BTVS: S9, Issue 9
"Apart (of me), pII"
Script: Andrew Chambliss & Scott Allie, Pencils: Cliff Richards, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Phil Noto
Blurb: The end of magic on [E]arth has created, among other obstacles, zompires -- mindless vampires who ignore the rules laid down by Harmony that allow humans and vampires to coexist. Willow has left San Francisco, taking Buffy's broken scythe, while Xander and Dawn strive for normalcy and keep their distance from the supernatural. Buffy was recently cleared of suspicion of murder by the SFPD -- but now they want her help with the zompires! The Slayer's personal life has gotten weirder than ever, and facing her own problems is more than she can handle.
Page 01: We open by joining Buffybot, Spike and Andrew in Suburb!Buffy's kitchen, where they find a lack of Buffy, but do find signs that something has gone awry. This isn't really a shock as the trio detected a silent alarm coming from Buffy's new residence as they were already speeding to the scene aboard Spike's BugShip.
Page 02: As Spike berates Andrew over his less-than-stellar plan to keep the true Buffy out of Sev the Siphon's grasp, Buffy inside the Buffybot is wandering and wondering over the suburb life that Andy set up her counterpart with.
Page 03: Spike joins her, and she expresses wonder at Andrew's being able to give her amnesiac counterpart the life that Buffy has continually failed to give to herself, despite wanting it.
Before Buffy can further explicate her warring emotions though, Andrew shouts out that he has a ping from a tracking device he had stowed on Suburb!Buffy's jewelery.
Commentary: I'm still really foggy on what exactly Suburb!Buffy is doing, though. If Buffy's mind was transferred to the Buffybot, then what is Suburb!Buffy doing wandering around at all?? Shouldn't she be in a vegetative state? And if only a copy of Buffy was downloaded into the robot, then why would she have amnesia about who she is? And even if we accept this whole thing -- just how did Andrew set her up in this house without her asking questions... or seeing a doctor about her memory loss... or y'know, doing anything really, that a normal person may do in this circumstance. How did Andrew arrange for Suburb!Buffy to just accept her Suburb!Life as if she'd always lived this way?
This central plot point seems rather flawed to me, and I haven't seen any sign that these questions were considered which seems pretty lazy. I understand hand-waving some things, but this is a bit much to take without answering a few questions.
Page 04: But anyway, off to join Suburbia where she is currently being terrorized by Simone. Naturally, our gun-happy Slayer has no idea what is going on with "Buffy", so she's quite confused when Buffy completely folds and tells her that she's the best Slayer and Buffy is the worst and begs to be let go, even offering money.
Simone gives a dumbstruck, "Who are you...?" at this display. No matter how much she may hate Buffy, even she can recognize that she'd never be reduced to begging Simone for anything.
Page 05: Meanwhile, in San Francisco: Xander and Dawn are with Detective Dowling, where they've returned to the morgue to see about his partner, the lately undeaded Miranda Cheung. Xan and Dawn recognized from Robert's drunken rambling about the state of her body when the zompires killed her that she was likely to be coming back as one of them.
They find two police officers down on the ground, throats torn out. Xander ... well... I don't know what is up with Xan, but he's being a prick. And he yells at Dawn when she doesn't follow his orders.
Between his outbursts lately, and punching the wall when she didn't immediately answer him earlier, I'm starting to think Xander is suffering some serious PTSD.
Commentary: Or, he's turning into his father -- which would completely piss me off; I'm really hoping there is a reasonable explanation for why he's being such a sonuvabitch.
Future!Reviewer tells me that he believes he may know what is happening with these scenes, although he thinks it could've been made a bit more explicit from what he remembers.
Page 06: As Xan is checking out the bodies of the cops, one of 'em isn't quite dead and sits up with a gasp. She begs them to get out of there, but Dowling steps in to question her about who attacked her and her partner. The cop is able to confirm that it was a woman with fugly face. She points out where Miranda dragged an officer who was trying to help out.
Xan takes off for the pickup truck he drives these days for weapons. He instructs Dawnie to wait for paramedics with the downed officer, but she insists that the drunken Robert can wait. She points out that she'd be more valuable to him by coming with and fighting.
While she's pulling weapons from the truck, she manages to jostle her cell out of her pocket and into the bed of the truck, unnoticed.
Page 07: Xander apologizes for snapping at her, but points out that Robert isn't going to stay behind while they go off to stake his partner, but somebody also needs to stay with the wounded. He doesn't doubt that she can handle the zompires, but she's the only one there who can sit with the officer.
When Xan joins Dowling, the detective is unsure that he's able to go through with bringing Miranda down. Xan admits it does suck, but brings up his first staking of Jesse from BTVS: The Harvest. He tells him that Robert is going to be haunted by what they're going to do, but it would be worse if he allowed her to hurt and kill other people through inaction.
Commentary: And again, Xan is really being written like he's suddenly turned into a huge jerk. It's really bothering me that the writers have suddenly given him all of this rage from seemingly out of the blue. I can understand his frustration that he's back to hunting monsters when he & Dawn are supposed to be avoiding risking their lives anymore, but his palpable anger here just isn't being explained.
As you can imagine, though, since I'm such a continuity-geek - I'm loving the reference to the never-mentioned Jesse! Seriously, is this the only time since "The Harvest" that he's been mentioned?? It's gotta be the only time by name.
Page 08: Aboard the BugShip, Buffy tries to call Dawn to check-in but as we know, the cell is in the bed of Xan's truck.
Spike asks if Dawn knows that she's not to be an aunt yet, after all but Buffy tells him that isn't something you leave on a voicemail. They start to have another moment, but it's interrupted by one of the alien crew reporting that Andrew has something.
Spike is miffed at the interruption... and at Andy in general, but Buffy points out she's still missing an arm and there is the whole "I am still in a robot body", so she probably still needs him... for the moment.
Page 09: Andy has traced weak signal to, of all places, Angel Island. The awkward irony is awkward, which only makes Spike a bit more pissy than he already is. Buffy's obvious awkward reaction to anything involving the word 'Angel' makes him march out of the room, pissily.
Page 10: Minutes later, Andrew is seeing to Buffybot's arm for the rescue of Suburb!Buffy. He apologizes to the Slayer for putting her through all this, and admits to her that it was a bad plan from the start.
She's angry about it all, still, mostly because of the pregnancy scare and the fact that she had reached a moment of certainty that always seems beyond her grasp where her personal life is concerned -- and now that certainty was all for nothing.
She's back in the same murky waters when it comes to what she's doing with her life outside of slaying.
Commentary: I'm of two minds about Buffy's struggles. On the one hand, I'd really like her to find her way forward for a change, just because y'know - I like her. But on the other, I also like the continuing exploration of Buffy trying to come to grips with herself as a person with regular person issues that seems so much more difficult than her life as a Slayer.
It's really a continuation of Buffy's life from at least mid-S5, I'd argue. Before that, I believe Buffy sincerely believed she could do both equally well. But, I think, Riley's leaving after telling her she was never really there with him was when this lingering self-doubt really set in about whether she could be a "real person", or if she really was nothing but the Chosen One.
And all of her choices since then when it comes to her life outside of killing monsters seems to suggest that this doubt is nearly crippling to her. She can never seem to get it to work out for her, and she always seems to blame her failure to have a successful life outside of being the Slayer on herself, rather than on circumstances or fate or bad luck or just not meeting the right guy or the myriad life stuff that gets in the way of best laid plans for EVERYone.
I really feel for her. So, I'm torn between liking the exploration and the drama in it, and just wanting her to find a stable partner that she can build a life with in both personal and Slayer lives. Somebody who isn't Angel or Spike ... or Dowling....
Page 11: Buffy accuses Andrew of still trying to impress Warren, this time by playing 'mastermind'. She tells him trying is pretty damned lame. But she can't help but be impressed by all of the attention to detail that he put into her suburb!life and needs to know why he put so much effort in.
Andrew tells her that he wanted to give her the life that she may have chosen for herself if she hadn't had to spend it all trying to keep the world safe. Buffy is touched, and Andy is pleased that they had a moment, but Buffy tells disabuses him of the notion that they're all good.
Page 12: Back with Xan and Robert, they're closing in on Miranda-zompire by following the trail of bodies down an alley.
Dowling apologizes to Xan for showing up at his place drunk. Xan gives Robert pointers on how to hold an axe at the ready.
He also tells Robert that he doesn't miss any of the hunting down of vampires and the finding of bodies.
Page 13: They find their way into a bar, where there has been a slaughter. Robert calls into the station to report it, but by doing so he takes his eyes off the still relevant threat, distracting Xander also. Worse, though, it that Dowling foolishly put the axe down on the bar counter.
Page 14: It's a serious lapse on both their parts, and allows Zomp-Cheung to get on top of them before they're ready.
Xander gets thrown across the room, while Dowling once again freezes up at being confronted with a zompire, and this one wearing the distorted face of somebody he knew.
Page 15: He finally draws back his arm with a stake in his hand, but that's much too slow for the situation. Miranda-pire tackles him and leans in with a growl for a bite with Robert uselessly yelling 'no'.
Xan returns to the fight, but when he swings the retrieved axe at Miranda's head, she swings around and grabs the handle.
The axe is thrown across the bar into a mirrored wall, leaving Xan defenseless!
Page 16: Xander is next to be tackled by the ravening Cheung, but she's distracted before she can kill him by Robert's police issue firing into the side of her neck. The creature's response is to throw Xan right into him, causing another loss of weaponry.
Miranda returns to attacking Xander, easily pinning him against the bar. Robert is able to save him, though, by retrieving a dropped stake and shoving it through the zompire's back.
Page 17: Robert collapses next to Xan, watching the dust clear. Xander asks him if he was right -- which face of Miranda does he see? [OMG -- WHY is being such a DOUCHEHEAD?!]
Meanwhile, on Angel Island, Buffybot is snarking at Spike for their less than subtle arrival. Spike points out that she'd be hard pressed to figure out how to get to the island without the BugShip. He then suggests that she hang back until they know what the story is behind Suburb!Buffy's abduction, which as is usual for her - she gets defensive about.
Page 18: Spike has another storm-off at Buffybot's attitude, so she turns attention back to Andrew. She asks the sorts of questions I've been. Like, who exactly they're looking for if Real-Buffy is inside Buffybot.
Andrew explains that he programmed Suburb!Buffy, but as he kept an eye on her, he saw her developing a personality of her own, and begin to make friends in the neighborhood. Buffy's intrigued/uncomfortable with what her counterpart is like.
Commentary: Okay. So, the human brain is able to be programmed in the Buffyverse? And with nothing more than a set of suctioncups, a wire and some computer tech?
Okay, fine. Why not? After all Ted-Bot was being built in the '50s, so clearly the technical revolution came earlier in the Buffyverse -- which may actually explain the phenomenal amount of internet information online in Sunnydale -- if not the rather dated looking machines. Whatevs.
It still seems a bit cruel of Andrew to program this whole other life for Buffy, when it actually isn't Buffy and when the eventual plan is for Real!Buffy to be moved from Buffybot back into Suburb!Buffy. One would hope that he was planning to move Suburb!Buffy into the Buffybot and let her go on with her life, rather than simply destroying her -- but I have a feeling that sort of forethought hadn't been put into this plan.
Page 19: Andrew isn't able to address Buffy's question about what her counterpart may be like as Spike interrupts their talk to report they should get a move on, searching the island. Buffy agrees and to ensure that they're done before sunrise, she decides they need to split up. She tells the other two that this is strictly recon and that they'll return to this spot to report in.
We follow Spike, where he finds a gas station with a familiar van parked outside of it. Spike, naturally, does not recon-only.
Commentary: Holy crap... what the hell was that "Charlie Brown" expression on Andrew in panel one??
Page 20: While Spike is checking out the van and finding nothing, Andrew is wandering the shoreline and narrating to himself, as is his habit. He starts to have a freak out over realizing that even if he should find the kidnappers, this scenario is sounding a little too much like a horror flick and the "separate" plan is a disaster in the making.
Page 21: With Buffybot, she locates abandoned warehouses and starts searching them, where she finds the necklace that her counterpart was wearing.
She's just wondering where the girl who was wearing it could have gotten to, when she's unexpectedly smashed over the head with a board.
Page 22: You may be thinking that Simone just snuck up on her, but no. It turns out that the Buffybot's attacker is the Slayer's own body: Suburb!Buffy stands over the offline Buffybot. She has the look of hatred on her face.
She tells her offline counterpart that she'd been liberated... words that Simone used on her during her kidnapping. What's more? Suburb!Buffy has gotten some purple highlights in her hair, matching the color shade of Simone....
The Good: I liked how quickly Simone figured out that Buffy wasn't Buffy based solely on her fear of Simone.
I do like Robert's struggles with dealing with zompires, and Miranda's violation by them.
I also liked Buffy and Andrew's interactions -- especially on pages 10 & 11.
The Bad: Well, artwork doesn't affect my scoring but seriously -- that page 19, panel 1 Andrew-face is cartoonish!
Actual Andrew-art from the issue: Seriously, WTH??
Other Thoughts: What the hell is Chambliss and Allie doing to Xander? I do not like this rage.
It also felt like some of Andrew's responses were a bit too overbaked, ignoring his growth of S8 to make him uber-geeky for the joke. Specifically page 20 was really overblown.
The explanation for why Suburb!Buffy has any "life" going on at all seems pretty implausible, even for BTVS - but I do appreciate some stab at explaining why she isn't a mindless shell on Andrew's lab table.
The Score: I'm a bit more involved than I was last issue, and there was some good interactions in there.
3.25 outta 5 stars
Next Up: BTVS, S9, I10