Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Storyteller Reclaims His Comfy Chair

What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #28: Retreat part III (written by Jane Espenson; art by Georges Jeanty).

Timing: BtVS, Season Eight. Right after "Retreat part II."

Warning: The bigger spoilers will be written in black text. Simply highlight to read. As this is a review, there will be some minor "spoilers" sprinkled throughout the text that don't warrant being hidden. If you have not read the issue and don't want to know anything about the plot, don't read this. Spoilers for previous issues will obviously not be covered.

REVIEW: If you liked "Storyteller," you'll like this. To discover who is Twilight's mole, Andrew picks up his trusty video camera and follows his friends around, accidentally catching some of the most tender and revealing moments we've seen all season.

As far as the Funny goes, this issue always walks up to the cusp of hilarious, peeks over, then turns back. It's not as wildly funny as storyteller, and maybe that's appropriate given the fact that this is the middle issue of a very dire arc. There are standout lines like "The next time I catch up with Xander, he's taking the time to just sit with his friend Buffy and yak" as Xander and Buffy yack next to a gigantic yak. He has two conversations with Giles in the issue that I thought would be crazy funny because the two have such chemistry, but it just stayed pretty funny. What might have been the issue is the needless exposition where Bay, Oz's new wife, explains what has been going on with the slayers. They're getting rid of their magic by pushing it back into the Earth via hard work, and that is so interesting, but it's explained by Bay as soon as the story gets rolling, then showed to us directly after it's explained, and then once again explained when Willow and Oz get to chatting. No big, because the pages that follow contain some huge pay-offs, but how much better would the issue be if the story got rolling right away?

Oh. But one moment that was truly hilarious was Andrew illustrating his past with Dark Willow. And a super tiny Jonathan.

I try not to do spoilers here, but with an issue that pretty much thrives on paying off what came before, it's kind of hard not to. I won't get into specifics, but Buffy/Faith have a conversation that easily shows where they're at, how they're different, and sort of what they can do for each other. Xander and Buffy have a talk that touches on the disconnected feeling Buffy has been suffering from since her resurrection in Season Six. It's a sweet moment, and really (SPOILER:) sets Buffy/Xander shippers up for heartbreak at the end of the issue. And as big as these conversations might seem, the one-two-three punch that follows is even better.

Punch #1- Willow and Oz talk. This is the emotional core of the issue, and it gets to a more sophisticated place than the series has been at for quite a long time. Oz gets Willow to confess her very adult fears to Oz, who responds in a way that only Oz can. Willow gets a bit teary, and since we're all so invested in these characters, I suspect she won't be the only one.

Punch #2- As soon as Oz leaves the room, enter Buffy. She's ready to talk to Willow about something that's been eating at her for a while. Those left puzzled by the resolution (or lack thereof) of the Time of Your Life arc might rejoice in this conversation. Espenson is starting to piece together the puzzle pieces that Whedon, Vaughan, Goddard, and more have set up. It's been a long time coming.

Finally, punch #3- Remember in #12 when everyone walked in on Buffy doing something? Well, this time Buffy does the walking in, and she walks in on something I've been wanting/expecting for a long time. May I just say.... YES! Great, great character choice to have (SPOILER:) Xander and Dawn hook-up. It's been going that way for a long time, longer than Buffy: Season Eight has been around, and I'm damn glad.

So you've been hit with the 1-2-3 punch. What would you do if I tell you that Jane Espenson follows it up with a pretty big cliffhanger? Well, don't get too excited, because in this crazy emotional issue, the cliffhanger didn't feel exactly organic, and if THE DOG had been used instead of the cat (read the issue, you'll get it), Andrew's previous joke would have been paid off. A missed opportunity, yeah, but it's still a pretty exciting ending.

Battle is on the horizon...

Art: Georges Jeanty. Loved his earlier stuff, hated his recent stuff. The art in this issue is a definite improvement, and Jeanty is re-learning to spend the appropriate amount of time on facial expressions and likenesses. For the first time ever, Oz and Andrew don't look alike. Buffy looks like Buffy, Willow looks like Willow, Giles looks like Giles. It's sort of annoying that this is happening during the 28th issue of the series, but the art is back on track.

Covers: Beautiful cover by Jo Chen. Buffy and Willow are meditating (some folks over at Whedonesque are saying that Jo got the pose wrong, but that is a complete non-issue for me) while Giles watches in the background, scratching his chin. I'm sad that this is going to be the last Jo Chen cover we see this year, but at least she went out nicely. Willow's chest looks like she's more Christina Hendricks than Alyson Hannigan, but that's the only flaw I can find. Jeanty's cover is once again way worse than his interior art. Buffy looks like she's sleeping with her eyes open while standing while raking while wearing crazy Tibetan clothes. Willow's head looks like it has a huge indent in it. It looks like a crescent moon. Is that Faith or Kennedy behind Buffy? Awful cover, and it's a shame seeing as how his interior art improved so much.

Characters We Know: Andrew, Giles, Leah, Willow, Oz, Rowena, Kennedy, Satsu, Buffy, Faith, Dawn, and Xander.

Rating: I haven't been able to give this high a grade to Season Eight since last November, but here it is.... 9/10


Anonymous said...

Isn't Jo Chen doing a cover for the Willow one-shot out in December?I could of sworn I read a description of it featuring Willow and Saga Vasuki wrapped around her.

PatShand said...

It's possible! If you find it, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's been released yet.Scott Allie described it in either one of his question and answers at slayalive or a interview he did around comic con.

Anonymous said...

I found it.He mentioned it in his Buffyfest interview from comic con.

". Willow one shot - Written by Joss and someone else. Drawn by Karl Moline (Fray/Buffy) with covers by Moline and Jo Chen. It will take place prior to season 8 and explain the Snake Woman back story. Here's how Scott explains it:
"The main story tells what happens before season 8, you know...what's going on with Willow and when you see the cover by Jo, it's a gorgeous cover with Willow and the Snake Woman all wrapped up on each other. So it's gonna fill in a bunch of their story."

So one more Jo Chen cover coming our way before the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

No puedo esperar para leer esto..

Saludos desde México

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to mention that I love this blog! And that the cat that disappeared at the end of this issue was also seen in the Buffy/Faith scene. And that cat was a call back to Graduation Day part 2 when they had that shared dream...Just wanted to put in my 2 cents.

sarahww said...

Great review, as always!
Best issue in a while -- I did laugh out loud, especially at the classic Andrew drawings.

I'm not sure how I feel about the big moment that you mention SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER about Xander and Dawn hooking up. On one hand, I expected it and am intrigued by the pairing. I kind of expected it ever since Season 7's "Potential," to be honest. But the fact that Buffy was also feeling feelings made me kind of hope that she was going to get the chance for a normal relationship, with the guy who finally seems mature enough to be a good match for her. I guess this is good fodder for storytelling, though -- it'll be interesting to see how Buffy deals with this revelation (as well as Dawn and Xander) in upcoming issues.