Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x13: "Wolves At The Gate Part 2"

Written by Drew Goddard
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Dracula: “There was this witch with them …I never should have her deal … those filthy yellow swine!”
Xander: “You know, I really don’t remember you being this racist.”

There’s plenty of things I don’t actually remember as well. Admittedly it has been ages since I’ve watched “Buffy Vs. Dracula” but there’s a lot going on in this comic that doesn’t add up to what we’ve seen in the episode and what has happened since then. I’m not the only one who’s a tad confused, right?

The first shot we see of Dracula here is not him greeting Xander and Renee. No, its fifteen minutes prior to their arrival and Dracula looks awful so to speak. He’s old, hairy, drunk, in need desperate need of a shower and has seemed to lose all enthusiasm for everything.

This even extends to slaughter. His servant Butterfield tries to chide into killing an Albanian boy let loose but all Dracula can do is sit around and feel sorry for himself. Although Butterfield seems to be a loyal servant, he has no problem in pointing out to his employer that staff are gossiping about him too.

Dracula doesn’t seem to be really bothered that he’s the talk of his people but he should be. His people are revelling in his glory, they’re revelling in how pathetic he has become. I’m not really sure why or how Dracula has become this way but I do find it rather interesting that as soon as he sees Xander and Renee’s helicopter, he’s all for getting himself spruced up.

Of course just because he’s delighted to see Xander, it doesn’t mean he wants to deal with him right away. Xander has to persuade him to let him by telling him of the vampires who have his type of powers. Renee on the other hand is given some racial abuse before Xander insists that she accompanies them. Um, Renee, you’re a lovely girl but you should’ve socked Dracula one. Nice that Xander stuck up for her though.

However if Xander is fearing that Dracula’s hold on him is strong, well then he’s justified. They’re barely in the door before he tries to get rid of Renee. At least Renee has the sense to put her foot down and insist that she stays with him. Looks like Dracula really does only affect certain people.

As for the incredibly shit part of the comic – Andrew. So far in this comic book season the writers have done the noble thing and kept him away. Hell he was nowhere to be seen during all of “No Future For You” (one of the many reasons why I adored that arc) but sadly he’s here in a bigger and more teeth grindingly annoying way.

He’s basically telling all the slayers about what exactly Dracula is. Needless to say they already know and really don’t want to be subjected to one of Andrew’s idiotic presentations. Is it still too much to hope that this guy gets a painful death somewhere in this series?

Andrew does however point out that Dracula and Xander have a special relationship. After the pleasant ‘what the fuck’ moment in the opening episode of Doctor Who’s fourth season, the unpleasant thing is thinking of Xander and Dracula’s special bond. Last time I checked Xander loathed every vampire in the universe. Anya’s death or not, what the hell would really motivate him into having a friendship with Dracula?

Moving away from Dracula, at least there’s some progress in the scythe stealing business when a Japanese slayer named Aiko manages to tell Buffy about a vampire sect in Tokyo, lead by Toru. This was the same who managed to best Buffy in the last issue and by the end of this one; he will really pose a threat to her.

While Buffy tells Aiko to stay put, she is insistent on bringing every slayer to Tokyo despite Satsu making the sensible deduction that leaving some behind for defence wouldn’t be a bad idea. Sadly Buffy is in one of her snappy moods and basically ignores sound advice for the millionth time.

At least Buffy does one decent thing by asking about Xander. I swear if this arc indulges on Buffy’s superiority, I will personally ring someone’s neck. Willow points out that Xander isn’t responding and given Xander’s track history, this should mean that he’s in really serious trouble.

Then again it could also mean having to read through the next few pages of relentless arse crawling between Xander and Dracula. Actually it does as they manage to compliment each other on their improved appearances in a way that sounds way too fake for its own good. Renee gets to represent most readers with the look of pure boredom of watching these two.

Fortunately Renee’s patience also snaps and she tries to sway the conversation into business. Dracula’s venomous hostility for the girl really shows itself here when he continues to call her a “moor”. Even Xander refers to her that way by accident but even still it’s Renee who is generating all of the sympathy here. At least Xander is quick to apologise for his poor taste in words.

Dracula on the other hand still continues to get irritated by Renee. Okay so she’s accusing him of selling his powers for profit but she has no loyalty to Dracula so in my opinion she’s got every right to antagonise him. Much as I love Xander, he’s being reverted into a butt monkey here with the way he keeps attempting to placate Dracula.

However while Dracula might not have sold his powers, he still lost them in a way, thanks to a bit of gambling that went wrong. Renee might be disgusted by him but Dracula really does lose his rag when he threatens to slit her throat. Xander, it’s here you really should be sticking for Renee.

Another thing about Dracula is his loathing of Buffy. Yes, the very woman who rejected and humiliated him but at the same time, he’s willing to help. Thankfully not because of whatever bizarre attachment he might have to Xander but more because of his anger of cheated by the Tokyo vampires. Dracula’s racist reaction even towards them takes Xander by surprise. Clearly he’s never seen Celebrity Big Brother 2007.

As for Aiko she has a good time following both Toru and Raidon in an effort to see what they’re up to and not get caught at the same time. That might have helped if neither one of them didn’t know that she was on their tail. I’m guessing that Aiko might the only slayer around if she’s doing it alone.

Of course Raidon and Toru are more focused on their recent acquisition and the little issue of a spell. Toru is insistent that another vampire keeps working on it and while there does seem to be a fair amount of goading with them; they both take delight in knowing that Aiko is following them.

Raidon might be a bit worried about Aiko but Toru decides that perhaps it’s time they gave the girl a little something to see. Of all the things she could see, I’m intrigued to know what Toru has up his sleeve because from what we’ve seen, Aiko’s a pretty strong slayer.

As for Buffy, she spends the flight to Tokyo pretty much just scowling before Willow gives us an insight into what Buffy is thinking. Unfortunately this is the same old thing that we’ve seen and heard a million times before – Buffy’s alone, Buffy’s got the weight of the world on her shoulders and Buffy’s not gay.

To counteract with all of these questions, here’s my two cents. Buffy’s alone – yeah because after eight years she still won’t let people in. No-one is choosing to ignore her, it’s Buffy ignoring them. Buffy’s got the weight of the world on her shoulders – I’m sorry but no she doesn’t. She’s not the slayer anymore, she’s a slayer. The world is every slayers burden now. She should be using that fact to connect with her team, not disengage from them.

As for the Buffy’s not gay bit – well duh! Satsu already knew that before and after sleeping with Buffy so Willow dropping that nugget was as useless as the other ones she dispensed in this episode. Satsu might be in love with Buffy but she seems clued up to know that they’re never going to have a relationship.

As for Willow asking Satsu what Buffy is like in bed, maybe I’m being a stick in the mud but that one bothered me. Why the hell would you want to know about your friend’s sexual prowess? It made Willow come across as a bit creepy. Thank God Satsu actually told her to mind her own business.

Last but not least, Aiko got the rough end of the deal. All her clever work and stealthy spying on Raidon and Toru and she becomes a victim of that vampire sect’s scheme. It turns out that with a ring and the scythe, a slayer can be reverted back into a normal girl. It makes a fair amount of sense that the scythe could reverse the process.

Toru takes ultimate fun in this by breaking Aiko’s jaw, taunting her and then to cap it all off, just killing her. Knowing that their little spell actually works, the next thing the psychotic gang decide to do is to take it globally. Oh Buffy, you are so screwed but after some of the ill judged humour of this issue, this is a good way of saving things.

Also in “Wolves At The Gates Part 2”

The cover for this issue is nice. You’ve got Xander, a creepy castle and two female vampires.

Butterfield: “What has become of the mighty Dracula?”
Dracula: “I told you to leave me be, Butterfield. I assure you, I’m fine. I don’t require help from you or from anyone.”

Dracula has some interesting pictures hanging up on his walls. There’s a battle picture, maybe it’s of Vlad The Impaler?

Dracula: “Oh. Very well. Come inside, manservant. Your moor can wait in the stables.”
Xander: “Wha –no. No, no, no, no. She’s not my moor. That’s … ha …that’s terrible, Master. This is … this is Renee. She’s my, um …uh … she’s with me.”

Xander: “I’m just saying. Maybe it’s for the best. Hey you could go look for that Albanian boy.”
Renee: “I’m not leaving you alone with this guy.”

Andrew lists Dracula’s powers as transmogrification, piercing hypnotic stare, impervious to stakes and romantic undertones.

Slayer: “This is seriously his worst lecture since his one on that weapon from Krull.”
Andrew: “Hey I heard that! And it’s called the Glaive, thank you very much.”

Buffy: “Are those Kabuki demons?”
Aiko: “They were Kabuki demons.”
Buffy: “Those things are vicious.”
Aiko: “You’re telling me. I think one actually scratched me.”

That’s a funny exchange because you can see one of the Kabuki demons cowering in a corner crying. Aiko is certainly a brutal slayer.

Xander: “Thanks, you look good too.”
Dracula: “Oh you’re just saying that because I complimented you.”
Xander: “No – I’m not, I promise.”

Dracula: “That’s preposterous.”
Renee: “Or maybe you sold your powers to the highest bidder.”
Dracula: “Manservant, your moor is on snide comment away from a swarm of bees.”

As soon as Dracula uttered “oh balls”, he all of a sudden became Spike. Believe me when I say that isn’t a good thing.

Raidon (re Aiko): “One block back. South side of the street. She’s good – she knows to keep a distance but she’s keeping a close eye on us.”
Toru: “Well then. Let’s give her something to see.”

Dracula (to Xander/Renee): “I loathe Buffy Summers, her whole army makes me want to retch and I’d just as soon see them wiped off the map once and for all. However. Nobody steals from Dracula.”

If you read the letter page, there’s a response from the winner of the Issue 10 guest spot. It’s a really touching letter.

Willow: “Good. Now. What’s she like in the sack?”
Satsu: “What?”
Willow: “Do you know how long I’ve wondered about this? Don’t hold out on me sister.”

Satsu: “I’m not telling you anything.”
Willow: “Oh yes you are. Did she make that high pitched squeal? I call it her ‘shoe-sale noise’.”

The latest Angel issue “First Night” also got released this week but I’ll review that issue next week.

Toru (to Aiko): “Shoot. I just broke your jaw, didn’t I? That’s unfortunate. I was hoping you could tell me what it feels like to be a regular girl again. Must be terrifying.”

This issue takes place exactly from where the last one left off.

“Wolves At The Gate Part 2” wasn’t the best issue we’ve had so far. Some of the humour falls a bit flat, some of it borders on being offensive (even though I doubt that was Drew Goddard’s real intention) and there’s not enough time spent on the real action of the piece.

Rating: 7 out of 10.