Buffy: Season 11 #4 finds Buffy, Willow, and Spike struggling to deal with the dangers and restrictions present in the supernatural internment camp, or “safe zone,” they’ve been placed in. Factions have developed in the camp and many of the weak and helpless, such as the Wiccans, are being exploited and threatened by those that are physically stronger than them. Buffy steps in when things get out of hand, but she can’t fight everyone’s battles, especially given her weakened state (the result of allowing Spike to occasionally feed from her in order to help him deal with the strict blood rations). While, for now, Buffy, Spike, and Willow are surviving these difficult and uncertain times, it’s clear that they won’t be able to maintain this pattern, and some tough choices lie ahead.
Gage’s “supernatural safe zone” storyline continues to seem directly inspired by the national fears present in the wake of the new presidential administration and such radical political moves such as the recent Muslim ban briefly enforced at the United States’ borders or the increased and aggressive actions of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in several states. And, surely, Dawn’s description of the country outside the “safe zone” as a place where “everyone is on edge” and “too many people are really happy...” about questionable and extreme government orders sounds like it could be a believable description of where many Americans currently find themselves. In our world, people are punching Nazis and white supremacists. In Buffy, Xander keeps getting in fights with those talking “smack” on Wiccans. While, as Gage has stated himself, the scripts for these issues were written months in advance of their release and there is surely no direct connection to the current news headlines, the sci-fi and fantasy genres have long been known to tap into cultural and political concepts approaching on the horizon, and it wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest we’ll see many writers exploring similar subject matter and themes in the coming months and years.
So, let’s talk artwork for this issue. Wow, did I miss Jeanty being part of the Buffyverse! It’s something that, at times, is easy to not be aware of, given the quality of artistic talent that the Buffy series has been blessed with following his departure from the series (Rebekah Isaacs and Megan Levens are both ridiculously talented and awesome creators that fans have been lucky to have on the series.), but Georges Jeanty will always hold a special place in fans’ hearts for helping to shepherd our slayer through those first two canon comic book seasons that spun off the end of the TV series. Jeanty doesn’t disappoint in Buffy: Season 11 #4, gifting the issue with beautiful visuals of Buffy kicking demon ass, Spike tearing throats out, and everything in between, and all is done with such a palpable confidence and joy that perhaps it’s safe to assume he missed the demons, darkness, and being able to choose Buffy’s stylish, yet sensible, “slaying outfits” as much as we did.
- Spike’s need for blood is a constant and pressing concern throughout this issue, and while Buffy and Spike seem very loving and supportive of one another, there seems to be a subtle tension developing between the slayer and her vampire boyfriend. Buffy has always been more comfortable about having vampires feed from her than her bloodsucking (and ensouled) lovers have been, but is there still some sort of icky, unsettling feeling about the act? Perhaps a nature reaction to vampires from someone magical chosen to destroy them? Is Buffy really worried that Spike will lash out in his blood-craving state and get himself staked by the guards as she told him? Or is something more complex developing here?
FINAL VERDICT: My earlier reviews of the issues from Buffy: Season 11 have stated that it has the potential to be one of the best seasons we fans have yet experienced in comic book form, and issue #4 has only made the trajectory seem even more likely. The art is gorgeous, the story is layered and intriguing, and the characters are the ones we know and love but continue to show really growth and progress in Gage’s hands. Buffy: Season 11 remains a “must-have” addition to your pull list.
Buffy: Season 11 #4 hits shelves today (Wednesday, February 15th), so get out to your local comic book retailer and pick up a copy!
That’s all for now, my fellow comic book sniffers.
'Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer