Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight 3 by Drew Goddard: C

From the back cover:
A team of Japanese vampires who can transform into wolves, panthers, and fog attack the Slayer compound in the highlands of Scotland, stealing Buffy’s mystical scythe—the weapon that transformed thousands of young women into Slayers. Unable to fight these mysterious new foes, Buffy sends Xander to see his old friend—the only vampire known to possess these incredible powers—Dracula.

I really disliked the “Wolves at the Gate” arc when it was coming out, but it works a little better when read all in one sitting, and with the stand-alone issue “A Beautiful Sunset” as an introduction. “A Beautiful Sunset” itself is quite good. In it, Buffy warns Satsu about the dangers of being in love with her, and has an encounter with the Big Bad, Twilight. I love that Twilight asks Buffy whether all of these additional Slayers have actually helped her in any way, and she can offer no response.

“Wolves at the Gate” spans issues twelve to fifteen, and it’s here where things start to get kind of annoying. How so? I’ll bust out the bullet points. Warning: full of spoilers.

* The Buffy/Satsu publicity buzz. Even though Joss insists that Buffy’s hook-up with a fellow Slayer was not a publicity stunt, you could’ve fooled me. There were reports of comic shops being told to stock up in advance on this one because it would be popular, and all kinds of interviews and stuff being given. I also don’t like that we never see how the two of them got to that point. Without that, I just can’t buy Buffy being attracted to a girl.

* Dracula. I am so tired of Season Eight bringing back random characters from the show. Please focus on the core group! Oh, and he supposedly lost his powers to this bunch of Japanese vampires by gambling.

* Andrew’s lecture on Dracula, during the course of which he says that Xander and Dracula have been letter-writing pals and that, after Anya died, Xander went to live with Dracula for a while. Um, what the hell?! This is stupid and retconny and entirely only there so that “Antique,” a short story Goddard contributed to the non-canon graphic novel Tales of the Vampires and which features Buffy coming to Dracula’s castle to retrieve Xander after this period of cohabitation, can become canon. I cry foul. (Note: Not that Andrew is at all a reliable source, but his comments are not contradicted.)

* Renee’s fate. Okay, yes, I never see these things coming, but jeez. Enough is enough. A happy ending for a couple would be more surprising these days.

* Mecha Dawn. Quite possibly the dumbest thing in this series yet. Why on earth would the Japanese vampires take the time to construct a Dawn mecha? What’s more, they have programmed it to say things like, “I cry a lot.” So they’ve, like, also taken the time to try to learn things about Dawn and her life? Probably this is supposed to be funny, but I think it’s incredibly stupid.

On the plus side, there is some good dialogue. When I first read these issues, I was peeved that Willow wasn’t mad at Buffy for taking advantage of Satsu’s feelings, but now their conversation on the subject works a bit better for me. There’s also lots of good Xander dialogue plus liberal use of the hand gestures Nicholas Brendon always employed. Too, I love Buffy’s reaction at the end of the fight upon hearing that the vampires are fleeing: “So chase them. No prisoners. Seal off the streets. Cut them down as they flee. Kill every single one of them.” Now that’s good continuity with Season Seven Buffy.

So, no, Wolves at the Gate is not a good arc. It has some good moments, but far too much of it is irksome. On its own, it earns a C-; the score for the volume is a bit higher because of “A Beautiful Sunset.”

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  1. Heh, so is it sad that my first reaction to all this is, “I’m glad I didn’t spend time keeping up with this series”? Or is it *more* sad that the main reason for this is Dracula? Heh. I hated the Dracula episode at the beginning of season 5, and I’ve never really gotten over that.

    I’ve read a lot about the Buffy/Satsu thing, and I really really wish that they would have handled that better. I could buy Buffy being attracted to a girl (I always thought she had a bit of a crush on Faith at one point), and I could even get interested in a story where she *didn’t*, but was using someone else’s feelings to satisfy herself in other ways. I mean, Buffy is pretty screwed up. But everything I’ve ever read about this has made it clear that they didn’t write it effectively *at all*, and honestly it feels like an insult to the series.

    All that said, Drew Goddard was never my favorite ME writer, so I suppose I’m not *that* surprised. Oh well.

    I want to read it so I can snark along with you though. Hee.

  2. I didn’t hate “Buffy vs. Dracula,” but really only because Buffy was really cute in it. I love her goofy, “Get out!” reaction when he reveals his identity. I’m trying to think whether I actually hated any Buffy episodes. Maybe that one in season one where Willow has the robot demon boyfriend. Oh, and “Some Assembly Required” is pretty craptastic, too.

    Some fans speculated she was just repeating with Satsu what she had done with Spike. It’s a different dynamic, though. I’m not saying Buffy should be experiencing that same dark self-loathing for what she did with Satsu, but it’s just not used effectively enough for character growth.

  3. I mostly hated it because I didn’t think the Dracula mythology worked in the Buffy-verse, and that really irritated me. Also, it was the very first episode that my husband saw, and that wasn’t a great way for someone new to get introduced to the series, especially since I’d gone on and on about how amazing and multi-layered it was. It took over a year before he was willing to try again. *Then* he got hooked, but damn, Buffy vs. Dracula made that conversion difficult.

  4. Heh. Yeah, I’ve had that happen, where hubby just walks in at completely the most inane moment.

    I was pretty resistant to watching the show, too, and this wasn’t helped by glimpsing part of the episode “Homecoming,” in which Buffy and Cordelia battle cheesy rubbery demons in a little cabin while wearing fancy dresses. I didn’t actually start watching until just a few weeks before it ended.

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