Thursday, December 02, 2010

Review: Buffy Season 8 #39 - "Last Gleaming, Part 4"

After last month's relatively disappointing issue of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", I wasn't sure what to expect from this issue. However, I was pleasantly surprised, then horrified, then angry, then, kind of impressed by the quality of this issue, even if I'm still pissed about what happened in it. OK, so let's get to the nitty gritty.

COVER TWO

These might be two of my least favorite covers in awhile for this series. The main cover (top)  showcases Jo Chen's amazing likenesses, but seems to have some serious perspective issues. I'm not sure how Buffy and Angel are really supposed to be fighting here, and Buffy's right leg appears to have multiple knees (or at least multiple joints that bend like knees).

As for Georges Jeanty's cover, well, there's nothing wrong with it per se, but I have my reasons for disliking it, which I'll get to after the jump.

THE ART STUFF


I'm putting the art stuff ahead of the write stuff for this review, because there's a certain major spoiler that I want to bury below a jump link.

Still, there are a handful of really emotional moments in the issue, and Georges captures them very well. He also does a solid job with the fight between Buffy and Angel, without any of the perspective issues seen on the primary cover.

After 39 issues (the vast majority of which Jeanty has drawn), I've become attached to his likeness of Buffy, which, while not Sarah Michelle Gellar, is the character in her own right. And in the big moment in the issue (again, I'll get to what that moment is soon enough), she looks more "Buffy" like than I've ever seen her before. The panel at the bottom right of page 16 looks like something straight out of "The Body" (whoops, am I getting too close to that spoiler moment?), and the following page has a real "Chosen" feel to it.

As I mentioned last issue, by now you're either a fan of Jeanty's style or your not. But he's asked to carry a heavy load in this issue, and he really came through.

OK, now on to...

THE WRITE STUFF

And here's your last SPOILER ALERT warning, before continuing.

OH MY GOD, THEY KILLED GILES! YOU BASTARDS!

Seriously, you can't kill Giles. That's like killing... well, any of the beloved characters Joss Whedon has killed before.

But, in all honesty, somehow this feels worse. To understand how we got to that critical moment, let's recap some of the action in this Joss Whedon-penned issue: Angel is back, as Twilight (really, possessed by Twilight) and is going head to head with Buffy. Meanwhile, Willow is casting some mojo on the seed, and the fight outside is going incredibly poorly for Buffy's side, leading Giles to take drastic action. He gets the Scythe from Faith, to take it to the fight.

In a moment reminiscent of "The Gift" -- where Giles recognized that Buffy would never kill Ben, so he took action into his own hands -- Giles realizes that with Angel, Buffy's always going to hesitate, so he goes in to take on Angel himself. Only Angel snaps his neck. The art in the scene recalls Angel killing Jenny Calendar in "Passion", which I'm sure was an intentional choice on Whedon's part, since he always seems to know how to hit the fan base hardest.

Seeing Giles killed causes Buffy to snap (after the literal snap of Giles's neck) -- resulting in that panel I mentioned earlier -- and she takes the Scythe and smashes the seed. That leads to a draining of magic from the world and the consequences of that are likely to be front and center in issue 40, but for now I want to focus on Giles.

I've been fairly certain that someone was going to die at the end of this season, but I always assumed that Joss would leave the core four -- that's Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles -- intact because they're the heart and soul (and mind and body, if you want to go "Restless" style) of the series. Also, from a fanbase perspective, there are many who will consider it a disrespectful act to kill off such an important character "in the comics" instead of giving him a proper send off. I personally would disagree with that sentiment, but still, Giles?

Reading the issue a second time, I get a sense from the character that he knew exactly what he was doing going into that room with Buffy and Angel, and he knew exactly what was going to happen, but he did it anyway. And in that regard, he was a Watcher to the last, doing what he needed to do to set his Slayer on the right path. Still, this death hurts. This is like losing Wash in "Serenity", but amped up another level. From an emotional impact perspective, it worked, as I was as engrossed in the subsequent pages as I've ever been in this series. That doesn't mean I'm not pissed, though. I was so focused on my "don't kill Dawn" rant, that I never even considered the possibility that they'd kill Giles. Xander, maybe. Willow, no because we see her alive in the future. Buffy, they've done that twice before. But Giles?

We've seen how Buffy dealt with the loss of her mother, but I think this could hurt her more, since Giles was her father figure, her mentor and her friend. Also, she'll have to deal with the reality that she's had so many opportunities to stop Angel in the past, but never did -- often for selfish reasons -- and now he's responsible for Giles's death.

Wow, now I'm really interested to see how all this gets wrapped up in Issue #40.

<-- Prev. Issue (#38: Last Gleaming, Pt. 3)Next Issue (#40: Last Gleaming, Pt. 5) -->

4 comments:

  1. Nice summary. I'm a fan of Dawn myself, but am kind of apprehensive about what the loss of magic would mean to her existence in Issue 40.

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  2. I know what you meant about a proper send off for Giles. This just doesn't seem right...

    Oh and re: the cover art. That isn't Buffy's second knee; it's Angel's elbow :).

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  3. I keep rereading it to see if Giles lives at the end. Very very upsetting. And Willow is drained?! Very intrigued to see what happens next! Still do not like losing Giles. Faith's gonna go off her rocker again, Buffy will too, and I liked how Warren kinda just "melted" at the cafe.

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  4. I think its ironic that he died in almost the very same way that Jenny died (and under almost the very same circumstances).

    My only criticism is that his death just didn't carry the impact it needed (or maybe that was the intent?).

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