Log in

No account? Create an account
StephenT [userpic]

(Review) BtVS 9.18 'Welcome to the Team' Part III

21st March 2013 (12:39)

Finally getting around to catching up on the 'Buffy' comic reviews I missed. This is for 9.18, which was last month's issue; I'll hopefully post the review of the March issue shortly. Once I've written it. :)

So for those who've forgotten what was happening when I wrote the last review: Dawn had just mysteriously fallen ill, and Buffy, Illyria and Koh had been sent by a supernatural 'council' to take down Severin. Now read on!

The fight predictably goes badly for our heroes; Severin is now just too powerful for them. I know the plan here has been heavily criticised by others: when fighting someone whose special power is being able to suck the magical energy out of supernatural creatures, why would you send supernatural creatures to fight him?  I agree with the point to an extent, although there is a counter- argument. Apparently Severin can only suck out people's power when they've been rendered helpless; until that point, he has to fight them the conventional way. Against three powerful warriors at once, including a Slayer and an elder god, there would be a hope that he would be defeated conventionally as well long before he got to the point of sucking anyone's powers.

Yes, in 'Freefall' Dowling defeated him with a normal pistol, but that was when he took him completely by surprise - and he didn't kill him despite several shots to the torso - and Severin is now much more powerful than he was back then. So there's no guarantee the "normal person with gun" strategy would have done anything other than get the normal person killed.

Meanwhile, Dawn is not dead after all. Yet. She's hooked up to a life support machine, however, in a coma, and the doctors don't have a clue what's wrong with her. Her body is "shutting down", that's all they know. Nice bit of continuity with Xander telling the doctor that Dawn's mother died of a brain aneurysm, and asking if that might be the problem here as well. It's not.

Xander talks to the unconscious Dawn, saying that he didn't feel guilty about "walking away from Buffy" earlier because he did it to keep Dawn safe. So much for that plan. He then moves quickly through Stage Two of the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief (anger) onto what seems kind of like Stage Three: bargaining. He's not going to let Dawn die, and he's going to try any desperate expedient he can think of to prevent it. What he has in mind isn't yet revealed...

Back to the battle, and Severin has won, unsurprisingly. He's about to drain Illyria's power for himself when she teleports away from him - something she's already been shown capable of. Severin tries to force Buffy to reveal where she's gone. He also tells her that he's doing this not for the power alone, but to "save her". Interesting parallel to Xander, there. Buffy realises he's talking about his girlfriend who got turned into a zompire, and figures out his plan. Then Koh stabs Severin in the back - only incapacitating him temporarily - while he's doing his supervillain act, and the two of them escape and join up with Illyria again.

And now we see Billy, who's gone back to investigate the zompire nest he, Dowling and Buffy had been attacking back at the start of this arc, before the Council summoned Buffy. As far as Billy is aware, Buffy just disappeared into thin air and he doesn’t have a clue where she went - so, to his credit, he's trying to find out. Surprisingly, Anaheed, Buffy's roommate, has followed him to the nest. Billy assumes she's a wannabe Slayer too, like him, and warns her off - setting up a plot twist I actually didn't expect and really liked. More of that in a moment.

Buffy tells the Council that she's worked out Severin's plan. He hopes that if he drains Illyria's power, he won't only receive raw magical energy, but actually absorb her ability to warp space and time. He'll go back in time to prevent his girlfriend from dying. The Council are horrified: altering the past in such a way could have disastrous consequences.

While Severin's motive - saving someone he loves - could make him sympathetic rather than an outright villain, Koh also points out that it means he'll be unwilling to listen to reason. Buffy is rather taken aback that Koh the mighty warrior has such insight into the feelings of someone in love, and I did like Koh's response that "The Nitobe are more complicated than you give us credit for."It took me a moment to get Buffy's pun in response, calling him Koh-meo (Romeo). It would probably have worked better spoken...

I also liked Buffy's deadpan "He will come after Illyria again. We need to be ready. " (He arrives) "I was hoping we'd have more time than that."
Back to Dawn's hospital bed, and it turns out Xander's desperate plan was to call Andrew, because he "used to be a master of the demonic arts". Andrew uses various magical talismans, but he can't diagnose Dawn's problem either. I smiled at his reference to wanting Hugh Laurie at his disposal, although I suspect having Dr Greg House would be more useful than having the actor who plays him.

Since he can't heal Dawn, Andrew decides that his only other option is to transfer her consciousness into a robot, like he did for Buffy earlier in the season. While this is kind of ridiculous - and Xander says so - it also makes perfect sense from a continuity perspective given the story we've already been told.  So in a rather funny scene the two of them smuggle Dawn out of the hospital, with several references to Star Trek IV (but not the Firefly episode 'Ariel').

Meanwhile, Billy has broken into the security office of the warehouse where Buffy was attacked, and is watching the footage of when Buffy vanished. But then the zompires who were using the place as a nest come back, and attack him. Oops. But then he's saved by Anaheed, who dusts multiple zompires, drags him to safety, and reveals that she actually is a Slayer. Huh? This would be the revelation I mentioned earlier. It did take me by surprise, and its' the sort of plot twist that sends you rushing back to the previous comics in the season to see if there were any clues or hints earlier. Interesting.

When she was telling Dawn about her life back in issue 9.01, she did say that after grad school she spent four years writing the first twenty pages of the Great American Novel, before getting a job as a fact-checker on a website. So it's not unreasonable that what she was actually doing, in between writing 5 pages of novel per year, was being part of the Slayer Army. Though if she's 30 now, she must have already in her mid-20s when she was Called, which is a bit of a twist to the Slayer mythology.

In the final act, Buffy and Illyria decide quickly how to deal with Severin. Illyria volunteers to act as bait: she'll confront Severin alone, but when he tries to suck her power, she'll teleport Buffy and Koh in behind his back to deal with him once and for all. She claims to not be afraid of losing her power if things go wrong because she already knows what it's like to be small and insignificant, like a human - but says that Severin could not handle absorbing her power. Buffy is quite sympathetic to her, even reassuring.

The plan goes into effect - but there's a twist. Severin somehow managed to interfere with Illyria's teleportation ability: I'm not sure how, other than "He's become very powerful". But instead of Buffy and Koh materialising behind him, they materialise somewhere else entirely. Outside a theatre somewhere in the city, by the look of it. And with Illyria not having any help, Severin is able to suck her power after all.



Posted by: red_satin_doll (red_satin_doll)
Posted at: 21st March 2013 19:51 (UTC)

Thanks for the thoughtful reply - and apologies for the rant, I oughtn't have indulged myself like that. There are elements I've liked in S9 - everyone said Guarded was dull but I liked the premise of Kennedy hiring Buffy, closer to the real-world quality of the show - and there are even things I've liked in S8 (and I'm as shocked as anyone.)

She's maybe slightly resentful in general that, in her eyes, her sister and Xander have pulled away from her in order to "live a normal life", but even if she doesn't like that choice she accepts their right to make it. But when Dawn collapsed in issue 9.17, Buffy had already been kidnapped by the Council and was out of contact.

Thank you for that breakdown, that sounds very much like Buffy - and obviously I didn't know she'd been kidnapped. By the council? Wait, what? Oh dear, I'll need to read your past reviews.

She does in fact learn about what's up with Dawn in the next issue, 9.19, and her reaction - and her reaction to Xander and his own feelings on the matter - is as powerful and complex as you could desire

Oh THAT I would dearly love to see - not enough to actually buy the comic (unemployed here, so I've got an excuse) so I'll have to rely on your review of it, but you are being a tease.

I really didn't know about the women on the writing team so thank you for pointing that out to me. The only women I'd heard mentioned in connection to the comics previously were Espenson and Chen. But I'm not looking to hard, either; it's just that Chambliss, Allie etc are the names that are most often mentioned by fans (on my flist anyway.)

I think it's simply the nature of comics that "emotional and psychological resonances" tend to get left behind when you're showing 22 pages of flash images of people's faces. Which isn't to say it's impossible to dwell on the emotional side of things, but it tends to be much more of an either/or proposition.

I can agree with this and it's well-said, but I think I have to accept - or I'm coming around to - lostboy's argument that the comics are their own canon, and I have to see them as such, rather than an absolute linear continuation of the series (although I know a lot of people do, and that's great if it works for them.) I don't think i expressed myself clearly - and I'm too tired to really do so right now either, alas.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 22nd March 2013 14:58 (UTC)

'Council' is what the group of supernatural entities (including D'Hoffryn and Illyria, plus others we've not met previously) was calling itself. It's got nothing to do with the Watchers' Council, which no longer exists AFAWK.

As for the Buffy writing team: to be fair, there are more men than women in total - so far the writers credited on Season 9 are Andrew Chambliss (16 of 19 issues), Joss Whedon, Drew Z. Greenberg and Jane Espenson (1 issue each). Plus Scott Allie is the outside face of Dark Horse as far as relations with the press and fandom goes, so it's not surprising he's better known than Sierra and Freddye. Still, there's a tendency among some fans to assume that the comics are an exclusive boys-only club, and to treat that as an "explanation" for whatever aspect of the comics is unpopular with that fan. As you'll gather, I don't think it's that simple. :)

As for canon: ultimately, we all decide for ourselves how we react to a particular piece of art or media. But when the same people who wrote the original think of themselves as producing a sequel, it seems a tad presumptuous to tell them flatly that they're mistaken about what they're doing. I know, death of the author and all that, but even so. :)

Posted by: red_satin_doll (red_satin_doll)
Posted at: 22nd March 2013 16:32 (UTC)

I had a rather concise response ready and then Safari crashed on me for the second time in as many days. *insert favorite four-letter word*

Thank you very much for the explanation on the "council"; I didn't think there would still be a Watcher's Council of any sort. (Although presumably there are still ex-Watchers about, and there are still Slayers in the world and - oh, never mind.)

As for canon: ultimately, we all decide for ourselves how we react to a particular piece of art or media

Hence my phrasing: "I have to see them as such" and "although I know a lot of people do". You can insert "headcanon" if you prefer. I don't see anything wrong with considering the tv show and the comics separate canons FOR MYSELF, I didn't mean to imply that I can dictate that matter to anyone else.

But regarding presumptuousness and whatnot, Infinitewhale has quoted Joss as saying that he'd essentially scrap the comics and start over if he had the chance to revive Buffy in live-action format; I realize I'm getting this second-hand, but I still have no difficulty in thinking that each format can be seen as it's own canon if one chooses to do so - or not. By the same token I think it's presumptuous of someone to tell me that I HAVE to accept something as canon (straight linear continuation of the tv show) - and I'm not pointing fingers at you by any means, but I've heard that from other people.

I think "death of the author" is a strange and poorly worded term and something I don't wholly subscribe to, assuming I understand the meaning and intent of that phrase; I suspect it is often misused or misunderstood. I do subscribe by "believe the tale, not the teller" if and when I have to make a choice between what the text is telling me and what the author is telling me they meant to say, which is not necessarily the same thing. (Hell, how often have I thought I was conveying one thing in a story - or even in any comment thread on LJ - when the reader was receiving or interpreting quite another?) In other words, I'm not eliminating the author, but I'm not eliminating myself as a maker of meaning and a co-creator of the piece. (Fanfiction and fanwankery would be impossible otherwise.)

But I suspect this is a subject on which we can talk ourselves to death in little circles with diminishing returns.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 22nd March 2013 17:00 (UTC)

Infinitewhale has quoted Joss as saying that he'd essentially scrap the comics and start over if he had the chance to revive Buffy in live-action format

That's a pretty misleading and selective account of what Joss actually said. He was asked back in 2009 if he'd use the comics storylines if he ever returned to shooting live-action 'Buffy' stories. He replied that "Hypothetically, if you could make things align, that would be fun" and that "it would be lovely to make it all tie in" - but then he countered that by saying that if "I had to shoot down everything that I'm doing in the comic because we were doing a project filming with these actual people" he wouldn't lose sleep over it.

In other words, he's never said that he would ignore the comics, and certainly he's never said he'd "start over". Just that in the (massively hypothetical) situation that he and the original Buffy cast ever got back together to do a movie or whatever, he'd like to keep to the Season 8/9 storyline because it would be "fun", but he wouldn't lose sleep if he had to change it to make the movie work.

After all, 'Serenity' wasn't a direct follow-up from the 'Firefly' TV series either. Certain things were outright changed, such as the details of how Simon rescued River from the Alliance; others were skimmed over, such as what happened to make Book and Inara leave the crew.

Likewise, if Tony Head signed up to do a 'Buffy' movie I really can't see Joss telling him, "Sorry, I can't give you a part because you're dead". He'd retcon things to get Giles a role, somehow or other.

14 Read Comments