Wednesday, December 5, 2007

BKV Brings It To a Close

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #9: No Future For You pt 4 (written by Brian K. Vaughan)

Timing: BtVS Season Eight, follows the events of "No Future For You Part 3"

REVIEW: Like Issue #7 (which followed the spectacular #6), this issue had a lot of expectations to live up to. As it is the climax of "No Future For You," it had to be more intense, more poignant, and overall better than the first three issues in this arc. It had to live up to Issue #4, the issue that ended "The Long Way Home" arc. This issue, despite how good the other three were, is the last statement that this arc is going to make, so it had to be the most powerful. Does it deliver?

Yeah, it does. Starting with a flashback to her days with the Mayor (who voice Vaughan nails), this issue makes a poignant parallel between his (the Mayor's) relationship with Faith and Roden's relationship with Gigi. What I like about this part of the issue is that Faith is shown to have recognized that the Mayor was wrong--and, yes, evil--but the relationship is never portrayed as anything but genuine. This sharply contrasts with Roden's relationship with his evil slayer, but Faith still relates to Gigi despite her mentor's true feelings about her. What it all comes down to here, though, is the unavoidable fight between the two rogue slayers. It's an emotional and bloody battle that Vaughan handles carefully, giving the characters some great one-liners, a few teary moments, and some really cool combat (especially when Roden comes into the picture).

While this plot comes to a startling finish, things are just starling to boil over back at Buffy's place. Her anger at Giles (shown in the last issues) for not informing her about the mission comes to a head here, spawning surprising results. This issue seems to focus on both endings and new beginnings, opening the door for many, many stories in the future. And, like the slightly inferior Issue #4, this arc closes with a bang: The Big Bad is revealed. His short little exchange with a minion of his "Lieutenant Molter" changes everything we knew about this arc. His motives put a new, disturbing spin on the events of the Faith vs. Gigi fight, and it is shown that there is a traitor within Buffy's ranks. Oh, and for everyone complaining that Joss is taking to long to give us answers to the mysteries in the first arc, one of the biggest questions gets answered in this issue: "Who is the person floating in Issue #1?"

Brian K. Vaughan did a wonderful job on both this issue and the entire arc. Introducing the theme of how slayers relate to their surrogate "watchers" (Faith to the Mayor, Gigi to Roden, Buffy to Giles) into this issue, he ends this issue with real emotional resonance. The ramifications of "No Future For You" will change the Buffyverse forever, and I can't wait to see what follows.

Art: When you compare this art to the art of Issue #1, Jeanty's improvement is astronomical. Those who--not entirely wrongly--state that he can't draw Faith will be convinced by this issue. The flashback sequence with Faith and the Mayor is a great example of how far he has come: He nails the Mayor's likeness right off the bat, and Faith is now looking much more like herself than she did in #6. The fight scene between Faith and Roden is also spectacular. I especially love the way that Jeanty showed Roden "going dark" by getting black eyes and veins like Willow did in Season Six. The person who I felt Jeanty was worst at drawing was Giles. My trepidation towards his rendition of everyone's favorite watcher has been dwindling issue by issue, but now it's entirely gone. Faith and Giles' exchange towards the end is perfect (he nails Giles' mannerisms), as is the panel where Giles says "Burst." As for the covers, Jo Chen is also--if possible--improving. Her "fiery Faith" cover is the best likeness that any Buffy artist has yet to produce. Just compare this to her depiction of Buffy in Issue #1 and you'll be amazed.

Characters We Know: The Mayor (flashback), Faith, Giles, Buffy, Willow, Xander

Season Eight Recurring Characters We Know: Gigi, Roden, Trafalgar

Speculation: To read the following, you have to highlight it. (SPOILERS:) Gigi and Roden have kicked their respective buckets. My speculation that Roden would end up being the Big Bad was proved to be wrong, and I'm not disappointed. These comics continue to surprise me. The Big Bad is a masked being named Twilight, who--though he can clearly fly--seems to despise magic. Whether the magic comes in the form of a warlock, a watcher, or--especially--a slayer, he plans to, as Roden says, "purge" it from the world. I'm not sure I like the way this character looks. I mean the clothes are awesome, as are the colors... I'm just not sure about the mask. Looks too Numero Cinco for me. But I'm sure I'll be convinced by Issue #11, where he is set to make an ass-kicking visit to see Buffy. And speaking of the Head Slayer... There has to be something more to her beef with Giles. It seems clear that their relationship must have already BEEN rocky by the start of this season, and that this is what pushed it over the edge. Giles and Buffy are no longer on speaking terms, and it looks as if Giles is about to leave on a mission to to "play social worker to slayers" and "bring bad girls back from the brink." I wonder if this could be the spin-off that Scott Allie/Joss Whedon said they had mentioned in passing. I surely hope Giles plays a role in the rest of the season, but there's not much I wouldn't give to get a Vaughan penned monthly Faith/Giles spin-off. This is just me hoping though, nothing else. And while we're speculating, the last pages of this issue revealed that Twilight has a "man on the inside," a double-agent operating against Buffy. While one can take "man" as literally meaning male, I think the term "man on the inside" was purposely used as a mislead. "Man on the inside" is simply a term that means "double agent," and I'm getting the feeling that it's a girl. Perhaps Simone, that pink-haired, gun loving slayer from Issue #2 and #5? (/END SPOILERS)

Rating: 9/10

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