“Ahem. We have to go to war now. Please stop that.” – Dracula to Xander & Renee
“That is, in fact, a giant Godzilla woman wreaking havoc on your minions.” – Buffy to Toru
This issue is brutal on the first page, brutal on the last page, and brutal right in the middle. Granted, the brutality in the middle is aimed at a soul-less vampire who was about to kill what he believes to be a helpless school girl, but still … the cold ease with which the Scoobies dispose of the “Vamp in the Box” shows us that they understand just how serious things are. As Buffy herself says in the lead-in to the next scene, “This is war.” The stakes of which are the powers of every Slayer, and consequently, the power those Slayers need to fight the forces of Twilight.
The death of Aiko last issue was brutal enough. But finding her body strapped to the side of a building, her blood used as ink, seems especially so. You can almost see another little piece of Buffy’s soul drain out of her as she carries Aiko’s body to the temple. With each issue, she becomes more the leader, more the general — and by necessity, less the carefree Slayer we once knew. And in that light, perhaps her fling with Satsu makes a certain kind of sense. Satsu is the younger version of herself that she can’t be any more. New Buffy cannot afford to be intimate with Old Buffy, and so chooses instead to be intimate with a proxy. A proxy she wants to protect, to keep innocent … but who, like her, is too strong-willed to do as she’s told.
Stepping away from brutality for a moment, how awesome is that Dawnzilla scene? It’s a nice payoff to an ongoing plot point that’s had everybody scratching their head for the past year or so. I especially enjoy the moment when Dawn truly embraces her “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”-ness, lets out with a giant ROAR, and starts smashing buildings. There’s a metaphor in that — the teenager who is perhaps the tallest or heaviest girl in her class, who suddenly recognizes her inner strength, her inner Helen Reddy, and sings out, “I am woman, hear me ROAR!”
In fact, if you haven’t lately, go read the lyrics to that song — “I Am Woman” — because I’m convinced that it’s heavily informing the story right now. Not only for Dawn, but for her big sister as well, and for all of the Slayers. Having found their power (via the Scythe), these girls are not willing to lose it. “I’ve been down there on the floor/No one’s ever gonna keep me down again.” And for Buffy, how appropriate is, “Oh yes I am wise/But it’s wisdom born of pain.” More and more, I can see that Goddard’s “Wolves at the Gate” plot arc is a bit of a feminist anthem … you know, even moreso than the series in general tends to be.
All the more horrifying then is the final scene. Renee impaled on the same Scythe that originally gave her her power. Renee, who embodied that power as much as anybody, unafraid to take the lead in her relationship with Xander just a handful of pages earlier. And poor Xander. As with Buffy at the start of this issue, and as with Willow when Tara was killed, we know what this will do to him — sap away a bit of his soul, and make him colder, more deadly, and less the Xander we used to know. Dark Xander, anyone?
Looking ahead, the next issue wraps up Goddard’s 4-parter. After that, Joss himself takes the reins again, for a 4-parter entitled “Time of Your Life” in issues 16-19. Without spoiling too much, all I have to say is one word. (Highlight text to read this spoiler.) Actually, a name. It begins with F, ends with Y, and rhymes with “tray”. Okay, screw it, it’s Fray, the Future Slayer! So if you haven’t read that trade paperback yet, run, don’t walk, to buy it today. And if you have already, then it might be time to read it again to prepare yourself. Karl Moline & Andy Owens will be back as the artists, and there’s a great interview with Moline over on CBR …
In fact, if you’d like to see a preview of the first few pages of Issue 16 (courtesy of MySpace Comic Books), click the following link. It doesn’t spoil anything more than I’ve already told you.