As I stated above, this issue is firing on almost all cylinders. While the story line is still slightly weighed down by the missing pieces in the explanation of what “Twilight” is, most of the characters are so enjoyable in this issue that I am more than willing to wait for those answers in the upcoming conclusion over the next few months. For now, I will just take the ride with the rest of the gang.
The issue opens with a flash back of “Angel” falling from an open portal and crash landing on the famous Hollywood sign. After dusting himself off, he is greeted by one of the “powers that be” in the form of a dog. As the dog explains, “Angel’s” reward for saving Los Angeles is the “Superman”-like powers he displays later in season eight of Buffy. The dog also explains that “Angel’s” actions have shown him to be the right choice for the mantel of “Twilight.” Many readers have expressed confusion as to where “Angel” was returning from, but anyone who has read IDW’s Angel: After The Fall should easily piece together that “Angel” and the dog are referring to his return from the hell dimension to which Wolfram & Hart temporarily sent Los Angeles. The main confusion here is that in Angel: After The Fall, we witness “Angel” and his crew returning instantly from the hell dimension to the middle of the alley battle they started in the final episode of Angel season five. We could assume that, with his new powers, “Angel” could easily zip from the Hollywood sign to the alley behind the Hyperion in a matter of seconds. We could even hypothesize that, since “Angel” is dead briefly before the “Angel” gang returns from the hell version of Los Angeles, perhaps, his conversation with the “powers that be” in dog form could take place moments before the others return: the very instant that “Gunn” lops “Angel’s” head off.
In another flashback, we see “Spike” and his ship (from the last issue of Buffy) flying through its own portal, appearing in London and crashing through Big Ben, mainly because “Spike” feels it would be fun. “Spike” and his yet-to-be-explained crew of bugs maintain this rebellious and fun energy throughout the whole issue. This reminds me of the old days of the Buffy television show, when the writers were overjoyed to discover that “Spike” would up the stakes in each scene in which he was included. During the final season of the television show, “Spike” felt slightly out of place, like the writers didn’t know what to do with him once he lost a bit of his snark. He also suffered a bit this way during his time on Angel, mainly because he was playing the necessary second fiddle to the lead, but here, in comic book form, he fits like a glove…a glove with a crew of bugs.
I also want to pause for a moment and give IDW and Dark Horse their dues for connecting the two universes. While the announcement was an epic fail, the fact that this issue is so enriched by IDW story lines should make any fan proud. IDW obviously is responsible for the creation of Angel: After The Fall, but the company will also be publishing the story that leads “Spike” up to this issue of Buffy and will explain the origins of his crew of bugs and their ship. Along with making the Buffyverse seem even more epic and real, these two publishing companies have put aside any professional differences they may have had and have worked together for the better of the fans and the overall story. This is a small miracle in itself and shows the fanboy love that must be present in both companies.
As we continue to witness the flashbacks of “Spike” and “Angel” in side by side panels, we begin to see how they reached their current positions in season eight. “Angel” continues to be prepared to become “Twilight” by the powers as they speak to him through multiple forms. They encourage him to focus “Buffy’s” foes into a single target: “Twilight.” Meanwhile, “Spike,” who has apparently been out of town for some time with his bugs, catches up on current events and “Buffy’s” terrorist status. He also starts investigating the rise of “Twilight” as a resistance movement against the slayers. The kicker comes in the below panel where “Spike,” in typical fashion, sees right through the smokescreen to the truth of the matter.
Many readers have posted online, stating that they felt that this issue was really Joss putting a final stake in the Buffy/Spike movement. Buffy does say to Angel, “…you have my heart…and he has a ship…” in regards to Spike, which some took as a thinly veiled jab at the Buffy/Spike shippers. I didn’t see it this way. First off, despite my love for the peroxide vampire, I thought it was pretty clear during the end of season seven of Buffy that Spike was close to her heart, but just wasn’t the one. Sure, Joss left it with some wiggle room to it, but Spike denies her claim of love for him, and thanks her for saying it since he’s about to die. While it may be fair to say Buffy loved Spike in that moment, I think it’s also fair to say she’s never been in love with him the way she was with Angel. While I think there’s still potential for a lot of passion and heat between the characters, it’s been clear from the beginning that Angel and Buffy are meant for each other in a star-crossed lovers/destiny typ
e of way. This is some what strengthened by the alternate cover for this issue by Georges Jeanty. A riff on the Twilight: New Moon film poster, I would say it’s safe to assume their was thought put in to placing Angel in Edward’s position and Spike in Jacob’s. Despite wether you love or hate Stephanie Meyer’s characters, I think most people know who the true love is, despite that those films are still dragging out that love triangle.
Second, while we don’t have a love triangle going on here, the two vampires are clearly being set at odds with each other and with Buffy in between. Both Spike and Buffy, despite her claims of love, state that they don’t trust Angel and Buffy even sends him away because the rest of the group is so uncomfortable with his presence. A number of readers have commented on the oddly written behavior between Angel and Buffy in the issue. Despite the two hundred plus slayers that Angel is responsible for killing, among other nasty deeds done as Twilight, Buffy is very lovey-dovey with the vampire. They openly flirt with each other and Buffy mentions that not only is this “the best day of her life”, but she tells Angel that because he gave up paradise for her, that he’s the man she’d want to spend the rest of her life with. I think the fan base bristled so much because the way Buffy interacts with Spike is a cold extreme when compared to her treatment of Angel. While I agree with this sentiment, unlike other readers, I don’t think this is the result of bad writing. I think everything is going according to plan, but we just don’t yet know the plan. While I totally think Buffy would melt to see Angel give up a perfect world for her, she is acting very nonchalant when it comes to Twilight’s misdeeds. The same could be said of Angel himself. Dark Horse editor, Scott Allie has mentioned numerous times that both characters are still under the influence of Twilight’s afterglow and this could easily be the explanation we’re looking for. If the universe is seeking to evolve through the alpha slayer and alpha vampire, then if makes sense that they are currently “in heat” for each other. And how much more trying and painful will it be to feel that undeniable attraction every time they are close to each other despite the horrible stuff occurring because of their actions? And trust me, horrible seems like it’s just around the corner.
So where do we go from here? Well, there are four issues left of Buffy season eight, so the end is upon us. In the final pages of this issue, we learn that the gang, sans Angel, is heading back to Sunnydale to unearth an artifact called the seed of wonder. And who has the seed, but ol’ fruit punch mouth! That’s right, the Master has returned! Who knows how or why he is back (some have suggested he is The First), but his return will certainly intensify the ending. Now, many could’ve easily missed it, but we have seen the seed before in season eight. Back in issue ten, when Willow and Buffy visited the lair of the sephrilian one of the images of the future shown to them was a badly injured and crying Buffy lying next to a hovering and shattered seed of wonder. Robin, guardian of the lair of sephrilian, tells the two women that this will be a “Betrayal. The closest, the most unexpected.” Along with a nasty looking betrayal, I’d be surprised if Joss and company don’t factor in the “end of all magic” from the Fray miniseries. In Fray, a single slayer and some supernatural allies are responsible for banishing all magic and demons from Earth. A single panel from the comic shows the faceless slayer, who is pencilled to resemble Buffy, being sucked in to a portal with the last of demon kind. Given that a Fray arc was already present in season eight and the fact that Twilight has been forging a war against magic, I’d be very surprised if this banishing doesn’t appear in some form during the conclusion of this season. If this were to happen, would characters like Willow lose their magic abilities? We still need to know how and why she becomes the dark version of herself Buffy killed in the future. We know demons and vampires would be banished, so Spike and Angel are in danger. Would characters like Dawn, Oz or the numerous slayers, who are part magical, be banished as well? An upcoming cover by Jo Chen shows a some what lifeless looking Dawn in the arms of Xander. Do Dawn and Twilight have a connection given their names? Both are responsible for opening portals with bodily fluids. And beyond the banishment of all demons and magic, I think Buffy, Spike and Angel are all in for some pain. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some serious consequences for our vamps, especially since Dark Horse nabbed the license recently. All I’m saying is that acquiring the Angel license would be something you’d need to do before you had something horrible and possibly permanent happen to the character of Spike or Angel.
So, for clarity’s sake, let’s review. We have an upcoming battle in the crater that used to be Sunnydale. The Master will be there, the seed of wonder will be shattered and Buffy will suffer an unexpected betrayal from a close source that leaves her bloody and crying. Dawn will end up in Xander’s arms, dead or injured, and by the end of things all magic and demons will be sucked through a portal, probably with Buffy too. Willow will go dark and Angel will most likely have suffered some sort of punishment for his role as Twilight. Things aren’t looking too bright for the beginning of season nine. I do have a friend who believes that writers will have Spike shanshu in order to avoid having him be banished with the rest of demon kind and that Buffy, even if she doesn’t realize it, is this season’s big bad. It would be an interesting twist and a lot of the Twilight events could support this. We’ll have to wait and see.
Lastly, I just wanted to briefly comment on many of the negative things I’ve seen posted online in regards to season eight and how it is beyond repair. Even if you hate season eight, in fact, especially if you hate season eight, I implore you to sit down one day after the entire season eight has been released and read it start to finish. Take some time with it. Discover the small moments you’d forgotten and see how the factor in. In the end, season eight will be forty issues and quit
e an accomplishment for Joss and team Buffy. It will certainly take up a respectable amount of space on your book shelf, that’s for sure. At that length, any well written comic book would be hard to follow issue to issue. Unlike a television show, a month or more passes between each issue of a comic book, and this, of course, makes it harder to follow. Things are forgotten or skipped over, especially the subtle things. Also, the medium of comic books and graphic novels are designed for you to be able to refer to previous issues and pages as often as you choose or to study images and panels for as long as you choose. The final experience of season eight won’t be complete until you can read all forty issues back to back and I guess I’m just suggesting that any good Buffy fan may want to consider reserving their ultimate judgement of season eight until they can read the entire story with the intended rhythm and pacing of the writers planned. I’d also suggest catching up on IDW’s Angel series, since it’s looking like it will be considered canon.