“Everybody is curious about us vamps these days. I think I fingered a zeitgeist.” – Harmony, Issue #21
“Let us talk of the Vampyrs.” – Andrew, Issue #21
“My parents bought it for me. Before I destroyed them with my gayness.” – Satsu, Issue #22
“Big buts come with the Slayer territory these days and I probably should have reviewed that sentence before unleashing it on the sensitive womenfolk.” – Xander, Issue #22
Although it may not seem like it, we’re two issues into a five-issue arc right now, called “Predators and Prey”. It’s a looser arc than some of the previous ones, as evidenced by the individual titles. And in the case of these two issues, the focus has been on B-List characters, as a device to make us aware of a growing public awareness of both Vampires and Slayers in the world.
Some history: Back in 2002, Joss Whedon and Jeph Loeb got FOX to green light a deal for “Buffy the Animated Series”. It would be kid-friendly, the episodes would take place somewhere in the middle of Season 1, most of the actors from the show would do the voices, and most of the episodes would be written by the writers who were currently working on the show at that time. But, FOX being FOX, the series never happened, and the closest we’ve ever gotten to seeing it is the three and half minute promo that leaked to YouTube this past August.
HERE IS THAT, GO CHECK IT OUT
So there’s your context for this one-shot issue, written by Jeph Loeb, in what I have to figure is a nice bit of closure for him. As well as an appropriate story for the Christmas season. Let’s call it the “Ghosts of Buffy Past” issue — a nice counterpoint to the several issues we just spent in Fray’s dystopian future.
“Let us show these abominations the forest’s rage!” – Lorelahn, to the Forest Souls
“Followed quickly by the forest’s denial, bargaining, and then short, painful acceptance.” – Xander
“She’s just a tiny whiney, long-dead slayer … in a damn unpractical frock.” – Fray, about Buffy
First of all, how awesome is that cover? I’ve been extremely happy with the artwork on the inside of Buffy Season 8 throughout the run (something I can’t say about Angel: ATF), but Jo Chen’s painted covers have really been the icing on the cake. Click here to see a full view of the cover if you don’t own the book yourself, because you don’t want to miss the detail in the eye. I have to figure that Alyson Hannigan has this framed in her house somewhere, right?
“Hey, Baby, there’s no need to curse like a nerd.” -Kennedy to Willow, who just said, “Frak!”
“What’s your deal, anyway? With the fire and the branches and the sword — did you get caught in a legend blender?” – Dawn, to the Forest Souls
A few minutes ago, I started to write, “If ‘Time of Your Life’ was a song, then this issue would definitely be the bridge.” Meaning the plot arc. And then I realized that “Time of Your Life” IS a song. By Green Day. And then it occurred to me that unless Whedon is referencing the short-lived Jennifer Love Hewitt Party of Five spin-off of the same name, the lyrics to that song might be relevant.
“Another turning point / A fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist / Directs you where to go
So make the best of this test / And don’t ask why
It’s not a question / But a lesson learned in time
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I hope you had the time of your life.”
“We were played. We’re all pasties.” – Willow
“You are talking crazy-person talk. Put your words in word places, please.” – Buffy
“Vampires are lurks. A spin is a lie. Toy is bad, but spled is good.” And thus begins Fray 101. Joss does a bit of catch-up in this issue, for those who are silly enough not to have read the Fray TPB already. Other critical bits of info include the fact that Melaka Fray has a twin brother named Harth. Mel has the physical powers of a Slayer, but Harth holds the prophetic memories of past Slayers in his mind. Unfortunately, he’s a vamp — er, that is, he’s a lurk. Mel also has an older sister, Erin Fray, who’s a cop. And a pet spider monkey demon named Gates, which she acquired in a story from “Tales of the Slayers” … which is also when she found the Watcher Library that she currently lives in. And she has a merman associate named Gunther, who sometimes sends her out on thieving jobs.
And that’s the Fray universe that Buffy is introduced to in this second installment of the Whedon/Moline “Time of Your Life” arc. As for what actually happens …
“Man, you really haven’t lived until you’ve had Scottish Chinese take-out. Anybody want some more sweet and sour haggis?” – Xander
“Great. Three magic enchantments wherein my ass is huge.” – Dawn
This issue begins the four-part “Time of Your Life” arc, which features — as the cover tells us — “The Return of Fray”. In fact, the entire Fray team is back for this arc: Joss Whedon writing, Karl Moline on pencils, Andy Owens on inks, and Michelle Madsen on colors. So everything looks beautiful and reads undeniably Buffy-ful. In fact, I think I’ve re-read page 5 a few dozen times already, because I don’t think I’ve ever read something that makes me hear the voices of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, and Nicholas Brendan in my head as strongly as the dialogue on that page.
When Willow says, “Ah, quitcher grousin’,” and, “No no, you’re making up made-up things,” Joss is not only writing in the voice of a character he created, but also in the voice of the actress who portrayed her. And that’s just all kinds of awesome to me. And a little saddening too, because of course it makes me miss the TV show. Continue reading
“It’s a very distinguished list. It has people like … um … Judi Dench and Eleanor Roosevelt on it.” – Buffy to Willow
“I like blue jeans and irony.” – Dawn (sort of … you’ll see)
With this issue, Drew Goddard’s four-part story, “Wolves at the Gate,” draws to a close. And I have to say … this was easily my favorite plot arc of the season so far. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed Joss Whedon’s introductory four-parter (“The Long Way Home”), but by then, I hadn’t yet renewed my emotional attachment to these characters. And while Brian K. Vaughn’s three-part Faith story (“No Future for You”) kicked ASS, it was literally detached from the rest of the Buffy universe.
But THIS plot arc? Which starts with Buffy discovering a new side of herself, and ends with a Dracula that you actually find yourself rooting for? Absolute genius. Especially this issue, which is about as tight as a story gets, and has the frenetically satisfying pathos of a season finale.
“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. Continue reading
“For the record, I’ve never worn manservant bloomers.” – Xander to Renee
Who knew Dracula was such a racist? I guess it makes sense — he didn’t exactly grow up in the most politically correct of times. Regardless, the bromance overtures between he and Xander with Renee watching on were priceless. And the casting of a tiny purple Peter Lorre in the role of Dracula’s new manservant was both bizarre and inspired.
Turns out that Dracula, while drinking rubbing alcohol in Tibet, gambled away his secret powers to some Japanese vampires while playing Chinese dominoes, all for the sake of a motorcycle. As if that premise isn’t ludicrously brilliant in and of itself, we know from Andrew’s (hilarious) scene that it was Xander himself who taught Dracula how to ride a motorbike in the first place, thus setting him up for that particular fall. Continue reading