Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight 6 by Jane Espenson: B-

From the back cover:
Twilight and his gainfully employed military units are hot on Buffy’s magical trail—forcing her and Slayers across the globe into hiding. Buffy retreats into the Tibetan mountains to seek aid from the only person she knows who can suppress his true nature—Oz. Since Oz left Sunnydale he’s gained control over the magic that transforms him with the phases of the moon from man to werewolf. If Buffy, Willow, and the legion of Slayers give up their magic, Twilight might lose their scent, granting them a moment of peace, quiet, and tranquility.

Review:
Before I reread the “Retreat” arc, my memories of it went like this: Buffy and friends go see Oz in Tibet; some huge, brightly colored goddesses are involved; and Buffy discovers that she can fly. Weary of unnecessary cameos—although I genuinely do love Oz—and wary of Buffy’s new ability, I didn’t like this much the first time around.

Though it improves upon a second read, it straddles that line between “what I will agree to consider as canon” and “just somebody’s convoluted fanfic.” Obviously, I know that I am just one opinionated fan among many, but what I’m getting at is that some stuff happens that I genuinely like, and some stuff happens that I’m not crazy about.

After their castle in Scotland was destroyed by a magical bomb, courtesy of Twilight’s minions, Amy and Skinless Warren, the Slayers have been looking for new digs. Public opinion is against them, thanks to Harmony’s current popularity, so they find a secluded sort of bunker, shielded by a woodsy magical illusion. Alas, Twilight hones in on this magic and attacks again, causing them to teleport to the one person they know who has successfully divested himself of magic: Oz.

It’s good to see Oz again, don’t get me wrong, but I’d be happier about it if his return hadn’t come after lesser characters like Ethan Rayne and Dracula. He’s settled down with a “mate” and has a child, and one of the saddest things about this arc is how Buffy descends upon his peaceful life, bringing war and death along with her once Twilight tracks them down yet again.

But before that happens, there’s a peaceful lull during which the Slayers and Willow participate in various chants and physical chores designed to direct their magical powers into the Earth. This allows plenty of time for character-building moments and amusing dialogue, my favorite being the interaction between Giles and the baby. Like so:

Baby: Ga!
Giles: Yes, hello, baby.

and

Baby: (steals Giles’ glasses) Gaha!
Giles: Oh dear.

On a more serious note, Buffy finally tells her friends about her encounter with Dark Willow in the future, which prompts some interesting reactions. Willow confidently swears it couldn’t possibly have been her, but meanwhile, Giles and Andrew are suspicious—especially given Willow’s dark methods of obtaining intel—and begin watching her. Also, just as Buffy begins to ponder wanting to connect with someone, and begins to think Xander might just fit the bill, he and Dawn finally get around to smooching. I might be in the minority here, but I like this pairing, especially since they’ve been shown to have developed a very solid friendship. Given her track record, it’s hard to say whether Buffy’s feelings are genuine or if she’s just lonely.

And speaking of Buffy and decision-making, it’s her choices that have ultimately led to a terrible massacre. True, there were no good alternatives, but she’s entirely responsible for bringing ruin to Oz’s tranquil existence, first by making his home a target for Twilight and his minions, then turning its environs into a battlefield, and finally by summoning some local goddesses—those to whom all that poured-into-the-earth magic was actually going—who kill indiscriminately. As with the Xander situation, this is not out of character for Buffy at all—part of why she’s lovable is that, even though she’s special, hers is an extremely tough role that nobody would envy—but it’s pretty depressing all the same.

I also have trouble believing that anyone thought getting rid of magical defenses—which includes the Slayers’ strength—would be a good idea when they are the target of a massive military operation. I suppose there was the chance that it would keep them hidden, but it doesn’t seem like they bothered to fully investigate the ramifications. A scene in which automatic weapons and grenades are passed out is just really weird, given Whedon’s stance on guns throughout the series.

Although I have issues with it, this arc is ultimately better than I remembered. Most of the fallout from Xander and Dawn and Buffy’s superpowers will come in the next volume, which is a plus, but there will be much crack, as well.

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Comments

  1. I guess kind of my question is, where does this lie in parallel to the business going on with Angel and the destruction of LA? Is there any tie to that at all?

    • I am pretty sure this is all happening after that, but I haven’t been reading the Angel comics—was waiting to finish a series rewatch—so I’m not exactly sure how they tie in.

      That said, the Angel comic series is going to move from IDW to Dark Horse in the near future, so I expect a lot more continuity between them at that point.


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