who is Amy’s ‘boyfriend?’  Is Buffy’s mysterious mental Prince Charming Angel, Spike, Riley, or someone entirely different? 

All questions for the future, it would seem, but it’s nice to leave a book wondering (in a good way) what’s going on.  Lots of forward momentum on plot, with the primary antagonist already in motion, the mental attack on Buffy, as well as a ton of subplot bits, and a Giles cameo.  It’ll be nice if we get a lot more Rupert in the coming issues, as he’s one of the most nuanced of some very textured characters.  The return of Willow (who I thought was living in a loft with a guy named Marshall) was nicely timed, and it’s good to see that Jeanty has captured the unusual features of Alyson “Spells Her Name Funny Making Me Actually Do Reference” Hannigan, even if his Andrew and Giles are less stellar.  Overall, I’m still feelin’ the love here, with a nice Willow mark-out moment at the end, and good dialogue throughout, as well as the intimation (pun intended) of a Xander/Buffy tryst in the past.  The series is scheduled to run 36 issues, but so far we have a solid 4 stars out of five for issue #2 to match the rating for issue #1. 

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And no, the Mental Mystery Man isn’t Giles.  That’s just creepily Freudian and wrong. 

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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3 Comments

  1. TomGrice
    April 17, 2007 at 9:09 am — Reply

    Oh I so would! This issue was awesome in two ways. First, obviously, for those of us that LOVED the show it is the continuation we wanted done by the creator. Second, for those just climbing aboard, it is a really engaging story with plenty of potential to go a long way!

  2. Brent F.
    April 17, 2007 at 10:44 am — Reply

    I’m almost certain that “Prince Charming” is Xander.

  3. April 17, 2007 at 11:45 am — Reply

    I certainly think that it SHOULD be Xander, and it seems (to me, at least) that this was the direction that Joss was going with certain bits and pieces of the story… Xander is the only man who never let her down (even Giles had his moment, though his reason for leaving was at least noble). Plus, eyepatches = swah-vay.

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