Originally published on May 6, 2010
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Penciler: Georges Jeanty
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #35 makes me glad that we don’t use ratings here on the Gobbledygeek website. Everywhere else I’ve written reviews, I’ve used a ratings system, be it the four-star, the five-star, or my current favorite, the trusty old letter grades. But rating this issue, or the last few issues, of Buffy would be…difficult. I have been able to enjoy them while still being incredibly frustrated and confused by the new directions the story has taken.
All right, now that we’re after the jump, I assume you’ve read, or are at least familiar with the happenings of, the past several issues. The identity of Twilight, the masked villain who has been orchestrating elaborate carnage for years (in real time) or months (in Buffy time), was finally revealed to be Angel. Ensouled Angel. Yes, the redemption-seeking Champion who has spent centuries grieving over every drop of blood he’s shed went certifiably fucking insane and decided to end the world.
Well, it’s more complicated than that. There’s some conveniently never-before-mentioned myth that a Slayer and a vampire could join together in unholy bliss to ascend to a higher plane, eradicating the lower plane they’ve left behind. Since these comics are canon, that means that Giles has known this for literally as long as we’ve known him, ever since “Welcome to the Hellmouth.” And yet he’s never, ever mentioned it. Not when Buffy was dating Angel. Not even when she hooked up with Spike. So, yeah. I mean, Buffy–and Angel, for that matter–was always a show where unheard-of prophecies and myths popped up on a weekly basis so that the next apocalypse could get rolling. But even for the Buffyverse, this is a stretch. Giles’ excuse is that it was “an unprovable hypothesis based on theories that seek to explain the beginning of time.” Right. (Though points to Meltzer for Xander’s retort, “I don’t wanna talk about religion, Giles!”)
And see, that’s a perfect example of why these issues would be hard to rate. I have some pretty serious issues with the implications and purposes of the dramatic shift in mythology, but I still love the wit, the dialogue, and the characters. To use a word I’ve already used, it’s frustrating. Another example: I just said I still love the characters, and I do, how could I not? Despite having magic space sex with Angel last issue, Buffy responds to present matters heroically and reasonably; Giles not revealing something important is actually pretty believable, given his track record (though, again, this is still a stretch); and everyone else’s voices and motivations remain intact. Well, except for Angel’s.
This is not the Angel I know. This is not the Angel I watched for eight seasons of television, nor even the Angel of that other canonical comic, Angel: After the Fall (which has been over for some time, but still, props to Brian Lynch for just getting the universe as well as he did). There is a very real possibility that Angel is being used as the sock puppet for some mystical Old One, but we don’t know yet. Angel makes an important moral decision at the end that I would love to love, but considering everything he’s done in the 34 issues prior, I can’t. Meltzer had promised this issue would provide more context, but it…doesn’t.
Sure, we get to see Buffy and Angel as space gods flitting between landscapes in the Twilight realm, prompting a good discussion that still isn’t as cathartic or accusatory on Buffy’s end as it should have been. But I still don’t know more of the overarching plot, and I still don’t have enough information to decide if I’ve liked this entire arc. But on to the satisfying stuff: there’s great action, major characters are left seriously injured, Jeanty does some of his finest work on emotional close-ups of Buffy, and it has a welcome ending which has been a long time coming.
Now we wait. There’s a Riley one-shot out in August–which should actually answer questions, at least on that front–but the next part of this storyline isn’t until September. That’s four freaking months. Jiminy Christmas. For this, and for all the problems I’ve stated above, I hate you, Joss Whedon. But for taking risks, no matter how I currently feel about them, and for still making me care after all these years, I love you too.