Ray Tate: Our topic today is Buffy the Vampire Slayer #31
Shawn Hill: So what do you think of Buffy's ever-growing abilities?
Ray Tate: Right. For readers not familiar with the Slayer. Buffy was always a super-hero. On the series, she has super-strength, speed and agility.
Shawn Hill: But now she can fly!
Ray Tate: And she has a Kryptonian level uppercut.
Shawn Hill: And near-invulnerability.
Ray Tate: What I thought when I saw that was...Paging Superman. Buffy just stepped on your cape.
Shawn Hill: Any theories on where she's getting these power-ups from?
Ray Tate: None at all. The obvious one would be that the Slayer army's powers have been reconstituted into Buffy, but it seems to me that Willow or Buffy would have thought of that.
Shawn Hill: Willow does seem to be pretty adept at tracking the course of Slayer Power. And now she's getting power-ups from the future! Part of those multi-directional time ripples I think she tried to explain in the Fray arc.
Ray Tate: The thing is the idea of Buffy becoming more like a super-hero is one of the reasons why I'm giving the issue Five Bullets. I've made no secret of my disdain for DC, and I think Marvel has lost its way. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a better constructed super-hero comic book all around.
Shawn Hill: Well, some issues, are better constructed. You've been disdainful of several, too. You disliked the Willow one-shot, also by Whedon, but I take it you think he was firing on all fronts this month?
Ray Tate: Oh, yes. For example, the narration is by Buffy and Willow. The duality represents their being the two main super-heroes in the cast. It's like an old World's Finest team-up.
Shawn Hill: Or a good Nightwing & Flamebird story?
Ray Tate: The old ones.
Shawn Hill: There have been so many.
Ray Tate: Without Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy Olsen is crap. There's even Willow stating in her narration: "I'm back to being Sorceress Supreme, but these gals are still way out of my league. If they reach a populated area...No. No more." That's super-hero talk! I was so delighted.
Shawn Hill: Buffy and Willow definitely kicked some ass this issue.
Ray Tate: There was more successful ass-kicking in this single issue I'll bet than there will be in the entirety of Blackest Night. And Buffy and Willow better represent the super-hero ideal. It's not about Registration. It's not about rapety, rape, rape, rape. Oh, and needless to say, it's not about crippling women who smile like Stepford Wives while men only rent their wheelchairs. Super-heroes are about winning the day for justice.
Shawn Hill: Less muck-raking, goading and emotional manipulation by zombies. Amidst the super-hero talk and the witty one-liners, the treatment of war and casualties was quite sober and serious. I was also very happy to see Riley still playing hard for Team Buffy this issue. And I loved the allusion Xander made to him being Buffy's sole non "psychotic demon" lover.
Ray Tate: I'm in complete agreement. The scene with the soldier was spectacular. How he thought the Slayers would torture him, and Buffy sets him straight. The villains lie. I also liked how Buffy stated that she's a Slayer, not the Slayer. She wasn't arrogant about it.
Shawn Hill: I just really felt the Whedon script this issue, in a good way. It felt very much like one of the good episodes from late in the season, where Buffy scores some points off the Big Bad. I haven't seen Buffy as arrogant for a long time, but selfish, she's sometimes that. As Xander reminded her.
Ray Tate: Oh, I wasn't suggesting Buffy in the past was arrogant. Rather, in comparison to the way some super-heroes are written, she wasn't presented as arrogant.
Shawn Hill: Gotcha. Keeping up with the onlines as I do, I was recalling many times when Buffy has been criticized for her decisions. She's a different variation on the "great power = greater responsibility" mantra. How do you feel about the Xander/Dawn intimacy?
Ray Tate: I don't have any problem with that. Dawn's legal, and you know it's not a massive age gap. In the real world there are examples of May-December romances with light years between the participants.
Shawn Hill: Depending on your perspective on the whole Key thing, of course, Dawn might be either, what 20 something or 5 something, right?
Ray Tate: Well, I never gave it that much thought. I know she was in Sunnydale High as a Freshman when she was introduced in what Season Four?
Shawn Hill: Season 5, she was the Glorificus season. Season 4 was all Riley and college and the military Initiative.
Ray Tate: I thought she was introduced in Four at the very end, but I could be wrong about that.
Shawn Hill: I believe in "Restless," at the end of 4, you hear Amber's voice narrate something about a "new dawn" that is very suggestive. The funniest comment in this whole issue was when they all tried to guess Buffy's secret weapon, and Dawn suggests "You sacrifice a "key" ... " in her turn, complete with Jeanty's brilliant depiction of her giving air quotes -- LOL!
Ray Tate: Yeah, that was hilarious! And that's the thing about Whedon--when he has his Wheaties--he balances comedy and drama superbly.
Shawn Hill: That Buffy and Xander conversation was just too funny and mature and insightful. So much history between two of them!
Ray Tate: Yes, and it's so unique to see this. I can see how some other writer would have handled that conversation, and it's just ugly. Instead, Whedon emphasizes Xander's maturity and Buffy's self-realization of her flaws.
Shawn Hill: Xander was so gentle, wasn't he, even as he made it clear to Buffy that she was being kind of insensitive to both him and Dawn, to say the least.
Ray Tate: Yeah, and I think he gets that Buffy is really just very lonely. He knows it would be a mistake to say that though. So he reasons it out with her.
Shawn Hill: His maturity is great to see. Especially as we know the price; his eye, his failed marriage to Anya, his Slayer girlfriend ...
Ray Tate: Buffy's self-realization also came at a high price, and that's another thing that these two share.
Shawn Hill: "Twilight" seems to know some of that, too, considering who he's kidnapped from the field of battle. What do you think his deal is?
Ray Tate: Actually, for me Twilight is the least interesting part of the story.
Shawn Hill: Twilight's certainly been the star of the least attractive covers. I am intrigued by who he might be.
Ray Tate: I know the internet has recently been abuzz with who he really is, and if it turns out that way, I'll be slightly disappointed. Because my money is still on Whedon having a gag on everybody and Twilight turning out to be--"Who?" This guy that nobody knows, but he knows them.
Shawn Hill: They've sort of done the "who are you again?" gag before. That was sort of what Andrew and Jonathan and Warren were about.
Ray Tate: Which is why you wouldn't expect it a second time.
Shawn Hill: Very clever, Ray. Okay, I'm gonna guess it's the Invisible girl from Season One then!
Ray Tate: Oh, that would be a good one!
Ray Tate: Seriously though, Twilight's identity never really concerned me at all. The reason why I buy Buffy the Vampire Slayer is all in this issue.
Shawn Hill: I get it, you're reading for other qualities than "mystery of the season."
Ray Tate: The sophistication doesn't derive from deriding the super-hero form, and let me just stress, that ain't sophisticated at all. The sophistication in Buffy the Vampire Slayer relies upon how the subject matter feeds into the characterization and how the depth of characterization improves the super-hero ideal.
Shawn Hill: Are you looking forward to Meltzer's run, or wary of it?
Ray Tate: Wary. Meltzer is the guy who ushered in the second really, really dark age of comic books, now with extra rape.
Shawn Hill: Yeah, I wouldn't imagine Identity Crisis jibed really well with your super-heroic idealism. But Joss is in love with the guy, and wrote the intro to the trade of that horrible diatribe against DC's Silver Age.
Ray Tate: Horrible diatribe against any age.
Shawn Hill: And most wives.
Ray Tate: Well, here's his chance to prove to me that he can write. He's been given the leave to embellish one of the greatest female super-heroes of the modern age. Don't fuck up.
Shawn Hill: I think Whedon, in season-producer mode, is going to have to call on his own self-professed feminism to keep them both honest.
Ray Tate: The moment Meltzer screws up, I'll drop the title for awhile and wait it out. I'm also not excited about Green Hornet because Kevin "Let's Retroactively Date Rape the Black Cat" is writing it. And I love the Green Hornet.
Shawn Hill: 'Now with female chauffeur!"
Ray Tate: That's not so bad. The Now series of Green Hornet introduced a female Kato. In the end, the Green Hornet license holders asked the comic series to reinstate the original Kato.
Shawn Hill: Well, when it comes to Kevin Smith comics, I'm most worried about ever seeing subsequent issues. Except not too much, because he's never been my cup of tea. I'm the lone weirdo who didn't like Clerks.
Ray Tate: And you know I just want to say that I liked the original female Kato. I'm not against change, but I am against unfairness and a lack of reverence for the super-hero ideal. Which is why Buffy the Vampire Slayer works for me so well. It reveres the idea of super-heroes.
Shawn Hill: I agree, and this issue had it all. Five Bullets from me as well.
Ray Tate: I'd also like to say that as good as Whedon is, if he didn't have such excellent artists, it wouldn't matter.
Shawn Hill: I love Georges Jeanty! My partner and I "fight" every month over whether to get the cartoon cover or the painted one. I like Jo Chen just fine, but I'd say we go 50/50 for the most part. I loved his Kirby homage, Xander and His Howling Commandos a few months back, too! It was brilliant! Plus I'm a sucker for Xander in uniform!
Ray Tate: I got that Howling Commandos one too. I could not resist.
Shawn Hill: Which cover did you choose for issue #31?
Ray Tate: Jo Chen's. I've seen the play on Lichtenstein before, and didn't need another one.
Shawn Hill: I went the other way on the cover. Got tired of those Tibetan goddesses, but any faux-romance-novel cover always reels me in. Reminded me of the old Legion of Super-Heroes issue by Colleen Doran .... which was coincidentally also #31 !?
Ray Tate: Did you notice how Jeanty, Owens and Madsen gave Willow and Buffy make-shift super-hero costumes this issue?
Shawn Hill: I noticed with Buffy, with her stylin' French Lieutenant's vest! Willow looked more like regular Willow to me, but she was glowing green like the JLA's Fire!
Ray Tate: I was thinking that Willow was wearing real casual clothing as opposed to her antique flowing dress look. It's the kind of thing you'd give a character who had just received superpowers.
Shawn Hill: If Willow's "antique and flowing," it's Dark Willow just seconds way! We do not want to let this girl go Goth! She was more earth-mother and embroidery this month.
Ray Tate: Still it just goes to show how even fashion is considered on the title. Every detail I would make a guess is by design not serendipitous.
Shawn Hill: Fashion, multi-cultural accuracy, celebrity likenesses ... though I think Jeanty's main gift is in the conveyance of emotion. Even those goddesses with all their extra eyes were hilariously expressive.
Ray Tate: Yeah, and all the subtlety in the talk with Xander as well as smiles and grins not necessarily meaning humor but embarrassment and hiding pain.
Shawn Hill: "Uh, cough. Noise of cough." Buffy's sheepish grin right then is priceless!
Ray Tate: I would hate to see Meltzer hurt this book. Anything else you want to add?
Shawn Hill: Nope, I'm good. Thanks for considering all my pesky questions! It's sort of comforting that you either don't know or don't care about the same things I don't know!
Ray Tate: Not pesky at all. It's been a pleasure, Shawn. We'll have to do this again.
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