Admiral James Kirk wrote:
Well glad to know there's a touch of Spuffy in the new season.
Always did love that ship. Gotta run now before 3D Master tries to fist me to death for saying that.
Don't worry, I'll handle him.
Well issue two for me was an improvement over the first issue. We really get a shot in the arm of plot in this one.
The issue is great in plot and introductions, and just OK in characterization. I liked the previous issue better. It was more layered, while this one is mostly straightforward and occasionally too on the nose, as when Buffy’s narration includes lines like “What does the real world have against me, and why doesn’t it want me to live in it” when she complains that everyone is having a “normal life” but her. Issue 1 conveyed that by showing
her desperately trying to think of any possible careers she might have, or by that “everyone is making out except Buffy” panel. Some things are already feeling a bit too repetitive: Buffy wishing for a normal life and complaining she can’t have one; Willow complaining about the Seed; Spike warning Buffy that something dangerous is coming for her.
I would probably like this issue better if so many of the revelations of this issue weren’t things that have already been guessed and discussed long time ago on various forums, thanks to writer interviews and released covers and solicitations. The reveal about the new male character with a new way of slaying vampires (who, according to the solicitations for the next issues, is called Severin) has been spoiled long time ago by Andrew Chambliss talking about his new way of slaying and by the cover for one of the upcoming issues, and quite a few people had already guessed what Severin does: sever the demon from the vampire’s body, leaving a dead human behind. I was one of the people who were already sure about and the issue just confirmed the theory. Severin seems extremely powerful – killing a bunch of vampires in a very short amount of time. Does his power work only by touch, or across a closed area?
And another question: would he be able to destroy/sever the demonic/supernatural essence from a living being – i.e. would he be able to make Slayers into regular humans, if he wanted to?
I find this panel interesting, because the visuals make him look scary, as if he’s some sort of monster himself:
Some of the things I liked about the issue: it tied up one loose end that was bothering many fans – the issue of Buffy being an international jewel thief wanted by Interpol last season, and the issue of the government letting “terrorist” Buffy free to have a regular life in San Francisco. We learn that this was a part of the deal Riley made with the Interpol on behalf of the US Army, which seems to have done everything to cover up the whole Slayer business in season 8, as it was hinted in #40. Riley sure seems to have become an important person in the army in these few years. Buffy also claims that the money from the theft was used for the army, and not for personal reasons apart from an occasional outfit (well, who could really blame her for that…), which, unless she’s blatantly lying, confirms that the money wasn’t used for private jets or luxury cars as some fans argued, despite the lack of evidence that Buffy was living in anything that would be called luxury (some people even mentioned living in a castle as a proof, which is funny considering that medieval castles are notoriously dark, damp and cold, even with today’s electricity, and uncomfortable for a 21st century person to live in, and the only advantages a Scottish castle could have had for the Slayers were its sheer size and its reinforcements).
With the introduction of the two cops, the comic is also starting to deal with the issue of the position of vampires in world. It seems that the knowledge about them is still not a widely accepted fact as we were lead to think last season – everyone has heard of them, but while the Mulder-like rookie male cop Dowling believes in their existence fully, the Scully-like female cop (called Cheung in the script [as we learned when a portion of the script was released together with the preview pages for #1]) thinks of them as something from reality shows and seems to be unsure if they’re just a hoax. A bit like people treat psychics: everyone knows that there are people who claim to be psychic, but while some believe they are for real, others think they’re just pretending. There doesn’t seem to be any clear official stance yet on the position of vampires in the society and whether they are considered people with the same or similar rights as humans, and whether killing them is a crime or not, and the cops are unsure how to act in the whole thing. The police probably never had to deal with the question before, since a slayed vampire normally turned to dust, and there was no body that would cause the police to start a murder investigation. So, how would the cops treat Severin? He is leaving a trail of human bodies behind him, but he isn’t doing anything that Buffy and the other Slayers haven’t been doing. The vampires were already ‘dead’ in human terms – their bodies died and were only animated supernaturally, through a demon.
On the other hand, it seems like some of the demons at least are accepted by the authorities to the point of working as civil servants. The twist at the end of the last issue worked so-so, but I loved the scene with the tax collector demon in this issue. The contrast between his terrifying looks and his attempts to be scary, and his actual harmlessness, is pretty funny and also comments on people’s tendency to judge the book by its cover. It’s obvious that he was hired just for his terrifying appearance, and wasn’t prepared for the tiny girl attacking him. Not all demons are evil in Buffyverse, and this one comes off as a regular guy unable to get back to his dimension, just trying to earn a living. It wouldn’t be right to kill him, since he’s more like an alien stranded on our planet than what people usually mean by “demon”.
Then there’s the other demon, probably more dangerous one (if his “kill them all” words in the #1 are anything to do by), the one released from the mystical prison in the last issue, who came to look for Buffy, the destroyer of magic, until he found evidence in her room that she’s a Slayer. He’s the biggest mystery right now. Does he want to kill her or to thank her or ally with her? What was the shiny thing in his hand, did he leave it for Buffy? He seems to be set up as a potential bad guy, so it would be interesting if he turns out not to be one. When the preview pages were released, many thought he was going to kill Buffy’s roommate Tumble, but he just escaped instead.
This season is really reminding me of a combination of season three and four with a bit of five.
Really? Why? I don't see the season 3 connection, and season 5 was epic with a god for a villain. If anything, this season seems like a combination of early season 4 (particularly the last issue: Buffy feeling lost in the new environment and doing reckless things, while Willow is fitting in better - in season 4 it was college) and season 6 (real life as the main problem, smaller and more personal scope).
I really like how Spike is being written. It is quite obvious that he cares and is still in love with Buffy and that she loves him. I don't think they'll get back together but it seems to me that the potential for a reunion is still there with them. Dawn and Xander are fighting. Perhaps that is what Xander confided in Buffy about, I guess we'll have to wait and see what it is they're fighting about since Xander wasn't exactly forthcoming with details. The student loan stuff was funny and I'm glad that they're showing the aftermath of the effects that the Seed has on everyone. Buffy is quite self-centered about things. I tend to think that is part of her Slayer personality/characteristics.
I don’t see how Buffy is being “self-centered” if she’s thinking about her problems – when her problems at the moment are much bigger than any of her friends’. She’s got a huge loan she has no way of paying, some mysterious monster supposedly targeting her, and now a police on her back. By comparison, Xander and Dawn are having some issues couples do from time to time in their relationship, and Willow is still complaining about losing her powers, which is a months-old news and something Buffy can’t do anything about anyway. Just last issue, Buffy was trying to get Xander to talk about his problems, while in #40 she was trying to help fix Willow’s relationship with Kennedy. On the other hand, Dawn is the only one we’ve seen ask Buffy how she feels or express interest in how she’d doing, and that was back in #40.
If anyone is being self-centered in this issue, it’s Xander and Dawn, who are too preoccupied with their relationship problems to even ask Buffy why she ran away from police custody Sand what on Earth she was thinking, ask if she’s OK and if she’ll find a place to stay… I get that they want to have a normal life and that they probably wouldn’t want to get in trouble with the police (the couch being occupied by Xander is not a compelling argument for turning Buffy away, couldn’t she stay in Dawn’s room), but sheesh, at least they could show some interest? Instead, they seem to treat it all as another wacky thing Buffy has done, as if they just think of Buffy as this annoying person that just gets herself in trouble all the time, but it’s not a big deal since she’ll certainly be fine. It’s just bizarre and I hope we’re given a bit of explanation from Dawn’s and Xander’s POV. Heck, I want to see some of their point of view in general – even their relationship so far has been seen exclusively from Buffy’s (and in season 8, Willow’s) POV. Xander, who seemed depressed and in a very dark mood in #1, was acting more like regular joke-making Xander, but he may be just putting up a front for Dawn. He probably still doesn’t want her to know about whatever was bothering him. Did Dawn find out about it and that’s why she’s angry, or is he angry that Xander is hiding things from her and not telling her serious stuff, as if she were a child? At the party, they were kissing, it didn’t look like their relationship had come to the point where he had to sleep on the couch. Either the argument has happened since, or maybe they just got carried away by the music and booze at the party, or maybe their relationship has been in trouble for some time and they’re periodically making up and arguing again.
Willow constantly complaining about the Seed and saying that the world has lost something has gotten tiresome, since she is not proposing any solutions and doesn’t seem to be trying to achieve anything apart from making Buffy feel guilty and trying to make her say that breaking the Seed rather than relying on Willow’s ability to protect it was a mistake. Depending on how one sees Willow’s complaints (is she really concerned about the whole world or mostly about her own loss of magic and her lover/mentor Aluwyn?), Willow calling Buffy self-centered (“You only think how it has affected you”) could be read at face value or imbued with irony, since it’s questionable if Willow’s main concern isn’t about how it has affected Willow. She does, however, feel genuine compassion for the tax collector demon who can’t get back home to his dimension (while Buffy is busy worrying about her finances, and Spike is busy worrying about his coat), which was her most sympathetic character moment in this issue. Then again, just a moment later she is again comparing his predicament to her own loss of magic.
The real problem with Buffy in this issue as well as the last one is her reckless, self-destructive behavior. The arc is called Freefall
for a reason, and while #1 had her trying too hard to be happy, getting drunk and doing something at the party she doesn’t even remember, this one has her doing something monumentally stupid while sober. Slipping away from police custody – when she just needed to get a lawyer and wait for a couple of days when the police wouldn’t be able to keep her any longer since they probably would have nothing real on her – is the stupidest thing she’s done in a long time without being affected by any magical glows. Buffy seems to have regressed to season 1/early season 2 in her wish to stop being a Slayer and be just a "normal" girl. But her actions don't match her words - of she wanted a normal life, well then the thing NOT to do is to use her Slayer strength and slip away from police custody, making herself a fugitive! And ironically, she feels lost in the 'normal' world, can't think of anything she would be good at doing other than Slaying, has financial problems and has probably lost her job - so it's not likely that quitting being a Slayer would solve any of her problems, quite the opposite.
Also, isn't it funny that she's envying Dawn and Xander for their 'normal life' that consists of... relationship problems?
It was also funny that the person she was confiding in about wanting to have a normal life was Spike, who is not much for 'normal' and is, like always, reminding her that being a Slayer is an integral part of who she is. Is it because:
1) Spike is at the moment the only person she feels she can confide in
2) She is thinking of having some sort of 'normal life' with him (and sometimes forgets that he's a vampire)
3) She actually subconsciously wanted him to dissuade her and tell her that being a Slayer is who she is (it's no secret that he's always been telling her that)
4) all of the above?
Speaking of Spuffy, I really like this panel: Buffy seems embarrassed, maybe because she doubted that he was on her side or because she expressed so openly how much it mattered he was.
The second scene between them is classic case of a couple who show their feelings only in a subdued way and with snark and humor. The writing is more straightforward here, as Buffy hints she would/did miss Spike, using a deliberate understatement both humorously and affectionately. “I would probably miss you”. As stormwreath
said on Livejournal, “For those two it’s the next best to a declaration of undying love” J Of course, the elephant in the room is that he’s already been dead, and she believed him to be dead for an even longer time (we don’t know exactly how long, but probably a few months at least), and that she already knows all too well if she would miss him. Spike’s answer is that she would certainly, but he continues by saying "...especially since I'm going to find out what's after you". as if he took it to mean she'll miss his help, rather than him, which would mean he's either missing the point or deliberately misunderstanding to provide a change of subject to a less personal and more comfortable one of the dangers coming after Buffy. Anyway, in #1 Buffy asked Spike if that’s why he came tonight, to protect her, and it wasn’t clear if it was classic “I can take care of myself” annoyance that Buffy has shown her guys when they acted protective of her, or if she was glad to think this was why he was there. But this time you can see on her face she’s happy that he wants to help her (though he can’t see it because those two aren’t even looking at each other when they utter those tiny half-admissions of feeling; it is easier that way) and even finally says thanks.
I found it hit and miss again. It’s the best when Jeanty is drawing close-ups, but he has trouble drawing smaller portrais of characters in group scenes. Some of the proportions are weird and inconsistent – in one panel the tax collector demon looks twice as big as Spike, Willow and Buffy as he’s looming over them, in other panels he seems to be just a head taller than Buffy. Some of the group panels in this issue have the ugliest portraits of Spike Jeanty has ever done – and making Spike look ugly is quite an “accomplishment” considering how handsome James Marsters is. On the other hand, there are 3 panels in this issue where he looks really good, and these are all closeups. Buffy also looks pretty awful in some of these group scenes, and again there are lots of moments when she looks like a 12-year old. BTW, Jeanty has confirmed that Tumble’s look in inspired by the actor Mark Webber and his character Stephen Stills from Scott Pilgrim. It’s amazing that he can draw his likeness so easily, while he can’t ever make his Buffy look anything like SMG’s Buffy. It makes me realize how superior Issaacs’ art for Angel & Faith
is, she can also draw expressive closeups, but her Faith and Angel always look like adults, attractive and not too cartoonish, and her Faith looks like Eliza Dushku without being a photo likeness and manages to capture Faith's spirit.
Jeanty’s cover has an especially bad case of Buffy looking like a pre-teen. (Unlike his cover for #1, which was beautiful and my favorite Jeanty’s portrait of Buffy to date.) Morris’ cover shows Buffy fighting and being overpowered by a huge demon, which doesn’t actually happen anywhere in the issue, so it’s probably a metaphor for Buffy being overwhelmed by life.