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"Badass Depowered Cyclops."
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July 01 2009

(SPOILER) For the discussion of Buffy #26. Titled 'Retreat', it's the start of Jane Espenson's brand new Buffy season 8 arc.

Very fast-paced. Hopefully, next issue we can slow down and get some strong character moments.

Wait, so Buffy and Giles are fine? Did I miss something?
Anyone there???? Recap please!
Gotta love the classic Oz line: "Huh?"
CowboyCliche, regardless of how fast-paced, this issue had amazing character moments. The Buffy & Giles talk, Buffy's concern about Willow going dark, Faith being disgruntled mid-battle, Andrew & Warren confrontation, Oz's monosyllabic reaction to a submarine poofing into Tibet. This issue was chock full of strong character moments from page to page.

It's interesting how Warren co-opts the First's actions and says they're his own from Season 7 when the First got Andrew to murder Jonathan. Just a clever way to play on Andrew's guilt and catch him offguard.
I enjoyed this issue much more than anything from the Predators and Prey arc. Definitely some strong character stuff while still moving the plot forward. My only problem is that since the set up for the whole "everyone hates slayers" thing was so weak the attack seems a little out of the blue. So not only do humans hate slayers they are working WITH vampires and demons to kill them? And they haven't noticed vampires and demons killing (and often eating) humans in the meantime? Even though we know SOME demons and vampire are willing to work with humans to get what they want, I don't see them being so trustworthy that humans would be so easily deceived. (EDIT: Upon re-read I see that Willow used to term "Wired" when talking about control of the local demons. technology being used?)

Oh, and I don't buy that Warren would have somehow known that the First was using his likeness to have Andrew kill Jonathan. That doesn't track for me.

Those are the gripes, but I would say that I LOVED Oz's reaction, and the quality Buffy/Giles time. I'm also glad the action is ramping up and I'm definitely excited to see where this is headed.
I'm beginning to wonder if the fear of humanity attacking isn't more like a paranoid fear that Buffy & Co. have. The "oh everyone hates us we have to hide from humanity" manifestation. All we've seen is some negative media coverage and the crazy town folk in #24. Humanity has yet to attack the Slayers, the Slayers are just running scared in the event that it does happen because they perceive humanity as hating them. From what I can tell, the demons attacking aren't working with the ambiguous and unknown humans attacking the Slayers in this issue.

I can buy Warren knowing how Andrew murdered Jonathan. Amy's magic could have pulled that deepest guilt from Andrew's head/dreamspace. Just the way Willow made Buffy look like Amy's mom and showed her that deep fear. Warren alone wouldn't know this. Warren with Amy would have access to what Andrew feels most guilty about.
Willow took that demon somewhere, away from her friends, away from anyone who could witness what she had to do to get the required information. When Willow came back, I got the impression she was smiling cruelly, like she enjoyed torturing the thing. Plus. she had pitch black eyes, and that's never a good sign.

Still, I don't really buy the whole "Willow's sliding back into old habits" thing. It's just too easy an explanation. Even with Dark Willow showing up in the future, I have to think it was the result of some kind of regrettable choice, not something Willow necessarily wanted.
Looks like a promising start to the arc.

A few things:

Giles and Buffy do seem a little chummy, but I don't take too much issue with this. He is essentially her father, and while she may be angry with him, I think she still feels like she can confide in him, and he will listen and hear her.

I see no reason to believe that humanity is working WITH the demons to kill the slayers. I think that they simply do not trust the slayer organization. The demons want to kill the slayers for the obvious reasons.

Warren talking to Andrew was great, and I really felt tense, wondering what Andrew would do. It wasn't immediately obvious that it was a trick, which I liked.

Having a little trouble understanding why Buffy chooses to go to Oz. But, I'm just going to let it slide under the assumption that it will make sense later, and also on the grounds of the fact that IT'S OZ!!!
I have my copy of Buffy Season 8 #26.The start of the 5 part "Retreat" arc by Jane Espenson.

It was a pretty good start.

We finally got all the gang together in this issue including Faith and Giles.

It seems Buffy and Giles have reconciled in this issue.

We finally get the Andrew/skinless Warren meeting with Warren trying to trick Andrew.Which doesn't work.

We got some major movement and very bad omens on the Willow storyline with Buffy confiding in Giles about her trip to Fray's future and her encounter with Dark Willow there.And this ties into the larger problem.

Twilight launched a massive attack against the slayers in this issue and he was able to do so because he could track Willlow's use of magic and the magic empowering all the slayers.This forces Buffy and the slayers into retreat and to the most magic free place Buffy knows of,Oz's sanctuary.

Oz makes his long awaited return at the end of the issue.

Overall a great begin to an arc that certainly feels like have reached the turning point of season 8.
I loved it! And I'm dancing in my chair as I look at Oz's expression (kudos Georges!).
I'm disappointed that we didn't see Andrew turn down Warren instead of being saved from being fooled by goatmen.
Things are clearly getting dire, and really fun (with the gang all back together again).
Gahhh, such a tease. I can't wait another month for more Oz!

This issue was awesome. The siege battle was great, as was the gathering of the forces.

I, too, paused a little at not only Warren's knowledge of the first's activities, but Andrew blaming him for it when he admitted in Storyteller that even at the time, he knew it wasn't really Warren.

But I guess we can write it off as Andrew being shocked into confusion, and Amy gaining that knowledge mystically and giving it to Warren to trick him, as he said.
"You're a fool, Buffy Summers, and you will lose... everything."

Twilight is not Lord Voldemort, but not for lack of trying, and since I just caught the tail end of "Order of the Phoenix", the parallel seemed worth quoting.

Buffy is, tactically, about as far from the best approach she could be taking and she's led (to switch novels) her people into a Helm's Deep that could only be right where Twilight wants her.

Okay, gotta be negative to start -- the build-up to this point from the public reveal of vampires to the Slayers actually at their alamo and under siege was just... atrocious. It was pretty much ALL tell, no show. We got a sense of the media effect, but absolutely nothing of the growing danger, the public paranoia, even mass hysteria that led to this point, a mixed army of humans and demons attacking them.

Now, it's not really their fault, because I was trying to think of someone having written this better and... I can't. Nobody has tried it that I'm aware of. Charlaine Harris skipped it, starting her novels after vampires were already part of public life. So, I give them some slack since nobody has really taken on the chore of showing the world go from "normal-with-supernatural-secrets" to "full-tilt-supernatural reveal with public going crazy" before. It's happened with aliens before ("V", "Alien Nation"), but not with demons and vampires. That said, they still ignored the basic idea of showing and not telling.

But now that we've gotten here... WOW. What an action-packed, story-rich, character-rich awesomeness 8.26 is. This jumps instantly into the top 5 of Season 8 so far, and it's great from start to finish, up to Oz' reaction to the sub.

Willow is a much more central part of Season 8 now than I really had thought, and the cover makes more sense -- she *is* the center of it. Twilight, Buffy, Andrew, Warren, Oz, all orbiting around Willow, with the magic in her hands. And I was surprised to see how skeptical Giles is of her chances, as is Buffy -- I wish Xander had been part of that conversation. But Willow is on a path again, and clearly has started taking Buffy-ish liberties, such as with that demon.

Xander and Dawn are on like donkey kong I think.

I love how everybody converges on Buffy, and I love how there is real danger and casualties both in the individual scenes like Andrew's, but also in the battle before Buffy orders their retreat.

It's great to see that whatever was with Buffy and Giles, they can step right past it. Ditto Buffy and Faith, who seemed to be in each other's heads during the fighting.

Lots of thoughts going about this issue, but those are the first batch.
The best issue in a long time, although it's still unclear why vamps are in and slayers are out. And it's so bad they had to go into hiding? We don't get to see a lot of important details sadly. I have to fill in the blanks myself.

Buffy and Giles acted like they didn't have a falling out at all. Not the Buffy/Giles confrontation I was expecting. And I don't like when issues end with the appearance of a character, they've done that quite a few times now and it's lackluster. Otherwise I really enjoyed it and it had a lot to offer.
Nice to see they're moving Willow's arc along. She is in so very deep, and no one around her is willing to deal. Again.

I really liked the minimal and oblique talking between Buffy and Giles as they reconciled here. And all the clever Andrew moments. Jane Espenson writes him so very well.
I think the previous five issues have shown, more than anything, that they've managed to make a story too big for a monthly comic.

Loved the character moments, loved the writing, but it doesn't feel quite right thanks to the lead up in to the arc. I think we'll need to see additional supporting material like Tales of the Vampires (and hopefully the upcoming Willow one-shot) to give the Predators & Prey arc the gravitas it needs.
I loved Giles' British self-awareness in his response to the news about Willow.

I Agree that it doesn't seem to follow that Warren would know the ins and outs of The First's plot against Andrew. AND ANDREW loved the art detail in this issue with Andrew wearing the limited edition Boba Fett hooded sweatshirt that he somehow managed to nab while in Italy. My favorite sweatshirt first on Topher in Dollhouse and now here. Hooray.

I am also not sure Oz would be the expert on making people LESS magic, it seems to me that on his discoveries he learned he was the wolf MORE than 3 nights a month and he can now change at any time. That seems more magicky to me. He got more powerful magical control over his curse.
I loved it.
I thought the Buffy crying with Giles was a big slam-bang of forgiveness and loss (okay, I cried too). Plus, I think this is one of the few times I really had an Andrew moment--the "Keith said that?" just made my heart crack and I finally got the feeling that he is in here because he's deep down a caring and trusting guy, but so much wants to be liked and not isolated. This could mirror Buffy's increasing isolation.

I am also thinking that no good is going to come of this nonmagic labor retreat--I was really concerned when it looked like something connected in Buffy's head and then said "one more big spell and then we're done". Bizarrely, I wonder if part of her wants to punish Willow for being powerful and doing bad while she has as well (flaming a cooperating vamp-in-a-box in Tokyo seems pretty close to flayed demon to me...).

I also noticed that throughout this arc people keep asking Willow if she's evil again long before now--note "Long Way Home", Buffy's post "Time of Your Life" "are you okay?" dialogue. I also noticed there's a huge assumption here that is not being dealt with--we don't know what Future Dark Willow was/is. She had aspects of Dark Willow, but seemed lost and melancholy rather than the same Dark Willow we saw before.
Granted, Willow's playing hard, possibly on the edge--the demon thing, the implication of Kennedy dying for her, six month mystical walkabout and sex magic naga action...but her actions in "Time of Your Life" seem to be a lot less clear than Buffy is observing. (I also wonder if Giles has another double meaning to "lose"...)
Plus, I think there's a huge folly in using what the enemy wants to beat the enemy. As Audre Lorde said "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."...and it strikes me that Buffy is picking up Twilight's toolbox. I don't think everyone is going to like this (we already have Satsu dissenting as far as waiting) and the dream hints we saw in "Always Darkest"...
and the thing is as far as assumptions, we know that Oz can control the wolf--but isn't it still in him? I think Buffy is going in thinking of Tibet as a Slayer/Wicca Betty Ford Clinic, but I'm pretty sure there are going to be some issues.
I am very curious to see where this is going, including the hints from "Always Darkest" (and also, did anyone else notice that Willow says "I haven't been naughty here." before the betrayal vision?

Okay, now I am so curious. Come forth, next issue.

Plus, YAY OZ!
Very entertaining issue--the best in ages. Still, the lack of proper setup did give it an "out of sequence" feel, as if we skipped several issues.
Grrr at the ending...I was hoping we'd see some Oz/Scoobies interaction this issue, but I guess not.

This arc is shaping up to be good, and this issue is a lot better than Jane's Harmony story. Still not totally sold on the "vamps are cool" thing, but I've been watching True Blood and that's been helping.

The way I see it: Vampires became somewhat accepted within the confines of LA following After the Fall, and then Harmony brought international acclaim and popularity, perhaps with a little help from Twilight.
"Predators and Prey" was a sorely mangled attempt at showing the public's acceptance of vampires, there's no denying that. But now that we're here, with the action ramping up and the characters coming together, the series has bounced back in a big way. For that we can thank the almighty Espenson.

The best moments were obviously the ones centered around the characters, as they always are on Buffy: Faith and Giles still together (I loved, "Uh-huh, a cattle car across Germany is much better"); Warren trying, and failing, to trick Andrew into switching sides; the interplay during that intense rooftop fight; Giles confronting Buffy about Willow's continued dangerous use of magic, and Buffy finally confiding in someone what she saw; and of course, "Huh."

quantumac, I don't think that Willow is necessarily "sliding back into bad habits," going the addiction route that she took in S6, rather that she's simply become too cavalier about it. She wields unimaginable power and isn't above using it to achieve whatever she wants, no matter the means. It's eventually going to blow up in her face, and I think that's when the "regrettable choice" that leads to her becoming who we saw in "Time of Your Life" will kick in.

I really can't wait to see some more Oz. I cannot believe that it's been nine years since we last saw him in "Restless."
Can I just yay Andrew's Boba Fett hoodie in passing?
Just a thought:

Warren somehow knows about the First's actions while in his visage. But the First shouldn't have been able to appear as Warren, because Warren never died. SOMETHING fishy is going on here...
It's been mentioned in the lettercol before (the one for #6, I think), and I think it was cleared up once more in the lettercol in this issue. Warren doesn't know that he died for an itty-bitty nanosecond, is the explanation. It's kinda weak, but really, it doesn't matter.
Maybe it doesn't. Or maybe there's more going on than we're being told.
I'm inclined to think Joss/Jane forgot a bit of the several-years-old complicated Warren/First backstory. ;)

Alternatively, Warren is a complex character who has many layers. We dare not believe we are familiar with all that he does or knows.
Warren died long enough to be considered dead for First purposes. Scott Allie (and, I think, Joss) has offered that explanation ad nauseum at this point.

As for Warren knowing what the First did as him, I don't think the First merely appeared as dead people. I think it might have actually been using the essence of those dead people directly. So anyone who was dead but came back might perhaps have some knowledge (or be able to tap the knowledge?) of what the First did as them.

Or, simpler explanation: Word gets around. No particular reason Warren would not have been able to find out what First!Warren did.
I only meant the question of how Warren knows so much about the First manipulating Andrew before. The split-second death thing is fine. But the entire Andrew/Warren scene in this issue reads like Warren was there. Maybe it's a slight narrative oversight. Maybe it's intentional.
Maybe, because he came back to life after that split second, Warren got all the memories of what the First did with his image?
I haven't been able to get my issue yet but I've heard about this Warren/First thing.

I think the most plausible explanation is that in the past Warren had told Andrew they could become Gods. The First takes on the exact personality of the person it looks like, Wood says it even smelt like his mother and it made Faith shake. So when the First/Warren is telling Andrew they can become Gods in CWDP it's just relaying what Andrew and Warren have previously talked about in the past. We saw it do this with many characters as it hits them where it hurts. It’s the First’s way to manipulate and try and convince the person that it’s really whoever it takes the form of.

So Warren was actually referring to something they talked about in season six, not the First in season seven. I think that’s the simplest way to look at it.
Thank you vampmogs! That's pretty much my explanation for it, and it seems a lot less stretchy than some of the theories I've read.
If Warren had access to first memories then Buffy should've known what the first was up to with Caleb way before she did because (amongst other things she wouldve known) the first was using her visage as well
Mm, well, not if Warren has access to The First's memories because The First is feeding him those memories. Doesn't mean he or anyone else would be able to access them whenever they wanted.
Thank you vampmogs! That's pretty much my explanation for it, and it seems a lot less stretchy than some of the theories I've read.

Yup :D

I agree with Sunfire that Joss and Jane probably just forgot but it’s the simplest fanwank for me.
So Warren was actually referring to something they talked about in season six, not the First in season seven. I think that’s the simplest way to look at it.

Ah, that sounds like a cool explanation! But when did Andrew and Warren talk about that in S6?
Yeah, but...Warren makes direct reference to him getting Andrew to kill Jonathan. So it's not the "We Are Gods" thing everyone's confused about.
Jonathan was always the black sheep of the Trio. Warren and Andrew were going to leave him behind to take the fall in the first place. It's possible that at some time (not shown, of course), that they had maybe talked about offing Jonathan. Andrew was always easy to manipulate as long as there was some promise of grandeur, some escape from the mundane (hence the sci-fi/fantasy fixation). The promise of godhood seems about as grand as it comes. Of course they never just killed him, but settled on the more practical route of using him as the fall guy.

Pretty sure that it was a slip-up over on Jane, Joss, and Scott's end, but it's not unwankable... But if it makes anyone feel any better, Scott has said that it'll be fixed.
If Warren had access to first memories then Buffy should've known what the first was up to with Caleb way before she did because (amongst other things she wouldve known) the first was using her visage as well

No, because the memory transfer only works if the person is evil. Warren is evil, and the First is evil; therefore, the First and Warren should share memories. Because Buffy is good and the First is evil, she wouldn't get the memories of the First's actions in her guise.
Huh. Since we never see him touching anything, and he calls to Amy but we never see her, Warren could be the First again. Since he could pretend to be Jonathan looking healthy and looking decayed, why not Warren with and without skin? (As for a motive... he's evil, what else does he need?)
Riker, that seems an awfully thin theory.
Ooooh....speaking of the First, what if Twilight is the First?

Talk amongst yourselves.
I don't think Joss would use the same villain two seasons in a row. The First also wouldn't need a costume.
Plus, didn't Twilight wallop Buffy earlier in the season? Kind rules out him being the First.

Liked this issue alot. Feel like things are back on track. Not that I didn't really like the last few issues. But season 8 is better when it gets into the meaty arcs, in my opinion.
Good to see Faith and Buffy in the same story again!

[ edited by stuffy on 2009-07-03 21:53 ]
I gotta say, I just can't get behind the artwork for Giles. I very often think he's Andrew.
Maybe Twilight will be Edward.

Then we'd really rejoice Buffy kicking his ass.

Is that Dawn at Xander's side constantly?
This issue mostly blindsided me: there was no real setup for the increase in human/demon activity against the slayers now (things seemed relatively relaxed in "Predators and Prey" and "Living Doll"); Buffy and Giles' reunion didn't begin to cover the setup for that disagreement (Andrew referenced it lately!); the Warren/Andrew scene happened far too quickly for anything to happen, and besides had Warren inexplicably appropriating the First's actions which did not happen, presumably to set up a "We are as Gods!" joke. I'm being a little bit harsh on the last one, and I agree that Warren and Andrew were planning to off Jonathan before Warren was killed ("This is why we get jetpacks, and all you get is left behind!"), but it seems clear that it's a reference to The First's Warren actions, and Andrew should recognize that it wasn't him. C'mon, Jane wrote "Storyteller," which hinges in part on Andrew accepting that it wasn't Warren ("I pretended I knew it was him...").

Couldn't follow the battle scenes. Willow's arc moves along, but her torturing feels out of place, especially with the flaying: she has been all on board with the magic, but she criticized Buffy for thievery not that long ago. Partly I guess this is the first time Willow has had an important role since "Time of Your Life," which feels like forever ago (seven months!) but in character time isn't that long.

I might enjoy this issue more in a bit, especially if there are more Buffy/Giles and especially Andrew/Warren interactions--the latter is too rich a vein of history to reduce to two-page scenes. So far, I feel a little bit like this issue exemplifies most of the season's weaknesses and few of its strengths. (Although obviously others disagree! :) )
WilliamTheB: I think it's implicit that Buffy had forgiven Giles by the end of #23. It's something that I realized in retrospect, but she does say: "Yeah, you're part of the family. Get used to screwing up for good reasons, it's what we do."

I wrote this in a review, but I think it's applicable here:

Buffy's tearful hug when she sees Giles speaks louder than any number of pages of chit-chat can. She's missed him, and despite their fallout in "NFFY", he is important to her. Also, she probably now understands why he tried to keep her out of the whole Gigi affair, having dealt with Simone herself. Dealing with rogue Slayers, not the best feeling in the world, seeing as Buffy knows that she's the reason they have power in the first place. It's an organic enough transition, and the gravity of the season thus far finally sets in when Buffy again addresses the issue of where the Slayers stand in the cosmic balance, but this time, she's a little more on the nose when she asks Giles if the Slayers are really the bad guys.
Plus, didn't Twilight wallop Buffy earlier in the season? Kind rules out him being the First.

Oohhh… but what if the “scales have been tipped” and the First has become corporeal? What better way to slam Buffy’s moral certainty if she finds out her slayer army actually tipped the scales in an undoubtedly negative way?

Still doesn't explain why the First would need a mask though.
Wenxina, I hadn't thought about that--particularly since Andrew brought up Giles earlier in the ish. Subtle. I like it.
I'm pretty sure I've read quotes from both Scott Allie and Georges Jeanty (perhaps just one of them) saying the arc following "Retreat" is going to deal with the fallout from the reveal of Twilight's identity. If there are going to be such huge repercussions, isn't it safe to say Twilight is somebody close to Buffy or somebody who has been close to her in the past?

I just don't see the characters having very much, emotionally, to deal with if Twilight is the First.

Oh and Wenxina, nice catch there! Totally went over my head but goes to show S8 is just as layered as the series was.
Thanks, guys. Just something I caught randomly, but I agree that it does show that S8 is pretty damn layered.
This was a great issue, I'm so unbelievably happy to have all the gang back together! I also can't wait to read Willow and Oz's first conversation, I think he's the only one she can honestly talk to about the way Tara's death and the deep foraying in to magic has affected her. Especially as Kennedy feels so superflous to Willow emotionally that I'm just waiting for her to get the pointy end of a sword or her own command unit somewhere.

Can't wait for next month.
vampmogs' mention of the First appearing to Wood and Faith made me realize how long it's been since we've seen Robin Wood appear in the comic. Wasn't it issue 6 when Faith was still working with Wood in Cleveland? Wonder what he's up to and why his Slayers haven't joined up with everyone else? Completely out of left field, but he wouldn't be in the running to be a potential Twilight, would he?
I'm trying to imagine a reason for Robin Wood to be Twilight and I just can't think of one. But I suppose he's just as feasible a candidate as Riley Finn or Ethan Rayne.

Just wanted to say, this feels like the most 'Whedony' issue in a while (since the 'Time of Your Life' arc, I guess).

Humor and character development galore...which I thought were somewhat lacking in 'Predators and Prey.' (I'm still hoping they have an explanation somewhere down the line for that whole arc.)
CrazyKidBen I'm pretty sure I remember Scott Allie saying Joss has no plans for Wood to appear again this season. Of course he would say that if he really was Twilight though, wouldn't he? :D

I agree with menomegirl that I'm struggling to find reasons for why he would be Twilight. However, I expect the writers to give us a reason when we get the reveal so I'm not sure that rules him out.
Alternatively, Warren is a complex character who has many layers.

One of them however, not being skin.
I'm still putting my money on Twilight being a future Buffy. What else could the ultimate betrayal be?

And yeah, Xander and Dawn seem to be hanging together an awful lot (in the middle of the night?) I'm wondering if there is a romance brewing there.
Well, now that I've thought about it, vampmogs, I've come to the conclusion that Robin could be Twilight. He had a very good arc in season 7 and I'd always thought his issues had been dealt with by the series finale but upon really thinking it over, I can see where perhaps they weren't so much 'dealt with' as they were 'set aside' in order for him to help fight the good fight against The First.

He has abandonment issues because of his mother and part of those issues may be resentment of 'slayers' in general. We know he has no problems using people and situiations for his own ends without regard for anything else and that he righteously hates vampires. Additionally, he probably resents Buffy a great deal for what she told him at the end of Lies My Parents Told Me.

He's actually a pretty good candidate for being Twilight, if you think about it.
Twilight's neck seemed pretty light-skinned in "A Beautiful Sunset". I think Twilight is Caucasian (and also probably male).
My theory is that Twilight=Harth. The whole concept of Season 8 came from the need to reconcile "Fray" and "Chosen," after all. Harth has plenty of motivation--without the "end of magic" he wouldn't exist, and if he's convinced that ending the Slayer line is the only way he and Mel, and their peculiar relationship, can come to exist--well, then, he'll end the Slayer line, or die trying. He knows Buffy (and all her moves) inside out. (In the Fray arc, he refers to being Buffy in dreams. Not just past Slayers, but specifically Buffy.) Also, his neck has reason to itch.

Why he's particularly big and strong and able to fly, I've no idea; but then, nobody we know has a history of flying (except Willow, who's obviously out of the running). The only thing that couldn't fit--in "A Beautiful Sunset," he goes flying about at sunrise. (But maybe Twilight's costume is sunlight-proof--the high-tech version of Spike's blanket?)

No, he wouldn't be the greatest betrayal: but I don't think it's ever stated that Twilight is the one doing the betraying.
Um... I know I'm coming kinda late to the party... But is it possible that Warren the corporeal had promised Andrew, and then The First followed up?
Awesome issue. I love how the pace picked up immediately. In the past, some of the arcs had taken too long to wind up, leaving little to no time for a satisfying climax and ending. I think this arc will find its way around that.

Can't wait for the next issue!
This arc also has the benefit of being the first real arc with 5-issues to properly tell a story. So, given that it's got Espenson, Oz, the gang back together, and a 5-issue canvas... there's a lot of hope riding on this arc. No pressure.
Erendis - y'know all of my past joking aside, I'm still of the firm belief it is Harth as well, for all of the reasons you've mentioned. And the ramifications of this would actually be quite dire - erasing Fray and himself from the 'verse! And do we still not know what took so long for Fray and Harth to be called in the first place? I don't know if that was ever addressed...
Finally got this issue as well. The pacing of the story felt 'off' at first (it's probably better to read this as one part in a TPB instead of just speedy, speedy set-up in one small issue), but when it soared it really, erm, soared.

As for Twilight: it being Harth makes sense, but then previous messages about the reveal would be very much overhyped and an issue dealing with the implications would be too much. Like many others I'm thinking "major, important character". Maybe Spike? Maybe Angel? Xander? Dawn? Joyce, back from the dead? Or Tara (imagine the backlash on that one for a moment)? Or, indeed, Buffy herself.

My current theory (I switch from moment to moment) is: it's future-Buffy (despite Twilight looking male). And to save current-Buffy and everyone else, Willow is forced to kill future-Buffy, which is pivotal in turning her bad again (and makes a nice circularity, with current-Buffy fighting future-Willow in the future). But way more probable is that this is not the case and I'm just full of crap (in fact, I'm assuming I'm overlooking at least two reasons why this scenario couldn't happen, continuity-wise, right now).

Either way: I'm expecting something big. And then I'm hoping for a great psychological explanation of why he/she betrayed everyone and became Twilight (just like I'm hoping Willow turning bad again will have greater psychological underpinnings than just the careless use of power, which seems like old news).
My guess as of #26 is Oz. It used to be Andrew, because of details that seemed like hints here and there, but there are also a lot of things about Andrew-as-Twilight that don't add up.
The extra-textual comments from writers & editors do suggest major character--but I while I can imagine psychological explanations for why one of the characters you mention would turn against Buffy, I can't imagine one for why they would turn against her in the specific way that Twilight has. (I just reread "A Beautiful Sunset," and the things he says to her are very harsh and borderline misogynist . . . I cannot imagine those words coming out of Dawn, Joyce, or Tara's mouth--or Spike's--or Angel's. Ever.)

It's possible, of course, that I'm wrong, and that there is something that would make those words square with a character we've known and loved for years; it's possible that my imagination is just falling short, here. But I really think if it turned out to be one of those characters, I'd feel like the writers had cheated.

As for Andrew: there were some hinty moments, but I think they were deliberate misdirects (and I read the last page of the Andrew-Buffy roadtrip issue as a confirmation that Andrew's a good guy). Oz, though? that's an interesting theory. I'm not sure how much sense it makes in terms of Oz's character & backstory; but I love the dramatic potential in that scenario: the person Buffy & co. turn to as a "last hope" is, in fact, the enemy.
GVH, I agree with your Willow/badness assesment; I don't want it to be a drunk on power business again.
I did notice something interesting looking back over my comics, which I touched on in my earlier comment--there have been a lot of people asking Willow if she is evil again, as well as some suspicion. I remember Dawn asks her in LWH, people wonder where she has been or why she doesn't hang around as much in LWH and doesn't bring Kennedy around(which has obviously changed) and there are her dark eyes in "Anywhere But Here" at "the death of magic". Buffy also keeps asking her after TTOYL. I also mentioned the automatic assumption from Buffy and Giles that FDW is evil, when I think her actions are much more complex.

I also did notice that there are at least two Wicked allusions involving Willow--in LWH, Xander calls her Elphaba and in the most recent issue, Wicked is on her bedside table. While this could be a cute shout-out to well, Wicked given the magic rehab theme of the next issue, I am wondering if Willow will be driven off by that plan (and it does have an odd, Willow-punishing quality to it that is unsettling), leave Buffy for good and be spun as wicked and evil since she won't give up her magic or won't play by the rules.
(Also, note that the whole no magic plan goes way against the Giles-training we saw in Season 7.) Giles also says "lose her again"...but there's no how.

I guess we'll see what happens.

[ edited by JessicaMelusine on 2009-07-09 17:19 ]
I'm not sure how much sense it makes in terms of Oz's character & backstory

He's got some pretty personal reasons to resent magic and possibly, at this point in his life, do-gooder demon-hunting types as well. We haven't seen him in a long time. His position at the top of my list is pretty precarious though, for that reason. He wouldn't be the emotional gut-punch for Buffy I was thinking we'd see whenever this is revealed.

But maybe Twilight's not supposed to be the gut-punch.

I also think the Andrew hints were misleads, at this point. And I want them to be, since I like him Scoobified.
Unless Oz underwent a fairly significant late growth spurt, he's not Twilight - Oz is only slightly taller than Buffy, and lightly built.
Maybe he lifts those yaks in his spare time.
That wouldn't make him taller, just bulkier. And thanks loads for that image - now I have a scene running through my head of Oz finding a little injured yak calf and going, "Don't try to walk, alpaca you home..." ;-)

[ edited by Rowan Hawthorn on 2009-07-09 21:59 ]
My mental image was him running around Tibet with a full-grown yak under each arm. Screw your logic! Oz is super buff and evil!

Or, just the best conjecture I have among several terrible options.
Well the scratchy itch could be from his bite mark from his cousin too. But still I don't think it's him.

[ edited by didifallasleep on 2009-07-09 22:57 ]
My brain just sprouted a theory that actually makes so much sense and no sense whatsoever all in one go. With Oz's sudden return, and the point raised about Robin Wood not being quite the right skin tone for Twilight, I started thinking back on all the men in Buffy's life that have come and gone, which led me to this mindfrak:

What if Hank Summers is Twilight?
Screw your logic!

(Cue Marty Feldman) "Too late!"

(Yes, my logic is already screwed...)
Hey, if Oz (or Harth) can fly now, maybe he can also make himself look taller! Except...if he can magically alter his appearance, why bother with a mask? Why not just magically hide his face?

So yeah, that's a significant problem with both theories. Though Sunfire has a good point, in that Oz has been gone long enough for a major change like this to take place, and be plausible. (As opposed to other major characters.)But I still think Harth makes more sense than anyone else...unless there's something huge I'm overlooking. Which, you know, there probably is. :-)
You mean, like the fact that Harth was a (fairly small and scrawny) teen-ager when he was sired...?
Yes--that's the one major problem I see with both the Harth-theory and the Oz-theory. :-)
Georges Jeanty's style adds some muscle to the guys. But yeah, no one really fits what we know about Twilight. Something we know is wrong or out of date I think.
The key for me is Twilight's manner of speaking: alternately somewhat pompous and somewhat slang-y, nearly always with an amused, sarcastic twist. It sounds exactly like a character we've known for some time. Unfortunately, he's dead (or, is that just what they want us to think??)
Um...which character?

Are you thinking of Quentin Travers?
Or maybe he's thinking of Ethan Rayne.
I thought Ethan Rayne was still alive? I'm struggling to think who you mean though Rowan.

I must admit as I was reading the issue the idea of Oz as Twilight came to mind and I actually got really worried about it, but then even if Oz got to the point where he thought ending magic was the best plan for the world and Willow, I can't see him resorting to Twilight methods to achieve that end.

All this talk of future Buffy and Harth got me thinking, how about future Xander? I mean there's no reason why Xander would have magic powers and be from the future, but Willow could have given that to him, her melanchology air in TOYL suggests that she is not quite 'go-magic' anymore, and could therefore be part of where Twilight came from. I don't think the hurtful comments directed at Buffy are really his style but its not like they've never fought before. And I feel like Xander is missing from the whole FDW arc, he's still one of Willow's best friends and cares about her deeply, how could he not have some part to play in her future, which increasingly looks to be the most significant impetus for Twilight's appearance.
Yeah, I'm thinking Ethan Rayne. Try reading Twilight's lines in Ethan's voice, including the "itchy neck" and "young love" lines. They all ring pretty true. Of course, if it turns out to be, say, Willie the Snitch, I'll deny that I ever said this...
Well, his name did come up again in "After These Messages"...a reference that would be fairly pointless if he's all dead and gone forever. He was my top choice for a while (despite being dead, or maybe because of it)--I just can't work out why chaos-guy would suddenly make with the master plan. It doesn't really seem like his style. (Plus, if the suddenly-legion Slayers are destabilizing the world, mystically and politically--shouldn't Ethan be all "chaos! yay!"?)

On the other hand, why would the writers bring him back just to kill him off? He's a minor supporting character, who was in like three episodes, and there are plenty of other people who could've showed up in Buffy's dreamspace. Plus I could see him flying around in a bad supervillian costume. So, I don't know...I'll have to go reread some of his dialogue now. :-)
digupherbones, General Voll shot, and presumably killed, Ethan in "The Long Way Home." Which is not to say that he couldn't still be alive, but the writers clearly want us to at least think that he's dead.
Didn't someone who knows say there was an element of betrayal with Twilight? If so, he can't be Ethan; or the First, in any form; or Harth. No one trusts them to begin with. It could be that the betrayal is Riley's in dealing with him, rather than Twilight himself. But then I think if Riley is really betraying Buffy, and that is a major factor, it would not have been given away so soon.

Which is why it could , I suppose, be Oz, who has all sorts of reasons to be down on magic, though nothing could be more different from Oz's laconic style than the way Twilight presents himself.

But here is a thought. Why do we believe Twilight when he says he wants to get rid of magic? He sure uses magic alot himself. Maybe that's just his cover story. Maybe he wants to be the only one with with magic left on earth, so he can, you know, rule the world and stuff, as big bads usually aim to do.

[ edited by toast on 2009-07-12 02:08 ]
Didn't someone who knows say there was an element of betrayal with Twilight?

Well, not exactly. In "Anywhere But Here", Buffy is given a vision of herself beaten and crying, and she's told that it refers to "Betrayal. The closest, most unexpected." Didn't actually say, though, that it referred to Twilight's identity; that's just kind of speculation around the 'net. The betrayal could be referring to someone feeding Twilight information (the "man on the inside" that Lieutenant Molter referred to), or someone turning against Buffy when she really needs them, or Buffy "betraying" someone else, etc.
I knew it, i bloody knew it. Lat page and finally theres Oz. Our one word man. Just once in the comic world i would love for the highly anticipated return character who appears on the cover to actually be in the majority of the comic and not just the last page. Sigh. But still Oz YAY!
I just can't work out why chaos-guy would suddenly make with the master plan. It doesn't really seem like his style. (Plus, if the suddenly-legion Slayers are destabilizing the world, mystically and politically--shouldn't Ethan be all "chaos! yay!"?)

Not necessarily. Remember in A New Man how he told Giles about the Initiative because it was throwing the balance way off course and in his words, “that’s way beyond chaos mate.” Ethan has his limits, he likes his world order as much as the next person. If he didn't like Maggie Walsh interfering then he certainly wouldn't like 1800 slayers suddenly popping up on the scene.
I like a lot the theory about Twilight being Hart, but my favorite bet is in Melaka. None of them should have problems of size if Twilight's clothes work as "The Greatest American Hero" uniform.
And Oz will totally be Willow's Mr. Miyagi.

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