Where once there was a single slayer to each generation, there are now many. What was once an isolated campaign against other-worldy darkness leaking into the world, is now a full scale war against the shadows. This war is composed of soldiers, of newly christened slayers, girls forced not only to harness their potential, but to offer it up in sacrifice. Their former lives, whether in schools or malls or mansions or slums, are forfeit. There is a greater good, a world to save, and a call to heed. The slayers serve as pivotal links in a chain, new members in a fight against evil which stretches back beyond history and beyond fairness. ‘The Chain.’ It’s a worthy metaphor. It speaks of community, but of course it also speaks of struggle and confinement. The First Slayer was quite literally a captive, a girl damned by a group of men to stave off the hordes. They gave her and those who followed her a kind of power. But they also shackled them with a hopeless responsibility. Slayers are superheroes, mortals blessed with impossible abilities, cursed with dire circumstances. They are more than human, but bound by the kind of guilt and sense of duty that ensures they’ll never fully enjoy their power. Not for long anyway.
We meet a nameless slayer, a girl who looks enough like Buffy to pose as her decoy. And in a parallel narrative, we witness her calling, her training, her assignment to a black ops mission into the depths of a subterranean society, and her death. She never meets Buffy, the woman she’s asked to impersonate and the reason for her new-found abilities. She dies before the cavalry arrives, her hair dyed to look like someone else’s, in a place far from home. She dies alone. Not simply forgotten, but never fully known. Her anonymity was crucial to her mission. She did her job, rallied the good against the bad, and held back the tide. She became a link in the chain.
The issue is dedicated to Janie Kleinman. For most, it is a name. Someone obviously important to Joss. This name is not associated with actions or a visual. We assume she’s passed away. Janie Kleinman was a network executive, a friend and colleague of Joss. He will remember her, even if most of us will not. We did not have that opportunity. In reality, we will die having never met or known the people who bring about the things we love. It’s the cruel circumstance of being one of a countless number. Our perspective is limited to those who immediately direct us. To envision the full scope of humanity is impossible. But in the spirit of this week’s holiday, let’s try anyway.
Comics are a microcosm. We’re a community. Cause and effect and connective tissue. And as small of a community as it is, so much of it is invisible. Who colored your favorite book this week? Who inked it? Who printed it, packaged it, shipped it? Who planted the trees which line your commute? Who paved the road? The chain extends beyond what we might be conscious of. By necessity. For our comforts, people tend to live and die. It happens. We don’t know about it. Mostly, we don’t care about it. It’s distance. It’s familiarity. We manufacture a presence, we forge our own personal chains, we inhabit and depart. But in this biological time share we have an opportunity to abandon or to furnish. To take it easy or to make it easier. Repercussions. That’s not so much about making a name or staking a place. It’s in the stuff that won’t be noticed. The good deeds, the daily decisions whether or not to be an asshole.
However conscious we are of our own triumphs and struggles, there are so many who will never see what we do. But just as a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan and by extension lays waste to a trailer park in Kansas, so too do our labors bare some kind of fruit, bitter or sweet, for a stranger. We’re behind the scenes even if we never get to see the production. The chain pulls. Ignore it if you want, but it’s there. Most will have no idea what you do. They’ll feel it either way. They’ll keep on doing what they’re doing. And you’ll feel the wight of it.
So, as we gather together to carve the roast beast during these frigid and festive months, take a pause to consider Anonymous. No religious overtures necessary. It’s not about good or bad or halos or pitchforks or intangible mead halls. It’s about this chain we all forge together in this life as people who need people. In America, we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving. It’s a silly holiday rooted in genocide and starvation and, from what I hear, the buckles and tall hats were fabrications to tidy up all that misery. Sometimes the wrong things get celebrated. So, if you’re weary of the hypocrisy, allow me to make a suggestion. Be thankful for people you don’t know, those people fighting the good fight. The people who don’t get mentioned as we circle the table, impatient for that cylindrical tower of cranberry sauce. We might not be aware of what the other links do in this chain, but we ought to be conscious of it. Because maybe if we were, we’d be more likely to answer the pull. And maybe this operation might run a little more smoothly.
Thanks, Joss. Thanks, iFanboy. And thanks for reading.
Paul Montgomery would like to thank all the links, all the gears, all the pages and flickers and bricks and spindles and voices which make it all up. Contact him at email@example.com. You can also find him on Twitter. Now online: Listen to his first scripted episode of the award winning audio drama Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery, co-written with Wormwood creator David Accampo.