"Wolves at the Gate (Part 3)"
Plot: Now that they know what the Japanese vamps want, Buffy stages a short and quick strike mission with a few simple goals: get back the scythe, and dust all those uppity vamps. Luckily for her, Dracula wants to help.
Comments: It's not Buffy if it's not gory and gross occasionally, and Aiko's fate at the hands of the Tokyo vamps is a grim issue opener. Jeanty does a lovely job with a Buddhist shrine when Buffy retrieves her corpse, and from then on it's an oddly macabre but humorous tone when Dracula arrives with his usual loving disdain.
Goddard pulls off the dialogue wonderfully, and that really may be the best part of this arc, which, in the tradition of the show we watched so closely for seven seasons, doesn't represent big or little bads, just a bit of local color as the real threats build in the background. These Tokyo vamps, for all their big plans and general weirdness, aren't much more than filler, and there's no real sense that they'll actually succeed at turning all the Slayers back into weak little girls, ripe for the eating.
The vamp-baiting they do on Japanese turf to gather intel is old hat for the Scooby Gang, and the love-life shenanigans for Buffy/Satsu and Xander/Renee provide minor-key soapiness. What makes this issue work is the humor amidst the carnage, and that is provided by a very needy and superior Dracula (really a dangerous combination, complete arrogance meets deep-seated insecurity, guaranteed chuckles) and by a use finally being found for Dawn's Season Eight affliction that almost makes its protracted endurance worthwhile. The covers (both of them, oddly) give that one away.
Surprising murders do not instant classics make, but great dialogue and beautiful art still make this an above average read. The momentum of Season Eight rolls on.
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