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Wolves_at_the_Gate

Wolves at the Gate

"Wolves at the Gate" is the third story arc that spreads from the twelfth to the fifteenth issue of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight series of comic books, a continuation of the television series of the same name. It is written by Drew Goddard.

Plot

Part I (Issue #12)

At night, Xander and Renee observe a pack of wolves lingering by the moor. Willow arrives at the castle with Andrew, who sends himself off to bed right away, just as Willow is attacked by a mysterious woman shrouded in fog. Meanwhile, Buffy and Satsu talk together in bed, following a surprising one-night stand. Though she says she had a wonderful night and seems happy, Buffy asks that Satsu not tell anybody about their experience. Satsu immediately agrees, but the secret does not last long as Xander suddenly walks in to report to Buffy that wolves are outside the castle. Soon, Renee, Andrew, and Dawn each make their entrance in the room reporting increasing signs of trouble. All are flabbergasted about who they find in Buffy's bed, Xander enough so that he decides he must be dreaming. He sits down saying he's had this dream before and they just need to wait for Willow to turn up. Willow then crashes through the ceiling, and proclaims that they are under attack, before also asking why Buffy is naked in bed with Satsu.

Whilst the Slayers are busy battling wolves, panthers, and swarms of bees, a lone wolf transmogrifies into fog and breaches the armory. Transforming back into a man, he heads straight for the Scythe. Another man joins him, but before they can escape, Buffy sends the thief flying with a punch. He is revealed to be a vampire, and distracts Buffy long enough to allow the other man to transform into a panther and escape with the Scythe. The Scoobies are left dumbfounded as the attack ends with all the enemies retreating into fog and animal form, and Buffy realizes they face a great new threat, especially considering that their enemies now have the Scythe. However, all is not completely lost, as Xander recognizes these powers and flies in his helicopter with Renee. They arrive at a castle and are greeted by an old friend: Dracula. Xander calls him Master, revealing that he is still under Dracula's thrall.

Part II (Issue #13)

Fifteen minutes prior to Xander and Renee's visit, Dracula reflects on his solitude. Unlike his previous appearances as young and handsome, he now appears to be a bearded old man in a soiled bathrobe. His demonic butler named Butterfield walks in and encourages him to get out of his depressive state. Their conversation reveals that Dracula has been drinking heavily and rarely leaves his room, not having killed 'so much as a peasant' in months. He worries that people are beginning to wonder what has become of the mighty Dracula. Dracula suddenly musters energy when he notices Xander landing his helicopter outside of his castle. He orders Butterfield to get him a razor. Clean shaven and young seeming again, Dracula greets Xander at the door by calling him "manservant," to which Xander reciprocates by calling him "master." Dracula offends Renee and appalls Xander by referring to Renee as a moor. Nevertheless, he welcomes the pair inside, despite initially seeming to try to convince them to leave.

In Scotland, Andrew informs young Slayers of Dracula's known powers, which include transmogrification, a piercing hypnotic stare, and imperviousness to stakes (though staking him reduces him to dust, as it does any vampire, the dust can transform into fog and allow him to reform). During this lecture, a Slayer questions Andrew as to why he is sporting a replica of George Hamilton's outfit from Love at First Bite. He assures her that it not a replica, it is the actual outfit he bought at an auction. He concludes his lecture by speculating the Dracula and Xander have become friends, stating they occasionally wrote letters following Dracula's appearance in Sunnydale and that following Anya Jenkins's death, Xander took a leave of absence and went to live with Dracula in Transylvania for a few months. The slayers react with shock and surprise, but Andrew brushes it off as 'like a semester at sea, but with harpies instead of co-eds.' Inside the castle, a Slayer reports to Buffy that another fellow Slayer, Aiko, discovered the Japanese vampire gang's leader's name: Toru. Buffy speaks to Aiko through a video transmission and orders her to keep surveillance on the vampires until she and other Slayers join her. Buffy orders Satsu to prep the others, sending all the slayers from headquarters to Tokyo. When Satsu suggests leaving a few as rearguard Buffy snaps at her and demands to have her orders followed.

At Dracula's castle, he, Xander, and Renee sit and discuss how the vampires possess the exact same powers as his. Dracula at first claims this is impossible as his powers are ancient magics under his guardianship, then bursts in fury when he realizes that the "filthy yellow swine" stole his secrets (prompting Xander to remark "I really don't remember you being this racist."). Apparently they got him drunk and convinced him to gamble his secrets for a motorcycle. He also realizes he had probably been cheated, recalling "They had a witch with them. I should never have let her deal". He enters his armory and grabs hold of a sword, agreeing to help fight these vampires despite his hatred of Buffy, claiming: "Nobody steals from Dracula."

On their flight to Tokyo, Willow approaches Satsu and comforts her about the tension between she and Buffy following their one-night stand. She discusses Buffy's difficult position as general, and reminds Satsu that Buffy is not a lesbian and that she shouldn't get her hopes up. Satsu says she knows, and the serious part of the conversation is over. Willow then jokingly interrogates Satsu as to how Buffy was in bed.

In downtown Tokyo, Aiko keeps a close eye on Toru and Raidon in the streets. However, unbeknownst to her they have spotted her tailing them. Tracking them, she finds herself alone in an alley where Toru has strategically left a mysterious, glowing red ring on the ground for her to pick up. Aiko reaches for it, when suddenly Kumiko flies overhead behind her with the Scythe. For a few seconds, the Scythe, the device, and Aiko conduct a red energy, before Toru appears in front of Aiko and breaks her jaw with a single punch, asking her how it feels to be a regular girl again. Before she can answer, Toru takes a horrific bite in her neck and kills her. Toru looks over at Raidon and claims the beta-test was successful. It is now time to this technology global. The last panel is of Kumiko flying triumphantly into the sky, revealing a far larger ring device on the roof of a building.

Part III (Issue #14)

Buffy and the Slayers finally arrive in Tokyo to find Aiko's body strung up against a skyscraper. Beneath the corpse reads a message printed in blood: "Tokyo He Youkoso" ("Welcome to Tokyo)". Buffy cuts the body down and carries it to the Tokyo Slayer headquarters. She lays the body in a Buddhist temple and sits in the corner of the room for the remainder of the day in despair. At night, Willow approaches her and proposes conjuring a blanket for her. Just then, Dracula and Xander arrive. Dracula mocks Buffy for not considering performing the 'rudimentary' containment spell called Carolina's Grasp to defeat Toru, despite her and Willow's unawareness of it. He then examines Aiko's body and asks: "Is somebody going to finish eating this?"

Toru waits in his luxurious flat with the lens established on the roof. He discusses Buffy's arrival with his minion and orders him to gather all of his vampires. Elsewhere, a man smokes a cigarette outside when Renee suddenly approaches him in tears. She claims that she wandered off from her schoolmates accidentally and is now lost. The man suggests walking her to her hotel by going through the park. There, he reveals his vampire visage. Before he can attack, Buffy, Willow, and Xander appear. Willow performs Carolina's Grasp. The vampire finds himself boxed in a magical prison where he can not turn into fog. Willow then pours gasoline on the vampire. Buffy says that he's going to tell her everything he knows or they will light him on fire, pressing the vampire into divulging the scythe's whereabouts. The vampire confesses everything, including the plan to use the lens to magnify Kumiko's spell and take away the Slayers' powers. Satisfied with the information, Buffy lights him on fire, pointing out that she made no promise to spare him if he talked.

At the Japanese Slayer headquarters, Buffy orders Satsu to stay there with other Slayers while she and others attack Toru and his vampires. Satsu defies her orders, saying that Buffy is either trying to avoid her or protect her and she won't put up with it. She storms off, claiming that she'll "see you on the battlefield. Ma'am." Alone, Buffy questions herself as to why she finds it sexy when Satsu calls her "ma'am." In a training room, Xander teaches the unfortunate patterns that proceed during a first date and says they should count this as their first date to avoid all the mess. Renee doesn't agree that their night together could be considered a date, given they used her as bait, dressed her as a schoolgirl, and spent time with Dracula. But Renee does agree to get the confusion surrounding first dates out of the way. She reaches over to Xander and kisses him. They keep kissing despite Dracula's presence, much to his discomfort.

Outside of Toru's flat, Buffy, Renee, Xander, Dracula, Satsu, Andrew and Leah are ready to attack the army of about a thousand vampires. But first, Willow floats above them and summons Dawn. The vampires look up at the giantess in fear as Dawn begins to attack them. Buffy and the group storm Toru's flat to find him staring out the window with the Scythe. Buffy reaches over to grab the Scythe from his grasp but goes right through it. She realizes that "Guys, it's a--" Suddenly, Renee is skewered in the heart with the Scythe. The real Toru stands behind her wielding the weapon, claiming "I believe the word you're looking for is "trap.""

Part IV (Issue #15)

The issue opens with Renee's thoughts and regrets as she dies. As Xander is overcome by grief and holds her as her life slips away, Dracula sends Buffy for Willow. Buffy replies that she cannot leave Xander alone, and Dracula vamps out and fights to his side, replying that he is not. Willow, in turn, is locked in midair combat with Kumiko. Kumiko deflects Willow's attacks easily, revealing that they are both students of the unknown power Saga Vasuki and thus knows the counters to her spells: they 'speak the same language'. This prompts Willow to say "Good. Talk to me" and cast a spell that causes both their eyes to flare blue and connect. Whether the spell had it's intended effect is not clear, but Willow is plunged into a vision of a burning city, the Scythe, and the snake woman Willow was shown intimately involved with in Sephrilian's vision in 'Anywhere But Here'. The snake woman calls her 'Darling Willow' and asks if Willow thought she couldn't find her. She also asks if she thought she could hide from who she is and what is to come. Willow emerges from the vision and passes out, but the spell leaves Kumiko seemingly unaffected. As Willow begins to lose consciousness, Buffy steels herself, then jumps from the penthouse to stab Kumiko midair, and then she and an unconscious Willow continue falling. Dawn, leading the fight out on the streets, is confronted by a mecha version of herself, albeit with a tail, who taunts Dawn. Toru notices Kumiko's absence, and begins the incantation to de-Slayer Buffy and her army. Dracula, Satsu, and the slayers then burst onto the roof and enter melee with the vampires there. Dracula tackles Toru, sending the scythe flying, and Satsu jumps off the building to catch the falling scythe. Willow and Buffy emerge from the pool of water Willow had created at the last minute to cushion their fall. Upon noticing Satsu falling, they engage in a bit of relationship banter, before heading to catch Satsu. Willow then flies the three of them back to the roof, where Buffy is unable to kill Toru using the scythe since he can still dematerialize into fog. Dracula gives Willow his sword and tells her how to use it to remove the vampires' special powers: it, like the Scythe, is a weapon bound with the spirit of a demon. Before she does the incantation, Willow asks why Dracula cannot perform it himself, and he indicates that he will also be affected by it. The incantation succeeds, and Buffy notes that the "scales are balanced again": the slayers can fight the vampires again. Andrew coaches Dawn how to beat the mecha, by twisting its head off, which she does. Asked how he knows how to defeat it, he replies 'My giant-sized teammate is fighting a mecha version of herself in downtown Tokyo? I've been preparing for this moment my whole life!' Willow throws Dracula his sword as he requests, but Toru catches it and taunts Dracula for being an old man, saying he doesn't know what to do now he's just a regular vampire again. But Dracula, enraged, disarms Toru and cuts off his hands and feet. He mocks Toru in turn, reminding him how he was renowned and feared long before he became a vampire: 'The fields of Europe ran red with the blood of my enemies, and that was BEFORE I started eating people for fun. It's not the vampire you should be worried about, it's the old man.' Toru demands that Dracula kill him, but Dracula scoffs at him, saying he has no honor, and hands his sword to Xander for the killing blow. Xander executes him, and Buffy comforts Xander as she orders the rest of the slayers to hunt down the fleeing vampires. The night following the battle Dracula, who has lost his powers of domination, comes to Xander. He is sitting vigil with Renee's ashes, and Dracula asks if Xander wishes company. When Xander refuses he says farewell, referring to Xander as a "manservant". Xander says that if Dracula ever calls him 'manservant' again he will kill him in his sleep. Dracula suggests a number of other titles, ranging from 'Minion' to 'Houseboy', and is met with similar threats. By the end of the exchange it is possible Dracula is joking. Satsu and Buffy have a heart-to-heart, where Satsu confesses both her love for Buffy, and her acknowledgment that she needs to not be in love with her. Satsu asks to be left in Japan as the field office leader, to give them some distance. Buffy agrees, and then they share an intimate night as goodbye. At the same time, Willow is magically communicating with the snake woman (presumably Saga Vasuki), Xander is scattering Renee's ashes, and Dracula is leaving by ship.

Production

Writer Drew Goddard previously worked for the television series' last season, penning numerous episodes such as "Selfless", "Conversations with Dead People", and "Dirty Girls". In Buffy comics, Drew had previously written the Dracula story "Antique" for the canonical Tales of the Vampires, which depicts Dracula as a man tormented by his aging and loneliness. "Wolves at the Gate" makes reference to "Antique", and Xander's previous enthrallment by Dracula, when Xander comments to Renee in Part I that, "sometimes when I get around this guy, I start acting... wonky."

Goddard had chosen to use two of his favourite characters in the story, Andrew Wells and Dracula. Dark Horse editor Scott Allie comments that Goddard would be the preferred writer should Dark Horse decide to do an Andrew miniseries.

Connection to Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula

Several details in Georges Jeanty's art hint at the fact that the Whedonverse version of Dracula might be one and the same with the character portrayed by Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 movie Bram Stoker's Dracula. In issue 13, page 16, the red armor worn by Oldman as Vlad Ţepeş in the opening scene of the movie appears in Dracula's armory. In issue 14, Dracula appears in the same exact guise as Oldman when he first meets Mina Murray in the movie (top hat, greyish tailcoat, small round sunglasses and cane). Another explanation could be that the Whedonverse Dracula, once described by Spike as "a sell-out of the vampire world, fond of magic and Hollywood", simply saw Coppola's movie, which would then be considered fictional in the Whedonverse, enjoyed it and acquired some of its wardrobe for his own use.

Controversy

Issue #12 has received a great deal of publicity and criticism. The debate centered on the main protagonist, Buffy, having slept with a fellow Slayer. Some critics speculated that Whedon had Buffy involved in a lesbian encounter as a marketing ploy. However, Whedon has profusely denied these claims, adding that it was a logical step for the character in light of the series. Whedon has also been supported by the issue's writer Drew Goddard, Season Eight editor Scott Allie, and reportedly a large number of fans over the Internet.

Canonical issues

This series has been described by Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy, as a continuation of the official continuity established by the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel television series.

Season Eight contradicts and supersedes information given in the paperback novels set after Season Seven, such as Queen of the Slayers and Dark Congress, which are described as being set in an unofficial "parallel continuity".

Timing

  • Set after BtVS's seventh season. The precise timing of this arc is uncertain.

References

See also

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