Or – “Asking That Musical Question: Who Frenched The Head Slayer?”
The wonderful part of the Buffy comic is the way the voices of the characters, though aged and changed, have remained consistent with their TV personae. ‘Course, since the creator of the characters and the head writer of this title are the same guy, it just stands to reason. In early seasons of Buffy, the most fascinating portion of the show wasn’t the monster of the week, it was the high school interactions: Xander kissing Willow. Buffy falling for a loser. Willow’s flirtation with Oz (“I mock you with mah monkay pants!”) Likewise, for me, the most fascinating question of BtVS:SE so far hasn’t been who’s the schmendrik who wants to KILL Buffy… It’s who loved her enough to mystically revive her issues ago.
Previously, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season Eight: Buffy and her army of Slayers have set up shop in Scotland, and created a paramilitary unit of superhumans. Willow Rosenberg has been keeping her distance, Xander Harris is onboard and wants to be Nick Fury, Rupert Giles has teamed up with rogue slayer Faith Lehane as a sort of ‘Steed and Mrs Peel’ underground unit, and a faceless cult called “Twilight” has decided that Buffy must be stopped. Their first salvo used evil witch Amy Madison and skinless frank Warren Mears, and failed because “someone who truly loved Buffy” was present to kiss her back to life. Buffy’s words upon awakening were “Cinnamon Buns!” which, while serving as a reference to former Journey lead singer Steve Perry, also served as a clue to the kisser. Last issue, Buffy and Willow’s minds were linked, showing each of them the secrets that they would hold from each other: For Buffy, the fact that she has been financing the Slayer army with money she got from a bank heist. For Willow, the fact that she won’t bring her girlfriend Kennedy around Buffy because being around Buffy gets people killed… Awkwaaaard!
This issue kicks off with Buffy remembering how, “Once uon a time, I did something good… I found a way to share my power…. Saving the world means keeping the status quo. But apocalypses come because the world is trying to change. It has to. That either means Chaos, and the morons chaos inevitably employs, or it means moving forward to something better. And I did that.” Mmm… that’s deep, Ogre. Unfortunately for B, sharing her power meant sending it out unchecked and letting it fall where it might, as she and Xander review a security tape of one of their own slayers gone rogue. Xan explains that the punky young slayer ran away from Andrew’s squad, and has stolen a cahce of weapons, to unknown ends. Their concern, of course, is that Simone is proving the point of those people who want to wipe out the slayers, thinking they’re out for only themselves. Xander’s only good news is that he’s located a nest of vampires, and the thought of staking a few bloodsuckers always raises her spirits. “Probably not TOO early,” says Xander, as they find the entire slayer population (and Giant Dawn) drinking and dancing in the common room.
The next morning, Buffy and young slayer Satsu take off to find the vampires, with a possibly hung-over Satsu landing face-first in the mud. Buffy helps her up, with a little bit of advice. “You’re my best fighters, Satsu. You could lead the crew someday… or you could be a corpse if you don’t figure out a few key rules. Of which number two is not landing on your face.” I enjoy the hell out of the matter-of-factness of Joss’ Buffy dialogue. When she asks what comes first, Buffy replies that Rule #1 is “You are always in danger. Right now, you’re in terrible danger.” When Satsu asks why, Buffy kicks her into the midst of a dozen vampires… and reveals the truth that I figured out months ago. “You’re in love with me.” Hilariously, they continue to have this discussion as they fight the terribly offended vampires. As they kick, slice, and stab, Buffy reveals the truth behind why she’s worried (and it’s not because she’s not a lesbian.) “People who love me tend to… oh, die?” She talks a bit about how people who love her always go away, one way or another, and how she always ends up hurt. Suddenly, the “Ironic Entrance Meter” kicks over to 1,000 as a man screams out of the sky like a missile, smashing Buffy through a stone mausoleum.
Buffy lies, bleeding, and stunned, as her strange masked assailant remarks “The chosen one. Always in pain… and always complaining.” Sounds like he knows Buffy, doesn’t it? She and Satsu try to rally an attack, but are quickly outmatched in speed and power. Buffy is dragged bodily into the sky, as the mysterious man gloats that Buffy cannot fight him. She responds ith a kick in the face, and replies, “Understand this, ass-clown. I probably will anyway.” Heh. I love that, especially the use of assclown. He slams her through several buildings at high speed, then scrapes her off against a roof before ripping a tower off a church to use as a weapon (!) Buffy dodges at the last second, reminding him that there’s more slayers where she came from. The mystery man replies, “well, that’s the issue, isn’t it? One slayer was alright, but ALL these girls… the world can’t contain them.” He reveals the strange carving on his chest, and realization dawns on Buffy: she faces the mysterious Twilight himself. “Have you made a difference?” he taunts again. “Have your slayers helped change anything in this world? Have they helped you?” He flies away, having planted his seed of doubt…
Buffy and Satsu try to contain themselves (Satsu is despondent that she failed Buffy) while Twilight reports back to his personal moonies, who are amazed that he didn’t kill her. “That’s been done. To little effect.” Heh. He reveals that he intends to really hurt her, stripped away her moral certainty, and thus destroy her from within. In a funny moment, he starts to pull up his mask, saying “And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the slayer,” before scratching his neck, and pulling his mask back down. “Sorry, itchy neck.” Ha! I love the tease there. Is this someone we’ve seen before? What male characters in Buffy are unaccounted for so far? In any case, Buffy returns home, trying to deal with the psychological damage. Thankfully, she still has her go-to guy, Xander to hlp. “Maybe now we’re only cleaning up messes, but we’re just getting started. What you’ve created here is a lot more than just monster fighters.” Buffy agrees, realizing that all these girls have come together to feel a connection, something greater than themselves, but Buffy just wonders why she can’t feel it. “Maybe the leader, the girl who brings it all together, is the one who has to give that up,” says Xander, and he’s absolutely right. One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn about being a manager in the last six months is that, sometimes, it’s your job to be unpopular, and most of the time you have to stand aside from the environment you create. The issue ends with Buffy sardonically remarking, “Yay, me.”
All in all, Buffy Season Eight is a fine comic series, and this issue is a nice done-in-one with plot developments both small and large, and nice moments from cast regulars. If you know the general structure of Buffy’s televised seasons, this is the point where things slow down a bit, right before all hell breaks loose, and that tension is definitely present in this issue. Unfortunately, something else is present that throws me a bit, and that’s the “comic-book” element of the story. If they had done a flying super-strong villain on television, I probably would have enjoyed the hell out of it, but here it just feels… wrong. It’s really the first time that I’ve had that cognitive dissonance in the series, but ‘Twilight’ could easily be a JLA villain, or a new member of the Authority, and that doesn’t really work for me with Buffy’s more humanistic tone. Still, even with a misstep or two, Joss delivers the awesome in dialogue, and Georges Jeanty balances recognizable characters with action, avoiding the stiff art that plagues many TV adaptations. Spinning all the plates at once, Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season Eight #11 ranks a not-too-shabby 3.5 out of 5 stars… The plot is fully in motion, and I think we’ve seen the major players, so now it’s just the long wait for everything to collide.