Buffy Season 9 #16&17, Double Feature Summary and Review
Buffy is fighting some zompires and not doing a very good job of it until Billy and Dowling come and save the day. A female zomp who was trying to sire someone gets away anyhow, and the pseudo-team talks about how she was abnormally strong and what it might mean. Buffy seems happy about the three of them working together. At home she pays Anaheed advance rent and hangs out with her while Billy researches.
The next day, Buffy goes to visit Dawn, who has what they think is the flu, and Xander, who asks if she's back for good. They grill her about Dowling, tease a little, and tell her that they like him, "Because you're happy." When she tells Dowling about it that night he kinda-sorta asks her out and she accepts, before Billy shows up and the three of them devise a plan to capture the uberzomp to find out more. Billy and Dowling hold off a mob of zompires while Buffy goes after the uberzomp. While she's attempting to tie her up with a rope soaked in holy water, she thinks she recognizes her, and in her surprise lets her escape. Suddenly, Buffy vanishes, to the consternation of Billy and Dowling. She's transported to L.A., where a shadowy figure traps her in midair and says the Council (but not the Watchers' Council) needs her and she's going to join them or perish. It's Illyria.
The next issue starts from Billy's POV right after Buffy disappears. Dowling's being attacked by the uberzomp, and Billy looks like he's going down too until they're saved by a police unit toting stakes. (It's not clear if the uberzomp is killed along with the others.) Dowling tells Billy to find Buffy, and then we're taken back to Buffy and Illyria. Buffy identifies Illyria, but for the full explanation, Illyria does another teleport thing and suddenly "the Council" is standing before them - various unfamiliar magical creatures, but the one who speaks first is D'Hoffryn. They explain that they need her to repair the damage she's done, and they're fighting the battle she left unfinished with Severin. Their stories seem to convince her, and she tells them about Simone. Illyria tells her she'll be fighting alongside Eldre Koh, who has joined Illyria after (surprise surprise) she promised to find the demon who imprisoned him. Buffy reluctantly accepts the truce, and the three of them storm Severin's apartment, only to be ambushed by Severin, who says someone told him they were coming. He sucks out Koh's power, turning him into a husk. The issue ends there, but meanwhile...
...Billy calls up a sick Dawn and violently cranky Xander, and they meet at the hospital where Dowling is being brought in. Billy explains what happened, Xander sends him home, and he calls up Cute Devon, who counsels him to go back to the crime scene. Dawn has a talk with Xander about his recent behavior. They conclude that he's having trouble adjusting to normal life, but doesn't want to go back to the fight. Eventually they both fall asleep in the waiting room and wake up when a doctor tells them that Dowling will be okay but won't wake up for a few days, and then Dawn passes out and the doctor says she's not breathing.
You know, I think abbreviated summaries might take me as long as full ones. Paraphrasing someone else's writing is hard work, class. You're always going to color it with your own perspective.
Well, to state the obvious, these two issues were a vast improvement over "Billy the Vampire Slayer". I'm tempted to take the snarky approach to that and say that they probably weren't that good except in comparison, but one thing that the series has going for it is that they incorporated the new characters and gave them a place in the existing plot - not seamlessly, but it was enough to give the previous arc some worth. All the focus on how Buffy has a new team now and is happy about it means that Billy is a feature of her life now, not vice versa. Granted, she's still a shadow of her former self and the narrative doesn't seem to acknowledge it, but hell, things are actually happening. I can forgive a lot.
Fortunately, Illyria showed up at last. Unfortunately, she was a huge disappointment. I couldn't hear her voice at all, she didn't look like the character, and she didn't seem to have much of a plan beyond hooking up with some other superpowers and defeating a single bad guy. (Mental note: analyze this for parallels to Willow's story.) It was cool seeing her talk about Fred and deny that she was what Spike and Angel wanted, though now I want to go through AtF and find out if that was a retcon or if the comics have truly laid any hope of Fred to rest. And one thing that did catch me off guard was that Illyria herself wasn't Koh's prison guard demon. That means we're still waiting - will it be someone else we know? Will it matter for the climax? Probably not for Koh, if he's going to stay all fried like he is now.
The other promise being fulfilled at last is the kickoff to some answers about Xander and Dawn. I don't know what's up with him, and frankly was more interested in how Dawn was dealing with him. How long has this been going on? Did she not tell Buffy about it because of some buried fear, or because she thinks she can handle it on her own? It's kind of amazing how calm and wise she is with her unpredictable boyfriend, and I hope that's not just some hint about something else - Dawn's a classy lady, and whatever's happening to her now, she deserves some credit for her own personality and not just for what she means to the other characters. I don't think she's dying at the end of the issue, but I don't have a guess about it other than the ones that have already been thrown around by fandom.
If there was one panel that made me think beyond the confines of the story itself, it was the one in the hospital with Xander and Dawn, where he's repeating "fighting for our lives", and in the background there's a patient who appears to be undergoing chemo - literally fighting for her (or his) life. Earlier in the issue he considers that they've forgotten what normal things, like the flu, feel like, and I think he's right on that count. He might look back and remember being in constant fear of death, but his life was so much more than that. Facing supernatural crisis after crisis meant that he never had to take a long-term natural threat like illness seriously (or when he did, as with Joyce, he was the one who kept trying to place the blame for it on someone). Buffy knew that the hardest thing in this world is living in it, and now Xander is learning the same thing. Breaking away from the Scooby lifestyle will change his life, but it's not an automatic improvement.
I was going to say that I thought Jeanty's art was going downhill, but on second glance, I think I mostly got that impression because I really don't like the way he draws Illyria. (Amy Acker's head isn't really that big, is it?) Buffy herself has also been hot and cold, but the secondary characters are looking good for the most part, especially the ones not based on the TV actors. The ones he inherited from Karl Moline are essentially flawless. He even got Cute Devon's annoying perpetual grin. Backgrounds and battle scenes are solid too. Overall, maybe there is something lacking aside from Illyria, maybe not, but this is the first time I'm starting to feel like a break from Jeanty might be helpful.
Noto's covers are definitely improving, though. I'm pretty sure the Xander/Dawn one is my favorite by him so far.
To summarize the rest of my griping, the expansion of the mythology that's happening right now just isn't that expansive. Severin could conceivably be a powerful Big Bad under the framework laid out for him, but he isn't a particularly interesting one. The council of supernatural whatsits had its charms, but it sounds like it was pulled from a hat, and each member of it individually could have come from another, smaller hat. I think I'd be happier if Buffy's lame attempts at snark toward them came from a place of her own disappointment that they were a trite addition to her universe, and she's too weary to even trade some effective verbal banter with them. Can we go with that interpretation? Poor Buffy. We're all in the same boat here, but I want it for her sake more than for ours.
On the plus side, here's more confirmation that she's over Spike and uninterested in doing the awkward ex thing with him, so maybe something better is coming.
And here's one thing I feel obliged to bitch about just because nobody else will. Churches don't sell holy water; true story. If Billy went into a church to get holy water and emerged successful, there are three potential explanations:
1) He stole it, the little delinquent.
2) A clergyman gave it to him in good faith and he still whined about how scary it was, the little ingrate.
3) The writers blew off accuracy for the sake of inserting a joke about noble little warrior Billy vs. the archaic institution of intolerance. (THIS IS THE ONE THAT HAPPENED.)
All this does is pile another stereotype onto a character who already seemed to be constructed entirely from gay-teen-role-model traits. If holy items still work against vampires, seems like the Church still wields some magic in this post-Seed world and maybe that's something worth examining, and it never will be. Yes, I'm authentically angry about this. Some of my best friends are gay Christians. Face your own prejudices, Buffyverse.
The next belated reviews on my agenda are from Spike's series. Spoiler alert, I didn't think all that much of the way that one wrapped up, but Buffy's still fourth place out of four. We've been running on promises for a while now, and...okay, I'm just repeating what I said at the beginning of this entry, aren't I? Forgive me; I've had this window up for a few days trying to finish. And, um, snow? Also I had a pretty large financial slam the other day so I think everyone should just feel sorry for me, except actually I'm still in a good mood from various things.
Just most of them aren't Buffy related.