Wolves at the Gate

by Alan Rapp on October 29, 2008

in Comics

  • Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight – “Wolves at the Gate”
  • Comic Vine: link

Drew Goddard picks up the reigns for a four-part storyline, out today in trade paperback, which returns a villain from Season Five (no, not Glory) and a few other surprises as well including Buffy’s night of passion being interrupted by, well, everyone and an oversized street fight between giant Dawn and Mecha-Dawn on the streets of Tokyo.  Throw in great one-liners and more serious heartbreak for Xander and you’ve got a winner.  This is by far the funniest, and the finest, story arc from Season 8 yet!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 #12-15

“Oh, hi Buffy.  Hi nude Asian girl….How much Dramamine did I take?”

Drew Goddard takes over the reigns here to bring us a tale packed with humor in an issue you don’t want to miss.  Goddard penned a few episodes of Angel Season Five (most notably “Lineage” and “The Girl in Question”).  As he did in those episodes he takes on some serious issues, but brings plenty of funny, too!

The issue begins with a cute awkward conversation between Xander and Renee and the invasion of Slayer central by wolves.  The tone of Xander is perfect here especially when Renee tells him simply to take her out and her asks “You want me to assassinate you?”  Classic Xander.

The story also includes an embarassing moment or Buffy who has spent the night with Satsu, a slayer who has been harboring a crush on her for a long time.  The conversation between the two about what their night together means is quite touching and then of course it gets interrupted as Xander, Renee, Andrew, Dawn, and Willow one by one making it quite possibly the most embarrassing night of the Buffster’s life.

Buffy takes on the vampires who can transform into wolves and mist only to get knocked on her ass and her scythe stolen.

The issue ends with Xander seeking out the only other known vampire the Scoobies have met with these abilities, and one more joke to end the issue.

There’s so much here to enjoy.  The artwork by Georges Jeanty includes some terrific awkward moments and reaction shots to Buffy’s new “situation.”  Goddard and Jeanty make a great pair which compliment each others talents nicely.  Together the two capture the look and thoughts of the characters so well you wonder if Whedon didn’t have the cast over to read the script for them.

I’m also interested to see where the story of the scythe will go from here.  The spell used to grant the other slayers their powers was used through the scythe (end of Season 7), so you have to wonder if the spell can be broken, and if so, what are the consequences to Buffy and the other slayers?

“You know, I really don’t remember you being this rascist.”

“Part Two” begins with the reaquaintace of Dracula and Xander, and a terrifically funny lecture between Andrew (dressed as George Hamilton from Love at First Bite) and the slayers.  Aside from humor Andrew’s speech gives us some backstory between Xander and Dracula.  It seems that over the years they’ve become friends, including Xander staying with Dracula for a time after Anya’s death (end of Season Seven).  The idea of Xander and Dracula as ill-chosen bosom pals is odd, but Goddard pulls it off.

As Andrew prepares the slayers, Xander asks for Dracula’s help, trying to avoid falling into patterns as his manservant, and keeping Renee and the vampire from going at each other’s throats.  “Manservant, you moor is one snide comment away from a swarm of bees.”

Included here is a short conversation between Willow and Satsu about who and what Buffy is and pressure she finds herself under on a daily basis.  This neatly wraps up Buffy’s one-night stand (for now) and ends with Willow’s completely inappropriate question (sorry, you’ll have to read the comic, I’m not giving that away).

The final piece of this issue is the revelation to how the vampires who stole the scythe got their powers (something Dracula is not too pleased with), and the revelation of why it was stolen and the dangerous consequences it could mean for the entire slayer line.

“Well there’s something you don’t see everyday.”

Part Three of “Wolves at the Gate” finds the Slayers in Tokyo planning for their big assault.

Things get down to business pretty fast, yet there are some nice quiet moments before the battle begins.  Buffy has an uncomfortable conversation with Satsu.  Xander and Renee share a nice intimate moment, and, in the tradition of Joss Whedon, it might just prove to be their last given the comic’s kick-in-the-gut final panel.

Of course if action is what you’re looking for there’s something here for you as well.  The Scoobies set a caged vampire ablaze, and Dawn makes her big Japan debut – Godzilla style (yeah, you knew it was coming, but c’mon it’s awesome!).

All of that plus some more laughs with Dracula, and what promises to be a kick ass final battle, with some sad consequences for some of the characters, should keep you psyched.

Everything clicks here once again.  My only complaint is it ends too soon and I’ve got to wait four more weeks for the final chapter.

“I hope he knows.  I never got to tell him.  Xander, I’m not ready.”

The final issue of the series begins with tears and ends in both comfort and pain.  And in between we get a fearsome battle between the Slayers and vampires on the streets of Tokyo, Buffy and Satsu sit down to discuss their relationship, Dracula and Willow reverse the spell giving the vamps extra powers, and oversized Dawn takes on Mecha-Dawn (wrecking much of downtown Tokyo in the process)

Goddard is once again perfect at blending the pain of the characters with humor which has become a staple of the Buffy-verse.  I’m also impressed by the use, and growth, of the character of Dracula and hope we get to see a little more of the Xander/Drac relationship before Season 8 winds down.

Speaking of relationships, Goddard brings a nice coda to the Buffy/Satsu love story which gives us an ending, at least for now, but leaves a door open for other possible storylines in the future.

And once again I’ve got to credit George Jeanty on his ability to recreate the characters on the page and give them just the right expressions for the moment.  I hope hope he, along with Goddard, find a home in the Buffyverse and we get more of both for years to come.

As I expected the story arc got a little more serious as it unfolded, but kept the humor of the first issue as well.  The scenes between Dracula and Xander are priceless.  A new storyline possibilities about Buffy, her sexuality, and how this will effect the team dynamic and her friends is quietly, but responsibly, explored.  In a lesser book I would say I hope they don’t just shrug off the events and move on, but I’m sure there’s plenty to discuss in the upcoming issues and I’ve got faith that things will be handled well.  The exploration and consequences of the scythe and Willow’s spell is one of the more interesting storylines of the season.  If you haven’t picked up an issue of Season 8 yet (and, really, what’s wrong with you?) this is, at least so far, the best story arc of the series.  Humor, bicuriosity, awkward embarrassment, Xander’s love life, the return of both Andrew and the most famous vampire of all, and Dawn going all Godzilla on Tokyo – what more could you want?

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