Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Something We'll Be Talking About For Years To Come"

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #12: Wolves at the Gate Part I (written by Drew Goddard)

Timing: BTVS, Season Eight. Short while after "A Beautiful Sunset."

REVIEW: Talk about hype. Comic shops were told to double their orders. People debated "What's going to happen in Issue 12?" online since before #10 came out. It's the first comic we get from one of the series vets (other than Whedon, of course). Damn. Talk. About. Hype.

Well, I'm obviously not going to spoil the big event here, but... Yeah. It's big. Something we'll be talking about for years? Probably not. But it's huge enough for the hype, methinks, and it's leads to even huger comedy. Yeah, it looks like "Wolves At the Gate" is going to be a comedy-centric episode, sort of like "Something Blue" and "Tabula Rasa." What I mean is, it doesn't compromise the integrity of the series like episodes similar to "Beer Bad" and "Doublemeat Palace" did, but it still focuses heavily on comedy. We've got Andrew. We've got Xander dealing with his whole "Dracula's Manservant" issue. We've got a sexually awkward situation. We've got some pretty funny stuff.

Most of this issue deals with the personal relationships between the residents of the castle, but there is also a lot of action at the end. While the issue didn't flow as well as #11 did, the transitions are quite a bit smoother than those of "The Long Way Home." I went in expecting something at the same level as the last two issues we've got, which was an error on my part. Everything can't be "A Beautiful Sunset" quality. What we've got here is a solid introduction to the arc with hilarious--and in-character--moments that all push forward all of the character arcs.

After the serious beatdown of #11, this is just what we needed to lighten the mood. And can I express how great it is to have vampires taken as a threat again? I felt that the show lost something in the latter seasons when vampires stopped being serious enemies and became more of a joke. Especially when that vampire wanted help getting out of his grave. C'mon now. THIS, these vampires from Issue #12, are just what we need to show that vamps are still vamps are still vamps.

Art: Ain't as good as usual. I'm missing Dave Stewart as colorist more than I expected. While Michele Madsen is competent and really makes the starry sky beautiful, I miss the quirky colors of Dave Stewart, which really give Season Eight a unique and consistent look. Also, Jeanty seemed to have pulled a switch. He used to be best at drawing NEW characters and iffy at drawing those who've appeared on screen. Well, this time he rocks Buffy and Xander (though he's struggling with Willow more than ever) but really messes up on one of the villains, the one who seems to be in charge. He's a male, Japanese vampire, and in some panels... his face only has a nose on his left. Now if this character was SUPPOSED to be missing half of his nose, awesome, but.... he's not. Not so good. But as far as drawing Buffy, Jeanty's never been better. I thought the female vampire was cool looking, and I also really liked his depiction of Dracula. For those who gasped at that spoiler, get real. You've seen him in two variant covers for this arc so far, we knew he was coming. But yeah, back to the art. This is our second issue without Jo Chen as cover artist, and Foster's cover is a huge improvement over his #11. Out of his covers for this arc that we've seen, it's literally his only passable one, so enjoy this while you can. However, Dark Horse chose to place the Buffy logo in the most inconvenient place, so it kinda ruins the image. Otherwise, it's one of my favorite covers. Oh, and about Buffy's clothes. Loving them. Her PJs rock,an I loved the little UC Sunnydale shirt she had later on. Much more awesome that the SuperSpy gear she's tended to wear this season.

Characters We Know: Xander, Buffy, Willow, Andrew, Dawn, Dracula

Season Eight Recurring Characters We Know: Renee, Satsu, Rowena, Leah

SPECULATION (highlight to read): Okay, so the surprise. Not what I expected. I hoped for Oz, but I didn't think even that could live up to the "talk about for years to come" thing. Well, I liked the surprise. Buffy sleeping with Satsu is cool, as long as he doesn't turn Buffy gay. Been there, Willow'd that. His interview, which I'll post later, pretty much implied that this wouldn't be a serious "Buffy Is No Longer Hetero" thang. It was a shock, it made for a great scene, and will probably make things very, very awkward between certain characters. But that's it. But as far as REAL speculation, I don't really have any. I'm thinking maybe these bad vamps were.... apprentices, students of Dracula? T'is all for now.

Rating: 9/10

15 comments:

Steve said...

This may seem like a silly question, but it seems some of the things that have happened in this comic series, come off as abit "lame". Don't get me wrong I love the Buffy comics, and obviously they can stretch their imaginations abit further. Do you guys think this is the REAL season 8, if they made a season 8 TV series would all these same things happened? Would you react differently if you saw it on TV? and do you think the wider audience would accept and like all thats happened so far?

PS I love this page, I check it everyday. Also the Buffy and Angel comics got me into the world of comics.

Thomas said...

Do you guys think this is the REAL season 8, if they made a season 8 TV series would all these same things happened?

That's really two different questions. To the first one: Yes, because Joss is in charge of it, and because he says so, and because the characters still feel real to me.

To the second question: No. Giant Dawn and Skinless Warren, among other bits, would be very hard to pull off on TV.

Would you react differently if you saw it on TV?

Probably impossible to say. I guess if I imagine everything in Season 8 being done on TV and being done perfectly, I would probably love that quite a bit more than I do the comics. But sometimes TV goes wrong. What if Satsu or Renee or Twilight or Gigi was played by an actor who didn't do a great job (cf. Kennedy)? Ultimately, more Buffy on TV ain't gonna happen, so I'll choose to focus on the comics as comics and enjoy them that way.

and do you think the wider audience would accept and like all thats happened so far?

Honestly: Screw the wider audience. Not that Buffy's audience was ever that wide to begin with, judging by the TV ratings -- but the audience for the comic is the serious fans, the ones who kept watching the DVDs and talking about the show after the end, the ones who are willing to geek out and buy comics (whether or not we were previously into comics). We, and not the "wider audience," are the audience now. And I think we were always the people Joss was mainly writing for, anyway. I don't think there's any reason to care what the "wider audience" would think.

Loki said...

The same things would not have happened, no. We'd probably never have gotten an episode where Buffy has something like two scenes and Faith all the rest - in seven seasons, the closest they got to something like that was The Zeppo, which was about Xander, as central a character as anybody 'cept Buffy herself, and not a recurring character. There's also the budget-limits which would probably change a lot of the individual stories but maybe not the season plot. And I doubt we'd see a Fray-crossover.

On the whole, though, is it really relevant? What happens in the comics is what happens to the character. Considering the meta-aspect of it being a comic book and not a tv-show doesn't really add to my experience, 'cause it by definition asks me to look at the story as a (made-up) story, which takes me right out of the experience of reading it.

This IS the real season 8, because the guy who made this world, this story and these characters says it is. Would it be different on TV? Most probably very much so. I don't really see that as relevant in any way though. He chose to do it like this. It's his universe, so then this is how it is.



The "lame"-thing, however, I'm totally on board with. Doesn't have anything to do with the comic book medium, just with the writing, but totally. Bringing back Warren seemed unnecessary. Bringing back Amy as his girlfriend seemed forced. The huge big zombie-attack out of nowhere came a little too suddenly - you need to EARN the epic moments. Scores of undead out of nowhere is a little lame. And the supposedly mindboggling thing in this issue (which I haven't read yet, by the way) to me seems outright lame. Not in and of itself, mind you, but I seriously don't get how this is a Huge Thing when the first thing Joss does about it is assure everyone that it's a one-time-thing that won't have any consequences for Buffy's sexuality in the future, etc, etc. To me, it just seems like a lame attempt at doing something new and shocking to draw readers. In and of itself it's okay, I have no issues with his taking Buffy in this direction, I only have an issue with how much of a fuss they make about it. I feel like Joss is trying too hard. On their own, bringing Warren back, bringing Amy back, having Faith kill another human, having Buffy rob banks, having Buffy test out her sexuality, individually, they all work okay. But he's trying to do something like that in just about every arc and issue. Which is lame. The big things don't get big without the buildup.

Still, I'm enjoying the series' a lot. These are points of complaint from someone who can't wait, sitting on the edge of his seat for every single issue - obviously, they're not that big. But it IS lame, with the Surprise After Surprise. The story, if it's good, will sell itself, Joss. We don't need a Shocking Reveal in every new issue to keep buying.


I check this page every day too, by the way. Lovely work you do here, man.

Loki said...

Ah, I see that Thomas wrote my points way better than I did before I posted.

My bad. ^^

Thomas said...

By the way, a couple of observations about #12 itself.

I share Pat's appreciation of Buffy's clothing in this episode -- especially the pajama pants with Eeyore on the leg.

And I thought it was basically brilliant that Joss or Goddard turned the big Buffy/Satsu revelation into a series of hilarious moments. This was something that could have been taken way too seriously, as indicated by the NYTimes story for instance. In the context of the actual comic, I thought it totally worked.

Randomly, I wonder if Satsu is actually Japanese, as opposed to Japanese-American or something. Guess we'll find out.

Willow's reaction hints at something interesting. Does she have a long-suppressed crush on Buffy too? If so, I think Buffy really needs to hang out with more people who don't feel that way about her. That used to be Anya, Dawn, and Giles; and Faith at the end of S7. Now Dawn's the only one left.

PatShand said...

Steve... It's absolutely the real Season Eight. Of course this isn't how it would look on television. "Lost" doesn't even have a big enough budget to have things like this going on. It's not lame, it's just that its less limited as far as what they can do. As far as the wider audience, yeah I think they'd like it. But as far as accepting it, I don't think that they really need to. It's the story, by Joss, and it's Buffy. Thanks for the love of my page, though, I really appreciate it! Buffy and Angel are also what started me on comics.

PatShand said...

Well, the whole "HUGE EVENT!" wasn't Joss trying to score readers. It was just a note from the distributors to comic shop owners, saying that something pretty major happens so they'd be wise to double their orders.

So it's not like they made a commercial to the public saying, "BE EXCITED!" It was more, "Hey comic guy, make sure you have enough copies." We just took that advice and speculated about it until it turned into something huge.

Thomas said...

Oh, hi Loki!

Your analysis of the "lameness" thing was interesting, but I'm not sure whether I agree that the points you raise really cohere into an overall criticism of Season 8, or whether they're just a series of specific criticisms.

Bringing back Warren seemed unnecessary. Bringing back Amy as his girlfriend seemed forced.

I basically agree.

Scores of undead out of nowhere is a little lame.

Dead Man's Party. Which, okay, is not one of my favorite episodes ever -- but if that happened back in episode 2 of S3, I really don't see the problem with a horde of undead in the premiere of S8.

I guess the zombie horde in S8 is bigger -- but it has to be, because everybody's power has grown a lot since S3, and because Buffy has an army of slayers. The threats have to be more threatening, because the protagonists have become epic-level powerful. I didn't read the zombies as a big deal at all -- just a distraction, a minor part of Warren/Amy's strategy.

And the supposedly mindboggling thing in this issue (which I haven't read yet, by the way) to me seems outright lame.

Hold your fire until you read it. I was worried, but I think it works.

I seriously don't get how this is a Huge Thing when the first thing Joss does about it is assure everyone that it's a one-time-thing

It's only a Huge Thing from the point-of-view of Dark Horse's PR department, as far as I'm concerned. Whose job, yeah, is to attract attention and get new readers. But I have no doubt that it was Joss's idea and not that of the PR department.

On their own, bringing Warren back, bringing Amy back, having Faith kill another human, having Buffy rob banks, having Buffy test out her sexuality, individually, they all work okay. But he's trying to do something like that in just about every arc and issue. Which is lame. The big things don't get big without the buildup.

I thought this was an interesting point. But on reflection, I have a counterargument. Consider how different the timing and pacing of comics and TV are. If we analogize S8 to TV, we're only like six episodes into the season, and it would be inappropriate and jarring to have all these radical things happen this quickly. But this isn't TV, it's comics, and S8 has been going on for a whole year already. Having to wait a month between comics makes me more than happy to have something pretty major happen in every episode. If things moved much more slowly, there would be some real danger of boredom and frustration. For example, it took most of a year for us to even learn the first thing about why Buffy has all this expensive technology. How long could that have been left hanging?

In short -- maybe comics, because of their slow pace, need to have big things happen more quickly than they ought to on TV.

Loki said...

Oh, hi Loki!

And good morning to you, sir!

Your analysis of the "lameness" thing was interesting,

*laughs* Analysis, huh? Yup, and my childhood plush monkey is King Kong!

;)

but I'm not sure whether I agree that the points you raise really cohere into an overall criticism of Season 8, or whether they're just a series of specific criticisms. The former. Individually, I felt it all worked, including the admittedly somewhat forced Amy-Warren-thing.


Dead Man's Party. Which, okay, is not one of my favorite episodes ever -- but if that happened back in episode 2 of S3, I really don't see the problem with a horde of undead in the premiere of S8.

I guess the zombie horde in S8 is bigger -- but it has to be, because everybody's power has grown a lot since S3, and because Buffy has an army of slayers. The threats have to be more threatening, because the protagonists have become epic-level powerful. I didn't read the zombies as a big deal at all -- just a distraction, a minor part of Warren/Amy's strategy.

Agreed. That's my point. Power levels increased or not, I don't feel a zombie-army to be as threatening or cool as the enormity of the concept should make it due to the fact that it basically appears out of nowhere. It's not the thing I critizised, it's the decision to put the major, flashy huge stuff like a zombie-army as minor points like that. It just, it seems like such overkill, and I feel a little like I'm drowning in Big Stuff two issues in, you know?

I'm overdramatizing, it's really not that bad, I love this series, I really do. But I have noticed this tendencies, and I kind of need to exaggerate a lot to put in words what bothered me a little.


Hold your fire until you read it. I was worried, but I think it works.

Oh, good. Not really worried that it wouldn't work, though, considering who the writer is, I just disliked how there had to be yet another Big Reveal already.


It's only a Huge Thing from the point-of-view of Dark Horse's PR department, as far as I'm concerned. Whose job, yeah, is to attract attention and get new readers. But I have no doubt that it was Joss's idea and not that of the PR department.

Good point. Agreed. I'll retract that complaint.


I thought this was an interesting point. But on reflection, I have a counterargument. Consider how different the timing and pacing of comics and TV are. If we analogize S8 to TV, we're only like six episodes into the season, and it would be inappropriate and jarring to have all these radical things happen this quickly. But this isn't TV, it's comics, and S8 has been going on for a whole year already. Having to wait a month between comics makes me more than happy to have something pretty major happen in every episode. If things moved much more slowly, there would be some real danger of boredom and frustration. For example, it took most of a year for us to even learn the first thing about why Buffy has all this expensive technology. How long could that have been left hanging?

Excellent point - I honestly had not considered this, and you're quite right. However, it still worries me. Reading this with a month per issue-spaces between is a one-off thing. Re-reading it a ton of times as, as Pat said, the target audience for this is want to do, will not have that element built in. Which might be a minor point, most people would probably prefer it to be tailored to the first read, not the fifteenth, but the thing is, almost all of my Buffy-fan-friends do not read the single issues. They read the paperbacks when they get out.

Your point is still somewhat valid - the waits between the paperbacks are obviously ginormous - and the enormous reveals have upon consideration been pretty nicely divided between the paperbacks. Warren/Amy in the first one, Buffy as a bankrobber in the second, and now this in the third. Still, the general tendency to make big important flashy stuff happen without the buildup (which to me is usually at least half the fun in and of itself) cheapens the experience of the actual payoff, and that problem isn't completely gone despite considring the wait between stories and issues.

That being said, a very good point, which absolutely makes my complaint a much smaller one.

In short -- maybe comics, because of their slow pace, need to have big things happen more quickly than they ought to on TV.
Do they really? It seems Joss thinks so, from his X-men-run and now Buffy, but I have to say, from my own comic book reading experience, I don't quite agree.

Then again, I usually read comics in paperbacks, not in single-issues like this, so my experience with other stuff might not be completely relevant for this particular point.

Matt said...

I wonder - is the Dracula/Xander story from Tales of the Vampires in continuity? I was pretty sure that mini counted as canon, and I'm trying to figure out where Xander is coming from here. Has it been years since his last encounter with Dracula, or a few months?

Curious. I wonder if the next issue will answer that explicitly or gloss over it.

-M

PatShand said...

Every thing from "Tales..." is canon. The preview for #13 shows Dracula as we've last seen him in "Tales," as an old man. It's hilarious, and I'll post it later.

Loki said...

Well, then, finally got my hands on it.

And it was awesome. I honestly think this might be my favourite single issue so far(!) The comedy-aspects of Buffy - surprisingly - seems to translate much more easily to the comic-format than the more serious stuff has, which really made this issue. Additionally, interesting and cool villains who make great use and serious use of two previous stories that weren't that serious - Eternity and BvD - which I love. When silly stuff gets referenced in a serious way, it kind of validates the things' place in continuity. I can live with BvD being cheesy when I know it sets up a really good story later on, in this case vampires with Additional Benefits.

It was damned awesome with that last page by the way. And so much of this issue was hilarious.

As for Drac's relationship to them, I'm guessing one of two - he either learned from them/the people they learned from, or they learned from him. I'm hoping for the former, I feel it'd be more interesting, but the latter does seem more likley.

Loved just about everything about this issue, including Andrew, which is saying _a lot_, as I grew horribly tired of him by the end of season 6 and everything we've seen of him since has been like being shoved ears first up against a broken record on infinite loop. He was funny, once upon a time, but my goodness does he get old quickly. Never really got all the Andrew-love that seems to be all over the Buffy-fandom. I feel Jonathan and Xander both pulled the "amusing geek"-thing off in much more interesting ways that could be repeated upon without growing old and repetitive.


Oh, by the way - the opening text of the issue seems to state that Giles have been "cut off" - so I'm assuming the reference to info from him in issue 10 was info he'd given Buffy BEFORE the fallout during "No Future For You", then?


This was VERY good. If the rest of the arc lives up to this issue, I honestly fear that even Whedon's Faith-arc might be a let-down afterwards.

Loki said...

*Fray-arc, obviously. I think the mention of "No Future For You" the sentence before it screwed with my brain.

Steve. said...

Thanks everyone for taking time to write back. All the comments were really great and made me think more about it, and I have come to my personal conclusion that with the big time gap of comics, they have to fill in lots of crazy stuff in a short time, which is very understandable. I personally think at this moment, that the whole cmoc book format may have melted whedon, and the teams brains. I was fine with everything up until the reveal in this current issue, and if they can explain it all in the rest of the arc, then I'm fine with it. As it stands I think they may have messed up hardcore with this storyline, but holy crap is the rest of this arc gonna rule!
Thanks everyone!

Loki said...

This storyline? You mean the Japanese mist-turning vampire clan, or are you referring to Buffy's recent slight veer off of what's hitherto been her established sexuality? I don't really see what about any of that is so much of a big deal. (I mean, she has to be reasonably open-minded, two of her three chief love-interests have been non-human. And the misty vampires' potential existance were established by episode 5x1 ages back when we learned that Dracula could do it. If one can, it stands to reason others do as well.)

The storyline *I* have objections to so far is really the opening one. Willow as deus ex machina, a seemingly (so far, anyway) fruitless tempering with established continuity in bringing back Warren, bringing back Amy who's for some reason suddenly his girlfriend, spending a third of the arc in Buffy's dream-world and the rest in a giant zombie-magic-battle, having Ethan Rayne drop by only to drop dead before we actually see him - I almost wonder were the actual STORY was in all of that. Talk about trying too hard. I liked it and all, but everything since it has been an improvement.