“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
“Oh, hi Buffy. Hi nude Asian girl.” – Andrew to Buffy/Satsu
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Four pages into “Wolves at the Gate, Part 1,” (a.k.a. Issue #12) we find Buffy in bed in with Satsu, both of them naked. And yes, it’s exactly what it looks like. Buffy has entered Willow territory. Which in this case makes her the WORST BOSS EVER. Especially since she spent all of the previous issue insisting to Satsu that she should NOT be in love with her, and that such feelings could only end badly. But if we’ve learned anything about Buffy over the years, it’s that she fully embraces her role as a master of mixed messages and the queen of failing to consider how her actions might adversely affect others, emotionally or physically.
Having said that, it certainly made for a most shocking splash page, no? And in true Whedon fashion, a hilarious turn of events as well. No sooner does Buffy finish telling Satsu that she should exercise discretion, Xander bursts into the room, then his new squeeze (slayerette Renee), then a groggy Andrew. Then Dawn peeks in through the window. Then Willow crashes through the ceiling, finally offering Buffy a needed diversion … Continue reading
“Go ahead. Church me. Plenty more where I came from.” – Buffy to Twilight
Issue # 11, “A Beautiful Sunset” is another story written by Whedon himself. We finally get confirmation of whose “true love kiss” woke Buffy out of that sleeping spell back in issue #4. And the winner is … Satsu, the Asian slayerette who is currently the strongest of the Scrappy Doo pack. If you were paying attention, of course, you already knew this; there was a whole cinnamon lip gloss detail that kind of gave it away. But as Buffy takes her out for some one-on-one training, she confronts Satsu on the matter, and tries to impress upon her that historically, falling in love with Buffy is a lethal proposition. As if to prove this, while on rounds, they are attacked by this season’s Big Bad himself, Twilight.
Twilight fights well, lifts heavy things, flies, lifts and throws heavy things while flying, and all in all seems to have a Superman level of power. He knocks Satsu out, then toys with Buffy for a while, both physically and mentally. You definitely get the impression that if he wanted to kill Buffy, he could. But as he later points out, “That’s been done. To little effect.” His plan instead is to demoralize her, “to strip her of her greatest armor … her moral certainty,” by convincing her that creating so many new slayers has not improved the world, and is more likely hurting it. It’s a concern that Buffy already has — that for every good slayer they train, the rogue ones create even more problems — so his words end up having exactly the effect he’d hope for, nudging Buffy into a nihilistic funk.
“It’s too dangerous! We can ski down these crazy Alps in the morning, but till then, television’s Tina Fey … we must find a way to keep warm.” – Willow to Tina Fey
Issue #10 is an extra long stand-alone story penned by Whedon himself, titled “Anywhere But Here”. The focus has shifted away from Faith and Giles, and back to the core players. Buffy and Willow are off on a mission to enlist the aid of a powerful demon against the threat of Twilight, while Xander and Dawn have some quiet time back at the castle. The overall theme, as reiterated over and over by Sephrilian — a big wormy-looking Tichajt demon with huge teeth, arms, and four faces, who exists in some kind of warped time/space bubble — is that humans are big fat liars who hide things even from the ones they’re most close to. And the Scooby Gang is no exception.
Willow learns that Buffy and the Slayerettes robbed a Swiss bank to acquire the funds they currently use to keep the world safe from demons, which Willow considers the “first domino” in the New Initiative War. Buffy learns that Willow had sex with a mermaid. Xander learns that Dawn did not actually have sex with her thricewise ex-boyfriend, but rather with his roommate — a broody, cigarette-smoking, guitar-playing “bad boy” — and that this is why she was giant-ized. We see a future glimpse of Buffy beaten and bruised, and are told that somebody close to her will betray her. Continue reading