Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Best Conclusion to an Arc

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #15: Wolves at the Gate Part IV (written by Drew Goddard)

Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Directly after "Wolves at the Gate Part III."

Me Being a Dick: Probably a bit dick of me to insert this here, but please check out my other blog and comment. I get paid for it, so yay me. Plus, if you like reading this, you'll like reading that. So yeah, sorry. On with the Buffy goodness.

REVIEW: Easily the best conclusion to an arc so far, which alone justifies the rating I'm going to give it. But there is so much more at work in this book that just makes it a really stellar end to a good story.

We get an inside look at Renee's final thoughts with the first few pages, which leads right into the big clash of the Slayers and the Japanese vampires. The tragedy of the thing really hits home for those pages, but we're only given a moment to digest it. The huge battle kicks into gear right then, which sort of felt surreal to me, much like the climax of Serenity. We're hit with the Big Wash Death, then expected to be attentive enough for a heart-stopping battle. It's such an amazing writing technique, and it worked to a T here.

What I thought was admirable, and very true to the nature of the show, was that the book didn't lose the comedy in the midst of all the tragedy and intensity. There was a particularly funny moment with Giant Dawn battling a huge "Mecha" Dawn robot, which could have been the biggest flop of all time. Hell, when I saw it, I was ready to throw the comic across the room. Buffy can be and has been purposely campy, but please. A freaking Giant vs. Robot fight? They can't possibly make that work? But see they did. Seeing the robot imitate Dawn ("I like blue jeans. And irony.") was quite possibly the funniest moment of Season Eight. And Andrew, knowledgeable as he is in the field, coached Dawn through the entire thing. Gold.

And speaking of ______est moments, Dracula showing Toru what's really good was by far and away, no holds barred, what-the-f**k-are-you-kidding me, the most BAD-ASS moment of any Buffyverse comic we've seen so far. I'm not saying the outcome, but not only does that moment (and the one that follows) (and hell the entire issue) totally sell Dracula as a character I'd be glad to see recurring, it just is an amazing scene. Talk about taking an arc to the next level at the eleventh hour.

There's a lot more too. I'm purposely not really delving into much of what happens in the issue, because that's something you'll need to see on your own. Just some stuff to look forward to:

+ We finally find out a little about WTF was up with Snake Lady Jones from #10, as in what her name is and a bit about the roll she'll play in all of this

+ A very Buffy-like end, that definitely would have a song playing over it (think the end of "Seeing Red")

+ Xander growing as a character

+ Vampire slayage

At least as good as "Anywhere But Here," maybe as good as "A Beautiful Sunset." As near to perfect writing as we've seen. Great, great issue.

Art: Jeanty, at times, feels a bit too comfortable here. I feel like the likenesses are coming a lot easier to him, so he feels that he can kind of blur past them in the action scenes. Comparing the facial detail in the battle scenes here to that of, for instance, Buffy #4, Jeanty is obviously not trying as hard. However, in the moments that truly matter--the emotional impacty scenes, which this issue overflows with--Jeanty hits it out of the park. He still does a good job, and the only other little complaint that I have is that I wish he'd made an effort to make Dracula and Toru look a little different. They're both pale vampires with long dark hair, so it's quite easy to confuse them if you're looking at anything but their clothing.

Covers: This is Foster's best effort since #12 and is a marked improvement over most of his other covers. Dark Horse, however, decided to give this issue the exact same border colors as #14. I was searching for this in the comic store, picked it up, thought it was #14, and put it back. Looked like an idiot in the comic shop. C'mon. Give us a bit of variety. The variant cover here is Jeanty's best. 'Nuff said. After those attractive but consciously-campy covers with nearly flourescent colors in issues 13-14, it's very fitting that this emotional end would have such a solemn cover. Plus, the state of the sky kinda ties into the Twilight theme of the season.

Characters We Know: Xander, Willow, Buffy, Renee, Leah, Satsu, Rowena, Dracula, Dawn, Andrew

Season Eight Recurring Characters: Raidon, Kumiko, Toru, Saga Vasuki (snake lady from #10)

Rating: 10/10


Loki said...

Truthfully a very, very good issue. I loved the opening, showing her death from her own perspective was a beautiful way of exploiting the comic book-medium in a way the show would've struggled with making work as well. Dracula was Awesome in it, and several times too, and it managed to keep up both the silly and the serious from the earlier issues without diminishing either (though it got very close with Mecha-Dawn). The ending was beautiful. On the whole, one of the best issues yet and ending *the* best arc yet. It's not flawless, but I think I'd give it 10/10 too.

Matt said...

I haven't read the issue yet, but if it manages to make Dracula a good character (keeping in mind that I absolutely HATED Buffy vs. Dracula) it's good in my book.


Andrew Weitzman said...

"...I've been waiting for this moment FOR MY WHOLE LIFE!"

"I killed more men than God's plagues, and that was before I started eating people for fun."

Buffy's list.

Even if you have issues with pacing or the plot, those bits of dialogue are pure win. And finally, a Buffyverse Dracula that isn't just a deconstruction of the stereotype. Drac ain't just "a guy with some cheap gypsy magic". WATG #4 reminds us why Vlad Tepes is the Samuel L Jackson of the fanged set.

Marvin Gonzalez said...

Does anyone feel that this arc was a set up for Dracula? I feel that the last page hints at the fact that he might become a major player?