EW is diving deep into the Buffyverse for an in-depth look at the beloved TV series’ comic book sequel. In this installment, Joshua Rivera takes a look at issues #6-15, which consist of the “No Future for You” and “Wolves at the Gate” story arcs. There will be Faith. And also some Dracula.
Faith is, hands-down, one of my favorite characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Funny thing about her, though—it wasn’t until she appeared on Angel that she really came into her own. It was on that spinoff where she would sink to her darkest moments, and slowly struggle towards redemption before returning to Sunnydale in Buffy season 7 to help the Scoobies train the potential Slayers and fight the First Evil.
However, if you only watched Buffy, it’s hard to see Faith as anything other than Dark Buffy without the benefit of all the rehabilitation she went through on Angel. “No Future for You” goes about fixing that. While the rest of the cast does appear in this arc and there are ties to the mystery of this season’s Big Bad, these four issues are pretty much the Faith Show—in fact, writer Brian K. Vaughan had initially pitched the broad strokes of the story as a Faith direct-to-DVD movie.
Let’s talk a little bit about Vaughan for a minute. When “No Future for You” began in the Fall of 2007, he was a comic book superstar with critically acclaimed and fan-favorite series like Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina under his belt. He had also made the jump to television, joining the Lost writing team in 2006. As far as Whedon successors go, you can’t get much better than him—in fact, Whedon was the writer that took over Vaughan’s most famous Marvel work, Runaways, after Whedon wrote a fan letter at the conclusion of Runaways first volume.
Vaughan’s writing is vibrant and accessible—he favors straightforward, clear action and honest dialogue that brings the funny with a healthy side of pop-culture references (“No Future for You” is a line lifted from the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”). He is also, as one can quickly tell from reading his Season 8 arc, a huge Buffy fan, and really good at writing Faith.
“No Future for You” kicks off with Giles coming to Faith with a secret mission—he wants her to kill a Slayer. You see, when you suddenly bestow superpowers on a couple thousand girls around the world, a few of them are bound to be bad, and Lady Genevieve, the girl in question, is a particularly bad Slayer who’s made a sport of finding and killing other Slayers, with the ultimate goal of killing Buffy.
She’s also an unbearable elitist aristocrat—so if the mission is going to be a success, Faith is going to have to learn how to class up her act, or else she’ll never get close.
It’s a great setup that doubles as an examination of Faith. She’s a character who, in many ways, has bought into the idea that she’s damaged goods, and resigns herself to a role where she handles the dirty work someone like Buffy can’t sully their hands with. She lets her conscience be seared so no one else has to. You can’t stain what’s already dirty, right?
Throughout, she reflects on her early days as a Slayer: her relationship with the Mayor in season 3, her subsequent fight with Buffy that left her with a knife buried in her, her feelings of inferiority towards Buffy. Then something unexpected happens—when her first attempt at killing Genevieve fails, the two of them become fast friends, and Faith starts to feel like she belongs somewhere.
This, of course, causes a misunderstanding that deepens the rift between Faith and Buffy when Genevieve finally decides to make her move and kidnap Buffy. It’s brief—Buffy ends up being teleported back to HQ by Willow—but it’s long enough for Buffy to get the wrong impression of Faith. As usual.
Faith is left to face Genevieve on her own—and she kills her. In a somber, but hopeful epilogue of sorts, Giles—who’s been cut out of Buffy’s life once the Slayer found out about the mission he sent Faith on—approaches her about partnering up and traveling the world to help other Slayers who lost their way. She says yes.
In between this story and the next one, there are two standalone issues written by Joss Whedon, “Anywhere But Here” and “A Beautiful Sunset.”
The first is a dark story reminiscent of Season 6, where Willow and Buffy meet with a Minder named Robin and learn about secrets they are keeping and will keep from each other. It heavily implies that the Scoobies are going to fall apart, that they will chose other things over each other, and that betrayal is inevitable. It’s a somber coda to Willow’s return in “The Long Way Home,” and continues season 8’s heavy use of foreshadowing.
In “A Beautiful Sunset,” one of the smaller lingering questions from “The Long Way Home” gets answered—who kissed Buffy to wake her up from Amy the Rat’s sleeping spell? When Buffy chooses Satsu to go out on patrol with her, she tells her that she knows Satsu is in love with her and kissed her to break the spell. Buffy then tells her she’s not interested—but then they’re interrupted by the Big Bad, Twilight.
It’s not the first time Twilight’s appeared—we’ve gotten glimpses in the issues leading up to this—but it’s the first time he confronts Buffy. A masked vampire with the power to fly, Twilight comes to taunt Buffy, to rob her of a moral certainty with a simple idea—what if introducing so many new Slayers into the world threw it into imbalance? What if she did the wrong thing?
“Wolves at the Gate” is where things get a little ridiculous. But only a little. It’s also where Buffy figures out she’s bisexual.
She did end up sleeping with Satsu, you see—and this results in one of the book’s funniest scenes, where the two of them agree to keep it a secret only to have every single one of their friends barge in on them when they’re in bed together.
The reason they do is because there are wolves literally at the gate—actually, they’re shapeshifting vampires from Japan—and they’re after Buffy’s scythe. Once they have it, they’re gone—and while Buffy and the gang figure out how to beat them and what they’re after, Xander takes Renee on a trip to see someone who might be able to help. It’s Dracula.
Xander and Dracula’s friendship is probably my favorite crazy thing that happened in between Seasons 7 and 8. It’s weird and funny and completely unexpected, but feels totally right—also, it’s hilarious to see Xander’s attentions waffle between Dracula and Renee, who have progressed from flirty to full-on relationship.
Anyway—we learn that the vampires got their powers from Dracula when he lost them gambling for a motorcycle (a thing he got into with Xander) but is also indignant about the loss, agreeing to help because he wants some revenge.
The situation gets more dire when Aiko, one of the Slayers stationed in Japan, is murdered and strung up by the vampires when a witch, Kumiko, uses the Scythe with a red lens to rob Aiko of her powers. It was a test for a much larger lens sitting atop a skyscraper, one that’s supposed to rob all Slayers of their powers.
Issues 14-15 are the fight books, with the Slayer army up against an army of vampires in Tokyo. Remember when I said things get ridiculous? They bring Dawn, who is now a giant. But the vampires have a giant mecha-Dawn (with a tail?) to fend her off. It’s a very funny, very strange scene.
But it’s also very Buffy, because Renee—the woman we thought Xander would be moving on with, roughly a year and a half after Anya’s death—is killed at the end of 14. At the end of it all, Xander is broken, in mourning, Willow is communing with the mysterious snake woman that “Anywhere But Here” suggested would lead to her betrayal of Buffy, and Satsu, having seen what misfortune befalls people who love Buffy, decides to stay and help the Slayers in Japan after one last night with Buffy.
Dracula, meanwhile, boards a ship to parts unknown.
So far, Buffy Season 8 continues to please. I know some readers, upon reading our first entry, have said that I might not feel the same way when we get to the back half of the season, but I’m pretty optimistic. Twilight, from what little we’ve seen of him, is an interesting Big Bad with a philosophical slant that makes him more than just something to punch. While there are some things that bum me out—Buffy’s continued woe-is-me routine, for one, along with all the foreshadowing about the Scooby gang betraying one another (which feels very season 6)—I like it. It’s more Buffy, and it feels like Buffy, even when it gets a little over-the-top.
It probably helps that we’re still in the land of top-tier Buffy writers, with Drew Goddard taking on “No Wolves at the Gate,” too.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the art. For most of season 8, Georges Jeanty is the main artist on pencils—like Jenny said in our conversation kicking this whole thing off, it’s to his credit that the characters feel like their television counterparts without being overwrought photorealistic likenesses. Outside of a few people—like Andrew, who is a great deal of fun in “Wolves at the Gate”—it’s easy to tell who everyone is, and the art never becomes a significant hurdle. It doesn’t do a whole lot of crazy, daring things, but that’s fine. (Cliff Richards fills in for “Anywhere But Here”, and he draws some weird stuff for that one. It’s pretty rad.
That said, Jo Chen’s hyper-realistic cover art is one of my favorite things about the book. Her paintings are wonderful to look at. Go look at them.
Next week: Jenny takes over as Joss Whedon returns, bringing artist Karl Moline with him for “Time of Your Life.” Also, a bunch of standalone stories by a grab bag of other Buffy writers. See you then.