Review: Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8 #20

by

Or – “Time, See What’s Become Of Me…”

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I think the best part of Buffy (like any really good tapestry/universe story) is that the characters are allowed to change and grow, often in ways that you wouldn’t have imagined upon first viewing.  I found myself watching the Buffy pilot not that long ago, and was very impressed with how naturally the characters’ stories seemed to be, even when the source material was anything but natural.  Some time ago, Joss Whedon had pitched a Buffy cartoon series that would tell stories from the character’s past, with the addition of little sister Dawn, a later retcon to the show.  The series never came to fruition, but, in comics, no story goes unused.

BVS2_1.jpgPreviously, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer: After a run-in with Japanese poseur vampires who wanted to steal the power of Dracula, Buffy and Willow set off for New York, during which trip Buffy was thrust forward in time to meet future Slayer Melaka Fray.  She found the future ain’t what it used to be, that her best friend Willow may have a few secrets still up her sleeve, and unintentionally managed to prove that time is fleeting, and madness takes it’s toll.  It’s quite astounding, really.  Meanwhile, Xander had to deal with a  Warren and Amy mystic/technical weapon attack on their Scottish highland castle headquarters, which led to him somehow fighting alongside an army of fey creatures against zombies of green fire.  I think…  In any case, Buffy made her way home, the Slayers regrouped and requartered themselves, and business returned to what passes for usual.  Of course, it should be noted that usual for a Slayer, any Slayer, tends to have a lot more aspect of “bug$&*! crazy” than your average dry cleaner’s.

We start with Buffy doing what Buffy does best, hacking the heads of things that go bump in the night.  “You come one more inch,” she warns with her scythe (that isn’t really a scythe) poised to strike, “and things are going to get all blechy.”  She chops off the creature’s head, and then we cut to another battle, then another, then another…  She wonders to herself “Was it always this hard?  And if it was, WHY is it always this hard?”  Buffy returns to Slayer HQ, and throws herslf bodily onto the nearest soft, flat surface to sleep.  Xander tries to talk with her, to tell her something, but she isn’t having it, telling him unequivocally that she’s going to sleep.  “But…  this is YOUR bed you’re making all stinky…  It’s mine!”  Too late comes his warning, as Buffy is already out.  Seconds later, she hears a cry from outside, urging her to get up.  Buffy awakens to find her long-passed-away mom standing at the door.  She leaps into her mother’s arms to hug her, and is even happy to see baby sister Dawn, but the family thinks something is wrong with her.  “Mom!” Dawn screams when her big sis hugs her, “Buffy’s on drugs!!”  Heh…

Buffy dresses and heads out for school, only to find perpetual wallflower best friend Willow being tormented by Cordelia (yes, Stephen, it’s a young Charisma Carpenter.  Stop drooling on my review.) for being geeky. “No biggie, Will,” says Buffy.  “Maybe someday she’ll be dead and you be a sorceress supreme.”  HA!  Xander arrives on a skateboard, but a cameo from Principle Snyder ends that fun, and the kids head for school.  That night, the three of them discuss the killer party that will be taking place that night, and how they should all go.   Buffy says that nothing can stop them from goin, only to have Giles arrive at the precise moment of most drama.  “The very fate of the world is at risk over what happens tonight,” he intones, and Buffy recalls that, yes, it WAS always this hard.  Buffy’s experience and knowledge in her younger body leads her to quickly dispense with the “Disciples of Morgala,” impaling all three of the creatures in moment, and freeing up her evening for a party.  She ends up encountering Angel, from before she even knew there was such a thing as Angelus, and has a bittersweet moment with him, and he congratulates her for killing the five disciples.  Buffy’s superior math skills kick in, followed immediately by her sense of duty, and she arrives just in time to fight a dragonof mystical origin…  Moments after defeating the creature, Buffy awakens in from her nap, and has a Wizar dof Oz moment.  “I kept thinking how nice things were back then…  when it wasn’t so complicated.  And yet, it was just the same as now.  Only different.”  Heh.  She realizes that you can’t change the past, but, just like Dorothy Gale, it’s nice to go home again.

This is an entertaining issue from a couple of viewpoints, as Georges Jeanty returns to Buffy for the framing sequence, delivering a detailed and photo-realistic Buffy and Xander before handing off to Eric Wight, Ethan Beavers and Adam Van Wyk, who deliver an animated Buffy tale that really manages to show what such a series might have been like.  All the characters are still recognizable, even Principal Snyder (“Maybe he’ll get eaten by a giant worm,” sez Buffy.  Heh.) and the action sequences are pretty amazing.  The only real failing of the art is that it’s NOT animation, that is, it doesn’t give us the motion, but it’s still amazingly detailed and awesome.  Jeph Loeb (of Heroes and Long Halloween fame) delivers a Whedon-esque script, right down the Buffy-Angel dynamic, and brings a tear to your eye with Buffy’s realization that her mom is calling her to wake up.  The seamless transition between dream and reality is handled well, and the overall effect is both wistful and hopeful.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #20 earns 4 out of 5 stars, for a well-written, well-drawn look at both the lost Buffy animated series and the times that weren’t really as good as her memories would have her belive.  This kind of story can easily descend into sentiment or schmaltz, but this one was just right…

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