I don’t suffer from triskaidekaphobia, but I would have to say that after 12 straight good issues, Buffy’s 13th is a bit of a swing and a miss. This isn’t to say it’s a complete failure, far from it, Drew Goddard’s script has a lot of story elements to it that make for mostly an enjoyable read, but the bar has been set so high for this book that a less than stellar copy almost feels like an average read. I think that is the case here. Yet one strike out doesn’t add up to an entire game, especially when the team has been consistently swinging for the fences.
Yet, even the cover is a little arresting this time around, but in a bad way. It’s not particularly engaging and its choice of colors seems bland. Of course, this can be seen as purely subjective, but I think it falls flat in comparison to previous efforts and it marked the first time I wanted to buy the variant cover instead of the regular cover.
The story starts to go wrong by establishing a relationship between Xander and Dracula which borders on the absurd. I know that most of you will want to retort that I am missing the point, that I am overlooking the comic relief inherent in Xander’s status as the count’s manservant, but I say thee nay. I realize that the whole point is to play off their interactions from the season five premiere episode, I get the funny, but as Dracula says towards the end of the comic, he could care less about Buffy’s cause and would actually like to see Buffy’s army eradicated. His sentiments make sense given the way he was treated by the Slayer, so it makes little sense that Xander is actually friends with him solely on the basis they “struck it off” when he was under Dracula’s thrall and continued a friendship “off screen” following Anya’s death as Andrew relays to the troops.
That being said, I actually laughed out loud on several occasions, most notably during the tea interlude. There are some genuinely funny lines there and the whimsical nature of previous Buffy the Vampire Slayer baddies is in full display here. Unfortunately, things revert to the realm of inanity and the bit about Dracula losing his powers to the Asian vampires while gambling for a motorcycle comes across as not as humorous as the writer intended, a little too over the top. The Andrew bits and obscure references are less charming than on his previous appearances and training sessions with the girls.
Fortunately, there’s a lot more to digest in this issue than a trip by chopper to Transylvania. For example, there’s a charming and astute discussion between Satsu and Willow over the logistics and difficulties involved with any possible relationship with Buffy which is intercut with solitary shots of a pensive Buffy preparing for battle. Willow reminds both Satsu and the reader that Buffy isn’t a lesbian, affirming what most of us already know: A one night stand does not equate to a budding relationship, no matter how beautiful and gentle the experience may have been, and that they still have a war to fight. Satsu understands the enormous weight and responsibility of the Slayer mission always falls on Buffy’s shoulders and it seems in this respect she will always be alone despite having an army to rally around her. The artist’s depiction of Buffy captures this aspect of her character perfectly. I suppose there’s also a follow up to Xander asking Renee out last issue, but this is mostly upstaged by his dealings with the count.
The drama and tension created by Aiko tracking down the mysterious vamps is good, and the pacing of the comic is also handled well, as is a scene with Buffy communicating with Aiko after the latter has killed off a throng of demons. This is the scene which felt more in the spirit of the TV show for me, displaying Buffy’s great skill at commanding her troops while at the same time acknowledging the existence of a demon underworld on Earth. Unfortunately, Goddard telegraphs Aiko’s impending fate, as I could see the resolution to her surveillance not ending well without more reinforcements from Buffy’s camp.
Georges Jeanty once again handles the penciling chores on the comic and this was great to see as he draws the best looking Buffy outside of Cliff Richards.
The resolution to this arc should be good with a pissed off Dracula and the Slayer troops hunting down the vamp gang in an effort to retrieve Buffy’s scythe. Like I said, this is not a bad comic, but it also feels light in content and it’s not as good as previous installments of this great series.