In Review: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 11 #7

This reads like a stake through the heart for emotional punch. Beautifully heartbreaking!

The covers: Steve Morris has created this month’s cover and it features the key scene from the story. Surrounded by an enormous machine, Buffy and Willow look sad as green energy is leached from them and pulled into the vent of the mechanism. The color of the Slayer’s scythe has dimmed, while the witch’s spell is barely a spark in her hands. Readers who have been following this series know what’s occurring, but for new readers this is going to be a shocker! Morris, again, wonderfully captures the characters’ likenesses and makes the contraption around them all-powerful. The Variant cover has script by Christos Gage, art by Rebekah Isaacs, colors by Dan Jackson, and letters by Comicraft. There are no words accompanying this image, but the emotion is still felt: in the first of two panels, Buffy and Spike try to hold hands through a chain link fence. They look miserable. In the bottom panel they part, walking off to their respective sides. The razor wire that tops the fence makes their relationship seem forbidden. I’m a tremendous fan of Isaacs’s art, but Spike’s head looks oddly shaped because of his downward glance. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant B

The story: “Disempowered” begins with Ophelia Reyes making a broadcast to those within the Safe Zone where all the supernatural beings are kept. She states that the government has the means to drain the mystical energy from any being. “Agree to the process, to the removal of what makes you a threat, and you go free. Record expunged, legal status normalized, and with reintegration assistance for those who need it.” As a trustee, Buffy has two inmates run to her to sign up for the treatment. Willow turns to Spike and says, “You know what that was, don’t you? And what comes after?” The vampire replies, “Too right. That was the carrot. Next up is the stick.” What follows is a tough dialogue with Spike, Willow, and Buffy trying to decide what’s best: do they stay in the Safe Zone and fight or forego their powers to fight from the outside? Regardless, Spike has to stay — he, and a few other supernatural creatures, can’t survive the loss of his abilities. Scripter Christos Gage hits every emotional note perfectly; stand outs include the second panel on Page 3, all of Page 5, all of 8 (this hits way too close to current politics), 17, 18, and the third panel on 21. A supporting character returns on 9 and I wanted — needed — Buffy to be even angrier at what’s said, but she’s resolved. She knows there’s no way out. And that last page — ARGH! Joss and Christos, you’re killing me! I’m drained reading this issue. Overall grade: A+

The art: The first panel of the issue establishes Ophelia Reyes and she looks completely authoritarian. Having the U.S. flag behind her makes the image even more disturbing. The contrast between the first and second panel makes the dystopian imagery complete, as the Safe Zone is a horrible looking place. Look at the nice subtle touches Rebekah Isaacs gives the characters, with the two main characters in the third panel reacting very different, and the couple’s action in the fourth panel as Reyes continues her broadcast. The looks of worry continue in the final panel on Page 2; those two characters make me anxious. Page 3 has the Slayer overwhelmed, especially in the final panel. The close-up on Page 4 is beautiful, showing that even in this horrible moment, humor is possible. And could that silent glance in the third panel signal something unstated to the reader? The top of 8 has a great fight scene from a distance, which makes its normalcy funny, as the story is actually following another character. Panel four, Page 6 — GASP! Notice that the action is not entirely unwelcome by one of the participants. Smugness shines out of the speaker on 8, making me incredibly angry. To have a visual trigger a reader shows the power of the artist. The silent character at the bottom of 10 broke my heart. For those thinking that this issue is all drama, Isaacs gets to illustrate an incredible fight sequence on 12 and 13, with both creatures looking exceptional. The exit of the character on 16 is excellent, while the panel that follows is silent and another heartbreaker. Page 18 increases the sadness considerably. There’s an action in the third panel on 19 that has no dialogue, told wholly through the visual, with two characters looking pained. The fire at the bottom of the “thing” looks great. And if one doesn’t feel bad enough by the end of the book, that final page is like a stake through the heart. Isaacs gives the story its visual soul…as she’s tearing out the reader’s heart. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The colors of this issue direct the reader’s attention to specific places in every panel. Page 1 is a textbook example of this. Notice how the American flag’s colors set the tone before the speaker is seen. Dan Jackson has the colors of characters’ hair draw attention to specific individuals. Colors in the background also increase the tension, such as the burnt red in the bottom panel on 2. A starker red appears on 6, but to create an entirely different emotion. The blues on 13 are beautiful. Shadows come into play on 18 and they increase the sadness of the situation. The third panel on 19 contains the most intense coloring of the issue, and rightly so, with the use of yellows and orange for flame strong. The last two pages have very pale colors to heighten the state of the two characters leaving. Beautiful work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt are responsible for this issue’s dialogue, story’s title, a broadcast, scene settings, a vampire’s speech, a growl, a grunt, a barely audible sentiment, and the tease for next issue. I love the stark changes of settings and time, keeping the reader informed of where and when something is occurring. The vampire’s dialogue perfectly suits its monstrous nature. But it’s the final dialogue on 22, that’s barely audible, that’s a gut buster. Excellent work! Overall grade: A+

The final line: This reads like a stake through the heart for emotional punch. This is going to take some time to recover from. I haven’t seen the heroes this down in a long time. If you think things couldn’t get worse for the heroes, they just got worse. Beautifully heartbreaking! Recommended. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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