Issue #34 of the Buffy
Season 8 comics, chapter 3 of the Twilight
story arc, is entitled Them F#©%ing (Plus the True History of the Universe)
. On the first reading it's remarkably difficult to properly make sense of the second point of the story, because the incredibly skilled Georges Jeanty had far to much fun drawing the first. The issue is, more or less, twenty three pages of Buffy and Angel having (apparently literally) apocalyptic sex. Which is fine if you like that kind of thing, and disturbingly, Buffy's little sister really does, given how she spends the entire issue watching it. It does, however, rather detract from the all the exposition the Scooby Gang's trying to do. Although having said that, I don't think all that exposition actuially says anything. What I have managed to gather, I'm not sure I like.
I don't blame Brad Meltzer. I realise this is getting to be a habit with me and Meltzer, but I like his dialogue and writing so much I have a hard time blamking him for what appears to be editorial decisions from on high, although his name does get attached to a lot of them – Meltzer is the writer of DC's infamously appalling Identity Crisis
, but his work on JLA
was great except when editorial got their hands on it, and he did write The Archer's Quest
, which remains as my favourite Green Arrow story to date.
Meltzer's handle on the characters and dialogue is so good that I can only assign to him a portion of the blame for the confusing nature of this issue and that nothing seems to get actually said; it's been a regular feature of Season Eight comics, in which pacing of the four-issue story arcs has always been problemmatic. No, most of what I'm not liking about this arc, I'm placing firmly at the door of editorial: in this case, Joss.
When you're writing fantasy as metaphor, which Buffy
has always been since its conception, it's worth making the effort to remembering the metaphors you've laid down, because later plot developments can lead to unfortunate implications – and that's assuming Joss wasn't cynical enough to mean them to come out in the way they have in Season 8.
Take, for example, Willow being envious of her ex-boyfriend's family, and his convincing her that if she wants one of her own, she just has to give up her magic. This is the magic whose metaphorical meaning was troweled on in Season four as being directly analogous to female homosexuality. Oz essentially told Willow she could have what he had if she just stopped being gay
. Fortunately, it didn't stick.
Ex-boyfriends have been a theme in Season 8. Not just Willow's married settled and happy ex, but the demon who acted out magical violence on Dawn when she cheated on him, and Dracula, who is the nearest thing Xander has to an ex-boyfriend, being jealous, controlling, and heaping abuse on his current flame right up until she died.
Then of course, there's Buffy's exes; all three significant examples of which have now shown up – albeit one of them in dreams, exposition and a one panel hint-of-things-to-come. One of the other two was of dubious loyality; it's still not clear whether he was Buffy's man on the inside or Twilight's, and the other was the Big Bad himself; Twilight.
And he and Buffy spent all of #34 having sex, while the Scoobies exposited around them.From what I can gather, what they were expositing was that Buffy/Angel love was the strongest, most powerful, specialist thing in the world, something "nature" or "the universe" had planned from the very beginning, and something which literally makes Buffy glow
. It's so strong that Melaka Fray can feel it from the 23rd
century. It's so powerful that Buffy had to 'evolve' (comic evolution, not real evolution) extra super special powers just so she can survive the sex.
I'm not even kidding. Giles said it!
This is Buffy, remember, who gave Angel that speech at the end of season seven which basically amounted to "I have more important things to worry about that you boys right now!". This is Buffy, whose entire character concept was born out subverting the 'pretty blonde is killed horribly by monster' trope. This is the titular character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, the entire conceit of which is women with power
. Women who may or may not abuse their power, but who generally adhere to the Spiderman Principle. Women who have power in a patriarchal world that is so scared of that power that an entire society has developed so men can restrict and control those women. Women with power that is linked in various ways to love between women (Willow and Tara, yes but Willow and Buffy, Buffy and Dawn). Women with power who nevertheless find the easiest thing to do is play by the patriarchy's rules (Harmony). Women who, from the pilot to the finale, resisted playing an active role and above all, resisted playing the victim.
And now, Joss turns around after all of that, and says "Just kidding! After all that, Buffy's true power is heterosexual love!" and what's worse, he puts it in the mouth of Angel
, the high school boyfriend who turned abusive and clingy after she slept with him, the one man many women spend far too long trying to recover from. Having spent the last issue very carefully and at length mansplaining to Buffy about by giving women power she'd nearly destroyed the world, and he, Angel, had had to save the world from the horror she created, he then tells her that her real purpose and her true power is how much she loves him.
And then we get 23 pages of sex while Angel and Buffy create a Brave New World – Big Bang puns unneccessary, because after all that, it turns out that Buffy is just another Eve
And I was enjoying this season so much, because I thought I was going to get a pay-off. Any pay-off that wasn't this.