(Trade Paper Back)
Chapter Six: ALARUMS
Created and Written: Joss Whedon
Penciller: Karl Moline
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorists: Dave Stewart & Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Michelle Madsen
Page 01: The issue saw Melaka return to her dumpy apartment, to find it ransacked. On the floor, under a table was Little Loo. She'd been killed. Fray turned to Urkonn and told him she was ready to make some war.
Now, Mel is walking down the street with Loo in her arms. Urkonn is with her. His voiceover tells her that she doesn't want a war. That though she has known violence, and has suffered loss, that she doesn't know anything about actual warfare.
Commentary: A strong point of the series is the artwork - both coloring (except for the purple vampires) and importantly, the penciling. They certainly did a good job on this panel with Little Loo looking as small, vulnerable, and tragically fragile in death as she possibly could.
Page 02: Urkonn goes on in voiceover about the horrors of war and what it does to a being. In the meanwhile, Mel has entered the local tavern, owned by Loo's parents. As the father grieves over his child laid out on a table, her mother punches Mel in the jaw, before bending over in emotional pain.
Commentary: I'm really surprised by my emotional reaction to this - but it is so well drawn, that it's nearly cinematic.
Page 03: Urkonn continues in voiceover, telling her that she will not just be called upon to slay, but to lead. He warns her it won't be easy, as she isn't a respected member of the community. He also tells her that he has a weapon for her to wield. One forged centuries beforehand and lost for hundreds of years (presumably since Buffy disappeared with it, as this is the Scythe).
In the meanwhile, Mel meets with the gathering locals on the street, drawn by the news that Loo has been killed. Her playmate sits curled in a ball in an ally corner, weeping.
Page 04: Mel stands in front of the tavern. In her hand, is the Scythe that I originally learned of through BTVS: S7, but which originates here in Mel's tale.
Page 05: Mel tries to tell the gathered that they're in danger from the Lurks. She tells them that they're organizing, but she receives a surprising response: Doubt and skepticism.
Page 06: The main person speaking out against the Lurks being a danger to them, if they stick together, is a Gambit-clone (see Marvel Comics). I'll just call him Remy.
So, Remy gets up in her face. He yells at her that just because she's gotten herself into a turf war with a group of Lurks doesn't mean she can come in and manipulate the rest of them into fighting her war over some dead cripple... and then he realizes what he's said and is appropriately appalled at himself.
She's asked what she wants of the neighborhood, but right now she's isn't sure, except to be ready to fight when the battle comes.
Page 07: Remy asks her who is planning this massacre of their 'hood, but she glances away guiltily.
Elsewhere in his warren, Harth is inspiring his troops.
Page 08: Harth tells his assembled Lurks that he is going to bring Hell back to them....
Commentary: This is another really nice panel, full of deep reds and blacks.
Page 09: In a hell-dimension, the two Lords responsible for sending Urkonn to Earth discuss Harth, who they are keeping tabs upon. The large, naked fellow riddled with bugs (charming) expresses doubt that a mere vampire can actually open the dimensional walls. However, his companion (a cross between a Brood and a Rat-Bat-Spider-Thing) reminds him that this isn't an ordinary vampire. As we learned already, Harth is a twin to a Slayer and has inherited her instinctual understanding of things and her dream-visions.
Commentary: I can't tell you how pleased I am over this casual mentioning of the Slayer's "understandings". Buffy, in the TV series and less so in the comic book, has always jumped to the right answer when investigating demonic threats, leading many a fan (including All Things Philosophical...) to conjecture that this is a Slayer ability. It was never stated outright, however, that this wasn't just a case of convenient scripting - until now, where it is specifically acknowledged that Buffy and her fellow Slayers have special insight abilities when it comes to the supernatural.
Page 10: Melaka and Urkonn retrace her steps back to the outlet pipe that she was washed out of when she was smashed through the floor of Harth's lair. She is complaining that her fellow citizens wouldn't even listen to her. She also admits that maybe beginning to hit them probably wasn't awfully helpful, to which Urkonn agrees. She tells him that Harth is nearby somewhere and suggests going in after him, but he nixes that idea. He rightfully points out that the tunnel entrances will be guarded and that the dark, cramped spaces will be exactly where the vampires would want her to be.
She hears something from close by with her Slayer-enhanced hearing and rushes off to investigate.
Commentary: This is another fan-hypothesis power that has now been confirmed in canon....
Page 11: Peaking through a wall, she suddenly feels more sure of herself. She pulls her Scythe from the hole through the back of her shirt, using her clothes as a holder for it....
Page 12: ...And smashes through another apartment wall. Inside is two Lurks menacing a bespeckled woman.
Commentary: The vampire are now bluish-tinted grey, which is a far better choice coloring wise than the purple.
Page 13: Mel gets into a down and dirty fight with the Lurks, when she misses a strike at one's heart with the Sycthe handle, while kicking the second in the throat.
Page 14: With a thrust, she stakes both vampires at once and they do the dusting thing, which catches her by surprise. The woman tries to tell Mel something, but she's more concerned that they're probably breathing vampire dust at that moment.
Page 15: She should have listened, as she's tackled back through the wall, complainingly thinking as she goes that Urkonn should have mentioned to her that they'd be in a large pack. Fortunately for her, Urkonn intercedes again.
Commentary: Actually, this is a slight continuity issue: Mel should already know the Lurk habits as she has run into them before enough times to be familiar with them before she meets Urkonn. In addition, her exact thought is, "Lurks travel in packs. Urkonn may have mentioned that."
Except, they don't. Or rather, they haven't been throughout the preceeding five issues. In small groups of a few or loners, but not in packs - which means that Mel should actually be taken by surprise that they've suddenly grouped in so large a force, and further complain bitterly about Harth's influence over them - not joke in a quick-aside about Urkonn's briefing skills.
Page 16: As Urkonn fights, Mel is tackled into the Hudson River, and held under by the 'no need for air, thanks' Lurks.
Page 17: Fortunately, they're in shallow water and she's able to gain her feet. With a deep breath, she uses the Scythe to take care of her tacklers. As she climbs out of the river, she sarcastically asks if Urkonn 'enjoyed the show', but says she's fine, except for wet.
Page 18: Harth gets the news that the Lurks were slaughtered, as Mel continues her campaign.
Page 19: At police headquarters, Erin and her partner are also receiving multiple reports of Lurk-slaughtering by Mel, even though when they show up, there are no bodies to recover. Erin mentions what Mel told her about Icarus and some overarching plan of his. She doesn't mention Harth's involvement. Her partner is more concerned that she "forgot" Mel was under arrest when she visited Erin's apartment. He also insists that the Lurks are just drugged up, and that was why they failed to kill any of them when they were ambushed. He also tells her she's confused when it comes to Mel because of the tales she's been spinning and asks her to tell him what her gut says: "She's lost it," is the answer.
Page 20: In Harth's ritual room/command post, Icarus tells Harth they may have pushed her too far. Harth agrees. He sends Icarus to finish her off, instead of seeing her face when the gateway opens. But, he also warns Icarus that he wants her body when he's done with his task.
Page 21: Back on the streets, Mel stakes a vampire in front of the neighborhood. It dusts away, and she asks them if they understand now that they're up against real monsters. She tells those seeing all of this to spread the word, to tell everyone what is coming for them. But, a voice off panel asks why bother, when "we" can show them.
Page 22: Icarus is standing there in front of her. Shirtless. In tight jeans. (I'm very warped.)
Commentary: He's effing HOT. Yeah, he's still purple, but I've gotten accustomed to it. His tats and muscles are fi-i-i-ine.
Anyway, Mel glares at him with her Scythe. She mentions that her hands aren't even shaking, anymore.
The Good: The momentum of the arc moves rapidly, which is very good. It's also filled with good characterization by Mel, Urkonn, Harth, Icarus, Erin and her partner on the force.
That drawing of Little Loo in Mel's arms is a killer.
I like how we see Mel grow into her Slayer role, getting more and more confident as she goes from page to page.
The Bad: Nada.
The Score: Things continue apace and I'm really loving this story and these characters. I love seeing the Scythe, though it raises interesting questions not addressed on how Urkonn had access to the Slayer weapon. Could Buffy and the other Slayers/Demons have ended up in the realm of these two Lord characters at some distant point in the past? Could the Slayers have been killed there? Was the Scythe a war trophy, or a bargaining chip to ensure their lives in the new realm? After all, new Slayers wouldn't have been called as the old passed away - but these two Lords seemed to know an awful lot not to have gotten some information from the 'horse's mouth', so to speak. It makes me unsure whether I really want to see Buffy's final fate after she passes through that Gate.
This was a very enjoyable one as Harth and Mel work to gather their respective armies. And the last page with Mel about to confront Icarus is the perfect chapter ender: 4.0 out of 5