Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x19: "Time Of Your Life Part 4"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Karl Moline

Dark Willow: “I hate history. Not the subject – I always loved it in school: the French-Indian war, the Medicis, 1066 and all that. History is all romantic stories until you live it. Until you live long enough to be part of it.”

Given how long since it was with the last issue I was almost beginning to think this one would never surface. After all, the dates did change a good few times and out of all the arc related stories we’ve had, this one has been significantly weaker than the rest of them.

Things look dire for Buffy when she’s tied to a chair and Dark Willow is seemingly lording it over her. Fray on the other hand, might not have had a problem with rendering Buffy unconscious but thankfully enough, she isn’t that eager on killing her either.

Funnily enough Dark Willow doesn’t seem to be advocating Buffy’s death but does make a point of telling Fray to at least keep Buffy contained so that when another temporal rift opens, Buffy can’t escape. Of course it’s Erin who challenges this only for Fray to be convinced that Buffy will end the world if she goes home.

To be honest apart from some cryptic dialogue in the previous two issues, we haven’t had an iota of evidence to suggest that this dystopian future is solely Buffy’s responsibility. It might be easy to blame Buffy for everything going to the crapper but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s her fault.

Still I am interested in how easily convinced that Fray is that Buffy going back endangers her whole existence but then Buffy actually wakes up and her and Dark Willow have a bit of discussion. It’s nice that Buffy conveys some shock to see her friend going dark but how on Earth did Willow become immortal?

I was hoping for an explanation but Dark Willow’s too busy pointing out the obviousness of Kennedy no longer factoring in her life to give us one. It also doesn’t help that Buffy’s frustration of having no allies is marred with an appearance from Harth, who’s about as welcome as Andrew at a sci-fi convention.

It seems that Dark Willow is unsurprisingly enough playing each side off. Meleka’s got into her head that Buffy going home causes their world to cease to exist while Harth believes her arrival is a big advantage. He’s also stupid enough to convey his annoyance when Dark Willow is clearly trying to warn him to shut it.

At the end of the day however it seems that death is on Dark Willow’s mind, so the duping of both brother and sister was for her own benefit. Even now it would still seem that eradicating Buffy would be the agenda but when she talks about who kills a person rather than who died, thoughts tended to go elsewhere really.

Buffy herself at least has that goofy monkey creature trying to get her free but even in her frustration; it’s nice that Fray won’t kill another slayer. The other fun part is trying to guess who exactly Dark Willow is fobbing off. For someone who isn’t all powerful and could be killed by either Buffy, Fray or Harth, Dark Willow does very little to defend herself.

That being said I did enjoy watching her goad Harth. The guy’s pretty much an idiot and while it’s intriguing that Dark Willow has no desire to kill him. Fortunately a not remotely dead Gunther has no problem in doing his very best to kill Harth’s pathetic little gang.

Buffy uses the distraction to her advantage and she even gets to take some pleasure in punching Erin and electrocuting Fray. It’s just too bad she’s not prepared to listen to Dark Willow who obviously hasn’t completely told her why she teleported her 200 years in the future. At this rate, it’s beginning to look a lot less sinister than originally intended.

Back in the present day, Xander and Dawn are in league with a serious army of woodland creatures. This is good, seeing as Amy’s magical creatures are still in attack mode and the battle itself has a fair amount of decapitation and the like. Visually it looks really good in some places.

Even some of Xander’s fears don’t deter the scenario and having some of the remaining slayers lead by Leah at least gives him and Dawn a bigger advantage. Overall it’s far better than having Xander and Dawn sit around and do nothing, even if there’s a part of me that wishes they were actually aware of what was going on with Buffy and Willow but that’s a minor quibble.

Buffy herself meanwhile keeps on with the escape route and seems to have latched on to speeding a little better than before. Of course, there’s no way Fray’s gonna give up with a halfway decent fight and so having Buffy muse about Fray is a nice way to lead into another confrontation between the two of them.

It’s really good that during these scenes Fray doesn’t come across as an unhinged and instead is just foolishly desperate to maintain her own existence. She’s foolish because Buffy returning to her own time will not affect and even after Dark Willow was exposed as a liar, you’d think Fray would realise that.

Buffy tries to make her see sense and even gives a ‘fate of the world’ spiel but Fray seems more determined to keep Buffy here. Fight wise, it’s not the most impressive that we’ve had but it’s fun enough, even though I’m still siding more with Buffy than Fray. Now if this had been Buffy and Faith, I’d have been rooting for the latter but it isn’t so Buffy gets my vote here.

Dark Willow on the other hand just gawks at the whole smackdown like a voyeur but the best part is addressing the fight from Fray’s point of view. Fray’s assessment of Buffy will make some viewers laugh and a lot agree. She’s fighting a bit of slayer history but she’s fighting it for no reason and that’s saddening on her part. It also doesn’t help her that Buffy is quick thinking with a water tower.

Elsewhere in the land of actual villains, it’s oddly comforting to know that even a couple as gloriously demented as Amy and Warren are not above fighting over who’s the bigger idiot. I could solve this one very easily – Amy and Warren, you’re both supreme idiots but sadly no-one’s going to be asking for my advice.

The not so loved up couple are of course tearing strips of each other regarding the hit on slayer central and the forest fight. Amy’s critiquing the futility of Warren’s little bomb and Warren himself isn’t that impressed with his girlfriend’s magical army. Weirdly enough, there’s some actually delightful in this.

Warren’s such a hardcore misogynist that at some point, he’s got to say something that will truly piss Amy. Seeing as her magic is basically a skin substitute, Warren should probably hold his tongue and while Amy might have more of an advantage on him, she should definitely watch her back. After all, Warren’s got excellent form as a girlfriend killer but these two against each other could also be entertaining.

It’s also their bickering that puts Twilight in an amused mood and even reveals that his latest addition to the anti-magic cause is Riley. As someone who actually likes Riley, I’m a little disappointed that he’s seemingly coming back as a villain and even when he talks about Buffy in a mocking manner.

So from the little exchange we get, we know that Buffy and Riley have had some contact post “Chosen” and there’s even the speculation that Riley could either be divorced or widowed at this point. If it’s the latter, I could see how this might have lured him into helping Twilight’s cause but I’m actually hoping that he’s really double crossing the magic hater.

As for the real Willow, she does her best to bring Buffy back to the 21st Century and even blindfolds herself so she doesn’t look at the future. Fray might be unsuccessful in stopping Buffy from leaving but Dark Willow certainly has no problem with getting in her way one more time.

So Buffy has apparently failed something and like anyone else reading this issue, she’s bored of Dark Willow’s cryptic clues and wants some straight answers. While Willow doesn’t provide an answer, I’ve read enough interesting theories that Buffy being dragged her was some elaborate scheme so that Dark Willow could finally be set free by having Buffy kill her.

The death scene isn’t quite as emotional as it should be and as a resolution, it’s unsatisfying. The end however with Willow pulling Buffy out and the grateful slayer hugging her and crying is sweet. Heck, even Kennedy’s ‘I’m watching those hands’ doesn’t ruin the moment.

As for Fray and Erin, well both of them are alive so that really should be the end of things. As much as I had wanted to get into the Fray angle of things, I felt this arc overall was something of a missed opportunity for the character. Perhaps we’ll see her again in a more satisfying arc.

Also in “Time Of Your Life Part 4”

The cover for this issue is one of the best we’ve had – a black eyed Willow with Buffy reflected in one of her eyes for good measure.

Buffy: “Oh my God! You went dark again? You are so in huge trouble for going dark. How could you even – is Kennedy okay?”
Dark Willow: “It’s been two hundred years, Buffy. How do you think she is?”
Buffy: “Okay, fair enough. Let’s move on. Why am I shackled, why are you evil and why isn’t anyone on my side?”

The interesting question is will Buffy actually tell Willow that she goes dark again? I personally can’t see her doing it but I wouldn’t rule it out either.

Dark Willow (to Fray): “You see what I’ve seen, you come and go as I have … you realise the most important thing about death isn’t who dies … it’s who kills them.”

Harth: “Your fortune-telling’s tapped, witch.”
Dark Willow: “Harth, you should be careful when you choose your enemies.”
Harth: “Your power’s but gone. You can’t stop an army by yourself.”
Dark Willow: “Don’t plan to.”

Why did that monkey/spider creature decide to free Buffy? It didn’t seem like there was a purpose to it.

Buffy: “Erin! Listen to me! That’s for ‘Puffy’. I’m leaving. I don’t care about your world. I have to save mine.”

Xander: “You’re just into guys with no lower half now, is what.”
Dawn: “Don’t be gross.”
Xander: “You wanna nuzzle his root system.”
Dawn: “I hope you die first. With the most wounds.”
Xander: “Pretty much counting on it.”

Where did Xander get that awful helmet? It looked like a hollowed acorn and why wasn’t Dawn wearing any headwear?

Fray: “Can you swear my world won’t mist out if you leave?”
Buffy: “You know I can’t.”
Fray: “The big picture.”
Buffy: “It’s called the fate of the world, short view.”
Fray: “‘Fate of the world’ made sense … when there was only one.”

Fray (re Buffy): “She’s not some big head carved on Mount Walmore. She’s just a tiny, whiney, long dead slayer … in a damn unpractical frock.”

Riley’s sporting the big old Twilight symbol on his chest so I really hope him and Buffy don’t end up having sex if he wants to dupe her.

Warren: “You start with that self-actualising womyn-jargon, I’m gonna build a robot you with no mouth.”
Amy: “Well, maybe I’ll conjure a love slave who has skin.”
Twilight (to Riley): “Ah, young love … isn’t it depressing?”

Riley (to Twilight, re Buffy): “I tell her I’m her inside man, her ever faithful. She’s so stuck in the past, man … when we had our secret meeting in New York … she even got dressed up.”

A lot of the letters in this issue were about the “No Future For You” arc. I’ve read that Faith and Giles are back in Issue 24 so not too long to wait.

Buffy: “I’m cute and blonde and popular but I’m not stupid, Will. You dragged me here and then you told me exactly how to get out. Everything, every lie to get us here. Why? What happened? Why does it have to be me?”
Dark Willow: “It’s a long story.”

Kennedy (to Willow/Buffy): “I’m watching those hands, you two.”

The next issue, “After These Messages … We’ll Be Right Back” is out on December 17th.

Like I already said, although there are some enjoyable parts to “Time Of Your Life Part 4” I still can’t help but feel under whelmed by the way this ended. I’m hoping with the Riley/Twilight subplot things will advance a bit more now but overall this felt a little wasted for Fray.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x13: "After The Fall Part 13"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Stephen Mooney

Angel (to Cordelia): “Even when we went to hell, it was going to be okay. Wesley believed it. Gunn, far gone as he is, still believes it. And I did, deep down. I truly did. I was wrong.”

With thirteen issues reminding us that we are in fact in hell, there does seem to be a never ending sense of limbo with this ‘season’. Last issue I felt like this was really going up a notch and I’m fearing that I was overconfident because this issue just seemed … sort of pointless in a way.

First off all, it begins with Spike lying on his ass dithering about the loss of his harem (most annoying groupies ever) and his unsuccessful attempts of protecting Illyria again for the billionth time. Oh and to top it off, there’s some petty jealous about the dragon as well. Seriously, Spike needs to drop the ‘look at me’ stick and soon.

Still I do feel a tad sorry that he landed in garbage but compared to other people, he’s better off and least he’s complimentary about Connor. It also helps that his perceptiveness of Connor’s emotional state is bang on too. Connor is making the rookie move of allowing his emotions to dictate his actions. It also makes him perfectly human as well.

However on the non-human front, Spike goes into vamp face mode and decides to beat the ever holy crap out of a random vampire. It’s funny that Spike comments on no-one being around for his pithy one-liners as well as his determination to get back into the fighting fray on the roof.

Of course his fight with the burly vampire is a surprising joy, mainly due to the slayer mentions and Spike besting him with little effort involved. Unfortunately for Spike, his rescue of three slayers just means that he has more problems on his hands when they decide to end him.

Cordelia meanwhile (yes, thankfully she is in this issue) is curious to know what’s gotten Angel so eager to join her on the other side. Angel believes his death could stop Wolfram And Hart overall scheme and then goes on about how manipulative the law firm are with conjuring illusions and what not.

Gunn on the other hand isn’t impressed with Wesley effectively telling him that he’s ruined things. As far as Gunn is concerned, the army they faced in the alleyway of “Not Fade Away” was big but Wesley is quick to point out otherwise. I can’t wait for Gunn to realise that he’s been lead up the garden path given how rampantly annoying this season has made him.

Elsewhere the skies in hell have opened up even more with an array of dragons all heading for the roof when they’re not attacking the Cordelia dragon. More interesting is that despite his total anger towards Gwen, Connor is still willing to protect her from being slaughtered.

The boy’s heart is in the right place but against all those dragons, he really doesn’t stand a chance. Gwen is smart enough to realise that and when Connor refuses to listen to her, she bolts him away from the roof. Then Gwen also goes for the impressive jugular by using all of her electricity to kill every dragon going.

Sort of a big question playing on my mind – is Gwen dead and if so, does this count as a heroic death? I suppose next issue will determine for us but given that Gwen still believes in Gunn’s madness, I guess it would be a ‘no’ on the heroic death thing. Still, death seems to be the ongoing problem with this issue.

If millions of dragons and Gwen meeting their maker wasn’t enough, it seems that Spike getting dusted by three unnamed slayers is also a cause for frustration too. It’s not that I’m against the idea of Spike being killed but I would prefer if it was done in a way that seemed like the writer cared about the character.

As for Angel, he’s still going on about everything meaning nothing and to be honest, it’s this entire nihilistic attitude that irritating me to no end. Still the idea that Angel could be used to arise evil is intriguing but still cruel when you consider the fighting for good he’s been doing countless times over.

It’s also with that realisation that he’s eager for him and Cordelia to just leave. However in the best moment of this comic so far, there’s a brilliant face off between Connor and Gunn. Of course this comes after a pointless attempt from Wesley to try and stop Gunn getting near Angel’s body.

Surprisingly enough, Gunn isn’t too fazed by the idea of Gwen being a casualty but he doesn’t waste much time in throwing down with Connor either. The best part is Connor getting the upper hand and tossing the vampire out of the window. Now how can anyone not love Connor for that?

What’s also great about Connor’s contribution to this issue is that he’s determined not to give up on his father. While Wesley’s practically close to picking out a funeral plot for Angel, Connor’s determined to get his father out of Gunn’s lair and get him healed up as soon as a possible.

This could have come across as incredibly saccharine but given how relentlessly bleak things have become, I just love this scene. I also love that Connor’s faith in Angel is paramount to the latter not being ready to cross over. However, would it have killed for Angel to tell Cordelia that he loves her? Yes I am a shipper and I really, really wanted to see that.

Besides we got it with the Metacrisis Doctor and Rose in “Journey’s End”, so why on earth couldn’t we have gotten it with Angel and Cordy? Also we know that Angel is going to survive because Spike and his would be killers come striding up the elevator, so Gunn’s murder spree is further invalidated.

Speaking of Gunn, things seem to have gone from bad to worse with him when he meets Illyria. To give her credit, Illyria displays some curiosity towards Gunn instead of completely ripping him a new one. That being said as soon as she morphs into Fred, Gunn then shoots her and muses about being right.

Also in “After The Fall Part 13”

The cover I got with this was Connor cradling Angel’s body in the rain. I think it’s one of the best covers they’ve done.

Vampire (with severed hand): “You think this will stop me? I survived slayers.”
Spike: “I didn’t. Yet here we are. Heh, ‘I didn’t’. No-one’s ever around for the really pithy – hmmm?”

Five issues since its first appearance and we’re still getting snow, although it was during Spike’s little scenes.

Cordelia (re vision): “How do you know it was real?”
Angel: “How do I know you’re real?”

Connor: “Gwen …run.”
Gwen: “You have a sword.”
Connor: “And they have eyes. I can make this work. Just get out of here.”
Gwen: “Weren’t we just fighting?”

Please tell me that Cordelia the dragon actually survived this bloodbath issue. I know it’s probably unlikely but I’ve developed an attachment to the dragon.

Gwen: “I know you’re the leader and in no mood to listen to me –so I’m gonna make this simple – find your father, find Gunn, I don’t care. Just get off this roof.”
Connor: “No.”
Gwen: “Yes, sweetie. Go.”

Angel: “I tried so hard to help, Cordelia. But the best thing I could do for this world and everyone I love would be to leave. This is how it should be. Please. Let’s go.”

Even though we seem to be seeing the tentacle creatures in the last few issues, they have yet to actually make a threat on Angel and company.

Gunn: “Hey baby Angel. So Gwen failed.”
Connor: “Pretty sure Gwen’s dead.”

Gunn: “Admittedly I didn’t think of your feelings but in the grand scheme of things – who the hell are you anyways?”
Connor: “I’m Angel’s son. I’m Gwen’s boyfriend. I’m also the guy who just did that.”

Once again this comic fails to give us a date for the next issue. I can’t be the only one who finds that annoying each time, right?

Cordelia: “Oh, yeah, you’re running away from the light. Getting harder to stay. Question … you said one thing that made losing loved ones easier was the hope that all this was leading to something.”
Angel: “Yeah, well, I guess we can scratch that, considering.”
Cordelia: “But what was the other thing?”
Angel: “The fact that the loved ones I lost – usually come back to help me when I need it most.”
Cordelia: “See? Are those the words of the vampire destined to bring about the fall of civilisation? No way! Be good, big guy.”

Fred: “Cha … Charles-”
Gunn: “Thank you baby, thank you so much. Let’s get to work.”

No Nina or Lorne in this issue and what the hell has happened to Groo as well?

While it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it too, it was naturally disappointing. “After The Fall Part 13” had some good moments – Angel/Cordy, Gunn/Connor but overall, I’m still finding this frustrating at times as a reader and fan of the series.

Rating: 7 out of 10.