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Date Posted: 12:23:29 03/24/08 Mon
Author: KdS
Subject: Buffy S8 11-12, Angel After the Fall #4-5

Much delayed reviews of these as I've been so into other things I didn't have a chance to read them at a time when I could post about them in depth.

My most immediate response to "A Beautiful Sunset" was an unhappy suspicion that the Twilight-as-Riley rumours might be correct. Unhappy for two reasons. Firstly, I really don't want to see Riley villainised. Without condoning his dodgier behaviour in S5, I liked him, and in particular I'm worried that making him Twilight would lead to a canonisation of the fan readings of his need for Buffy to need him as misogynistic discomfort with female power, rather than as a relationship pathology that could strike men or women.

But there's some interesting ideas in the issue about change and different characters attitude to it. Buffy toys with the idea that what she's seen as apocalypses were just the universe's attempts to change the status quo, while still disappointing the Moorcock-fan element in me be dismissing Chaos as mere mayhem and self-indulgent evil. She still thinks its up to her to control the change, despite the fact that Simone is already going farther than she's comfortable with. I think Andrew's failure being pointed out here is deliberate, and a sign that he's not being idealised in the way some people feared, but far more interesting to me is the easy-to-miss implication that some of Simone's gang might not be Slayers. If so, it might be that she's explicitly rejecting the idea of a Slayer mystical chosen sect and moving to a more generalised concept of feminist empowerment through weaponry, which would be most intriguing in how it's treated. Which ties in to Twilight's outright rejection of the change Buffy has brought as being inevitably disastrous, without making it clear whether he's concerned mystically or societally or both.

Buffy warns Satsu off and reveals her continued fear that her lovers are doomed, but Twilight's jibes about her disconnection and disposability seem to change her mind, given the now-notorious developments in the next issue. Doylistly I've made it clear that I no longer regard the portrayal of lesbianism as a great political step forward in popular culture, lesbians do, after all, have titillatory potential for straight guys and too many people in the comics medium seem to be using them for purely publicity- and titillation-driven purposes. But I don't dislike the plotline or see it as implausible on a character level.

I do have problems about whether Buffy having sex with Satsu is a good idea or not, but my problems are different from the ones I've seen elsewhere. There have been a lot of complaints that Buffy is repeating a pattern of sexually exploiting someone who is infatuated with her, but some of them are overstated. I've even seen Buffy compared to Parker Abrams, which I think is well over the top. Parker's particular unpleasantness lay in promising deep emotional connection without intending it. We don't see anything of the conversation or interaction which led to Buffy and Satsu sleeping together, probably to avoid accusations of producing pseudolesbian porn for male readers, but I'd be extremely surprised if Buffy behaved in such a way. If Buffy did take Satsu too lightly, she had something of an instant karmic payback by the Kyuketsuki attack revealing her actions to just about everyone she's close to. (I really want to see Giles and Faith reacting to it.)

However, I think Buffy having sex with any other Slayer at the moment is a really bad idea because of the power differential and potential for corrosive perceptions of favouritism. There's been a general sense throughout this comics series that Buffy and the other former Scoobies are rather unthinkingly creating the appearance of an organisation while assuming that they don't need any yucky patriarchal nazistic rules and procedures. (One should note that the rare historical examples of actual anarchist military organisations, notably the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army in the Ukraine during the Russian Civil War and the anarchist militias in the Spanish civil war, did develop hierarchies and relatively strong military discipline, albeit with elected officers.) The problem is that the new organisation is already too large to be ruled on an absolute consensus basis, while the wider perception of its existence means that Buffy will inevitably be personally held responsible for the actions of any of its members, even though she has hardly any control over them. The obvious answers are to either get serious about organisation, or outright split it up, publicly deny its existence, and make the core organisation simply a provider of centralised logistical and networking services. The first would be unpleasant and the second would inevitably lead to potential conflicts between individual Slayers and groups over objectives.

After the Fall 4-5 are mainly based around the build-up of Angel's fight with the Lords' champions and how it turns out. It's nice to see Lorne again, and that he didn't decline into utter defeat after S5, although he does talk about a "gray period". It's similarly good to see that Spike's seeming position as head of a harem was more as tolerated pet and mascot, and because he had influence over Illyria, than genuine. Spike seems to have attached himself to Illyria now in the same way as he did to Drusilla and then Buffy, still seeing himself as the white knight protecting the maiden. (Question: in his seeming vision of himself having just killed Spider, was that Buffy's Scythe he was brandishing?)

But the best thing about this couple of issues was Angel's attempt at a speech to the populace, in which he did accept responsibility for exposing LA to Wolfram & Hart's revenge I'm glad to see, and the general dialogue between all the characters during the fight, which more than any of the comics so far managed to capture ME's ability to mix violence and wit.

But both of these sets of issues remind me of a problem I'm having with both series, and another reason why I don't want Riley to be Twilight, a fanfiction like inability to create really memorable new characters as yet (although Satsu's developing). I think it was Groo's appearance in after the fall that seemed like too much for me, and so far in Buffy S8 we've had Ethan, Amy and Warren as well as the regulars. A wider range of characters would be welcome, especially given that some of the problems with later TV seasons of both shows were a perceived insularity of plotting and emotion.

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