Monday, October 10, 2011

The Endgame Is Revealed With A Cool Concept (Until The End) With Twilight, The Penultimate Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight Graphic Novel!

The Good: Decent concept, Moments of character, Side stories
The Bad: Artwork, Resolution.
The Basics: The story of the villain Twilight comes to a head in Twilight with high conceptual marks until it completely sells out to conclude the book.

As I speed toward the end of the Buffy graphic novels in my wife's collection - which I have gotten her for various giftgiving occasions over the past two and a half years we have been married - I find myself thinking that I ought to go back and reread the Eighth Season from the beginning. On one hand, I think it would be good for me to get all of the facts and sequences straight before checking out the final act. On the other hand, I think it might make me more disappointed with Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Volume 7: Twilight. I wanted to like Twilight, if for no other reason than I prefer Angel to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. And I was doing quite well enjoying Twilight until about the last five pages.

Twilight actually has a very Star Trek feel to it, outside one of the side episodes that resolves the Xander and Buffy storyline. What I mean by that is that the story seems to be building for a big fight and instead, it becomes something much more philosophical and original. I like that idea and that is why I was so disappointed when all of that potential went to waste with the story reverting to something less than. Sure, Joss Whedon seemed ready to close the Buffyverse for good, but the story was decent enough that I, at the very least, made peace with that. But between the resolution - which sets up the final "episode" in Season Eight - and the artwork, Twilight is easily robbed of anything close to perfection.

Starting with "Turbulence," Twilight resolves the major and minor problems left from Retreat before moving on. With three goddesses on the rampage, Buffy sets Willow on that problem while she awaits the return of her powers. When her powers come back, she is surprised to have exceptional powers and she and Xander square off. Buffy begins to come on to Xander and Xander reveals to her that he is now involved with Dawn and that is wrestled with before she goes to resolve the goddess situation with Willow.

The three-part "Twilight" story finally reveals the nature of the villain Twilight and, because the cover gives it away, it's Angel. While Xander and Buffy figure out the limits of Buffy's new superpowers - superspeed, superstrength, the ability to understand magic language - Willow goes in search of Giles, Andrew and Faith, who have been captured by Twilight. In the process, Twilight is revealed to Buffy as Angel when she storms his citadel and the grand plan for the love between Buffy and Angel is revealed.

The volume also includes the standalone "Willow: Goddesses And Monsters," wherein Willow goes back to the magical realms for a training journey that she had, until this point, neglected. She hallucinates a journey with a trickster goddess before coming to understand the true nature of the test and chooses her own guide.

Twilight's three stories are for the most part serialized, despite the Willow divergence. Having to resolve the cliffhanger from Retreat, Joss Whedon closes the one story which feels slightly cheap. Why "Turbulence" was not a part of the last graphic novel makes little sense. Regardless, Whedon of course knows his characters and he gets the voices of Xander, Buffy and Willow perfectly right, so much of Twilight reads as consistent. Brad Meltzer, who writes the actual "Twilight" arc gets saddled with a lot of explanation of exactly what is going on with Angel and Buffy.

So, what's the problem? First Angel and Buffy - the relationship - was not built on much in the actual television show. If one goes back and watches the first three seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (reviewed here!), the relationship between Buffy and Angel is talked up, but not very substantive. In the first season, they flirt awkwardly, in the second season, they make love but spend most of the season as enemies. The third season has Buffy mending the feral Angel before he decides he has to leave. On-screen, there is not actually much in the way of real, actual romance. My point with this is pretty simple: especially considering that Buffy moved on with Spike and Angel moved on with Cordelia, the Buffy and Angel relationship is hardly the epic love story of science fiction/fantasy that fans frequently want to believe it to be. As a result, the cosmic plan for Buffy and Angel seems a bit forced.

At least on par with how unfortunate that is is the way Meltzer is forced to give a ton of exposition to both Giles and Angel oscillating between over-explanation and repetition. The book stops being informative or entertaining and just continues to repeat itself as if the concept wasn't entirely clear. Sadly, the concept is not entirely clear and when it becomes clear enough to be at least a strong enough allusion for readers to piece together, the result is repeated ad nauseam and is then trashed entirely. In other words, Whedon's vision for Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight has been leading to this. And when it gets there, reveals what it is and what the point of the whole franchise was with Buffy and Angel making a miraculous transformation, Whedon via Meltzer steps back from the plan and undoes it all.

So, like the Angel: After The Fall Saga, the reader is ultimately jerked around and left feeling like they have invested a whole lot in something that is not paying off. And that, to be frank, sucks.

As for the artwork, Georges Jeanty varies in his artwork between precise images that look just like the characters and sketches of the characters. Unfortunately, the large sequences between Buffy and Angel that define much of the "Twilight" portion are undermined by the fact that they look little like David Boreanaz and Sarah Michelle Gellar. The result, sadly, is a book that too frequently forces the reader to guess at who they are looking at as opposed to knowing instantly from the images.

In other words, this is not the best use of the medium, though it is far from the worst. Instead, Twilight does what it is supposed to in that it provides a reason for the journey and sets up a finale we can only hope does something with the characters that is not undone by the final panel.

For the other volumes in Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight, please check out my reviews of:
The Long Way Home
No Future For You
Wolves At The Gate
Time Of Your Life
Predators And Prey


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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