“Retreat” (part 4)
Plot: Jeanty genius on the cover, which is one classy version of Xander and the Howling Commandos! Yep, it's a war issue, and Buffy has always been about how pretty little girls can kill and be killed.
Comments: This issue feels more like an episode of the show than any I can recall in months and it also gives us a very strong bead on where things are going with this seasonal arc. Forget the distractions of Warren and Amy. Forget Japanese vamps. Forget (but not for long) the evil of future Willow and the twisted world inherited by Melaka Fray.
Heck, forget Twilight, despite his ugly mien on the cover of the other variant. Who needs him? This is where it gets down and dirty for Buffy; the military (that fears her) facing the best little general they never promoted. Or wooed. Respect and fear, unfortunately, aren't the same thing, so Buffy still has some lessons to teach.
All the characters and their nifty powers come together this issue, thrown into relief since they ain't using them anymore. The werewolves have taught them how to channel their powers into the earth, with an air of "good riddance" from most quarters.
Only Willow has a meltdown, beyond frustrated that her eyes can't go black and she can't just smite everyone in sight. Which should be frightening, but, hey, Willow has her own path, and future Willow knew it, too. Buffy is trying to not be distracted by the of Dawn/Xander coupling (the other Slayers are more of my mind set, dubbing the inevitable couple the new "mama and papa"). Hey, didn't those used to be her and Giles' roles?
Those two seasoned warriors have graduated to career veteran status, trading war stories as they lock and load their weapons by rote. "Executive Producer" Joss Whedon and his cadre of staff writers have done their job of continuing to grow their characters in the eighth season. Like Giles and Buffy, we see a different Faith at this point too, one that is a willing and vital member of the team, because she's benefited from an extended alliance with Giles where some of her long standing issues have actually been worked through.
Jeanty not only hits a homer with that Kirby-riffic cover, he makes the battles inside count, too. Not by upping the gore and guts--that would just be too obvious, and untrue to all he's done thus far. No, he's made real characters of the comics only newbies, so that when Oz's wife (well, the mother of his child, at least) is injured in battle, you worry as much about Bay (and know exactly which one she is) as you would for the ones that still sound like their actors in your mind.
As is usual in a Whedon series, surprise alliances and last-minute reveals up the stakes of the battle in ways that thrill and evince a long term plan. Clever stuff. I almost hate the idea of Twilight finally revealing his whiny self because there's no way that issue can be as good as this one was.
What did you think of this book?
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