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(Review) Buffy Season 9: Magical Mystery Tour

2nd August 2011 (20:36)

Oh look. It's a Season 9 comic review! I suppose this means I have to get back into the habit of writing stuff again. :)

I realise a lot of people have already written about this webcomic, but here's my own reactions and analysis of it. Oh, and have a couple of icons:

   


The story so far...

Way back in issue 8.39, Buffy saved Spike from being burned to death by Possessed!Angel - which explains why he's covered in burn scars at the start of this webcomic. He was rescued by the crew of his bug spaceship (don't ask) just in time to witness the effects of Buffy breaking the Seed and the invading demons being sucked back into their own dimensions. Spike interpreted that, naturally enough, as another victory for the Slayer - it's not obvious from context if at this stage he knows exactly what she did or what the side-effects will be.

Spike decides he doesn't want to hang around while "the good guys... lick their wounds" - instead he's going to make himself useful by chasing after one of the biggest of the demons which didn't get sucked back to hell. That's both practical and heroic of him, but I think there's also a large amount of avoidance-of-Buffy going on, given that when last he saw her, she was still cooing over Angel.

The monster he was chasing also looked like a giant floating vagina, which led to all sorts of Freudian speculation about the symbolism of him chasing after it - but apparently Georges Jeanty was simply asked to draw a large flying demon, gave it a vertical mouth, and didn't realise what it resembled until numerous fans pointed it out to him. In this webcomic the emphasis is put much more on the demon's eyes and body instead of just its mouth...

Now read on!

The story is narrated by one of the bugs - the one which Spike will later give the name Irene. I'm therefore going to refer to her with female pronouns, even though I'm not entirely convinced that Spike can tell the difference between bug genders rather than just picking names at random. :)

Her voiceover is kind of cute; there's a naive, uncritical admiration of him which seems child-like. Of course, there's the expected contrast between her words and reality; for example when she's proudly talking about "showing off our fastest setting" to Spike, he's being held against the bulkhead by the acceleration looking half-dead and totally out of it. I do wonder if there's meant to be a parody here of the Slayers' hero-worship of Buffy in the previous season, taken to ridiculous extremes in the way the bugs feel about 'King Spike'. (There may also be a reference to the 'After The Fall' version of Spike?)

The bugs' methodical approach to catching up with the monster is contrasted with Spike's impulsiveness: he sees a big red button on the console, assumes it's a weapon and presses it. Irene is impressed by his accuracy in firing it, even though technically Spike did nothing to aim the 'gun' - more uncritical hero-worship. There's maybe a continuity error here, since we saw in 'Last Gleaming' that the ship does have at least one big cannon that Spike ought to know about. On the other hand, firing that cannon required the opening of a big hatch on the front of the ship, so maybe it can only be fired in an atmosphere, not in outer space.

I laughed out loud at the reveal of what the 'gun' actually does. Why on Earth, or off it, would the bug spaceship need "a device for impregnating space whales"? Do they run a whale stud farm? Is impregnating whales a common pastime out in the galaxy? Can whales not impregnate each other, but need bugs to do it for them? It's just gloriously, ridiculously silly.

Of course, it's possible to interpret the next part in a dark manner. Spike accidentally impregnates a vagina demon with his huge cannon, which causes it to burst and tear itself apart. Yet another Jossverse nightmare pregnancy that's fatal for the mother. Clearly Jane Espenson hates women-- oh wait.

Maybe they weren't aware of the symbolism; or maybe it's a deliberate and knowing parody of their own favourite story tropes. Given how over-the-top it all is, I lean towards the second. Maybe someone should ask Jane next time she does a Q&A.

The spaceship gets covered in pink gooey exploded demon bits, and so do the crew inside the spaceship. Now, aren't spaceships supposed to be, you know, airtight? And we know the spaceship has air on board, because even though Spike himself doesn't need to breathe, his cigarette needs oxygen to burn. Handwaving about "closing intake vacuums" doesn't really help. :) On the other hand, it was funny.

There are also possible physics errors in the gravity situation. On the first page, the ship appeared to be in zero-G: Spike was pinned against the bulkhead by the acceleration, then floats forward to grab the chairback and reach the controls. Technically, if the ship were still accelerating, he shouldn't be able to float around like that; he'd be treating the back wall of the ship as the floor. Unless the bugs cut the power when they saw he wanted to move forward?

But then the vagina demon explodes, and suddenly Spike is able to walk around or lie on the ship's deck as if it were the ground of a planet with gravity. It doesn't really make sense... unless the bug ship has artificial gravity, but while they were chasing the VD they turned it off to divert all power into the engines? Yeah, that would make sense, kind of.

(Given Jane's writing background with nBSG and Caprica, two shows I didn't watch, I have to ask: did those shows present outer space physics realistically, or in a space opera fashion? Babylon 5 or Star Wars?)

Spike's "heroic, uplifting" speech to the bugs is extremely unlike Buffy's usual inspirational speeches, but by contrast is greeted with wild chants of enthusiasm by its audience. Definite parody. :) It's also funny that he pressed the big red button because he didn't want to endure "one and a half thousand hours" of chasing the vagina demon - but the consequences of his impulsive action will instead take... exactly the same amount of time to fix. Ooops.

The progression of Spike's demands from the deeply serious to the novelty calendar is good characterisation, though I think he's channelling Buffy a little in the way he's distracted mid-speech. I'm curious to know what he's smoking and drinking: are they bug-cigarettes and bug-alcohol, or do the crew have human beverages stored away for some reason? Presumably they also have blood in stock, although given that Spike has been on board the ship for a while, I assume that's been dealt with off-camera.

Also, it's apparently now canon that yes, vampires need to use the toilet - just in case you were wondering.

The fact that Spike carves B+S inside a love heart on the table has already been noted by just about every reviewer of the comic, often in gleeful tones, so I won't spend much more time on it. I do wonder, though, if it was in Jane's script or if Georges put it there on his own initiative? (Though if he did, both Jane and Joss would, presumably, have signed off on it - so it's canon that at this point, Spike luvs Buffy 4eva.)

Oh! and also, he wrote B + S, not S + B. Clearly he knows who's the boss in their relationship. :)

After a week with nothing to do, and only bugs to talk to, Spike is clearly letting himself go. He's only usually such a slob when he'd depressed (see: 'Lovers Walk' - which again makes me wonder if this funk is due to simple loneliness and boredom, or if he's imagining Buffy is riding off into the sunset with Angel now. Remember, he doesn't know about Giles.) He's drinking heavily and he's cradling those discarded bug legs like a security blanket.

Also, is it me or is the bug on that calendar in a sexually explicit pose: on its back, with its legs spread and one hand posed coquettishly behind its head? In other words, is that bug porn? o.O

But over the next few weeks Spike pulls himself together and starts a new life. The montage we get is important because it's showing all the sides of Spike that he normally would let few if any people get to see. There's not just the snarky brawler here. He's a networker, a romantic, a dork, a poet and a nurturer. Not only is he a poet, but he's someone who understands the technicalities of poetry. He even shows off his flair for interior design.

A few side points: I liked that the bug romance novel 'Love Comes on Leathery Wings' was apparently written by Jane Espenson. She should write it some day. :) On a related note, the bug marriage ceremony he officiates for : I wonder if it's simply a ménage à trois or if the bugs actually have three sexes? They also apparently like dancing with giant ladybirds - a pun which works better in American English - but need "chaperones". And Spike using baby bugs as weights in his fitness routine is, presumably, something he's doing because they enjoy it. Awww.

And then after 62 days in space, he returns to Earth and the ship drops him off at Fort Point - to only mild surprise from a couple of joggers who are clearly used to seeing alien spaceships landing in San Francisco.

Buffy's there waiting for him... which poses an interesting question. Did she see the spaceship landing and rush out to meet it? Or did Spike locate her from orbit and tell the bugs to land next to her? Either way, they're hiding their eagerness behind a facade of not caring very much. Buffy's holding a stake, which suggests she was out patrolling at the time, and she definitely loves those woolly hats. I've seen a few people criticising her coat as pretty ugly - I don't suppose anyone recognises the style or who the designer would be? Because I'm pretty confident that the artist would have based it on a real design - and I'm sure that six years ago Georges Jeanty never imagined he'd spend his time researching contemporary women's fashions to draw them in a comic book. :)

The scene has been much analysed already, of course. Bear in mind the context: it's two months after the Seed broke and Angel killed Giles, and so at least two months before the coda in 8.40. Buffy is still living on her sister's couch and feeling like she betrayed everybody. The awkward scene in 8.40 where she gets tearful at Spike's sympathy and flees back indoors is still in her future here.

So here, she's not gushy - though there's a definite "falling into a long-established groove" about their conversation. She's challenging him, hands on hips, at first - but there's a definite vulnerability in her "So you're home for good now?" question, boosted by the hint of a tear in her eye. Spike is playing it cool - but we know from the "B+S" heart that it's an act. Plus, of course, there's his final words of the comic:

"They'll wait for me."

He's talking about the bugs, and I do think his two months with them taught him, once again, that he can find a life for himself if he needs to. But of course in the context of Buffy asking if he's home for good, his serene confidence that "They'll wait for me" probably doesn't refer to the bugs at all. :)

Comments

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 21:19 (UTC)

Ah, good to get a detailed summary, since I won't be getting the code until Saturday at the earliest.

I don't for one moment believe Jeanty when he says he didn't realize what the VD looked like while he was drawing it. Nobody could look at it and not see that. If he was too close to his work to notice, Scott or Joss (or more likely Scott and Joss) would have pointed it out.

Also, it's apparently now canon that yes, vampires need to use the toilet - just in case you were wondering.

They'd have to... the mass of all the blood they drink has to go somewhere. I would imagine the results are not very pleasant by the standards of any of the senses.

It's weird how vampires seem to have pretty much fully functioning bodies: their digestive systems work, they can breathe when they want to, their brains obviously function, and they can function sexually in every respect except (normally) reproduction... except that their hearts don't beat. Seems like more of a technicality than anything else.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 22:01 (UTC)

Thing is, in the interviews where Georges revealed that fans had asked him about the vagina demon, he seemed kind of baffled and amused. Like, "You'll never guess how those crazy fans interpreted my art!" And remember, it was only one picture where we saw a real close-up of its mouth; in the other pictures eyes and tentacles were much more in evidence. I can easily see George's mental picture of the demon being more in line with those other images.


My personal fanon is that vampires live off blood in a purely magical sense: the blood is the life. They only need to use the toilet if they consume non-blood type food, which passes through them. (I wonder if their body even digests it?)

As for vampires' hearts, I'm sure there were a couple of cases on 'Angel' where a vampire's heart did start beating, temporarily, when stimulated with electricity. That's no different to them being able to use their lungs, except those muscles are under conscious control - unlike the heart.

Posted by: TimeTravellingBunny (boot_the_grime)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 22:10 (UTC)

Well, Buffyverse vampires are, for all intents and purposes, just like humans with strength, a sun allergy and a specific way of getting killed. It's quite silly to hear people refer to them as "dead" when their bodies have metabolism and all the bodily functions humans have.

So how can they not age?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 22:31 (UTC)

The flip answer to your question would be "magic". (Which suggests that now the Seed is broken, maybe vampires will start aging?)

Then again, most of their bodily functions seem to be voluntary: even breathing. So maybe as long as they don't use them, they don't age. Spike will probably burn up his undead body inside another couple of centuries, while someone like the Master who disdained any mortal weakness could expect to live for a millennium or more if not killed by violence.

Posted by: effulgentgirl (effulgentgirl)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 21:59 (UTC)

I don't actually believe it for a second, but I like thinking that B+S refers to 'Bugs + Spike'.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 22:02 (UTC)

:)

That would be more likely if it were the bugs writing that graffiti, rather than Spike himself...

Posted by: TimeTravellingBunny (boot_the_grime)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 22:15 (UTC)
Buffy Spike heart Spuffy

Check out Buffy's pose when she says "Where've you been?" I call it "the Angry Wife pose". You know, the annoyed look and asking him where he has been, like he went off and stayed too long and didn't tell her, and how could he? It has such intimacy to it. Like it's implied that they have a relationship where he should tell her that he isn't going to be there or shouldn't leave for so long... Not like they have only seen each other for a few hours, in bad circumstances, in over two and a half years. Instead of Bangel-style making everything seem so dramatic, they are downplaying it.

Spike's reply about toothbrush is both nonchalant and with just a hint of intimacy. And then of course, asking him if he's home for good this time. "Home". They're like old marrieds, but with passion and snark and arguing to hide the emotions.

LI love the panel "So you're home for good now?" She was hurt that he didn't come back home to her when he came back to life. Of course she isn't going to say that openly, she rarely opens up like that. And she's go tons of abandonment issues, starting with her father.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 22:32 (UTC)

I agree completely. Buffy could almost be holding a rolling pin in that particular picture. :)

Posted by: TimeTravellingBunny (boot_the_grime)
Posted at: 2nd August 2011 23:03 (UTC)

Ha ha, someone should Photoshop it. :)

Posted by: Lisa (shipperx)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 04:53 (UTC)

Given Jane's writing background with nBSG and Caprica, two shows I didn't watch, I have to ask: did those shows present outer space physics realistically,

No. They used projectile weapons inside space ships which would be... dumb.

Re: impregnating space whales... er...I don't know. Doctor Who had one. It carried New London. And on Farscape the peacekeepers deliberately impregnated space leviathans. They impregnated Moya (the living ship on Farscape) and created the crazed militaristic offspring Talyn (that eventually had to be put down. No other Leviathan had ever been born with weapons and Talyn became...erratic).


And one of Spike's request in the Lynch comics was that the ship be stocked with a cigarette machine... and the internet.

Edited at 2011-08-03 04:58 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 13:32 (UTC)

Well, surely a projectile weapon on board a spaceship is only a bad idea if the walls are fragile enough that the bullet might go through them? If you've got heavily-armoured bulkheads everywhere, it's no worse than having a gun on board a sailing-type ship.

And one of Spike's request in the Lynch comics was that the ship be stocked with a cigarette machine... and the internet.

That explains the smoking... presumably the ship was too far away from Earth to pick up the Internet? :)

Posted by: tennyo_elf (tennyo_elf)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 07:44 (UTC)

Lovely detailed review. The whole thing was pretty silly, yet had so many different sides to it. We get to see another side of Spike that I think we'll see more of hopefully.

The whole impregnating beam at the demon thing was just so...out there it had me giggling.

I like how you mentioned that the "They'll wait for me" might not be referring to the Bugs (had the same thought, sorta). Who do think he was referring to?

I hope Spike will establish the same type of connection with some bipeds next.

I know Spike will loose the bug ship soon but I am actually going to miss the bugs and the ship. I like the idea of captain Spike but I can see where it would pose a problem storytelling wise for season 9.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 13:38 (UTC)

Thanks!

When Spike says they'll wait for him, I assumed he was talking about Buffy - that however long he was away, she was there waiting for him.

Posted by: tennyo_elf (tennyo_elf)
Posted at: 4th August 2011 06:46 (UTC)

You're welcome! :)

Spike's been gone from Buffy for so long, I do wonder if he just assumes she'll be waiting for him or just he hopes that she'll be waiting for him.

It's sweet to interpret it like that and I got the feeling from it too that he meant Buffy, but also I feel like he just talking about the bugs (because he connected with them and because he wishes it). I personally dunno, I never spend too much time contemplating these things, I just go with my feelings and I do think it was meant with some duality but that duality is ambiguous (at least to me).

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th August 2011 17:45 (UTC)

Don't forget that Spike says, "They'll be waiting" after he's met Buffy and discovered that almost the first words out of her mouth are, "Are you home for good now?" He knows from that that she's been waiting for him all this time, so he's in good place where he can say that.

And words with dual meaning are practically a BtVS stock-in-trade; it's one of Joss's favourite devices to have a character say one thing and obviously be really talking about something else more personally important to them.

Posted by: tennyo_elf (tennyo_elf)
Posted at: 6th August 2011 04:21 (UTC)

True, I just feel that it's too presumptuous of Spike to think Buffy will wait for him. Maybe he is referring to himself? That he'll wait for her?

Yup, which is why BtVS's so fun! I love dual meanings personally. :)

Posted by: Rebcake (rebcake)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 08:18 (UTC)
ats_ciao_ilona

Certainly those joggers didn't hardly blink at the spaceship setting down. We San Franciscans like to pretend that we've seen everything. If they started gaping, people might thing they were tourists or something! Now, if some of the bugs had poured out wearing drag, then we'd have declared it a parade!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 13:40 (UTC)

:-)

I suppose if it were Los Angeles (or Vancouver) rather than SF they'd have looked around for the movie cameras?

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 14:08 (UTC)
Spike - soul burns

he didn't want to endure "one and a half thousand hours" of chasing the vagina demon - but the consequences of his impulsive action will instead take... exactly the same amount of time to fix. Ooops.

Right, he doesn't want to methodically and seemingly endlessly chase the Vagina Demon. Instead, he destroys the demon, then spends the next "one and a half thousand hours" methodically making his way back to Buffy. Sex & Death & Love. He just destroyed monstrous sex? He's more interested in the romantic love/sex now. But like those discarded bug limbs, he feels unwanted -- he's depressed, in pain, and bored out of his gourd, drinking his pain away (both physical and emotional) while scribbling B+S into his table and starting to hear voices.

Yes, clearly Spike still loves Buffy.

More on the bug legs. I think the way the bugs discard the limbs they shed and how Spike collects them, hugs them to him -- they're a security blanket, right, but it's also like he's loving them after they've been rejected and left behind. It's how Spike feels. The feelings he attributes to objects reflects his own feelings. And when he lovingly hangs the legs in his bedroom, he's reclaiming the discarded parts of himself and incorporating them into his life. Just like he proudly claims his history as a bad poet.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 15:13 (UTC)

Two perfect analogies. :) I was struck by how chaste the bugs seemed: they have chaperoned dances like something out of the 1950s (although the disco ball is more 1970s), their cultural literature is romance novels, they believe in solemn marriage services. So when Spike's pursuit of the Vagina Demon with his huge impregnating space cannon blows up in his face (literally), he turns to love and romance instead... and seems much happier for it. Definitely symbolic. :)

And the idea that Spike identifies emotionally with the discarded bug legs - but later turns them to good use - is just perfect.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 3rd August 2011 15:20 (UTC)
Spike and Dawn

This short even resonates almost as a reflection of his journey to destroy/cage his monstrous self in SR, then methodically returning back to Buffy. Only back in Season 7, he succumbed to the voices.

Here, he's able to fight the voices because he has a better sense of self, of his own needs, and most specific of those needs is connection. That's the one thing that he doesn't demand from the bugs, the one thing he doesn't list, but it's the most important to him. It only when he realizes he can't just wait out the whole month solo with his cigs that he starts to reach out. He's not gonna demand connection from the bugs (the way he demanded it from Buffy years ago, ultimately leading to SR), and he's not gonna beg for connection from Buffy, either, "not this year." What he will do is ~forge~ a connection through mutually beneficial interaction.

Not a solitary creature, this one.

Edited at 2011-08-03 15:23 (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 11th January 2012 10:35 (UTC)

Thanks! Fashion is not my thing, so it's nice to get input from an outside technical consultant. :)

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