“Retreat” (part 2)
Plot: Let Jo Chen's quietly surreal cover be your guide. Yaks. A Japanese submarine. Xander and Dawn drinking Tibetan tea. Yep, it's another installment of the International Slayer Gang!
Comments: I don't know if it's me that hasn't been paying attention, or the stories that have gotten a little unfocused in this, the onset of the title's third year. Who thought it would last that long? And still be of recognizably the same quality?
If anything, it's a little too much of the same quality. Oh, Georges Jeanty has established himself as one of the greatest of Buffy illustrators. His likenesses are serviceable, but more importantly he has a bright, energetic style that effortlessly flows to both the drama and the comedy required by this "show."
And Joss using the show's original writers, who all learned the hang of Buffyspeak (which no, for me, still has not dated, but is unlike the language normally known to boys and girls) on the job with the master, is still clearly the right way to go. A few of the new, comic-only Slayers have even distinguished themselves into clear, strong personalities (though overall they're still more a mass of bossy chicks unruly-ruled by Buffy herself).
But if this were really season 8, we'd have met our Big Bad and had our big battle by now. While some plots have resolved (the Thrice-Wise issue where Dawn finally stopped changing into things was actually quite sweet and spooky), we still don't know who the hell Twilight is. Or how he roped Riley, Amy and Warren into working with him. Only that he "knows" Buffy. Time to rip off that fruity mask, tele-writers! You of all people know how short our attention spans are anymore!
To be fair, of course this isn't a TV show, and time in comics does flow fairly slowly compared to other forms of storytelling (maybe soaps have it beat, but only just). If that's the case, we're into the late mid-season here, where lots of things are happening but the big shocks are yet to come.
And we've got the changed circumstances that have evolved in this book: vampires have better PR than Slayers, and have become media darlings while Buffy is seen as a terrorist. That'll last until she saves the world again (and maybe even longer) but right now she's on the run. And so are Faith and Giles. And so are Andrew and his Italian slayer brigade. And so is the Japanese squad (hence the sub) led by Satsu. And so is an increasingly desperate and ruthless Willow (who is once again dipping into black-eyed temptation, and leading a squad of Wicca-Slayers down the same dark path). Yes, they're going for the magic addiction route again, which I didn't like in Season 6 and don't like anymore now. But, given the Whedon-penned Fray vs. Buffy arc (probably the pinnacle of year two of this title, where Future Willow was very dark indeed), you can't say it's out of character.
Where all these refugees turn up is on Oz's doorstep, and Espenson and Jeanty channel the full-on Seth Green irony within an inch of their lives. Oz is, as usual, fairly copacetic with the arrival of a nuclear sub in his mountain retreat, but as he points out, "You just made my home into a very big target." Buffy's doing her unavoidable thing of endangering her family and friends again, because her lifestyle choice leads her to oppose some pretty nasty characters. Luckily, being a family of werewolves might give Oz's folks a bit of an edge over, say, Joyce and Dawn.
What did you think of this book?
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