"Wolves at the Gate" (part 3)
Although the gag is given away on the cover, the Dawn factor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer still comes unexpectedly. Goddard executes the joke with a degree of aplomb that makes it seem fresh and inventive. This serves as a stark contrast to the nasty surprise, and I feel the need to emphasize the word, waiting at the conclusion.
The story opens on the somber discovery of the vampires' Slayer victim. Buffy gives her a proper ceremony and much later makes a demand of Satsu that she's not willing to keep. Any doubters that still think Buffy isn't interested in Satsu as a potential girlfriend, and not merely as a one-night stand, should probably sheepishly back away after reading Buffy's and Satsu's at once playful and meaningful scene.
Dracula arrives in style, and these moments indicate further evidence of a truce between the Slayers and 'the master'. The behavior of the principals also give more proof to the idea of Dracula being a different type of vampire, though not in the same vein as Angel or Spike, who are really human beings in vampire husks.
Xander's and Renee's relationship becomes closer. In a typically fun, witty fashion, which glistens Whedon, they outline what is a date and what is not a date. Renee becomes the centerpiece in a smart Slayer ruse, and all of these facets of characterization unite under one really clever plot that's a vampire counter-ploy to rid the world of Slayers once and for all.
The artwork for this issue can be a little sketchy at times, but sketchy Georges Jeanty and Andy Owens is still light years ahead of some artists' work that's allegedly fully formed. This issue is also not without its great artistic moments. Dracula arrives at Slayer headquarters Japan in his natty Francis Ford Coppola outfit. Willow's reaction to Dracula's comment about an "acrid stench" is laugh out loud funny, and a beautifully orchestrasted sight gag. Buffy's hard looks capture Sara Michelle Gellar's performance.
This is an issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that earns high marks by just being bona fide Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The story's witty. It's sharp. It's surprising and shocking. It's well drawn with characters who resemble the stars of the show and act in ways consistent with their histories. For what more can a reader or a watcher ask?
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