What They Say:
“Vampires that, at will, can transform into wolves, panthers, insects, or fog invade the Slayer base of operations in northern Scotland, and not only walk away unscathed, but in possession of Buffy’s scythe, the symbol of Slayer power worldwide. Buffy and the Slayer-legion travel to Tokyo in order to learn more about their dangerous new foes, as Xander journeys to Transylvania to solicit the only person they’ve ever known to possess such power – Dracula!” (from Amazon.com)
“Wolves at the Gate” is the third volume in the continuing tale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 8. In this volume, the story arc revolves around the theft of Buffy’s scythe, which holds the power that enabled Buffy to activate her legion of slayers. The vampires that steal the weapon can transform into fog, wolves, and even swarms of bees. No vampire but Dracula should have these abilities, so Xander heads out to resume his unusual friendship with his “master” and recruit him to help the team. Everyone heads to Tokyo to regain control of the scythe before the Asian vampire gang can use it to remove the slayers’ power. Along the way, we experience first kisses and first dates as new relationships are created and destroyed, giving us more insight into the hearts of the Scoobies.
My favorite character of the volume was Dracula, and his dialogue and actions were both funny and endearing. For those who may not remember Dracula’s previous interactions with the Scooby gang, Andrew gives a quick “recap” lecture to the slayers, which I appreciated as well. As it turns out, the vampire gang managed to cheat Dracula into sharing his powers through a drunken wager. Dracula slowly remembers the event while Xander asks him questions, leading to one of my favorite lines and panels. Dracula hangs his head and simply mutters, “Oh, balls”. Avenging himself on the vampire gang gives him a believable motive for helping Buffy and Xander regain the scythe. He could never admit to caring about Xander as a friend, though we are given a glimpse of that motive as well later in the volume.
Dracula and Xander’s interaction wasn’t the only source of humor. Andrew is an ongoing treasure of pop culture references as he lectures the slayers or gives advice to Dawn. The team’s discovery of Buffy’s amorous activity made me chuckle. Even Dawn’s gigantic stature finally comes into play as she takes on downtown Tokyo. (Oh yes, they did go there.) It was done with a light touch, and I found it entertainingly campy.
The art continued to be excellent. Facial expressions are intricate, the action is full of motion and power, and the new characters are detailed and believable in appearance. The vampires in this volume, especially Dracula and the key members of the new gang, are deadly and beautiful.
“Wolves at the Gate” was much more than funny and beautifully drawn. As I have come to expect from the Buffy series, bigger themes are woven throughout. Buffy confronts a team member who is in love with her, discovering some truths about herself along the way. Xander is also given a chance at love, and continues his journey into self-confidence. Opening themselves to love, they experience pain and loss. The lines between good and evil blur, helping us see the darkness and light hidden within each character. The volume ends with a reminder to “find what warmth you can for now, and I’ll stand watch alone”.
This was another excellent installment of the Buffy series. The inclusion of Dracula’s assistance in defeating the vampire gang was masterful. His character was beautiful, amusing, and deadly. His interactions with Xander were my favorite parts of the story, and they gave the tale both humor and power.
The best part of Buffy as a whole, and this volume in particular, is the way they make me think deep thoughts while still making me laugh. There is death, loss, and self-doubt. Twilight plants thoughts designed to strip Buffy of her “moral certitude”. Yet our heroes continue their journey as a team, and they can still make each other smile. They are sometimes lonely, sometimes afraid, but never truly alone.