My very late Willow #2 review and recap.
The funny part about writing review for Wonderland - Willow #2 - is that I am once again a little out of tune with other reviews/recaps. I did enjoy the issue, especially the art and coloring, but I feel that the writer went a little overboard with the epic high-fantasy style in the second part of this installment, and it spoiled the re-introduction of a very important character for me.
Yes, I mean Aluwyn a.k.a. Saga Vasuki. I do understand the allure of going all Tolkien with the magical realm that Willow found herself in, but for me the significant part of enjoyment from Aluwyn's introduction in Willow's One Shot was the hefty dose of irony Monty Python style. And while the vestiges of that humorous approach are somewhat present in the Wonderland's #2 first half – because it deals essentially with Willow and Marrak frenemy dynamics - it is essentially lost on the audience in the second part. Although I suspect that the epic level honorifics - Gandalf the Grey style - that Willow receives from the members of the uber-coven of (various anthropomorphic) witches meant to be ironic rather than serious.
But let's do the issue recap instead of idle critiquing – this time I feel like going through the story with a fine comb. Last time we saw Willow (and her hew beastly companion Marrak) they were reaping the consequences of their unfortunate slaying and eating the little Hyberrax beast. The many-eyed green chimera did not look that little in issue #1, it was about the size of a large minivan or a small bus. Turned out, its mother was about the size of Hindenburg, the dirigible. There is definitely an ironic metaphor here somewhere, but mostly this part of the story deals with differences in approach to using magic between Willow and Marrak.
While Willow and Marrak tried to outrun the big Hyberrax, Willow suddenly noticed that they left Caterpillar guy behind and that he is about to be eaten. And while Marrak urged her to run and leave the unfortunate Caterpillar behind, a good girl that she is Willow cried out a warning – even though it looked like it was too late. Luckily the Caterpillar wore his own magic protection on its sleeve so to speak. His latent magic – a cocoon – of green energy field sprang forth and deflected the Hyberrax’s attack.
(Since I recently did an edit on the Wiki for the Willow’s mini, I feel I can include some of the excerpts here.)
… While The Caterpillar was being attacked, Willow cried out trying to warn it against danger, while Marrak ran away without care. Alas, Marrak got stuck in the roots of the nearby trees, and was forced in his turn to call to Willow for help. While Willow prepared her spell, the Hybberax bit Marrak, but before the hapless victim was killed, Willow caused the creature to explode from within, thus saving Marrak…
…Too bad the gore from the dead Hybberax's guts covered the Memory pool. Before their host got too upset though, Willow used a purification spell to clean up the mess - and it turned out that her cleaning spell was segued with freshening up her clothes. Before long Willow was wearing spanking new outfit without a trace of the dead critter's blood. Yet when she offered to do the same cleaning/gore removal spell for Marrak - her companion refused the offer angrily, claiming that she had cast enough magic at him for the day…
There is definitely a bit of intrigue here – Marrak does not want to be ‘cleaned’, or does he suspect that Willow’s spell might remove his beastly deformity?
…The Caterpillar then suggested they leave, but offered Willow a cryptic message as a parting gift and reward for her care, stating that she will feel a very special kind of thirst at some point, and suggesting that they take a supply of now clean Memory Water with them. The other part of the message was less linear, and pertained to the path of righteousness employing very dark gatekeepers (?), and energy being released by opposing forces (that part reminded me of the Twilight prophecy – and Saga Vasuki’s mention of the Universes being born from chaos and order intertwined like lovers in Willow’s One Shot) . …Willow then admitted to not understanding the Caterpillar's parting words properly - but was wise enough to listen to its advice and fill her canteen with Memory Water to carry on.
… And so Willow and Marrak continued on their path of following the divination spell path. On their way further they were attacked by what appeared to be the demonic Blackbirds. When one touched Willow she experienced a hallucination of being back to Earth and seeing all her friends including Buffy, Xander, and Dawn, running scared, then plunging into a portal to Hell - and they all had no faces at all…
…Luckily, Willow was able to cast a lucidity spell on herself and wake up, to discover Marrak fighting back the Blackbirds with fire. After defeating them, Willow talked to Marrak and he explained that what they experienced was other peoples persistent dreams detached from their dreamers. Marrak believed, and Willow agreed with him that the dreams of Earth people used to come to this world through the Void, but with all connections to the magic realms from Earth severed, the detached dreams could never return back to our world, so they started to gather in groups, forming flocks of nightmares.
Marrak then admitted to having been caught not in a nightmare, but in a rather pleasant dream involving Nurses, from which he had freed himself nonetheless. He also joked that the dreamer of that particular dream would have wanted it back…
There is definitely a connection to the S8 Buffy’s dream – that included her in a sexy nurse’s outfit and her two vampire lovers.
… They continued through foggy terrain and Willow explained that she imagined the path would lead them to the Deeper Well - or rather its equivalent in this world - that would be a focal magical point of the Wonderland. From there she hoped to open a portal back to Earth, thus causing a persistent flow of magic back. Marrak suggested that she needed a conduit rather than a simple portal, and that she would effectively be creating a new Hellmouth in the process, which would require enslaved demons to guard it…
Ominous talk indeed – but interesting, especially if one recalls the Caterpillar guy’s cryptic warning about path of righteousness employing dark gatekeepers. Myself, I think they are yanking our chains here with all the hints and denunciations of willow’s future Darkness. Yet so far Willow is portrayed as being very conscious of this possibility and definitely not letting her dark side out of control. Maybe if the stakes are high enough?
Now, here the story takes a sudden twist, as it turns from basically being a description of a journey of two odd companions into an apotheosis of Willow the Witch Extraordinaire, the great Celebrity of the Witching Universe and etc. and that was when I thought I saw a little bit of the writer getting overboard with Tolkien references. Still, if one looks at this part of Willow’s journey as yet another one of her trials – this one by Brass Pipes, (as opposite to trials by Fire and Water), then the story begins to make much more sense.
If you never encountered this idiom before I encourage you to look it up – although I suspect it might be purely Russian and will only bring you the links to the old Russian fairy tale movie. Basically To go "through fire, water, and brass pipes" is an old expression in Russia, which indicates one who has gone through many difficulties, including the trials of a sudden largess, fame and success. I also refer you to Buffy’s situation in S8 being a general of the Slayer Army, and to Angel’s AtS S5 position of the CEO of the W&H LA. Yes, Whedon-verse loves its dead horses beaten again and again.
Going back to our recap – after Willow and Marrak spent enough time traversing through Stonehenge-like labyrinth covered in fog, whilst discussing the ominous implications of opening a portal with built-in conduit that would flush magic out of this world onto Earth – they hear a hiss. All of a sudden the mysts part and a giant, bluish-green, half-snake demon with beautiful female torso slithers out of the fog. Tada!
Willow’s divination path led her to her lost Love (current one anyway). As they kiss passionately Marrak looks comically confused – but his initial fear and anger quickly gets replaced by sulkiness. Get used to being the third fiddle from now on buddy – as Willow is becoming obviously overcome and overwhelmed with all the warm welcomes that she receives.
… Willow then introduced Aluwyn as Saga Vasuki - 'the lying , deceitful, sexy snake' and her tutor of magical arts. To Aluwyn , Willow called Marrak an 'OK' guy. Aluwyn had come with three other anthropomorphic witches (a centaur, an blue angel, and a Poison Ivy look-a-like). The snake lady then suggested that Willow and Marrak might want to rest after their taxing journey and the centaur offered Willow a ride back to their coven, while Marrak grumbly complained that he is tired too, but was not offered a ride. They were brought to the Wellspring (Wonderland's Deeper Well). Aluwyn then again slily suggested that she and Willow needed to do a lot of catching up - and that therefore Willow needed to rest. In the meantime, all of the present otherworld witches - and they turned out to be many and all female - expressed their admiration of Willow, calling her Willow the Red, Slayer's Hex Mistress, and other honorifics…
I only want to add to this part that the artist clearly is very fond of Tolkien landscapes, lavish tree-houses, as well as epic waterfalls and such. The Wellspring coven accommodations would have satisfied Galadriel’s tastes in locale and housing, and then some. Not to mention that dozens of levitating otherworldly alien Witches in colorful medieval clothes…
… After some time have passed and the ritual of restoration was arranged a witch named Vulcana repaired the Scythe, with the help of the entire coven whom all cast the healing spell on it. Immediately, Willow tried to use a portal spell that she had prepared in advance to open a rift back to Earth. Through it the witch saw another vision of Buffy, Xander, and Dawn who were discussing some recent events, including Buffy cooperating with Dowling in slaying vampires, and Dawn making a joke about Buffy not dating him because he is not her type - being alive. Alas, the rift closed up again too soon, but not before Willow saw that unlike all the others, in this new vision Dawn still had no face!
I would not dare to speculate on the situation with Dawn and her memories- but just want to mention that I would find it very uncomfortable and contrived if not only memories but Dawn’s physical body is affected by the loss of magic. After all said and done, we have at least two more major characters with their bodies basically rebuilt by magic. And while Buffy’s body was ‘only’ restored from its dead state, Spike’s entire corporeal existence is owned to W&H’s magic, since his original flesh was burned to ashes. It would be funny if the monks’ magic was so much weaker than W&H’s. But then again this season ( as well as the last comic one ) has proven that logic has very little place in its plots.
- Willow - Wonderland #2 review