Thursday, July 09, 2009

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x26: "Retreat Part 1"

Written by Jane Espenson
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Oz (re submarine): “Huh.”

After the somewhat uneven “Predators And Prey” arc and the really disappointing, “Tale Of The Vampires: The Thrill”, I think it’s fair as readers that we get something where the stakes feel like they’re being really raised. This issue is a good place to start with that.

The opening scene had Buffy and Willow disguised as a seagull and a fish in a bid to get by unnoticed. Things have definitely gotten worse if the Scoobies are reduced into go into hiding now that the public still have a massive degree of hatred for the slayer faction of the world.

There might be some amusement in Willow telling Buffy she looks a reversed mermaid on one panel but there’s a big serious threat. The world hates the slayers, slayers are being forced to hide and a fairly high tech new location is the perfect place to hide as well.

The other part is that while the last arc introduced the vilification of the slayers, all the stories were separate. It’s only here that everyone seems to be drawn together and it’s about time too. Kennedy and Satsu are in the new base along with Xander and Dawn and they’re soon joined by others.

Giles and Faith made the mistake the mistake of staying in Germany longer than they should have. I’m guessing part of their reason for prolonging their stay must’ve had something to do with helping Courtney motivate the villagers into learning how to defend themselves.

However being reduced to living underground is further evidence of how bad things have gotten for them. Faith clearly resented it and when both she and Giles came under a demon attack, she drew comparisons to them. Demons live underground, not humans.

I guess Giles was right to remind Faith that humans and their hatred for slayers were also as potent a threat as any demonic one could be. Luckily though, Giles and Faith did manage to escape their attackers before anything really bad could’ve happened to either one of them.

Andrew was then in Italy with some more slayers in an underground crypt. Needless to say, an attack on him and his group was imminent. Even more so when Warren appeared out of nowhere and tried to trick him. Some things never change.

Thankfully as annoying as Andrew might be, he has changed. He might have cared about Warren and valued their friendship at one point but finally gaining a stable moral compass and being a part of the Scoobies does mean that he can question Warren’s motives as well.

When Warren was talking about dying, I knew it had to be a trick. Warren didn’t even seem to be trying hard enough to try and dupe Andrew. Even trying to guilt the latter’s association with the slayer wasn’t much of a strategy either. Plus it didn’t help that Amy got a little overexcited and set some goat people to wreak havoc.

Battle wise, it made for a good panels seeing Andrew and his girls taking on the creatures in question but it also tied him and the slayers along with Giles and Faith both being forced to make their way back to Buffy. All roads are going to lead with that girl, aren’t they?

Even during a night of passion, Kennedy can’t get Willow to stop thinking about Buffy. Luckily Willow’s need to see Buffy had more to do with informing the blonde slayer about Giles Faith, Andrew and the surviving slayers all coming to the base.

I thought the reunion scenes were quite lovely for this issue. Andrew commenting on Dawn’s reduced size actually amused me and I loved that Buffy and Giles and Faith have seemingly settled their differences since “No Future For You Part 4”. Maybe a conversation should’ve been had but at the end of the day, I’m just glad they made up.

As for protection, it’s nice that the Scoobies are coming prepared. Willow seems to have an army of witches using telekinesis for traps and Xander also mentioned the cameras and monitors as well. However while technology and magic are good, are they really enough to keep the demons at bay?

Satsu pointed out the vast army and Faith even looked worried about the legion of monsters that Twilight has managed to accumulate. Also wouldn’t it just be timing enough that the cameras would then go down a few seconds after the Scoobies realised that they had trouble coming their way?

Having nearly all the gang ascend to the roof to see the demons coming their way was a good set up for battle. However no-one in the Scoobies should’ve sniffed at the baddies use of catapults and tanks, even if a bridge spell being dropped benefited the Scoobies.

So what exactly should a demon use in a catapult to trounce the good guys? Amy and Warren had no problems with bombs and mystical creatures to cause carnage and this lot are completely fine with using napalm grenades as their means of attack. I’ve never heard of them but damn, they’re effective.

Not only does a good chunk of the Scoobies new base get blown to bits but they are some casualties and one of Willow’s witches even gets brain fried in a nasty scene. Her body looked pretty grisly as well but with Satsu snaring one of the demons, Willow seemed too preoccupied to notice the young girl’s death.

Isn’t it interesting that the second Willow disappeared with the demon that both Giles and Faith expressed some forms of disapproval? I’m not criticising them because even I found it strange but I was weirded out by Buffy’s mute reaction, even if she was right to focus on the remaining battle in question.

Willow’s little time out with the demon though did reveal that the magic around them is how Twilight is being able to track them and send various things to try and dispense with them. Yet another addition to the ‘let’s end magic’ mantra of this season. Oh, this does not bode well for Willow.

Using the submarine to get out Scotland, the best conversation in this whole issue is the one where Buffy and Giles discuss Willow. Is Willow about to take another trip into the dark side? That whole “Time Of Your Life” four parter would suggest so and it’s discuss here.

Buffy held back telling anyone else that she had to kill Willow in the future. Giles expressed concern of Willow slipping away and Buffy found herself telling him. I loved that she told someone and I love that her and Giles are on the same page with Willow’s attitude to magic.

Relapsing is hardly an unrealistic plotline and given that Willow does have an addictive personality with magic, it makes this plot more believable as well. By using the scythe to activate so many slayers all at once, her and Buffy opened up a massive Pandora’s box and both of them are suffering the consequences for it.

However if they want to help Willow, talking to her wouldn’t go amiss seeing as I’m uncertain that trying to suppress magic, especially the same kind that is in all of the slayers as well is going to be the ultimate solution to things.

Also Oz’s reintroduction at the end was pitch perfect. I had guessed that with this arc being a five parter, he would probably appear in the last page or two, so I wasn’t disappointed when he actually did. Inevitably he’ll play a bigger role in the next four issues.

After all, he’s the person that Buffy had taken her flying submarine to see with wanting to suppress magic and his reaction to the spectacle was so within character. It’s been nine years but Oz, welcome back.

Also in “Retreat Part 1”

The main cover for this issue featured the most I’ve seen on any with Buffy, Willow, Andrew, Oz, Twilight and Warren all appearing.

Willow: “Hey look! You’re a reverse mermaid.”
Buffy: “Shut up.”

The funny thing is that Twilight might have featured on the cover but he doesn’t appear in the issue itself. Amy is also mentioned but unseen, though she helped Warren to escape.

Buffy: “Are you okay? It’s not … too much?”
Willow: “Okay, what’s up with you? You keep hovering, asking that. Why the cling?”
Kennedy: “I told you, you’re irresistible, baby.”
Buffy: “I’m just being vigilant. If we show our faces, we die here and the world has a good riddance. Best we can do right now is disappear.”
Satsu: “For how long? I mean, what are waiting for? The judgement of history?”

Faith: “I knew it was stupid, going underground. Demons live underground!”
Giles: “Well above ground, ordinary humans fear us and that could be far more dangerous.”

That flying submarine reminded me of Doctor Who’s “Voyage Of The Damned” with the Titanic ship.

Warren: “Amy is done with me. She says anyone can build bombs. She’s taking away the spell that replaced my skin, taking it away a little bit at a time. I’m in pain, I don’t have long. I wanted to see you before – I wanted to patch things up between us.”
Andrew: “Patch things up? You made me into a killer!”

Warren (re Andrew): “Amy! You didn’t let me finish tricking him.”

We got a little flashback to Jonathan, Warren and Andrew dancing as Gods from Season Seven’s “Storyteller”.

Andrew: “I bet you won’t find this too humerus.”
Goatman: “That’s a femur – ahh!”

Faith: “Seems like running away is all we do anymore.”
Giles: “Yes, but we’re out of the bunker. No more bad associations.”
Faith: “Uh-huh. A cattle car across Germany is much better.”
Giles: “At least we’re on our way to Buffy.”

Did Warren know about the First Evil using his form to manipulate Andrew? I always assumed that Amy was aware of the First Evil, given her dialogue with Kennedy in “The Killer In Me” and because of that, Warren was privy to.

Buffy: “Use your magic! Get them inside! Not the demons.”
Dawn: “Not the demons.”
Xander: “Good call.”

Andrew: “I can’t believe how much you’ve shrunk.”
Dawn: “Thanks!”

Dawn looked like she was wearing the same outfit Faith wore in “Five By Five” while Kennedy seemed a little annoyed with Willow and Faith talking.

Xander: “Siege engines … medieval tech. They think they can do this with catapults?”
Giles: “Tanks. There are also tanks.”
Willow: “Drop the bridge spell!”

Satsu: “We have a prisoner.”
Willow: “I’ll take him.”
Giles: “What’s she doing? Where did she take him?”
Faith: “No, no, no. I’m done with this kind of crap.”
Buffy: “Hey, whatever. I can’t debate battle ethics in a battle.”

I see there’s another ad for Dragon Con with this issue. I’m surprised there wasn’t one for Comic Con, seeing as Dollhouse is gonna factor into that.

Buffy: “I went to the future and Evil Willow was there and I killed her and what I’m doing now could be how she got that way. Evil. And dead.”
Giles: “I’d … I’d ask for an explanation and then express scepticism, demand to be convinced … but I don’t think we have time.”

Faith: “Hey, B., the kids are all asking. Do we know where we’re going now?”
Giles: “No.”
Buffy: “Yes. We’re going to the one guy I know who makes a living being less magic. Willow has to do one last big spell and then, that’s it. Forever.”

“Retreat Part 2” comes out on August 5th but you should check out the Dark Horse website for the three page special, “Always Darkest” if you haven’t already.

“Retreat Part 1” is one of the finest issues we’ve had in a long time. Maybe it’s because we’re drawing towards the final few arcs that things are finally being pushed forward. Oz’s return, everyone showing up together, the possibility of Willow descending into the black arts again, the world’s vocal hatred for slayers and Twilight’s army rising but either way, it’s about damn time.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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