bird-demon

“Wil, you’re one of the best people I know. You’ll do what’s right. It’s how you’re wired.” ~ Buffy Summers

“Desperate Measures” is good, Willow-focused issue that continues the season’s streak of quality! I recommend it!

The issue opens with Buffy saving a bird-like demon from a vampire attack. After she slays the hungry and desperate vampire, the Ogre shows up to call her names like oppressor, collaborator, murderer and whatnot. It’s not entirely fair and Buffy was right to slay the undead but let’s be honest here, the ogre’s a demon and Buffy’s the slayer, I mean, obviously, he hates her. Buffy’s frustrated by this, of course, and almost takes out that frustration on Spike but quickly stops herself and just hugs him. It’s nice. Sweet. I liked it.

But let’s talk about Willow as this is very much a Willow-oriented issue what with her being on that absolutely fabulous, sexual-undercurrent-y cover. Willow contacted Lake, the ex-girlfriend, and, testifying under oath, convinced her to release the Wiccans who’ve never actually practiced magic. After signing an agreement in which they oblige to not engage in any spell-casting activities the Wiccans can go home. Considering that it’s a part of their religion the Wiccans ask about the constitutionality of it all. Good question, especially since, as we later learn, some of the Wiccans locked up in the camp are kids. Lake doesn’t have answers. This and another scene with a White House briefing footage touch upon issues of Supreme Court and American legal system in general. I’m actually kind of amazed to find stuff like that in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, in 2017. Anyway, Wiccans with even the meagerest of spell casting abilities need to stay in the camp. This brings us to a very interesting problem. Willow tells Lake that she could, perhaps, drain the magic from Wiccans, what little they have that is, so they could leave the camp. Willow’s been able to drain magic since season six, she drained it from Rack and Giles after all so this isn’t new and, also, this isn’t something only Willow can do. Giles and the coven planned to drain Willow during her vengeful rampage as well as Rack in Willow: Wonderland. Obviously, Willow is conflicted about it, it’s ripping away a natural part of someone!, she tells Lake, like cutting off a hand!, a mutilation!, later adds Calliope. Speaking of which, this Willow’s dilemma has another facet to it, a more personal one. Calliope. You drain her magic, she goes home to her girlfriend. You don’t, she stays here with you, observes Buffy. Willow agrees, with a very self-retrospective line - Did I wait out of some moral objections to losing a crucial part of our identity? Or am I slow-walking it for selfish reasons? Holy shit, this is so good! This is the caliber of the issues Willow should be dealing with, it’s awesome, awesome writing! Buffy reassures Willow, see the opening quote, and I love the way she does that! It took Buffy a while but somewhere between season five and seven she finally understood the Willow user manual. There are basically two rules, one, don’t lie to her, ever, under any circumstances and, two, remind her that she’s good and amazing when necessary ‘cause Willow sometimes forgets. Follow those rules and your Willow will operate at full capacity, just like Buffy’s! Anyway, Buffy mentions that while in danger inside the camp, Wiccans on the outside aren’t necessarily safe either, what with anti-Wiccan hate crime being on the rise. This infuriates Willow. As a cloud of magic flares around her she expresses some of her own frustration and anger, like Buffy earlier with Spike. I love this panel, Buffy looks visibly fearful here. Another interesting thing is how Willow’s relationship with Wicca is portrayed here, I think that at this point this is legitimately Willow’s faith, a religion and a system of beliefs. Thus, she wishes to protect Wiccans not only as generic innocents but also as her people, her brothers and sisters in faith. The portrayal of magic must follow this - magic used to be many things in this franchise, sex, drugs, empowerment, but now it’s something akin to a prayer, an expression of Wiccans’ faith as mentioned earlier.

Buffy’s worried about the talks and rumors of an uprising in the camp. Willow and Buffy ask Calliope if she knows anything about it and she reveals Ogre’s plan. It is to zerg rush the gate while the force field is open to let in trucks with supplies. Willow stays with Calliope and casts a calming spell to, well, calm the demons while Buffy gets to the gate to stop the escape attempt. I understand that, as always, Buffy follows her heart but, I mean, a bunch of angry and mostly hostile to her demons get slaughtered, hopefully after they take out some human guards and maybe a slayer or two. Is that necessarily a bad thing? It is when you’re Buffy and that’s why she’s a hero, duh! That said, if the camp was united and Buffy with the Wiccans took part in it, the escape probably would have worked. Sure, there would be some casualties and the human and slayer guards would end up slaughtered, skull-fucked, raped and possibly eaten alive but hey. What? Slayers are defenseless against magic, what are they gonna do against a simple levitation spell? Fall to the ground and splatter when it’s broken. So Buffy interferes, beats the crap out of the ogre and a pile of other demons and dissolves the situation. As a reward Jordan offers her an opportunity to guard the work crews outside the next day. This allows Buffy to learn a couple of things - one, some places are off limits even for Jordan’s slayers, two, vampires exchange demon flesh for blood on a black market (why?) and three, the demons are building some sort of an occult machine, with runes and magical symbols. This is suspicious, right? In the closing scene Buffy decides to somehow gain access to the restricted areas and learn the truth about the camp.

There’s one more scene that’s worth mentioning. An amphibious demon representing water breathers ask Jordan for help as other, purely water breathing creatures are dying in droves. His pleas are met with a mixture of indifference and maliciousness. The desperate demon, then, tries to escape in a jeep and is shot dead by a sniper. I think that this quite a sad scene is more important than it appears. Every action causes a reaction and ocean is a powerful force. If a Cthulhu-like monster or an ancient sea witch shows up to destroy New York in retaliation for the deaths of innocent water creatures I won’t be surprised. Makes me think that San Francisco attack might have been a retaliation as well. Speaking of retaliations, in the last page of the issue Ogre and his gang decide to kill Buffy. It’s easy, we kill the slayer. Wow. Sound plan. Brilliant.  

There are some things I don’t like about this issue. “Desperate Measures” is completely humorless. I understand that it deals with serious social and political issues and you know what, I don’t care. There’s humor even in the darkest of the show’s moments and if I’m not laughing it’s not Buffy, OK? Another is the art. Most of it is great, the paneling is cinematic, the colors are vibrant, the fights scenes are bloody and frantic but some of the panels look substandard and I’m not even talking about the standard inhuman proportions or that one infamous Willow’s expression (trust me on this, you’ll know which one) since I, too, am a purveyor of dank memes. For example, look at the otherwise amazing sequence where Buffy fights the Ogre. Where’s the background? Those panels look unfinished. As to the writing, I’m not sure about Buffy’s characterization. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with her but I can’t help but notice that the character seems to have lost her fire, initiative and immediacy. On the other hand, maybe it’s just Buffy getting older, wiser and more responsible? Jordan, her pseudo-nemesis I suppose, remains mostly uninteresting. She’s barely a character, mostly a vehicle to hurl snide lines at Buffy. It’s disappointing.

I really liked this issue - it’s solid, it’s thought-provoking, it’s relevant! Check it out!

  • Ruby: Winter, why do you always stare at my uncle Qrow?
  • Winter: Because I hate him.
  • Ruby: But you always smile whenever he's not looking.
  • Winter: (looks away) I don't know what you're talking about, Ruby.
  • Ruby: (points to Winter's face) And you always blush like that when he talks.
  • Winter: (ducks head to hide said blush) Ruby, I don't-
  • Ruby: And Weiss told me you said he was super hot.
  • Winter: No I didn't!
  • Ruby: (suddenly realizing the truth) Aw Winter, do you liiiiike-
  • Winter: (summons ice birds to attack Ruby)
  • Ruby: (runs off screaming because demon birds)