Review, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 #20 (The Watcher)

9 04 2013


CREATORS

Writer: Andrew Chambliss
Penciller: Karl Moline
Inker: Andy Owens, Dexter Vines
Colorist: Michelle Madsen

Everyone is struggling with the lack of magic in the world – more than most, those who’d had a connection to it before. Dawn Summers, Buffy’s sister, was created by magic and now lies in a coma as magic leaves her body. No one knows how she can be saved. Buffy feels helpless. Xander feels useless . . . and angry. But no one is giving up yet . . .

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So, we have finally reached the 20th issue of this season. Five more to go to end it. And finally, the season is warming up and it starts making some sense. If only we haven’t wasted more than 8 issues on ridiculous and pointless plots…But let’s get to it.

According to the solicits, in this issue Xander’s secret is revealed. Guess what? There was no secret that he’s been hiding. But he gets his own agenda starting. Not exactly his own, he joins forces mostly for a common goal, to end all this madness. Is that a betrayal? It depends on the way you see it. Xander has been feeling useless for years. Having supernatural friends, while all he could do was watch. Having others getting powerful, while all he could do was watch. Having people that he loved getting killed, while all he could do was watch. And he decided to stay away from anything supernatural, because he didn’t want to watch Dawn die as well. But unfortunately, she’s dying and all he can do is watch…again. Actually, I don’t know whether they will name it like it, but he’s having PTSD, it’s clear.

But let’s get back to the betrayal part. There are some nice flashbacks to S08#39 that we haven’t seen before. Angel’s haters will love those, so will Xander’s fans. And he had every right to act like that. But how is any different, what Angel did back in S8, from what Xander agrees to do in this issue? Angel was trying to change the world, to save it, keeping his plan a secret, working against Buffy, working with her enemies. I really don’t see any difference in Xander’s case now. The problem is that I sympathize with him, unlike with what Angel did. I feel for him. Does that make it right? No, I don’t think so, but this is probably the first time in 9 seasons that I can’t blame Xander. He’s lost a lot.

We also learn more about Severin’s agenda, and Simone’s as well. And finally he starts making some sense. He has a plan, and it makes some sense, although I don’t know if it can work and what the consequences will be. But at least he’s not only “I want Illyria’s powers to bring back my girlfriend”, as I was scared that he was.

As for Buffy? I really can’t like her anymore. She’s trying to fix things, she’s trying to make Xander help her, but I can’t feel for her. I don’t like this S9 Buffy anymore. Your sister is dying, pick up the phone and call everyone you know, don’t just assume things! And Andrew is somebody you trust? Yes sure, he didn’t rape you, only roofed you and violated your body while you were living in a robot, what’s not there to trust? Fortunately for her, she gets a surprise guest she didn’t expect, while we were expecting it. Will that help Dawn? We’ll have to wait and see.

The artist has changed in this issue, it’s Moline’s work. I can’t say I am a fan of his work, but it was nice to have a break from Jeanty. Moline’s Xander looks good, and he did his best to express emotions. It was OK. And finally a sleeping Dawn that looks good! His Andrew is a mess, but I can’t blame him for that!

So, was that a good issue? Yes it was. And interesting to see the road that Xander would choose. And he chose to stop watching and start acting. Will this plan work? Will he keep on betraying Buffy? It is what we have to wait and see in the final arc of the season.

Georgia


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17 responses

10 04 2013
Tennyoelf

Well, that was a bit predictable. I was hoping that Xander would know how useful he is and that even as a watcher, he’s been a core member of the group and their morale support.

I suppose the death of Giles and Dawn dying would rattle him enough that old insecurities would pop up. Though i wonder if it would have been a better angle to make it less about feeling useless and more disillusioned with Buffy as Xander’s hero. If having Buffy as his hero and always following her results in death, then I could see Xander feeling he’d have to matters in his own hands. Less about feeling useless, more about feeling disillusioned with his hero and the path he took by following her. (And of course, he’ll reaffirm his hero and path when Buffy saves the day.)

I’m also pretty disillusioned with this display of Buffy. I agree, the Buffy that would die to save Dawn or sacrifice so much for the world isn’t there. I see Buffy as a hero who is very proactive about being a hero (though not so proactive about life in general, though she tries). And trying to save Dawn would be something she would go balls out on, not sit and weep for someone to come and help her. Or at least try to contact her new “team”?

Glad to see WIllow back and trying to save Dawn. I doubt Willow will be able to save Dawn now. But they’ll come up with some plan.

Also, the little scene on the rooftop with Andrew? Can’t help but feel contempt about how that may have been a good place for a Spike and Buffy scene had Spike been around.

And Severin and Simone’s plan? As I said, predictable but unknown if it’ll work. They might try to do a redo/retcon all the way to the beginning of season 8, but somehow I doubt it? Though that might be what Allie meant about a whole new landscape for season 10. We might get Willow concocting a plan to restore magic to the earth as a band-aid plan, for both the zompire problem and Dawn’s dying. Then we’ll have Severin and Simone continuing to rewind to season 8, but Buffy saves the day by stopping them but not without some type of loss. Can’t redo the past, just gotta continue to go forward.

Overall, I don’t find this a very good issue at all. While it’s better than what we have been getting, it’s still missing a lot to me and feels, well, like it’s a symphony hitting all the wrong notes.

10 04 2013
Tennyoelf

Also, if for some really weird reason Simone and Severin do succeed, and everyone is brought back in time to the beginning of season 8? I think everyone will keep their memories and it really won’t solve anything but the zompire problem and the Dawn issue.

10 04 2013
maggie2222

I’ll have to ponder some more, but I think I’m between Georgia and Tenny on this.

I think the scene with Andrew was totally meant to evoke Spike. And while she’s delighted that Willow pops in, I think her going to the roof where she last spoke with Spike says something about who she means when she says she wants someone she can trust.

I agree with Tenny that it’d be nice for Xander to be more driven by disillusionment with Buffy than his own sense of uselessness. That said, the fact that he’s not talking to Buffy says his issues aren’t just about feeling useless.

I like that they have Buffy save Angel, more for Xander’s sake than anything else.

I think Buffy not being proactive is a plot point, and a good one. She’s always been part of a team, and her team is gone. Buffy doesn’t work without Xander and Willow (or Giles). We saw that in The Wish. (Yes, that Buffy is a different kind of messed up — but still, the point remains that heroic wonderful Buffy is the one who has friends and family; this Buffy doesn’t.)

The reset involves memory wipes, or so think Severin and Simone. It ain’t going to happen.

The Xander/Angel parallel is there, I think. But giving a book to people who are going to reset time isn’t quite the same sort of betrayal as killing slayers, beating up Buffy, etc. I think the real parallel is in the inclination to erase the bad stuff that happened. Angel, thinking he can bring back Giles. Xander wanting to get a do over. Though why he thinks a do over would work with the memories gone as well is a good question. He obviously hasn’t watched IWRY.

10 04 2013
Elena

I have the impression that writers were thinking about “Angel: After the Fall”-type of reset – with all memories kept intact.

10 04 2013
1701EarlGrey

First of I must to admit that I didn’t read this issue and I don’t think that I want to read it. I really don’t like where this is going…

You said that: “I think Buffy not being proactive is a plot point, and a good one. (…) Buffy is the one who has friends and family; this Buffy doesn’t.)”

Quite the contrary, it’s terrible plot point and I will tell you why. Firstly: season 9 portrayed Buffy as incompetent moron who can’t do anything by herself! This is out of character. That was entire point of ” Becoming part 2″ and “The Freshman” – that when chips are down, she can take care of herself, and she can save the day all by herself. That she should belive in herself! Remember that?: “No weapons… No friends… No hope… Take all that away… and what’s left? Buffy: ME.” and then proceeds to kicking Angelus ass. :) Now, apparently she is truly worthless. She is in those comics for two reasons: TO GET HER ASS KICKED and TO BE BETRAYED. Tell me this is not true! Since Dark Horse series started she was betrayed by Angel, by Andrew, by Severin, by Koh, and now by Xander… and of course she never seen that coming… I’m rolling my eyes in disbelief. And you can’t have Buffy who is team player and in this same time have Buffy who can’t trust anyone!

Secondly: how long it was since we saw this heroic wonderful Buffy, you were talking about? Two years? Certainly she is completely absent in season 9. It’s just not fun to read about aggravatingly incompetent protagonist. Especially considering that she is main focus of season 9 and other characters are largely absent. I’m sick and tired of Dark Horse’s Buffy so I don’t really care if she will succeed in saving Dawn, and I don’t care if she life or die.

11 04 2013
Tennyoelf

Hey Maggie! I really admire your ability to see the good in this. I really wish I could feel the same. But it’s always cool to get a different perspective, which is always great to read the other side POV.

I dunno if it was. It may have been, especially since it was the same roof where Spike left. But even so, it would have been better for Spike to have been there instead.

Xander’s problems would also be more of the “Buffy of it” if it was more about being disillusioned with Buffy than feeling useless. Or, what I’m saying, it would feel more like a solid tie in to the story as whole if there was more elements of Xander being upset at his choices of following Buffy when death so often followed her. That situation focuses on Xander and it is also what we’ve been needing to see. What we have feels too much like a focus on another direction. Focus on Xanders pain and Xanders issues, but does not connect them to Buffy on a more higher emotional level.

The issue screams to me that it is really all about being useless. Xander is mad at Buffy for getting them into this situation but the focus is on how he feels useless. How many times did that phrase pop up? How he couldn’t do anything. About him leaving the fight to protect Dawn. It feels very much like a disconnect and not in a layered, intentional way. The disconnect because again, it feels like a runaway from season 8 issues.

I’m continually seeing all this as trying to exonerate Angel and his season 8 crimes. We have Xander going behind Buffy’s back, we have Andrew too, and all with “good intentions” all the while ignoring a really powerful story of making a mistake due to your own darkness and shortcomings. Where is the story of digging into why she made those mistakes, why this is all happening? It feels like this story, regarding Xander, was deliberately sidelined for as long as possible to sweep these issues under a rug, all in the name of saving Angel’s face. We only have 5 issues left and lots of plot, we don’t have time to address the real issues left behind from season 8.

And for Buffy, we’ve seen her in the show when she was without her team and friends and family. Not just in the Wish, but in other episodes. I don’t remember them off the top of my head, but I’ll do a re-watch and let you know. Buffy doesn’t plan, she bashes heads and knock down doors. When there is nothing left, she has herself and her strength. She’s not passive and it doesn’t come off as being an intentional characterization. If she had reclaimed the title of Slayer in Guarded yet simply cannot be proactive with Dawn’s situation, then what was the point of reclaiming her Slayerhood? Again, we have tons of issues that needed to be addressed and none of them were. We have 5 issues left and a lot of wasted potential on dealing with these issues and for Buffy to receive great development. Buffy in the TV show is a hero, this person is hardly recognizable.

The only reason this seems good now is because we’ve been starved of good storytelling and of our beloved characters/relationships, that this feels like an oasis. At least, that’s what I’m getting at, because the more I think about this issue, the less good I see in it.

10 04 2013
Stoney

I don’t see a link between Angel S8 and Xander in terms of betrayal to Buffy as Xander is meaning no harm and has no intention to hurt Buffy. In fact a selling point to him is that he can undo her mistake for her and she will be happier. Sure it is making God decisions and he is buying in with that but his contribution doesn’t betray anything other than stealing the book. I really don’t get why Severin hasn’t just ‘popped’ into Buffy’s apartment and taken it himself.

Georgia, I think she is saying specifically that she doesn’t trust Andrew and Maggie’s point about her gazing off on the rooftop calling up her Spike issues is probably accurate. But you’re right, she surely would be trying to ring everyone not just assuming. I think there is a very real chance that Faith passing on the issue is what will make Spike head back though.

10 04 2013
timetravellingbunny

I think you misunderstood. Buffy was implying that she didn’t trust Andrew, she meant “(It would be) Nice to hear from someone I trust”, although it was confusing with the phrasing she used so I first read it like you and was confused, until the next panel. But the meaning is clear when Willow pops up and asks “Like me?” Willow is someone she trusts, Andrew is not.

10 04 2013
Veiriti

Nice review, Gigi! :D
And I loved the issue, I can’t believe that I’m saying for a Xander-centric issue, but I liked it more than Angel&Faith #20! (well, actually I hate A&F #20!)
So, it looks like Xander was the one who put the “poor” Angie in a coma?! Too bad he didn’t stake him! ;) That would be a very interesting plot-twist. :)
I’m very interested what will happen with Xander. Honesty I felt sorry for him… And I don’t know what to think about Severin/Simone’s plan. It sounds good to me – I would be happy if they manage to undo the birth of Twilight. i.e. to prevent Buffy having a space-frakk with Twangel! But they are bad guys and I suspect there is something mean in their intentions. Or at least Severin’s good intentions would turn into something very wrong. It’s dangerous to play with the Continuum, even if you have the Illyria’s powers.
About the art, I’m not a fan of Moline, but I have to admit I liked his art better than Jeanty’s. At least the characters have no bobbed heads! :) But I would love someone like Paul Lee to take the Buffyverse artwork over for the next season.
p.s. I loved Willow appearance and I keep my fingers crossed Spike to appear in the next issue. I really miss him around Buffy and the others.

10 04 2013
cil_domney

Good Issue – and very good review.

Xander’s secret – I do think it was answered, he has deep and unresolved anger with Buffy because of Giles’ death and all the consequences of her reunion with Angel and TGSF. Buffy and Xander, may also kept secret his attack on Angel and how he feels “useless” and his despair after all his experiences being at Buffy’s side.

Xander however is following some of the same patterns that Angel and Andrew have taken against Buffy – Angel’s was the ultimate betrayal on a global universal scale. Andrew’s was the betrayal on an extremely intimate level, a total violation of her body and mind. Xander’s is a betrayal of all those years of their friendship but also, a betrayal of his own identity as a hero. Xander, like Buffy with her falling to the temptation of Angel’s “let’s be happy for once” is doing the same thing in choosing to fall for Severin’s temptations.

Andrew, while I continue to see his story and the Dark Horse treatment of Buffy and women in general as extremely offensive, I can see why Xander and Buffy go along with their desperate attempt to save Dawn. The problem is that just as Xander’s is refusing to even speak to Buffy, it was this chose to “not speak” and withhold vital information from Buffy that is, IMO, what caused the Twilight Time to happen.

I’m with Simone with her use of the label of Severin as “being a bad guy” – but Xander is working of “desperation mode” and desperate and angry people will make some very bad choices.

Agree about the artwork – this was some of the best from Mr. Moline in the series – especially Xander and the depiction of emotional stress for the characters.

11 04 2013
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #20′ Review: Who Watches the Watcher? » Whedonopolis

[…] Fan reaction for this issue seems to be mostly positive. The book also got a good review from Light_Watcher. […]

11 04 2013
_Buffy_

I like the issue, too. I am so disappointed of Xander. I can’t feel sorry for him. He pretended to be Buffy’s best friend. Buffy believes in him with her life. Doing this making him weaker and insecure as a person, IMO. I hope Buffy will forgives him one they. I liked their – Buffy-Xander-Willow friendship and believed that this friendship was really real. So many times they showed to us this pic – the three of them in a critical situations , when their friendship was on the edge. Like in ” Primeval ” for example , or in ” Dead Man’s Party

I do believe that Willow will be able to help Dawn somehow. And like Veiri said – I also hope o see Spike in the very next issue. Veiri, I miss him , too. I miss him all the time. .

13 04 2013
Logan

***SPOILER***

Severin’s plan probably won’t work. I’m assuming the only reason he has the power to drain magic is because of Buffy breaking the Seed. I’m guessing since magic can no longer enter the Earthly plane, the Universe is trying to rid the world of all remaining magic.

Buffy created these two villains. She birthed (unintentionally) Severin the Siphon and Simone the Rogue Slayer. So it makes sense for the two to work together.

Based on my previous assumption, Severin won’t be able to go back in time to stop Twlight because he didn’t have his powers back then. Any time-rewinding might be limited to the point of his power’s activation, which was after his girlfriend turned into a zompire. Tragic, kinda.

I disagree with some of the other posters; those times where Buffy was alone and managed to prevail in the end was because of the emotional support she got from her friends. In this season, she wasn’t getting it from Willow or Xander. They weren’t just physically absent from her life but emotionally as well.

15 04 2013
1701EarlGrey

” those times where Buffy was alone and managed to prevail in the end was because of the emotional support she got from her friends”

One word: “Anne”. Then she was alone and on her own yet she not only managed to take care of herself but also she managed to save bunch of tennegers by helping them escape hell. And that was not the only time when she could count only on herself… Again:: “No weapons… No friends… No hope… Take all that away… and what’s left? Buffy: ME.”

Family and friends are all well and good, but you can’t really too much on them, you should be more self reliant. Especially when you are person like Buffy, person who lost many loved ones – Hank left her, Joyce died, Giles died, Angel left her etc. So she should really use to losing those close to her, and learn how to rally on herself, which she did in the past, so I don’t know why now she is so pathetically incompetent in every single way???

16 04 2013
Logan

I think she does rely solely on herself, at least to a point. I think if she were to do what you suggest, then she’d be the exact opposite of who she is and just another, emotionally closed-off and isolated slayer.

I think in “Becoming” Buffy has her friends’ support, even if they aren’t physically present in the battle. Joss has stated what makes her different from past slayers is her support system. Xander and Willow are the only reasons Buffy is still alive; if they hadn’t entered the picture then she would’ve died like in “The Wish.”

In “Anne”, I think those homeless teenagers remind Buffy of who she is and what she has in spite of that, which is family. Even when she’s alone, she carries her loved ones with her and is able to muster strength from that.

If she were to live as if her loved ones were about to die any moment and just cut them off, then she wouldn’t be who she is. For the sake of self-preservation, she’d feel even more alone than she does now.

She needs her friends and their support, and in the eps you described, she had it on some level. Here in S9 Willow and Xander have kinda distanced themselves from Buffy, so she isn’t the champion she normally is. Anyone else think Dawn’s fading from reality is a metaphor for Buffy losing a part of herself, or something else?

16 04 2013
1701EarlGrey

Logan

I think that we must agree to disagree, because certainly we think very differently about Buffy’s strength. Sure, some of her determination comes from the fact that – unlike other Slayers – she actually have reason to fight, she have people she cares about and that give her reason to keep on fighting.

But she also lost so many people dear to her that now she certainly know that 1) lost is inevitable, 2) there are things that are more important than friends and family – she sacrificed Angel to save the world and in season 7 she told Giles, that she would also sacrificed Dawn if this was necessary. So her friends and family are not only thing that matters, for her “The mission is what matters”. Fact that she is a Slayer, and her conviction that she is doing the right thing, gives her strength. And since she reclaimed the title of Slayer, she should be back to her old self again. But – for one reason or another – she isn’t. 3) OK, you said that her family and friends are source of her strength. Now Dawn is daying, so why Buffy is not more proactive? First time in a long time she have a real motivation to fight, and all she’s doing it to make phone calls. Why she is not on the streets, harassing and badgering demon’s community with questions? Buffy I know from TV series was never that passive and incompetent – look how she was acting in season 5 when Dawn was in danger. Completely differently. TV show Buffy hates helplessness – she hates fact that sometimes she just can’t help someone, and she blames herself when she can’t help.

And about “Becoming” well, no she didn’t have her friends support, that was the whole point of that scene: “NO weapons… NO friends…NO hope. Take all that away… and what’s left? Buffy: ME.” That was important – that was part of her growth and maturing, realisation that sometimes she can count only on herself. Also Xander lied to her, and Willow casted a spell that restored Angel’s soul which make killing him more difficult and more traumatizing. Before that Buffy lost Kendra and her mom kicked her out of house. You call that support??? And that is even more visible in “Anne” – Buffy was alone. Unlike now when Anahead must pay her rent, Buffy managed not only to earn her keep, but also she was able to help all those people. People who were completely unrelated to Scoobies. Because she can’t be to stand idly by when someone is being hurt. That is not in her nature. That’s why I find comics book Buffy so irritating!

19 04 2013
Logan

Well, people change. Buffy’s probably at a different point in her life. I think when it comes to her slayer duties, she has to find a balance between relying on herself and her friends. She can’t rely solely on herself or be too dependent on her friend’s support. She usually maintains that balance between independence and interdependence.

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