“A Beautiful Sunset”
Starting right at the cover, BTVSSE #11 gets off to a great start.
Brian K. Vaughn did an excellent job on his run, but I crave the Whedon when I get a fix of the Buffy-goodness.
And there it was, the name of this issue’s writer, staring back at me from the cover on the shelf at my Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop: Joss Whedon.
Oh, yeah, Jonny likee.
And then I read it – and Jonny still likee, only a little less.
This issue does little to further the story of Season Eight. In fact, only two things of note happen from a plotting perspective: Buffy gets her ass handed to her by this season’s big bad, and we learn the identity of the person whose love for Buffy awakened her from that magic coma.
Let’s take a look at that fight scene first. It’s de rigueur in a Buffy season to have her get squashed by the antagonist early on, to heighten the sense of danger in the season’s climax. In pro wrestling, the same thing is accomplished, or attempted, by giving the bad guy some wins over the good guy before their final match, the “blow off”. This is called building up your heel, and this issue builds up the heel. But the fact that Buffy, at first, can never beat her enemies is a given, so this issue’s conflict reads like a formality. We know what will happen. No surprises here. The question is whether or not their final battle, their blow off, will be any good; this issue’s fight is all set-up, with little or no merit on its own.
As for this issue’s second major plot point, minor spoiler alert: The smitten person who loved Buffy enough to awaken her is fellow Slayer Satsu. Buffy gives her a nice “I’m-flattered-but-I’m-straight” speech, and that’s that. Only we know that isn’t that – we know more will come of this, so once again we’re treated to some set-up in this issue.
By issue eleven of a book, I expect a little more each month than set-up.
Be that as it may, this is still a great read, especially for Buffy fans. The highlight is a conversation between Buffy and Xander that simply pops with that great Whedon-esque dialogue. And, in contrast to the otherwise set-up-focused issue, this exchange takes on an extra level of meaning if one is familiar with the characters, and in this scene Whedon assumes we are, eschewing explicit, exposition-heavy dialogue for a more naturalistic exchange. As a result, their conversation is alternatively funny, sweet, and even melodramatic, enhancing what would have been, if handled by most other writers, simply a talking heads scene.
For example, when Xander tells Buffy that her new sideline as an international jewel thief is “incredibly sexy,” Buffy simply ignores the comment. Longtime fans can interpret this as yet another example of Xander’s lingering crush on Buffy, and they can see Buffy’s refusal to answer as evidence that she still prefers to pretend those feelings do not exist rather than confront them head-on. Thus when she addresses Satsu’s crush directly and lets her down easy, we can see that all is not well between Buffy and Xander, he approaches her with indications of his love and she simply retreats behind a façade of ignorance rather than dealing once again with his unrequited love, whereas she confronts other would-be lovers directly. Thus we can infer there is a tension between these Scoobs that they are failing to talk about, and we can assume it will be a problem later.
OR we could assume that Buffy’s dream from issue one, in which she and Xander were lovers, was accurate, in which case we have to wonder what has happened to their relationship if she now refuses to acknowledge Xander’s affections.
OR it could simply have been Xander being Xander, cracking a joke, and Buffy could have been too focused on her problems to comment on it.
That level of interactivity with the story – that kind of character-driven complexity – is sorely lacking in most comics, and in the worlds of literature and television and movies and, hell, all media. That’s Whedon. Whedon is good.
So what if this isn’t Whedon at his best? So what if it is mostly set-up for stories to come? Whedon at his worst is better than most everyone else at their best, and Buffy set-up is better than most titles’ climaxes.
What did you think of this book?
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