Friday, June 29, 2007

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x03: "The Long Way Home Part 3"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Dawn: “We totally have to talk. Are you evil again?”
Willow (re Amy): “It’ll fade. She just really pissed me off.”

Opening things up after the previous issue’s cliff-hanger, the mystery older man who called Buffy “My Love” turns out to be Ethan Rayne. Unlike someone else later on in the mix, Ethan’s return in a welcome addition to this interesting four part arc.

Getting over the My Love spiel, which makes Buffy want to projectile vomit when she point blank informs him that he takes up none of her subconscious; their reunion has Ethan explaining the nature of a Dream Space to which Buffy suddenly has a very legitimate reason to get embarrassed over.

Not only do we get to see a graphic sexual fantasy in which a naked duo of Angel and Spike are caressing Buffy in a nurse uniform while the three of them are all chained together and we have Cupid’s hovering over them along with a train going into a tunnel as well as stakes and orchids in the background.

This is probably the only thing that Joss has conveyed on comic form so far that would’ve posed some difficulties if the show was still on the airwaves and it’s the most surreal image ever seen. In fact it might be the very thing you’ll remember about this entire issue on a superficial level as well.

It was only a matter of time before either Angel or Spike were going to factor into the mix so instead of actually bogging the story by reintroducing them in the flesh, Buffy’s little sexual fantasy not only reinforces the sexual hold both vampires have on her but it also further highlights her glowing lack of a sex life too.

Suffice to say, Ethan probably took a little pleasure in seeing Buffy having to squirm but for some reason he seems to have hitched a ride into her subconscious to help he rather than kill her. Maybe being locked up since “A New Man” has changed, then again more likely Ethan is up to something and he’s quick to warn Buffy that things are going outside.

If there’s something these first two issues lacked, it was a certain Wicca in the mix and the return of Willow in the last issue is put to excellent use here as not only has her reappearance wiped the smirk of Amy’s smug face but it doesn’t take long for the girls to renew their rivalry in glorious style.

By that I mean they take to the sky above the castle and begin a magical duel that’s probably straight out of Harry Potter to a degree. For those of you who like their Foe Yay, Willow and Amy seem determined to provide it in spades.

Although Willow is probably still the most powerful one of the two, Amy is quick to taunt her about trying to destroy the world and now only producing weak craft as she seemed to be successful in deflecting Willow’s blows. Then again, Amy was never the most attentive of people as Willow soon reveals that she’s only absorbing her Mojo to decode it. Not entirely sure why Willow is doing that unless she’s planning to use Amy’s own magic against her, which would be sweet.

Anyways minor distractions such as Xander praising Willow to some slayers as the rest of them defend the castle from the undead are fine but it’s the light show and army being apparent distractions that begin to see the Willow/Amy thing escalate into a bit of a pissing contest between.

So far the light show hasn’t killed either witch but there have been slayers getting the living daylights beaten out of them by the living dead, which proves that at least one distraction is effective. It’s looking that in her quest for power/revenge, Amy really doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process.

So it’s three cheers when her overconfidence is then punished by Xander commanding Dawn to literally step on Amy long for Willow to knock her out and freeze her. I’m surprised with her size; Dawn wasn’t able to crush Amy despite her good timing.

Dawn’s brief exchange with Willow is humorous, despite voicing concerns about Willow’s magic. Willow was furious with Amy and Dawn was savvy enough to pick up on it, however it doesn’t seem like we have to worry about Willow losing herself just yet.

Meanwhile in the land of nod, Buffy seems to be in classic denial when Ethan warns her of potential and for the loyal viewers you can spot the various moments of the previous seven seasons while Ethan draws Buffy closer to his desired location.

I was kind of hoping Ethan’s place would be Hellmouth related but it’s more to do with Amy’s cage which both Ethan and Buffy get to see from a rat size perspective. There’s a thing about Roman symbolism and it’s interesting to know that Ethan wasn’t aware of Amy’s magical havoc. Perhaps he really is out to help the Scoobies though I’m more interested to see how it would benefit him.

When Ethan isn’t providing Buffy with cryptic clues in her dream space, the Scoobies are trying to find a way to get Buffy to wake up but whatever else Amy may lie about, she wasn’t kidding when she said it required the kiss from someone who is in love with Miss Summer. Heck, even Willow has to point out to Xander and Dawn that her magic is useless against this spell.

So someone is in love with Buffy and they might not subconsciously know it? Well whoever the culprit, they realise it quick enough to actually do the deed and succeed in waking Buffy from her involuntary slumber.

With there only be Xander, Willow and a few slayers in the room, it’s largely implied that it’s Xander who successfully brought Buffy back to being awake. However just because Xander is the only male there, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s him who did it even if Buffy did dream about him in the previous issue.

While I seriously doubt that Willow has suddenly developed feelings for her, there is the question of the handful of slayers in that room there too including Leah, Rowena and Satsu. It’s likely it could be the latter given the sort of rapport her and Buffy seem to have developed.

Perhaps Satsu has a thing for Buffy. Is it likely that Buffy would reciprocate? If we’re gonna get girl-on-girl stuff, I’d prefer to be Willow and a resurrected Tara but it’s too early to tell about anything. Buffy hasn’t shown any interest in women before and little is known about Satsu to determine her sexual leanings yet.

Elsewhere when I’m not guessing sexuality or enjoying Foe Yay action (though Willow/Amy have nothing on The Doctor/The Master in Doctor Who), there’s the matter about that lizard demon’s death from Issue 1. Apparently some of those fights had been engineered and further information in regards to the Twilight symbol is scuppered. Still though it’s nice to see Giles but I wish to God he was given more to do as his appearance only amounts to a page here.

Also the eternally annoying Andrew is on the phone to Xander and more or less telling him nothing of any real help. In fact, there are two things about Andrew’s appearance that are noteworthy – there’s no geek referencing (from him at least) and Andrew seemed to be oblivious to the strip poker session with his batch of slayers in Italy. Now this is the kind of Andrew I can handle.

Speaking of handle, do I detect a little bit of flirtation between Xander and Renee? In the first two issues it looked a little one sided but here when he’s trying to cheer up a demoralised Renee (who blames herself from the not entirely successful fight with the undead), he gives off the impression of being a little more interested in the girl, especially with the butch. I like Renee and perhaps Xander could date her. It’d be a bit more plausible than Buffy.

As Willow her awesomeness is highlighted when she quickly discovers that Amy’s magic is mixed with technology and is also quick to tell Buffy that her and Kennedy broke up. Thousands of Willow/Tara shippers will cheer at that particular and it also might give the indication that Joss Whedon could either want to bring Tara back or just not feature Kennedy at all in this eighth season.

I don’t particularly hate Kennedy but from the word go, I just knew her and Willow wouldn’t last in the same way that we all knew that Buffy and Riley wouldn’t either. To Iyari Limon, it might feel like a slap in the face that even in comic book form, Kennedy is royally shafted. For that I pity her!

However the best thing about this entire comic is the scene between Buffy, Xander and Willow all reminiscing and discussing their lack of love lives. I have to admit nostalgically, it feels like the first half of Season One when all three of them were single and people/demons like Cordy, Oz, Angel, Riley, Spike, Tara, Kennedy and Anya didn’t play such major parts in the sexuality and teen/adult relationships. The only thing missing from that scene was of course Giles. It bugs me how he’s not in the same vicinity as Buffy, Willow and Xander.

Of course when things get a bit cute, there has to be something to spoil it and of course when Willow finally gets a reaction from Amy, it’s soon apparent that Amy’s magic does have technology on her side. This should be the gang’s first hint that Amy and General Voll are on the same team.

It also should’ve been a massive hint for Willow that her best enemy had managed to spring a trap as soon enough both Amy and Willow slip through a portal with a pissed off and confused Buffy and Xander to realise they’ve been played again. In a weird way, hats off to Amy who might as well savour her victory moments for the time being.

As for Willow – what’s worse than being tied to an operating table and having the woman who tried to make you off the deep end bait you about falling for a simple rope a dope stunt she pulled? I tell you – it’s learning that her disfigured boyfriend is none other than a skinless Warren, who’s more than anxious to repay the damage that was deservedly placed on him.

Its nice way of ending the issue but the phrase “what the hell” springs dangerously to mind. Put it this way, Warren’s reappearance is most definitely not welcome. Shouldn’t be dead? Why on earth would Amy want anything to do with him? These are only two questions that need answering.

Also in “The Long Way Home Part 3”

Cover art this issue was Willow looking dark and somewhat kinda sexy with tonnes of mist and smoke.

Ethan: “We haven’t oodles of time.”
Buffy: “You’re a chaos worshipping winnable sorcerer who takes up none; count it none of my subconscious. Which means you forced your way into my dream.”

With Ethan constantly saying “pet” and “my love”, is there any chance that he might have feelings for her? He was being pretty lecherous by saying those phrases a lot.

Amy (to Willow): “Oh man, this craft is weak; didn’t you almost destroy the world once? Now you can’t even put up a fight.”

Xander: “Ladies and gentlemen, the indescribable Rosenberg.”

In some of Buffy’s memory we got to see Faith, Tara, The Master, graduation, Joyce’s death, Angel, Spike, Riley and even Joss Whedon himself. How bizarre!

Ethan: “I’m more an antique Roman than a Dane.”
Buffy: “Did I mention I’m not crazy good at symbolism?”

Willow: “Serious magic is kinda like improv, Dawn. You can’t just stop it cold, you’ve gotta adapt.”
Dawn: “Is that why I’ve got an army of the undead playing Pride And Prejudice around my ankles?”

Aside from Kennedy dying for a month, coming back to life and ending her relationship with Willow, what else has the latter been up to for the past year? It’s not like she had the opportunity to tell Buffy much.

Xander (re the quietness of Italy): “Sounds good to me.”
Andrew: “No trust me, you’d be bored stiff.”

Renee: “You’re so butch.”
Xander: “Almost a kind of masculine vibe, don’t you think?”

One of Andrew’s slayers was reading Fray. There was an ad for the same franchise in this issue too.

Willow: “Seems like things are hopping here.”
Buffy: “Same old. Cept for Dawnie. She’s definitely not Mama’s little girl anymore.”
Willow: “Yeah, what’d she do, bone a Thricewise?”

Xander: “There’s funny bonhomie happening and I want in.”
Buffy: “No, ahh, ahh, girl thing.”
Xander: “Girl thing? With girl parts? Now I really need to know.”
Willow: “Slow year Xan?”

The letter pages seemed to indicate that this eighth season might go on for forty or fifty issues. There are pros and cons to that of course.

Amy (to Willow): “Great big all powerful earth-mother goddess and she still falls for the rope a dope.”

Warren (to Willow): “Killing Buffy Summers is gonna be a party. She pissed me off more than a little but you Rosenberg. You really got under my skin.”

Chronology: Minutes from “The Long Way Home Part 2”

Continuing on a very strong note after the excellent previous issue, “The Long Way Home Part 3” wastes no time in setting up mystery and confrontations but how the heck Warren’s return is going to impact on this series is mystifying. I hope Joss Whedon knows what he’s doing bringing this guy back. Still at least we got some quality moments with most of the Scoobies.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x02: "The Long Way Home Part 2"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Dawn: “What do you know? You don’t have a sister.”
Xander: “Have you seen this place? I’ve got all my sisters ‘n’ me!”

After a disappointing no-show in the first issue, the returns of Giles and Willow are two of the many things that this second instalment in “The Long Way Home” four parter gets so right. Mind you don’t expect a lot from either character!

With Giles it’s a rather brief appearance at the beginning where he muses about how he used to be a watcher and how watchers in general tended to outnumber slayers but how thanks to “Chosen” that statistic has been more than reversed. This musing thing was done in the first issue but while Giles’ doesn’t add anything we don’t know already, it’s still pretty good to have him back no less.

Staring out of his balcony, Giles surveys the plethora of new slayers training and compliments them before telling them that while some of them are developing skills that could even surpass Buffy, it’s generally not enough. At this point, Giles’ lecture is in danger of falling into the same format of Buffy’s ones from Season Seven.

So it’s then a pretty good thing when we cut to Buffy, who quips about slayers fighting alone is formidable before getting her main girls Leah, Rowena and Satsu to try and trounce her. Naturally the girls fail but Buffy is quick to compliment them on their moves and even Satsu’s hair.

It’s nice to see Buffy building a little bit of a rapport with the girls instead of being a strict general. Pissing off slayers last time got her kicked out of her house. I’m pretty sure Buffy doesn’t want to be kicked out of that lovely castle she’s acquired in Scotland, especially given that she’s got an upcoming war on her hands.

If Giles’ lecture was risky and Buffy’s was fun, then the one Andrew gives to his bunch of slayers on a campfire trip in Italy is just pointless. Unlike Giles and Willow, Andrew’s return for me wasn’t particularly warranted so his little tirade in regards to what he felt about Return Of The Jedi is just tiresome.

One of the reasons why I can’t stand Andrew as a character is because he walks around like a Geek Encyclopaedia and uses his pop culture savvy in a way that is generally unhelpful. Then again, I’m probably one of a few people who feel Andrew was neither use nor ornament in Season Seven or in this issue at all.

Andrew’s rant about Lando Calrissian’s outfit is apparently a more relevant discussion topic than giving his batch of slayers some weapons knowledge. Then again, his anti-gun stance soon has him getting onto some dos and don’ts in regards to head butts, which makes me hope some of these slayers head butts him for the hell of it. Suffice to say my Andrew hatred won’t be dying down just yet.

However when there’s something I hate in this comic book, it’s usually followed up by something I love and Giant Dawn using an entire lake to bath herself while talking to Xander about Buffy not wanting her there is a good scene.

Okay whinging Dawn is hardly compelling but it’s better than listening to Andrew babble on about Star Wars and once again, she has a point. Buffy may be building a good rapport with her slayers but she is generally still ignoring her but in fairness the fact that the gang can’t be bothered to contact Willow and change Dawn back or find Kenny and see if he’s able to reverse the process is annoying me.

Xander is once again stuck in the role of mediator and tries to excuse Buffy’s lack of contact and while I’m sure Buffy does wish Dawn was getting an education rather than being a giant, it still wouldn’t kill her to spend some time with Dawn. One of the amusing things about Dawn’s situation is her splashing Xander after he makes an inappropriate quip. On screen this could’ve really worked too.

Onto the more serious elements in this issue at Drextal Corp Recycling Technologies or the even lamer version of The Initiative, which personally I prefer to address it as, we have the vile General Voll telling a suit that he generally wants Buffy out of the picture.

Besides being responsible for the destruction of Sunnydale and the fact he views Buffy and her slayers as terrorists, I can’t help but wonder what other reasons he might have for eliminating her. He’s hardly Mr Squeaky Clean himself as he pretty much admitted that he has no aversion to blowing things up himself either.

Then there’s the fact that he has half sun down logo which we see when he’s on his own. It was the same symbol the victims at that derelict church had in Issue 1 and there has to be something significant to it. In all fairness it’s too much of a coincide to not bear any significance.

So the questions regarding this particular reveal are – Is Voll a part of some doomsday cult? Is he even more destructive than he cites Buffy and her girls to be? The answers to this aren’t gonna come any quicker sadly. Which sucks given when comic books are a monthly basis.

Getting back to the thorny issue of Dawn being a giant, both Buffy and Xander go back to discussing and more or less what they say here is a rethread of what they’ve said before, well to an extent.

Essentially Xander throws the notion to Buffy that while Dawn didn’t deliberately make her super big, subconsciously Dawn wanted her attention so bad and by having something so extreme happen to her, perhaps she would finally get it.

Of course Buffy has so far treated this as an imposition, neither her nor anyone else has actually tried to come up with a solution or contact Willow about it and once again, Buffy also tries to downplay Dawn’s abandonment issues as well, even though Xander is quick to point out that Dawn has lost a lot of people she’s deeply cared about in recent years, including Buffy herself at two different occasions.

Another reason why Buffy then isn’t so keen to discuss Dawn is down to the fact that she really wants Xander to come to bed with her. The first actual shock of the entire book is the possibility of a Buffy/Xander hook up and seeing as the two of them kiss with Buffy knocking Xander’s head off and then being set alight by a demon gave things away about it being a dream sequence.

Buffy and Xander as a couple is a strange thing though. This issue hints the possibility but doesn’t actually say that something like that will happen. Buffy hasn’t gotten laid in a while and for over a year, Xander has been the main man in her life and his new proactive watcher style role is quite alluring.

If history didn’t dictate otherwise, I’d almost jump at the chance of Buffy and Xander together. Anything would be better than the horrifically toxic relationship she had with Spike in Season Six but on the series Buffy never displayed any sexual attraction towards Xander and his crush on Buffy also seemed to wane as well.

Also I don’t even get the vibe that Xander is really into Buffy now. Although he hasn’t exactly openly grieved for Anya or met anyone else, he still doesn’t seem to be anything in Buffy’s life right now other than good friend and trainer to the new slayers.

You’d also have to wonder how Renee would react if Xander did go for Buffy too. Her attraction to Xander is a lot more forthcoming in this issue as one of her slayer mates is quick to notice the sudden interests Renee has taken upon herself as well as the fact that Renee was quick to volunteer them for night watch.

As for Buffy being burned to a crisp by a demon, that was all a part of dream, one she seems to be also locked in a Sleeping Beauty. In reality Amy has put the whammy on her and has an unconscious Buffy tied to the bed while deciding to do Voll a favour and finish her off.

The thing with Amy is while she may have gotten craftier in her spells and was able to sneak into Buffy’s bedroom, it didn’t take long for Xander and a few girls to note their displeasure at seeing her as well as shooting the bitch in the arm with an arrow.

While it’s true to form for Xander to slag off Amy’s lame sacrificial knife which managed to become split in four, its Amy who still has the last laugh. After all she was still able to get into Buffy’s room and put her under that spell so while her attempts to kill her are a failure she succeeds in pointing out to Xander only a kiss will wake Buffy while the other slayers are busy battling the army of the undead Amy also brought along for amusement purpose.

Just like Sleeping Beauty, the kiss has to be from someone who is in love with Buffy and Amy’s baiting about Xander perhaps giving it a whirl might back up the theory that perhaps Joss Whedon just might pair Buffy and Xander up as well. I’m still not sure about this but Buffy is pretty useless to the season if she’s asleep so if Xander’s kiss is the very thing that wakes her up, then fine by me in the respect.

In the land of nod when Buffy isn’t dreaming about kissing Xander and being roasted alive and constantly reminded that she is the dark, there’s a mysterious older man who calls her “my love” and tells her that there’s a lot she needs to see. I think the chances of us finding out who this guy is are a bit higher than the grotesque thing Amy is screwing around with.

Speaking of Amy, while she might be feeling all smug about Buffy being in dream world and her zombies doing some slayer damage, that little smile on her face is wiped out when Willow hover over her window and basically challenges. It’s a play on Giles’ reintroduction in “Two To Go” but it ends this issue nicely and a fight between Willow and Amy via magic should be very fun to watch.

Also in “The Long Way Home Part 2”

Cover for Issue 2 has Eye Patch Xander all stealthy in his leather jacket alongside Buffy. I love how physically Jo Chen’s artwork resembles Sarah Michelle Gellar and Nicholas Brendon.

Giles: “There were hundreds of watchers and one slayer. Scales have tipped of late.”

Last Issue Buffy had a Serenity Logo, this week her T-shirt is Hong Kong Phooey. Satsu also had a “Rude Girl” badge. Those style of badges are popular among students.

Xander: “That’s overstating it, don’t you think?”
Dawn: “I’m a giant, everything I state is over.”

General Voll (to a suit): “There’s no problem so big or complicated that it can’t be blown up. That’s not a saying we share with the public but …”

Where exactly is Drextal Corp based? From last issue, I would guess somewhere near Sunnydale.

Buffy: “No, no I can’t go outside, I’m afraid of the dark.”
Xander: “Buffy, you are the dark.”
Buffy: “That’s what I meant.”

Buffy has got some interesting looking weapons in her room. One of them almost resembles Faith’s knife from Season Three.

Amy (to an unconscious Buffy): “I couldn’t bear it if this was painless.”
Xander: “Amy, long time, no desire whatsoever to see.”

Xander: “This isn’t open wand night in Sunnydale sweetcheeks. You’re dealing with pros.”
Amy: “Any of you pros notice she’s still asleep?”

If Buffy’s room is so mystically protected, then shouldn’t Amy little Sleeping Beauty plan never have come to fruition? Or does the protection spell not view involuntary slumber as harm?

Renee: “Please there’s no love.”
Slayer: “No right of course. The sudden interest in comic books, James Bond movies and drywalling has absolutely nothing to do with Mr Harris.”

Xander: “But not friend love.”
Amy: “Right. Someone who wants to kiss her, like they’re passionate about her.”
Xander: “And not a sister.”
Amy: “Well a twisted sister.”

Anyone notice the dress Willow is wearing is very much the same one Tara wore in “Once More With Feeling”?

Xander: “Who’s breaching?”
Slayer: “Living dead sir.”
Xander: “Man, Amy you’re doing all the classics tonight.”

Willow (to Amy): “As a friend of mine once said, I’d like to test that theory.”

Chronology: About a day or two after “The Long Way Home Part 1”.

Better executed than the opening issue, “The Long Way Home Part 2” merits from the returns of Giles and Willow, the Buffy/Xander/Dawn scenes, adding more mystery with the dislikeable General Voll and making sure Amy is her very nasty self. It also helps that the quips are kept a coming and the action wasn’t far behind either.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Friday, June 15, 2007

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x01: "The Long Way Home Part 1"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Buffy: “The thing about changing the world … Once you do it, the world’s all different. Everybody calls me ma’am nowadays.”

It’s been four years since Buffy and company have parted our TV screens. I think I can speak for the majority of viewers when I say it was time for the show to end. All good things come to an end after and no-one appreciates a show that outstays its welcome. Charmed I mean you!

Within those subsequent years I’ve latched on to many shows including the big cultural zeitgeists such as Alias, Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Heroes and I have a soft spot for Supernatural while shows such as Smallville and The Dresden Files have been the odd guilty pleasures for me.

The biggest shows in a post Buffy/Angel world that ignite the same bloodlust and undeniable passion for me have the phenomenal Doctor Who and its fun if flawed spin-off Torchwood. As it doesn’t need to be pointed out, we are now in a situation where there are more genre shows than you can shake a stick at.

The bigger question is why after such a reasonably longish time has Joss Whedon decided to continue his career landmark in the form of comics? Don’t get me wrong, I knew there was no way in hell that he would be able to round up all of his main cast for a movie but even the inner cynic in me has to ask that very question.

The very public Buffy lover however is thrilled about learning what has happened to some of the characters he’s cared deeply about since “Chosen”. I may have stopped wondering after a while but having official answers is something I wouldn’t have dismissed for the world.

Like an episode of the show itself, things open up on a pretty sharp note. We have Buffy musing about how the world has changed because of what she did to the Slayer line and soon enough herself and three slayers named Rowena, Leah and Satsu jump from a helicopter all secret agent like and storm a church in Scotland protected by a force field.

Well I lied, the force field is pretty useless because soon enough Buffy and company are able to get past that but soon enough they find themselves scrapping with a bunch of lizard like demons. A part of me thinks they look like something from a Marvel comic but they look brilliant that it doesn’t matter.

One of the best things about this opening sequence is the dialogue and it’s undeniably Joss’ with the demons stupid enough to underestimate Buffy and our main Slayer then happy to rectify that arrogance by literally crucifying him. I just had to throw that pun in there, despite its risk of being deeply immature.

However a bunch of demons attacking a church isn’t any good without a body count or better an idea of what they are after and when Buffy spots a weird symbol on the victims chest along with some arsenal, this comic already has you grabbed.

Then it gets slightly better as the previously underused Xander is told by his best friend to send Giles a copy of the symbol found on the victims. It turns out that Xander has gone from carpenter to watcher in over a year. Not that I’m complaining because if Andrew could become a trainee watcher then surely the more useful Xander would be deserving of an elevation in status.

One of the worst things about the last televised seasons of Buffy was the horrific lack of Xander. Obviously better at taking criticism than the likes of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, if making Xander a watcher is Joss Whedon’s attempts of further developing his character and just simply giving him more to do, then Joss is going to have a lot of pleased readers on his hands, including me.

With both Willow and Giles being collective no shows in the first issue (and yes, that is a major let down), it’s Xander and his general awesomeness that really makes this comic fly in a lot of places. Sure this issue doesn’t lack some mystery or a fight sequence or two but Xander is the best damn thing of this entire issue.

Reasons to love him here include playing his not unfamiliar role of confidant to Buffy, who once again has managed to distance herself from others. In fairness I’m glad Buffy is talking about her fears and insecurities to one of her best friends rather than sleeping with a peroxide vampire she’s never loved.

What’s great about Xander is while he’s sympathetic to Buffy’s plight he’s also savvy enough to know that a lot of Buffy’s distancing is essentially her own fault, not that even Buffy is keen on admitting it. Xander doesn’t push the issue and manages to lay off some of the moralising that has been annoying in the past.

Another thing that Xander seems skilled in is his new role of watcher. In Season Seven Xander did have to look after some of the potentials in his own home, now he’s actually instructing them and unlike the relationship some of them seem to have with Buffy, the girls here take to Xander and his instructions pretty well.

In particular there’s a girl named Renee who seems to be happy at the very sight of Xander and has even gone to the extent on reading up on her Nick Fury, much to the new watcher’s delight. In fact Xander’s very response is a nudging nod to how Whedon credits his fandom’s general savvy.

However the biggest state of Xander awesomeness throughout the entire first issue is his role of mediator between a quarrelling Buffy and Dawn. Remember how in both “Grave” and “Chosen”, Buffy made allusions of building a relationship with Dawn? Well suffice to say, the first problem they have and Buffy slips into the role of Crap Sister. Yes, that’s right viewers, its Dawn’s side you should be taking.

Seeing as Dawn is now at least 17, the girl has naturally become sexually active and a tryst with a Thricewise (it’s not explained what that is here) named Kenny has reaped the nasty consequence of her becoming fifty times her normal size. In fairness Dawn should count herself lucky – there’s no way Season Eight could redo something like an Angelus type nasty first time sexual experience. As for us readers, thank God we don’t have to deal with a supernatural pregnancy.

While Dawn may have gotten several warning from various concerned people about bonking Kenny and not heeded them, I have to admit that Buffy’s lack of concern is a pain. Your sister has become tall; perhaps worrying over treating it like an imposition is a more responsible reaction because Xander certainly thinks so.

As a detractor recently pointed out, if Buffy became gigantic, you’d bet your ass Willow would be summoned ASAP to undo it but like the Fred/Illyria debacle on Angel, Dawn has to wait until Willow comes back and this is one reason why she had better pop up sooner as opposed to later. So instead of being in Berkeley, Dawn is now in a castle.

It also doesn’t really help that while not only does Buffy have to be practically nagged into seeing her sister but when she does, she’s not exactly helpful. Buffy has a right to be concerned about Dawn being safe but hey, Dawn also has a right to be in relationships of her choosing even if her judgement is suitably wonky. Not wanting to divulge to Buffy the extent of her fling with Kenny and instead only to tell Willow does very little to remedy the tension.

As much as I like Dawn, I can’t exactly admit I’m keen on the idea of a Giant Dawn for this entire arc. I’m sure in case of attacks Buffy and her new Slayers will encounter, a Giant Dawn would be an advantage but unlike Xander’s new and improved role, it feels like she’s getting the short end of the stick.

Also as for the new girls of the bunch, we’ve only encountered four new Slayers and while the likes of Satsu, Rowena, Leah and Renee are probably the most strongest or experienced of the lot, a part of me missed not having Vi, Rona and even Kennedy around the place. On the plus side, these new girls managed to not bog down proceedings and if that doesn’t earn the girls some likeability, then what will?

Moving away from all the interpersonal stuff, there’s also the set up of some big trouble and unlike The First Evil, these ones are perhaps tangible. The symbols on the victims that Buffy and her Slayers found don’t look good. At first I thought these victims might have been sacrifice material but it was kinda deduced earlier on that they had gone into that church looking for a fight. I keep wondering whether whatever is behind it is the season’s Big Bad or a foe solely for this arc alone.

But that’s not the only problem facing Buffy and the gang. Once again, the US government, perhaps a new formation of The Initiative lead by General Voll seem to also pose a threat. Of course, like The Initiative, Voll views himself as a good guy and is quick to draw parallels between Buffy’s destruction of Sunnydale and her band of Slayers as a terrorist cell. The guy even makes the audacious comment of Buffy being deliberately anti-American as well.

The Initiative weren’t exactly the most effective villains we’ve ever had on the series and Voll’s little army aren’t as enticing as pure evil, a cavalcade of ancient vampires of a Hell God but either way, Joss plans to use Voll for something and the demented general and his people aren’t surveying what is left of Sunnydale, they end up nabbing two attackers.

The first one which seems to be a boyfriend is unseen but alluded to as being disgusting but it’s the girlfriend who really sparks interest and low and behold, it’s non other than Amy Madison.

Amy’s a clever little thing who turns being captured into her own advantage as the comic comes to a conclusion. Not only will she help General Voll take Buffy down but she’ll do it provided her and her boyfriend are let go and given a laboratory and magical hardware as well as immunity if they success.

It’s great to have Amy seemingly cast as a season big bag. It makes sense but I’m really wondering who her boyfriend is though. Since she became human, Amy only had a flirt with some random guy in the episode “Smashed” when she wasn’t trying to send Willow of the deep end.

It doesn’t take much to guess that Amy’s willingness in helping General Voll is motivated by a desire to get back at the Scoobies, especially Willow. Amy’s irrational hatred hasn’t died down. Still though, I’d take her more seriously than Voll any day of the week.

Also in “The Long Way Home Part 1”

Artist Jo Chen seems to be doing two covers for each issue. The one I acquired was the solo Buffy with the scythe.

Demon: “Stupid human, I am no vampire. You think I fear the cross?”
Buffy: “You might wanna start.”

It turns out that there are two girls pretending to be Buffy, one of them is dating The Immortal which Andrew thought would be funny. Not so funny if Angel and Spike had blown the girl’s cover in “The Girl In Question”.

Leah: “That were a wee bit repulsive.”
Buffy: “Went okay. Cept I feel a little weird about using a crucifix to kill someone.”
Leah: “Yeh dinno much religion, do yeh?”

Xander: “I used to be in construction. Pay was good, hours were way better than this. They even ended occasionally but when duty calls you don’t exactly get time to screen.”

So far this Season Eight seems to be running for an undecided amount of issues. How about 22, like each regular season would be itself?

Renee: “Wasn’t Nick Fury a Colonel when he ran S.H.I.E.L.D?”
Xander: “I like him better in his Howling Commando days but your nerd points are accumulating impressively.”

General Voll (re Buffy): “Worst of all, they’ve got a leader. Charismatic, uncompromising and completely destructive. I mean for the love of God, look what she did to her home town.”

I noticed Buffy was wearing a Serenity logo on her shirt. This issue had ads for the Serenity comic as well.

Buffy: “You’re a terrible watcher.”
Xander: “Well clearly.”

In the beginning of this issue Buffy mentioned there being at least 1800 slayers out there with 500 of them working for her in 10 different squads. The gang are making an effort to contact the rest, right?

Dawn: “Kenny never said he was a thricewise.”
Buffy: “I said he was a thricewise, Leah said he was a thricewise. Giles said he was a thricewise and he only met him on the phone.”

There’s a lot of people missing from this issue including Willow, Giles, Andrew, Kennedy, Rona, Vi, Faith and Robin.

Buffy (to Xander): “I miss my home. I miss my Mom, I miss the gang and churros and sex. Great muppety Odin, I miss that sex.”

Chronology: It’s been 18 months since “Chosen”, so it’s November 2004.

Well this was definitely a good start to what will hopefully be a compelling continuation of the Buffy-verse. “The Long Way Home Part 1” earns points for the Whedon esque dialogue, the introduction of some old and new baddies but scarcely referencing other characters and being only 32 pages long makes you feel a bit short changed at times. Still though, Joss is finding his feet and it will take a while before everyone really sinks their teeth into proceedings but at least we’re off to an interesting start.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Lost - Season 2 Review

US Airdate: September 21st 2005- May 24th 2006 on ABC.

The Island drama hits quite the few bumps in its second run as we’re introduced to new characters, hatches and learn just how far The Others are willing to go to get what they want.

I Swear If I See Another Hatch, I Will Scream – At some point in every good series, you are gonna come across hopefully one season that will test patience and faith in the show. This happens to every single show going but when you are a show that has become a cultural zeitgeist, the critics are even more anxious to tear you down even further. Season Two is sadly the very season in question for Lost.
The show wasn’t alone as ABC’s other zeitgeist, Desperate Housewives the same uninviting fate and since then recaptured its glory. However some viewers seem less forgiving about this show’s less than stellar second year.
The first half of the second year has two major plots – the hatch discovered by Jack, Kate, Locke and Hurley and the discovery of survivors from the tail section of Flight 815.
There were plenty of things you could hope to find in a big hatch but a Scottish bloke named Desmond with an affinity for Mama Cass and a computer telling you to programme those infamous numbers every 108 minutes to avoid destruction wasn’t one of them.
Still though it opens up premiere episode “Man Of Science, Man Of Faith” pretty well but for some odd reason why this hatch would become a temporary blessing and a hindrance to the series, the more interesting things in regards to the opening episode involved Shannon spotting a captured Walt. Spooky Walk is one of the many things this season won’t bother to explain and if you think about it too hard it will lessen your enjoyment of the season.
With Desmond’s slight arc dominating both “Adrift” and “Orientation” and not really igniting much interest, the best thing from these two episodes is the introduction of the tail section. We already met the volatile Ana-Lucia from the Season One and it’s amazing for a character who seems to be a better leader than Jack that she became an instant hate figure for audience but thankfully the charismatic Mr Eko and the introduction of Rose’s husband Bernard and fellow tailies Cindy and Libby in “Everybody Hates Hugo”, you’ve got the most compelling plot to the first half of this season. The tailies first capture Jin, Michael and Sawyer when they mistake them for member of The Others and then decide to help them go back to their camp.
If the Fuselage had suffered with Claire, Charlie and Walt’s abductions, then Ana-Lucia and company’s experiences with The Others have fared worse to the point where Mr Eko is hiding in the bushes in “And Found” and Ana Lucia is more than willing to leave a wounded Sawyer behind in “Abandoned”. The sixth episode is the first one of this season with some real action and our second kill with Ana Lucia inadvertently shooting Shannon. To nearly every viewer that solidified Ana Lucia as a hate figure but at the same time any realist would’ve noted that it was an accident but still the very harsh experiences that the tail section had to suffer at the hands of being stranded on the island and routinely attacked by The Others is brilliantly highlighted in “The Other 48 Days”. Easily the best episode of the series’ entire run, this captivating episode was essentially a retelling of the two part Pilot episode but it was much better and it really made you sympathise with Ana Lucia all the more.
With keeping Sayid from killing her, Ana Lucia’s flashback episode “Collision” offered some explanation into her abrasive nature while not attempting to justify her killing of an innocent woman.
With the tail section and the fuselage all reunited, stuff that happened in between wasn’t quite as compelling. Okay we had Locke and Jack constantly fight over control of the hatch like jackals, Hurley being badgered by Charlie who in turn was badgered about Locke in regards to his addiction and co-dependant relationship with Claire and Aaron but overall the tail section drama kept these episodes more exciting.
The flashbacks this season however hit a snag in predictability. For instance with Sawyer, it’s scamming someone, Jack who just wants to fix things and Locke who seems to be consistently duped. Kate’s only flashback episode the predictably titled “What Kate Did” revealed that her crime involved doing in her scumbag biological father and only upped the by now tiresome triangle between her, Jack and Sawyer. I don’t really understand why the writers both so much with this arc when the likes of Sun and Jin, Rose and Bernard and the developing romance between Hurley and the mysterious Libby are far more believable.
Better plotted however was “The 23rd Psalm” which revealed that the silent but deadly Mr Eko was once a deranged drug lord and also had him scaring the crap out of the smoke monster to boot. Even yapping Charlie’s involvement couldn’t bring this plot to its knees along his contribution to Season Two is akin to Andrew’s in Buffy Season Seven – horrifically pointless.
After a good start the second half is less than impressive and our confrontation with The Others in “The Hunting Party” is dull. It doesn’t help a lot that Jack is an unsympathetic asshole throughout the entire episode with little cause. Even direr is “Fire And Water” which not only represents the series’ worst episode but is also just horribly all over the place. Both Charlie and Locke were characters I liked in the first season but by this year, I had grown tired of them.
The worst thing about the Losties is that if they aren’t sharing information, then they’ll resort to dirty tricks in order get power over each other. Sawyer did this in “The Long Con” by getting Charlie make it look like The Others attacked Sun so it’s a relief in “One Of Them” when Danielle re-emerges to bring back a mysterious man named Henry Gale who she believes is in cahoots with The Others despite his protestations other wise. The criminally underused Sayid doesn’t believe him and is quick to torture him but the wily man played to perfection by Michael Emerson, is soon just conflict among Jack, Locke and Sayid to his advantage. By the next episode “Maternity Leave” you’ll have already figured out which side Henry is on but honestly Danielle helping Kate and Claire and the discovery of her daughter Alex is a joy even more than Sun’s discovery of her pregnancy in “The Whole Truth” and the closeness that it brings to her and Jin but the season takes a progress with “Lockdown” as Locke managed to get duped again and we learn Henry Gale isn’t the real man’s name before Libby’s suspicious past is tapped upon in “Dave”. I liked the idea of a Hurley/Libby relationship but this episode did make me wonder whether or not her intentions towards Hurley were noble.
It’s a pity that both Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros’ drink driving offences became their undoing because once we get past the rather dull “S.O.S.” (which gave us some backstory on Rose and Bernard), the pivotal “Two For The Road” then saw both Ana-Lucia and Libby spectacularly shot by Michael, who was coerced by The Others in order to get Walt back. It’s a fantastic parting episode but surely Libby could’ve been spared long enough to give us more on her. Too bad for us then!
With this episode finally igniting some real excitement and danger back into the series, the final four build upon it and the discovery of another hatch in “?” is superfluous compared to The Others demanding to Michael during his flashbacks in “Three Minutes” to bring Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley to them.
Season finale “Live Together, Die Alone Parts 1 and 2” then has our Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley all bound and gagged at a pier where the captive foursome learn that Henry Gale is the leader of The Others while for a second year in a row, Locke decides to put people’s lives in danger by stopping Mr Eko from punching in the code. Frankly I’m sick of Locke’s volatile nature being excused or skimmed past. He caused Boone’s death in Season One and got away with it and here he nearly caused more deaths. As much of a pain in the backside Jack is, even he isn’t that. Other highlights included Desmond’s return which was far better than his introduction and his flashbacks involving girlfriend’s Penny’s attempts to get men to reach the island is intriguing.
Season Two has had a mixture of ideas, some were excellent, and a lot weren’t. There were some unmissable episodes and there was ones that I wouldn’t be in an immediate hurry to watch again. Some more answers, less of the daddy issues wouldn’t go amiss.

EXTRAS: Well there are the usual array of commentaries for the likes of “Man Of Science, Man Of Faith” with Matthew Fox and Cuse and Lindelof, “What Kate Did” with Evangeline Lily”, as well as ones for “The 23rd Psalm”, “The Whole Truth” and “Dave”. You’d think with episodes as strong as “The Other 48 Days”, “Two For The Road” and “Live Together, Die Alone” we’d get producers talking about them too. Disc 7 has the most material though with an extensive behind the scenes on at least ten different episodes, a smattering of deleted scenes, theories by the show’s actors and fans alike, a rundown of Sawyer’s nicknames, secrets about the hatch, the Channel 4 trailer, flashbacks we didn’t see and some hilarious bloopers. Fault the season all you want but the DVD set is once again excellent.


2x01: Man Of Science, Man Of Faith = 8/10, 2x02: Adrift = 7/10,
2x03: Orientation = 7/10, 2x04: Everybody Hates Hugo = 6/10,
2x05: And Found = 7/10, 2x06: Abandoned = 9/10,
2x07: The Other 48 Days = 10/10, 2x08: Collision = 8/10,
2x09: What Kate Did = 7/10, 2x10: The 23rd Psalm = 10/10,
2x11: The Hunting Party = 6/10, 2x12: Fire And Water = 4/10,
2x13: The Long Con = 9/10, 2x14: One Of Them = 7/10,
2x15: Maternity Leave = 8/10, 2x16: The Whole Truth = 8/10,
2x17: Lockdown = 7/10, 2x18: Dave = 8/10,
2x19: S.O.S. = 6/10, 2x20: Two For The Road = 10/10,
2x21: ? = 8/10, 2x22: Three Minutes = 7/10,
2x23: Live Together, Die Alone Part 1 = 8/10,
2x24: Live Together, Die Alone Part 2 = 8/10.

Season Two is currently available on DVD.