Monday, December 29, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x20: "After These Messages We'll Be Right Back"

Written by Jeph Loeb
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Joyce: “Buffy! Are you listening to me?”
Buffy: “Okay, now we’re just being cruel. Dream, dream, go away. Come again another … never.”

Following the end of the somewhat disappointing, “Time Of Your Life” four parter, the last release of 2008 certainly sees things go on an interesting note with Buffy continuing her demon slaying.

In fact for the first three pages she’s warning various nasties not to come near her and when they fail to listen she just kills them. Well, she was going to do that anyway but it’s a nice opening scene and it sets the mood for Buffy to then take a nice relaxing moment to sleep off her blues.

The only problem is that if you’re going to sleep in your smelly clothing, then it’s best to make sure that you’re sleeping in the right bed. Buffy learns pretty quickly from Xander that she’s planked her smelly self on his bed but instead of actually getting off the bed, she just drifts to dreamland.

This is also the place where the action of this issue takes place. In her dreams, Buffy is sleeping in her own bedroom back in Sunnydale and she’s a teenage girl. However what really ignites the alarm bells is the fact that she hears Joyce’s voice and thinks that fate is being cruel to her yet again.

Having recently lost my own mother, I get where Buffy is coming from with this one. The death of a parent is something that you can never get over and Buffy’s mixture of fear and joy upon hearing her mother’s voice is certainly potent, even if she knows that this is simply a dream she’s having.

It also doesn’t help Buffy that while Joyce is insistent on her getting ready for school, Dawn is also there being a general nuisance in the way that a young sibling can be. For anyone else, it’s just amazing to see a Dawn who isn’t a giant or a centaur at this point in time.

Buffy also manages to get her own back on Dawn by simply hugging her and naturally enough, Dawn thinks that her big sister is on drugs. Given that magic was used as a very bad analogy for drug use in the sixth season, Dawn should be lucky her sister isn’t hooked on such things.

More importantly we get a nice choice scene between Buffy and Joyce. Buffy almost lets slip that she’s a slayer but then realises that she’s in a time period when her mother knew about her erratic behaviour but not the cause of it. Of course, there’s also the excitement of a party to attend as well.

Being in Buffy’s dream world also means being back in High School and while I’m not overtly nostalgic, this does actually work very well to the comic’s strengths. For those of you who missed the unbridled mean spirited Cordelia, you’ll be delighted to catch up her with her.

Within seconds, she’s happily dithering on about her cool party and then she’s having more fun at Willow’s expense. Given that one of her first insults to Willow had been about the ‘softer side of Sears’, telling the red head that she should get a haircut so everyone can see just how hopeless she is completely in character for the woman.

Of course Buffy plays the good friend part by reassuring Willow and Xander nearly flattens the pair of them with his bad motoring skills on a skateboard. Xander falling flat on his ass is one thing but Snyder surfacing only moments after this just screams typical. The guy could sniff out disaster frequently and he’s not exactly shy in robbing Xander of his skateboard.

School stuff aside, we do get a trip to the graveyard and while Buffy, Xander and Willow are primarily in party mode and even the arrival of Giles isn’t going to put a dampener on such things. Of course, Buffy already knows that it’s around this time that slaying usually did tend to get in the way of having fun.

Monster wise, Giles certainly finds an interesting group of vampires called the Disciples Of Morgala. Personally, I thought they meant Morgana but its Morgala and these vampires are unique due to the fact that they’re worshipping something called Morgala but while Giles might be eager to outline the danger, the rest of the Scoobies are distracted.

A bunch of sixteen year old kids being distracted by the idea of a party isn’t something that should be a major shock to Giles but having Giles trying to be sarcastic about it certainly didn’t work in his favour though. That being said, it did manage to get Buffy’s attention long enough for him to continue discussing the dangers of the crazed disciples.

Given a two page spread, we get to see Buffy slaying the three Morgala worshipping vampires in such an impressive feat. Plus if the Strictly Come Dancing team need a new judge, then perhaps Xander should apply. His acerbic judging of Buffy’s slaying prowess boasts some of the best dialogue I’ve read in a comic.

Overall Buffy’s little victory makes her one hell of a content slayer and because of that, she’s back into party mode. It doesn’t take much of a genius to realise that what with everything that has happened this season, all Buffy wants to do is enjoy simpler times. It might not be a realistic option for her but she shouldn’t be begrudged for wanting to feel normal either.

It also leads to an argument scene between her and Giles in which for once, I can actually side with Buffy. Given that this time last year in “No Future For You Part 4”, it was Buffy who was behaving unreasonably, Giles is the one who does seem a little unreasonable by accusing her of not taking her slaying more seriously. That being said, maybe Buffy didn’t need to yell at him quite as fiercely as she did.

Still, prior to the party side of things, the comic does leave room for one more scene between Buffy and Joyce and it’s just as poignant as their first one. Maybe at this point in the story, Buffy’s craving for a simpler life are beginning to get too relentless but she’s still got my sympathies.

However if there was one meeting I’m sure many people were looking forward, then I bet it’s the one with her and Angel. Now I was never an obsessive Buffy/Angel shipper – I loved them as a couple but felt it made sense when they split and I became something of an Angel/Cordy shipper later on but seeing them together is nice.

Sexual tension in the air, Angel’s pretty quick to congratulate Buffy on her victory against the Morgala worshippers. Buffy on the other hand is a bit more snappish, more eager to get to her party rather than talk to Angel. Heck, she even tries to take his ego down a few notches when he notices that she’s wearing the necklace he got her all those years ago.

More importantly her encounter with Angel raises two interesting points. First off all, if you something about another person’s future, do you tell him? In Angel’s case, should be told that by sleeping with Buffy, he ends up losing his soul, murders Jenny Calendar and nearly destroys the world? I think in cases like this, you should tell.

Of course the other point is Buffy then realising there were five worshippers and not three. Her bad math means leaving the party she obsessed about going to in order to stop Morgala from being raised. Only problem is that she’s naturally too late and the creature reawakens.

I suppose Morgala could’ve been any kind of a demon but a dragon is pretty cool to me. It looks better than the ones we’ve gotten in the Angel comics and it certainly gives Buffy a decent enough shock when it takes her out for a flying lesson. First Willow, then Twilight and now this? Buffy really should try keeping her feet on the ground.

Still dragon slaying is always fun, especially if one of your shoes can somehow come into contact with Cordelia’s head and by getting rid of the diamond from its head, it’s not like Morgala the dragon actually got to cause any real terror. It also means that by defeating the dragon, Buffy snapped out of her nostalgia laced dream almost as quickly as she fell into it.

When she does wake up, her odour is still rip discussion (I’m sorry, I know it’s a terrible pun) by Xander and Dawn. However Buffy seriously comes across as a super hugger when Willow enters the room. I suppose this means that Buffy didn’t enlighten Willow that she killed her 200 years later.

More importantly Buffy did explain to her friends and Dawn that she enjoyed her little trip back to the old days and as reader, I have to admit that I did too. It’s not something that could’ve been done earlier in the season but it did work beautifully here though.

Also in “After These Messages We’ll Be Right Back”

The cover for this is utter genius with Buffy, Xander and Willow viewing an animated Buffy on a TV screen.

Buffy (to a variety of demons): “Can’t say I didn’t warn you! Can’t say I didn’t warn you! Can’t say I didn’t warn you! Can’t say I – oh, grr, I guess I can.”

The demons Buffy slayed in the beginning of the story were all in bad weather conditions. One of them was a vampire though.

Buffy: “Xander. Puh-lease. I’m all stinky. I’m still in my stinky clothes. In my stinky bed. So go away from my stinky bed and I can get some stinky sleep!”
Xander: “But … that’s just it, Buff. This isn’t your bed you’re making all stinky … it’s mine.”

Buffy: “And Dawny! You’re not a giant or a centaur or a monkey robot! You’re just little. Really, really … when were you ever this little?”
Dawn: “Mom! Buffy’s on drugs! I learned about them in school.”

The idea for this issue came from the aborted animated series. You can catch a three minute scene from that on YouTube.

Cordelia: “Just cutting it shorter or even giving it a perm. This way, we could see more of you.”
Willow: “And that would be a good thing?”
Cordelia: “No, but you’d get a clearer picture of exactly how hopeless you truly are.”

Snyder: “Xander Harris. That wouldn’t be a skateboard you’d be riding in my hallways, would it?”
Xander: “Technically speaking, Principal Snyder, “no”. I wasn’t riding the skateboard as much as it was riding me.”

There was an ad for The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray DVD release with this issue. I got it for Christmas but have yet to sit down and watch it again.

Giles (to Buffy/Xander/Willow): “Oh, oh, I can’t wait. It will be such fun. What do you suppose Harmony is going to wear?”

Xander: “This is Xander Harris at the Bufflympics and it’s a beautiful night for slaying. Buffy cart wheeled that last coffin and really did nicely on the dismount. Uh-oh, Vamp #2 is going for the chokehold and that’s going to cost him some points. Actually, that’s going to cost him some flesh. Two down and – the Armenian judges might take a point for that last move, but I’d give that gal a “10”.”

Throughout the story Buffy mentioned Ethan, Willow being gay and super powerful, Snyder getting eaten by a snake, becoming a general among many things.

Giles: “Now not to put a damper on this evening’s good tidings …”
Buffy/Xander/Willow: “Who … you?”

Joyce: “You’re going to graduate high school eventually. Go to college. Maybe meet some nice boy. You have your whole life ahead of you. But yes, you can always come home again.”
Buffy: “Right.”

This issue is also dedicated to Jeph Loeb’s son who passed away back in June 2005 and was a friend of Joss Whedon’s.

Buffy: “If you knew something about someone’s past … and … future … would you tell them?”
Angel: “Probably not. You can’t change a person’s past. And just by telling them, you’ll change their future into who knows what.”

Buffy (to herself): “Oh I love that song. I could even dance to that song. Three. Five. What’s the diff? Maybe Angel can’t count. Maybe …”.

We see that Buffy and the gang have moved into a manor. I assume they’re still in Scotland though.

Buffy (while on top of a dragon): “Oh, come on. Is this the best you can do? I’ve been on better rides at Disneyland and I’m talking teacups!”

Buffy: “Xander, look at you! You’re all patchy-eyed!”
Xander: “Yes, I know. Girls find it dashing.”
Buffy: “What girls?”
Xander: “Can you get out of my bed now?”

Continuity wise, in Buffy’s dream, this must have taken place after “The Puppet Show” given that we have Snyder.

Buffy (to Xander/Willow/Dawn): “All I kept thinking was how nice things were back then … when it wasn’t so complicated … and yet, it was just the same as now, only different. I guess it really doesn’t matter … whatever it was, it’s over now and we’ve got a world to save.”

The next issue, “Harmonic Divergence”, the start of a five part arc is released on January 7th. I’m pretty sure Harmony was with Cordelia during Buffy’s dream.

While a lot of reviews online have been somewhat negative, I’m going to go against the grain by saying I utterly enjoyed “After These Messages We’ll Be Right Back”. Maybe we didn’t a trip to high school Buffy but it certainly didn’t deter my enjoyment for the issue and given the suckiness of the Angel comics, I actually was glad with the Angel/Cordy representation we got here.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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