Issue 7 of 8
'Give and Take'
writer: Brian Lynch, artist: Stephen Mooney, colorist: Andrea Priorini, letterer: Neil Uyetake
Cover: Nick Runge
Blurb: Spike's quest to take down Wolfram & Hart Vegas has led to some interesting disasters. There's Drusilla, a walking timebomb of crazy death. There's John, a mad serial killer obsessed with Drusilla who kidnapped Beck and Betta George. Of course, Willow also showed up to help save the day. Only now Spike's soul is in the least likely place and things are just getting weirder.
Page 01: We open in Lilah's office with the one executive she hasn't killed. It's possible this won't last long, as he's not impressing her with his ability to analyze the space vehicle that they're currently looking at over her monitor.
Well, until he gets his head together a bit and informs her that the ship they're seeing appears to be able to travel interdimensionally. That peaks her interest.
Commentary: And already I love this issue just for the "Lilah's Shit List" hanging up on the wall behind her. With Check Marks.
I love you, Lilah Morgan.
Page 02: Lilah is already aware of the vessel's abilities, which is exactly why W & H wants it. But, the fact that he recognizes it also stops her from gassing him. His task is to plan out the operation for the Senior Partners to obtain the vessel for Wolfram & Hart's use.
Page 03: Elsewhere in John's dungeon, Spike fills us in on recent events with his soul migration to Dru.
In last issue, he was having fun with the spark filling her. Not so much now, what with it feeling like she's ripping apart inside, while the soul burns inside her and lies heavily like a stone within her.
Sudden soulness can be a drag for the first few minutes, as we've seen before.
Page 04: Spike feels regret at sending it into Dru, as she's left stunned by what she realizes she's done over the years of demonhood. Willow suggests that making her understand what her actions were isn't the worst thing, but Spike knows how fragile her mind is in the best of times. Now, he's left her unprotected.
Page 05: Willow places a comforting hand on Dru's shoulder, but gets Drusilla changing to fang-face unexpectedly. Dru tells her to take it back out, before collapsing into her arms.
We also find out that Jeremy wasn't killed by Drusilla biting down on him. The soul bit distracted her from draining him.
Page 06: Spike checks on Jeremy's status, while John is still holding a blade to Beck's throat. She's unable to use her pyro-powers yet, due to dampeners.
John now makes reference to the last time we saw Dru... in 'After the Fall', having an experience in her childhood home.
John references W & H finding her, but also says that Dru wasn't what they'd expected. They found her actually sane in the Hell-Angeles of 'After the Fall'.
Page 07: While Willow cradles the despondent Dru [which still seems foolish, whatever her state of mind at the moment], John tells Spike that W & H had been slipping Drusilla meds so that she'd be more wacked out. This was to present her as the Drusilla Spike knew, so as to screw with him, but he also states that Dru was fighing against the drugs.
John tells Spike that he could have re-saved her, but now due to what Spike has done to her, he's destroyed her again.
Page 08: Beck in the meantime feels heat building up in her captive position. She thinks for a moment that her powers are returning, but it turns out to be coming from John. He lets loose with a mystical blast in the enclosed area, knocking everyone to the floor.
Page 09: John, now back to vengeance mode from his gloating phase, decides to behead Beck. He taunts her about Spike not saving her after all, but she wordlessly points off panel.
Which is Spike's cue to punch John away from her.
Page 10: With Spike not stunned enough, John fiddles with his power gauntlet to unleash another blast of power against the hero, but Spike is faster. He's able to grab John's arm with vampire strength, crunching the brace.
John responds with a heavy punch to knock Spike off of him.
In the meantime, as per usual in hero tales, Spike is able to hold an entire conversation in the midst of this battle. He expresses regrets about Dru's broken condition and about their pasts and that W & H has manipulated John into a team up by setting he and Drusilla up.
Page 11: But, he also tells him to stop whining about it all.
An uppercut shuts John down.
Commentary: And, clearly should have killed him instantly. Check out how high up John flies from Spike's punch. That should have easily shattered his jaw and snapped his neck. John is a serial murderer... but he's still very human, after all.
Page 12: A bit later, Willow checks on Jeremy who is lamenting his damsel in distress role when it comes to adventures with Spike. Wills tells him he's gone above and beyond in the good fight.
Meanwhile, Drusilla is lamenting all of the things she's now feeling as memories continue to flood her mind.
Page 13: She asks Willow if she'll ever be able to forget the deaths she's caused and how she pushed the man she loved away.
Willow tells her 'no' ... but seems to regret having to share that Dru's burden is now never going to be over.
Page 14: Of course, Drusilla is still Dru. And, as we know with countless examples a soul isn't going to force you to do the right thing.
Willow gets a clobbering backhand, as Drusilla decides that her having a conscience simply won't do. But, y'know, that conscience does make Dru feel bad about hitting her so hard. And bad about feeling bad about hitting her so hard.
Jeremy's left with another case of 'oh shit' face. He should really put a continent between he and Spike.
Meanwhile, John has [improbably] recovered and has engaged Spike in hand-to-hand again.
Commentary: I'm really liking the bits with Drusilla, but John has stopped interesting me again and I wish he'd just stay down for the count. Since Spike isn't ensouled (but is managing to remain 'good'), I wish he'd just kill 'im, already.
Page 15: So, while Spike and John continue dancing around each other [and is Betta out for the count -- again?!], there is a sudden rumble that interrupts their fight. Across the desert, Spike sees a huge cloud and a massive bolt of lightning streak over Vegas, reminding him that this entire conflict hasn't really been about John and his plots at all.
John and Dru were distractions, and W & H's plans appear to be moving along now that Team Spike isn't there fouling things up.
Page 16: Beck tries to take this opportunity to sneak up on John from behind, but ends up backkicked away. It's enough to drive Spike to wallop him hard, taking out some of his teeth.
Spike stops, berating himself and looking a bit shocked at how hard he just hit the human in front of him [so, we're just going to ignore the upper cut then?], which he takes as a sign he isn't controlling himself.
Before he can really analyze this, Drusilla comes up behind him.
Commentary: The indication, of course, being that Spike's sudden loss of soul caused him to hit John much harder than he would have ordinarily. Except, I don't think, as presented that is so. This would have been a more powerful moment if they'd had Spike really do some major damage... maybe clawing his face open or something. The way it was drawn, he just punched him hard... boo-hoo. And, he punched him hard after already hitting him WAY harder, so what's the big deal?
Page 17: Dru puts her fist right through John and tells him to stop hurting people. He dies telling her that he felt her hitting him in his heart... its tragi-romantic, even though Drusilla is grinning like a loon, which kinda undercuts the pathos.
Oh, John. Pathetic.
Commentary: But, at least we're done with him now. Yay. And, I liked the bloody artwork with John's demise.
Page 18: With John dead, Spike decides to return everything to status quo. He carries Drusilla back into the soul-swap circle and she gives him back his soul.
Page 19: He and Willow decide to get Dru out of there, and he gives Willow a business card [presumably for the Mosaic Wellness Center] where she can take Dru. Willow offers to stay, but he sends her off.
Before she leaves with Drusilla, Willow assures Spike that Buffy knows that he's alive. She tells him that she did go looking for him and that she'll make sure to tell her for him that he's doing great work being a leader and Champion.
Spike asks her to just keep their adventure between them, instead. They embrace before she leaves.
Commentary: Eeehhhhh. I'm not really buying the way they want to wrap up Willow's guest-star role here nice and neatly. It feels disingenuous for Spike to pack Drusilla off with Willow, or that she'd want to take Dru anywhere now that she's back to her old, soulless self. It also doesn't seem very likely that Drusilla would want to accompany Willow anywhere.
This feels very 'wrapped in a bow' tidy, when surely this situation would be messy and complicated with Dru and with Willow wanting to stay far more than she's displaying here to fight the Big Evil, rather than zipping out in the middle of a fight.
Especially since that fight is with W & H, and Willow has got to be aware of the amount of trouble and trauma they've caused to her friends, even if she doesn't know all of the details of AtS and 'After the Fall'. W & H was, for a time, pretty big on the Evil list, so Willow has got to be mystically aware of the amount of damage they could cause.
I find her dropping back out of the story to be very disatisfying.
I do really like Spike and Willow's panels together, though.
Page 20: With Willow and Dru leaving via portal, Betta George asks Spike as to where they go next. Spike snarks at him over his attitude due to Betta's trip through Dru and Spike's memories. Betta snarks back for him to quit whining about it and move on.
So, they do -- to Wolfram & Hart's Vegas office/hotel.
Meanwhile, at the office, Lilah is pressuring our surviving exec to produce the vessel W & H needs. She also, just to be catty, announces that "They're here.", which doesn't make him feel any better about his position in the firm.
Page 21: While Exec nervously wonders what they're going to do about "they're" arrival (presumably the Senior Partners), Lila blinks out to meet them -- being a ghost now, and all.
Outside of the building, Team Spike get ready to assault the W & H office building. But before they can really get organized, the lightning display backlights the arrival of the trandimensional-traveling ship headed for a hard landing on the street they're all standing on!
Page 22: As Team Spike tries to get the heck out of the way, the purloined ship lands on the strip, smashing cars along the way.
And, it's likely that the crew of said vessel will not be too happy. A crew that is currently focusing their scanners on our gang.
The Good: I liked the resolution of John's story, and though I saw it coming, it was nice that Drusilla was the one to kill him. And there was something just a tiny, tiny bit tragic about his being killed by the woman he clearly adored while she barely gave him a second glance. But, oh so tiny.
I liked the interaction between Willow and Spike. Especially nice was their discussion about Buffy.
The Bad: Nothing here, I think.
Other Thoughts: I didn't buy the Willow/Drusilla interactions and the way that Dru was just kind of fostered off on Wills -- or that she would just allow that -- bugged me. I was also disappointed by how quickly the entire soul transfer thing was undone with a return to status quo.
I'm sorry that this title was reduced in number of issues due to the license transfer to Dark Horse, because it feels like Dru got the short end of the stick in all of this, so that we could focus on wrapping up W & H's tale. But, their story isn't interesting now, because Dru's could have been so fascinating.
I also don't really like it much when my Buffyverse gets mixed up too deeply in general alien sci-fi/cyborg/Bond-gadgetry so I'm kinda disappointed to see the whole alien spaceship thing presumably taking up the last issue -- but I'm reserving judgement until we see what is done with it.
The Score: 3.0 out of 5
Next up: Spike #8 (end of series)