Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #5

by

Or – “Buffy Is Officially A Phenomenon.  Again…”

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The first issue of BtVS:S8 (pronounced “Betivisate”) ranked #9 on Diamond’s sales charts for March of this year, in a month that also featured the death of Captain America, the debut of Mighty Avengers, the last issue of the opening arc of Justice League of America, and the sales juggernaut that is Dark Tower.  Each subsequent issue has been hovering just outside the top ten, an astonishing feat for a Dark Horse title with no capes or costumes in sight.  Even at our store (Gatekeeper Hobbies, Huntoon & Gage, Topeka!  Ask where Mr. Mxyzptlk is hiding!) the pull list file seems to have nearly doubled, bolstered by people who are only picking up The Buffster.  This issue is a bit of an anomaly, featuring as it does the unseen life story of Buffy Summers, the death of Buffy Summers, and no Buffy Summers at all…

Previously, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8:  Buffy Summers finally defeated the evil forces of the Hellmouth under Sunnydale, California, and in so doing, triggered the Slayer powers in thousands of women and girls around the world.  Setting up shop in Scotland, Buffy and her ever-expanding army of friends and fellow Slayers found Buffy1.jpgthemselves took on what seemed like just another nest of demons, but turned out to be the beginnings of a conspiracy.  A vaguely-Initiative-like (not THAT Initiative) group within the U.S. military dug up something evil in the ruins of Sunnydale.  That “something” turned out to be old high school nemesis Amy Madison, who snuck up on Buffy in her sleep, and put her in a theoretically-fatal hypnotic trance.  Amy’s plan was undone by the return of prodigal prestidigitator Willow Rosenberg, who matched Amy spell for spell, but got blindsided by Amy’s partner: Warren Mears, a.k.a. ‘Skinless Frank.’  Buffy was awakened by a kiss from a still-mysterious member of her party who is in love with her, and teamed up with fellow slayer Satsu (whom I still suspect may have been the kisser) to wreck the plans of both faux-Initiative and the Zombie/Necromancer axis of Warren and Amy.  Durin all that, Ethan Rayne got blown away, Xander got his flirt on with a slayerette, and it was revealed that our Miz Summers has not one, but TWO body-doubles in the world to throw people off her trail.  This becomes important, as the first words of this issue are somewhat less than promising.  “Buffy Summers… IS DEAD!”  A demon lord known as “Yamanh of Hoht” hefts her up as a trophy, and ‘Buffy’ thinks quietly to herself, “The funny part of this?  I never even MET her.”  She flashes back to a few minutes before…

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Heh.  I dig the heck out of that fairy.  She’s like Tinkerbell combined with the Vancome Lady.  The fairy (I just can’t bring myself to type ‘faerie.’  I also have a problem typing ‘magicks.’  I’m a simple Midwestern man with a metric ton of comic books and too much education, after all…) makes her promise to still be here when she gets back, and tells her she loves her (Awww.) and Buffy thinks back to how she got here.  Remember, in an earlier issue, when they mentioned that one of Buffy’s doubles had gone “underground?”  They weren’t using spy jargon, folks, they literally sent a girl into the lower regions of the world on a mission to the creatures there.  As she waits in the darkness, Buffy V.3 remembers how she got here, and the one rule of life as she knows it…  

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Heh.  High-school trysts are always sad and funny…  As the girls sit and share the misery, the aforementioned Mike Billenger walks up asking if any of them have seen Holly.  Suddenly, our girl is thrown backwards by what looks like a seizure.  She is suddenly part of an endless chain of slayers, with information imparted to her and a sudden surge of strange power into her body.  “For me, becoming a slayer was like Mike Tyson in your face…  And not PUNCHING-you-Mike-Tyson, ripping-your-ear-off-with-his-teeth-Mike-Tyson.  The power, the shared memories…”  Above all she learned the truth…  that there IS no truth.  Huh?  Maybe this helpful commercial will help explain things.

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Y’know, that’s even funnier if you imagine the actor who plays Andrew reading those lines with his the sing-songy ‘Andrew voice’ in a leaden monotone.  Buffy 3 is introduced to the Slayer ranks, at first worrying that it’s a cult, then finding that she fits in better than anywhere before.  “I couldn’t put it into words.  That one time, that guy did pretty well, though.”  She remembers the ever-awesome Rupert ‘Ripper’ Giles (the man who I hope to grow up to be, even if I don’t care for Taster’s Choice) explaining about “The Chain” that connects all the Slayers.  Once again, our focus changes (I think her life is flashing before her eyes as she dies…) and we see Buffy 3′s initial foray into the underworld.  Slashing the arm off an attacking goblin, she orders it to return to it’s leader and tell of her.  “Tell Yamanh of my extraordinary mercy,” she snarls.  “Tell him Buffy Summers is coming for him.”  The power in the name sends the creature skittering, and she again thinks of Giles’ words.

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When one of her slayer compadres is threatened, our girl (I wish she had a name, as she really deserves one) leaps into action, taking a wicked bite to the neck before they work together to take out the vampire.  They marvel at how envigorating the experience has been, and Buffy 3 tries to stop her bleeding.  As one of her teammates claims the creature’s sword, she remarks “I got a souvenir, too.  Bet I make squad leader…”  One of her teammates reminds her that General Buffy also has a neck wound.  Buffy 3 is called up for her valor, but rather than a team leadership, she’s offered a difficult, possibly fatal mission of her own.

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“…why me?  Did I get the hardest, darkest path to walk ’cause I’m strong, I’m good, I can handle the heavier burden?  Or am I weak, expendable, the one that won’t be missed?  The truth?  There is no truth.  There’s just what you believe.”  Interesting tack to take, there.  In a way, it seems harsh, but if you’re sending a woman in with no backup, no identity, and a possibly limited chance of survival, I suppose that you’d want her to figure this whole thing out for herself.  Still, it’s a bit harsh.  We see her initial foray into the underground, as the fairies and a large slug creature accept her into their world, but balk when told that they have to work together, as Yamanh (I can’t type that without hearing Bob Marley in my head…) will kill them all on his way to conquer the surface.  “This is how we live.  Together.  With each other.  FOR each other…”  The slime-thing accuses her of throwing them to the wolves, but she’s got more than just a haircut in common with the primary Buffy…

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Lying flat on her back, her new power flooding her, the girl who would be Buffy hears a sudden shrieking of failing brakes and a wailing semi-trailer horn.  A truck careens out of control into the schoolyard where she and her friends sit, but she’s on top of the situation.  A single kick knocks the table full of girls free of danger, and then she hefts and THROWS Mike out of the truck’s path, but doesn’t have time to get clear herself…

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“Who the hell ARE you?” asks an incredulous Mike, and it’s a very good question.  She flashes forward again, fighting against the giant creature known as , (and his army, led by his cousins “Eymanh” and “Y’don’saymanh”) getting her butt royally handed to her.  But she has succeeded in rallying the armies of the underlands behind her, as slime creatures, fairies, and even the monster she calls ‘that thing that looks like a leaf-blower’ all fight with her.  Yamanh holds her aloft, and we return to the first scene of the book.  He tosses away her nearly lifeless body, but Buffy has done what she needed to do…  The fairy has good taste, because right now I love this girl, too.  Her last thoughts are heart-rending…  “In the moments that matter, even our own names are just sounds people make to tell us apart.  What we are isn’t that…”

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“But I do…”  

Now, that’s an ending.  BtVS:S8 took a month off before this issue came out, but it was completely worth the wait.  In this day of nine-part-decompressed-storytelling-to-give-us-the-same-amount-of-story-Stan-and-Jack-would-have-imparted-in-four-panels, it’s good to have a story that’s ‘done in one,’ complete, and a damn fine piece of work as well.  The art (by old-school Dark Horse Buffy artist Paul Lee) is very well-done, giving us a character who resembles Buffy enough to make the story work, without being photo-referential.

I’m a sucker for Joss Whedon’s writing, balancing humor and horror, giving us human stories without falling too far into pathos or self-parody.  The story of Buffy 3 (I can’t even call her ‘fake Buffy’ or anything like that, because she completely embodies what the Chosen One is: a woman with a mission she didn’t choose, powers she might be happier without, who finds out that she has to die to save the world, and still fights on…) is amazing, touching, goofy, and strange, and it’s a testament to Joss’ writing skills that in these few pages, we’re able to see enough of her life and personality to feel almost as strongly for her as we do the primary Miss Summers.  I can’t find any reason to fault this book, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 #5 ranks a perfect 5 out of 5 stars.  If you’ve been avoiding this title (not that many people have, if the sales are an indicator), I think this issue might change your mind…

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