Review, “Willow – Wonderland #5” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9)

5 03 2013


Writer: Christos Gage, Jeff Parker
Penciller: Brian Ching
Inker: Jason Gorder
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Cover Artist: David Mack

Willow’s search for magic has led her to some strange worlds with mysterious creatures, fantastical spells, lost love, and new friends (as well as enemies). As her journey speeds toward its end, Willow lands within a rather morbid landscape where the greatest evil she’ll have to confront is herself if she’s ever to make it home again.

* Buffy Season 9 continues with Willow’s story!


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The final part of Willow’s quest is over. Last issue has left us with the reveal that Marrak was Rack, the magic dealer that was doping Willow back in S6. Again it was predicted by the fans, back in autumn, despite the editor’s best efforts to convince us that Marrak was somebody new that we have never seen before.

And this is their final confrontation. Rack speaks harshly of Willow, at Willow, and he does have some good points there. I won’t repeat them, you can read them in the preview pages/panels. What Willow must learn though, is that there is no dark side Vs light one. There is only one Willow, only one magic, only one power. Is how you choose to practice it that matters, not the names you give to it, or the justifications that you try to find in order to justify your actions.

So Rack grabs the scythe from Willow, and tears up the reality. What comes out of it? Not sure to be honest. But I believe it’s magic itself, impersonated in a body. The inside of a body, to be more accurate. And both Willow and Rack are intruders, and every body has its own way to kill viruses that intrude. But unlike Rack, Willow was not there to harm it.

And magic appreciates that in Willow. So it gives her the lesson that she hadn’t learnt yet, not even by Rack. Because at the end of the day, Rack was a teacher to Willow. Only now, after everything that she’s been through, can she appreciate what she learnt. So magic gives her back the scythe, and drives her back home, to the scoobies that she has missed so much, even while been around them. Because Willow is back, with all her power, but also with the knowledge. And is that what makes her want to share it with the rest of the world.

So more or less that was Willow’s quest. I really don’t know how I feel about the story. Mostly because it just proves to me how much stupid that whole seed thing was/is back in S8. You just can’t have a world with magical creatures, demons, vampires, slayers, etc, without having any magic. A few days ago, I watched an interview of James Marsters, saying that a werewolf has to be a good guy that turns into bad when the moon is full. Otherwise, if he’s a bad guy, the story can’t work. Same thing with the invisible man, he has to be a jerk, in order to have a story of a jerk who becomes invisible. Vampires on the other hand, can work in any kind of story. Unfortunately that’s not the same with magic. When you have built a universe full of every kind of creature, you can’t have it work without magic. Or else you must always invent some deus ex machina all the time to make your story work.

And that is the story of S9 so far, full of deus ex machina. Either working, or just silly justifications of how things work. Like the silly explanation of zompires, that demons remotely control them from other dimensions, although other dimensions can’t be reached and portals are non existing anymore in the Buffyverse.

And that is the reason why Willow gets back her magic, at the end of her mini series. I don’t think it’s a lack of imagination, I don’t think that they run out of stories that they can’t find a good one for a powerless Willow. What I do think though is that the Buffyverse can’t work anymore without magic. One way or another, the magic has to get back in that universe, otherwise the story will collapse on itself. Or it has to be shared, as this is the way that things seem to be heading.

And a few words about the art. It was kind of good in this issue. Mostly because I got used to seeing Willow looking like that. Rack’s resemblance to the actor was the best I’ve seem in this miniseries, and monsters have looked great in all 5 issues. Besides, it was a wonderland journey. Good for that, but only for that. I can’t see that working in the main title. Just like Jeanty would be super great for a Spike’s bugs spin-off but he’s bad news for the main title, so does Ching. He was great for a wonderland story, full of monsters, landscapes and unfamiliar faces, but please I don’t think I could get used to him drawing the main title.

So, was Willow’s quest necessary, at the end of the day? It depends. Since they want to bring back magic, yes it was. And since they want Willow to realise that there is no good Vs dark magic, yes it was. The problem is that you can’t have Willow realising that today, when the same writer last week told us that Angel’s dark side, Angelus, is a separate being from his other side, Angel. Sorry, Christos, I see your name in the credits as well. You just can’t have the pie and eat it too. Either there is a dark side Vs good one in every magical being, or there is none and it’s all the same. It’s the way that you choose to use it that matters. It’s just a name after all, at the end of the day, and that applies to every magical being, not just to Willow.

Georgia.

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24 responses

6 03 2013
Dianthus

I always thought the Willow magic addiction thing was ridiculous. It’s like saying someone’s addicted to electricity or gravity or something. It’s not the magic, it’s how you use it.

6 03 2013
leykimayri

You and me both.
Listen, I can swallow that, really, and get it that magic could become an addiction. What I don’t get though, is having a powerful Willow, the most powerful witch on Earth, back in S8, especially after what she’s been through in S7. Not without a background story that would convince me of that. And suddenly, getting another Willow in S9, who can be that powerful but she’s too scared of losing control, falling back to her addiction, scared of becoming unable to get out of it. She was not like that in S8, she was the strongest and most confident one.

I don’t know, really…

6 03 2013
Elena

I think they’ve opened a Pandora box. If Willow got her power back, she is now the strongest player in the show that’s called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I think that disproportion will cost her dearly.

6 03 2013
Stoney

It will just be a stepping stone, I feel sure. They made such a production about how the world is ‘less’ without magic that I can’t see them leaving it at WIllow just tapping people to get them to have creativity/not kill themselves etc etc. I think ‘core’ will be something about heading into the earth to imbue it with power or some such malarky, who knows. I have seen many complaints about the Spike mini, though I enjoyed it, but this mini was utterly predictable in everything that happened in it really and pretty dull throughout. I see why they did a mini series for it because the return of magic to Willow was a big thing but they couldn’t have made it more lacklustre if they had tried imo. Oh well, onwards…

6 03 2013
1701EarlGrey

leykimayri I can’t say that I agree with you about this Angel and Angelus thing. For me it was always allegory for split personality. You see back in season 2 when Angelus was finally defeated and Willow restored Angel’s soul, Angel was absolutely surprised, he didn’t know where he was and what he was doing, he didn’t have any memory of time when he was Angelus. He had no choice, when his soul was gone he was different person, demon was in control. Angel and Angelus are like dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, like dr Banner and Hulk, like Smeagol and Gollum…

You can’t say that this same about Willow. Rosenberg was not different person when she chosen to avenge Tara, demon was not controling her actions.

6 03 2013
leykimayri

I think you get confused here. A split personality, a multiple personality disorder or there is a new word for it that I don’t remember, is actually one person, who has more than one personalities. It is not 2 persons sharing the same body, like Ben and Glory were for example. It is though Smeagol and Gollum, Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, movies like Fight Club, Black Swan, American Psycho, etc. those are all one person who at a point developed another personality.

Willow and Dark Willow are actually 2 personalities of the same person. Angelus is the vampire that Liam became, Angel is the personality that he developed when he was cursed with a soul. He still went back to Darla, he followed her up until China, he kept on killing people in order to prove himself to her that he could still kill besides having a soul, so that she could take him back. At that point there was no Angel, there was only Angelus who was cursed with a soul. The Angel personality got developed later and he adopted another name for it, the one of Angel. That happened much later, not when the soul was first forced on him that it should have happened, if a soul was a person.

6 03 2013
timetravellingbunny

Most of what you say is true, except for the part about him being called Angelus previously and naming this new personality Angel. This can be easily disproved by seasons 1 and 2 of BtVS, where the Master, Darla and Spike and Drusilla all call him “Angel” whether or not he has a soul (and he calls himself Angel when he’s soulless, too). In Drusilla’s and Spike’s case, this would be literally impossible, since they had never met souled!Angel before they came to Sunnydale.

The only explanation that makes sense is that he was called both Angel and Angelus when he was soulless. So this is my fanwank/attempt to explain it all in a way that makes sense: He called himself Angel out of a dark irony because that’s what his sister thought he was when he came back as a vampire. But he started using the Latin word because he thought it sounded cooler and more dangerous and this became the name that he was known by in Watcher’s books and among the populace. But those close to him, like Spike, Dru and Darla, often called him simply “Angel”. The Angel/Angelus divide is something that only started since season 3 (episode “Enemies”) and Cordelia and Wesley latched onto it because it was easier to use those shorthands and they were more comfortable with thinking about their friend that way. Angel, who himself never thought “Angelus” was a different personality, eventually just went along with it when they would say it, but never made an attempt to argue something like that with Darla or Spike.

6 03 2013
leykimayri

I can’t take that first season that seriously, mostly because BtVS was supposed to only air for a season and 12 episodes, back that summer of ’97 (I think?).

It was then that was decided the show to have a 2nd season that the mythology started building itself, but as far as I see it every problem with the mythology came because of that very first season that was supposed to be the one and only and that was the reason why they didn’t think of things more seriously, trying to build a mythology that could make sense later.

6 03 2013
timetravellingbunny

How about season 2 then? Season 2 is when Angel loses his soul, and everyone keeps calling him Angel. Spike and Dru call him Angel all the time, he calls himself Angel, too. It seems to be a little to convenient to ignore season 2 and all of season 3 up to Enemies, just to validate a retcon. Isn’t season 2 supposed to be one of the celebrated and uncontroversial BtVS seasons, the one when it became great, and isn’t the “Angel loses soul” plotline the one that Joss still think is his greatest?

6 03 2013
leykimayri

Yes, that was when Jenny first called him Angelus…..
Look, I am not saying that the name “Angel” was invented only after he got his soul at some point.
What I’m saying is at some point, the vampire with a soul adopted his Angel name to identify only his souled version and that that vampire never referred to his soulful self as “Angelus” ever since he adopted the Angel personality/name.

6 03 2013
timetravellingbunny

That may be true. However, he also never used “Angelus” to refer to his soulless self before everyone else started doing it. And the soulless guy actually referred to himself as “Angel” at least twice in season 2. So while “Angel” was the only name used for souled Angel, it was not exclusively used for souled Angel, and “Angelus” was not a name used to indicate that it’s the soulless version, as it is now.

6 03 2013
leykimayri

Isn’t that what I just said?
And you got me confused a little bit, who is that soulless guy?
Anyway, he has never referred to his soulful self as Angelus. That name only describes his soulless self, and Angel his soulfull. Although people and vampires address him as Angel back in his soulless days.

6 03 2013
Stoney

I think you are right TTB but the Angel/Angelus thing definitely became a way of differentiating between whether the demon was in the driving seat or not eventually, but it isn’t a consistent constant. You say Spike/Dru hadn’t met souled!Angel before he came to SD but I thought he was souled when they were all together at the Boxer Rebellion??

6 03 2013
leykimayri

You also forget that time during WW2 that Spike and Angel met in that submarine.

7 03 2013
timetravellingbunny

I didn’t forget any of it. They hadn’t met souled Angel while KNOWING he was souled. I remembered later that I should have added “that they knew of” to avoid this reply. It’s the same thing: they did not know he had a soul, so how would they know of this “Angel” guy who had a soul?

7 03 2013
timetravellingbunny

Not that they knew.

7 03 2013
Stoney

Sorry, I had wondered if that was what you meant, just checking. Although I have to say that having seen the flashback now in AtS1 to show Darla basically found out as soon as the curse happened that Angel had his soul, the idea that Spike/Dru wouldn’t have known seems odd.

7 03 2013
timetravellingbunny

@Leyki: “the soulless guy” = “Angelus” or “Angel” without the soul, take your pick. Like I said, in season 2 he was still referring to himself as Angel, and Dru called him Angel when he came back and she was happy that he was soulless again.

7 03 2013
leykimayri

Are we actually trying to get a meaning out of that mess?
The writers who are the one who get paid don’t even think of trying, am I supposed to do their job? I am the one who’s actually paying them, I am done with it. If they can’t figure it out themselves, I am not going to spend any more of my time convincing them, really.

DH’s latest line is that Angelus is a different being than Angel.
Heck with it, I’ll go for it, only to see to what kind of dead ends that will lead them. Really, I want to see that and be there to laugh about it, because as far as I see it, the worst things that that William did ever since he returned to his body sharing it with a demon named Spike, were what? Touching Buffy’s hand while his was on fire? Pretending to be the ruler of a playboy mansion? Being rude to a bunch of space bugs? Kissing a succubus? Of course Nadira gave him a pass, why shouldn’t she? He never killed any of those people that the demon Spike killed, he wasn’t the one who killed the 2 slayers….

7 03 2013
Tara'sCousin

I’ve passed on this miniseries because it just seemed so pointless like the spike one but your review makes this issue sound actually interesting. Oh and do you still do your art reviews? Haha I love those!

7 03 2013
leykimayri

Hi, there!
The art reviews really take too much time, no kidding….I need at least 5-6 hours to do one of them, that’s the reason why I don’t do it that often.

8 03 2013
ubi4soft

So Willow is now the witch’es version of Chosen One, the Mighty Fairy of Earth. I bet mini-Bieber will be her favorite Scoobie

8 03 2013
indestructiblewhale

I think the whole thing is rife with contradiction. If there is no light and dark and only intent, why did Willow’s eyes turn black when she had no ill intent or when her intent was good? Her eyes turned black in Get It Done, yet in Chosen she turned white. As dumb as it might have been (mileage varies on that), the show did portray that there were indeed light and dark magics.

Maybe it’s the blatant Angel whitewashing that’s informing my cynicism, but this idea that intent is the barometer between light and dark just looks like another way to whitewash him. It’s a roundabout way of saying the ends justify the means. Intent is not the barometer because bad guys don’t think they’re the bad guys. To the bad guys, the good guys are the bad guys and they’re justified in their actions. Glory just wanted to go home, you know?

I disagree the Buffyverse doesn’t work without magic. It could have if not for the retcon that magic is part of the interwoven fabric of reality itself. Seems more like the writers simply don’t want to write about the world without magic (or the characters) and want to have flame pillars and dragons and whatnot.

PS. Willow is the superist specialist snowflake!

10 03 2013
_Buffy_

Waw, Georgia, you are wrote such a review like you take an exam ! Great job ! I agree that they bring the magic back to Willow, just because they can’t describe Willow character to be so powerless. When Willow becomes the most powerful witch on the world in S 6, it is impossible to see her without the magic anymore. Personally me – I liked Willow the geek, in S 1- 3 . But Willow the witch is far more commercial.

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