Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Script: Jim Krueger, Pencils: Cliff Richards, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Executive Producer: The Joss
Cover: Jo Chen
Blurb: Twilight and his goon squad bombed Buffy's Scottish castle, and forced the Slayers to flee their high-tech palace for more modest accommodations. Now they must reorganize and continue their fight against the forces of evil.
Unfortunately for Buffy, and Slayer legions spanning the world, the desire to protect humanity is undermind by the sudden need to hide from it.
Welcome to the new world order.
Page 01: We open on a vampire looking over his shoulder at us. He says 'ow' as a wood stake has penetrated his shoulder, but isn't anywhere near his heart.
Page 02: The girl who had the stake, and missed, is one of the newly called and inexperienced Slayers. She turns on her heel and runs, apologizing profusely over her shoulder and trying to assure the monster that she never wanted to be called anyway. He tells her he won't hurt her, he just wants to suck on her for awhile.
As he comes around one of the ubiquitous dark alley corners, a stake thunks into his chest. He repeats the 'ow', but this time he also dusts away.
The stake belongs to Faith. The inexperienced Slayer, who shouldn't have been out there alone if she hadn't been practicing a bit first, is astonished to find "Buffy" there.
Commentary: I like that the vampire referred to the event in Harmony's issue, when he tries to convince the fleeing newby Slayer that everyone wants to be a vampire nowadays.
Page 03: Faith turns to Giles and complains that newbie is calling her names for that Buffy reference. The girl asks if they're there to train her. We find out that this young lady bailed on her squad because they weren't actually doing anything.
The threesome (ew, not like that!) are surprised by another vampire who emerges from the dark behind the newbie - she spins reflexively and stakes the vampire in one try.
Unfortunately, she didn't learn the first rule of vampire ashing... keep your mouth closed during a dusting in process....
Commentary: I'll note though, that despite being inexperienced, at least she avoided another common mistake. One that I believe even Buffy and Faith have made... she's actually carrying more than one stake. +1 point to her, I say.
Page 04: The newbie is impressed with what she's done and is all grins. She tells them that she guesses she isn't ready to run off to Slayer Sanctuary, yet.
This term intrigues Giles.
The newbie, named Courtney, tells Faith she's heard all about her too, as well as Buffy. Faith gives her a dry, "Yay. Let's bond."
Faith asks for more about this 'sanctuary' where Slayers can stop being Chosen, if they want.
Commentary: I'm not crazy about the drawing for Faith's face, but I do like the writing so far.
Page 05: Giles decides that their next mission must be to find this alleged sanctuary that he and Faith have not heard of until now. Cort assures them that it's real and that many other Slayers have already gone.
Commentary: The fact that Giles and Faith have never heard of any such place should make Cort at least uneasy, but no. She's just cheery that she knows something they don't.
On a train to a small village in some European mountain-y location, Giles suggests that seeing Faith may draw some of the Slayers who are hiding to come back with them. Faith kiboshes any plan to try to convince them of anything. She's there to check out the situation, not on a recruiting mission.
Page 06: On the outskirts of Hanselstadt, as the train approaches the town, Giles is disturbed to see roving gangs of vampires. He asks why they're all there, rather than attacking. Cort tells him that they're not allowed to enter Hanselstadt, though how she has so many details about all of this, I'm suspicious of.
Cort takes Giles' side in his and Faith's discussion and tells the elder Slayer that she inspired her to keep fighting back in the alley. Maybe she could do the same for the others that had considered sitting out of the war against evil.
Commentary: I have an issue here with the writing and the bounding-around we're doing without a strong sense of place being established. I'd assumed that Faith and Giles were still in America when they met Courtney, simply because there is nothing in the scenes or the voices to suggest another location. But, the name of the town and its architecture suggests that they may or may not have left America at some point, perhaps for Austria? It's impossible to say because we don't get any inflections or hints of spelling from any of the townspeople's dialog that would point to this. We could still be in rural America - perhaps in the Rockies or the Smokies - but again, there is no hint of a local dialect to help us and no 'you are here' blurb to help us determine where Giles and Faith are wandering these days. I'd almost call this a sly shout-out to Hammer Films. When we reach Hanselstadt, there is something very Hammer-sets about the town and its people, but it isn't defined enough to come off as a deliberately clever homage. So, instead we're just left with no way to know where we started or where we end up. This seems like bad writing to me, as establishing the scene would seem to be a very basic beginning. Am I letting this detail bother me too much?
Page 07: In the Slayer protected town, Giles is surprised and happy to find an old Watchers comrade had also survived the Bringers. Duncan Fillworthe welcomes his visitors and escorts them to a large dinner.
It isn't long however, before Giles starts to wonder if Hanselstadt is as safe as it seems. Faith, with a side look of suspicion wonders where the other Slayers are located, as there is a decided lack of them at dinner. In fact, we quickly notice that Faith and Cort are the only young people at dinner.
Page 08: Duncan grins widely at Faith and tells her he'll admit that he wanted to see what their intentions were before he allowed them to see the others. Something in his demeanor is off and Giles shares a "take off my glasses" look with Faith. Rupert asks of his friend what will happen if some of the Slayer army in town decide to travel with them back to the bigger fight, but Duncan blows any concern of this off. He tells them he doesn't understand why they want to fight any longer for a humanity that has turned its back on them and doesn't seem to want to be saved anymore.
Faith tells him she recognizes the feeling. She tells him that she is starting to feel like she's home... before adding that it was a home she ran away from as soon as possible.
An old lady chooses to intervene by telling Faith that she thinks it's time for her to meet the other Slayers in town. Giles sends Cort with her.
Commentary: I like these panels, because if you ignore the dialog and just look at all of the facial expressions of the townspeople you can see they're shady. And I love the hooded glances we keep seeing between Giles and Faith. Not only are they already aware that something here stinks, but they're able to communicate and confirm that they're both on the same page with just looks in each others' directions. I think it was a huge mistake of S8 to not have more of a divided book, with the majority of the story going to Buffy (of course, it is her title) but with a series of vignettes keeping tabs on Faith working closely with Giles. It was a real missed opportunity (which will probably end up being a flashback 8-issue $7/issue limited series at some point that I won't buy).
Page 09: As the severe-looking old woman leads Faith and Cort toward the town library (Faith comments on the Watcher/Slayer library dynamic), Faith points out that they've seen no children. The old woman tells her it's part of the reason they're so grateful for the Slayers, without actually telling them where their kids are.
As they head up the steps, Faith turns to Courtney, "This really obvious trap feels like a trap."
Commentary: I really like this line. I know it's simple, but I like when the heroes comment on how pathetically transparent a villain's attempt at trickery is.
Cort asks her what they're going to do....
Page 10: Now, if this were Buffy, she probably would have swept the old lady's feet out from under her and then threatened her for information. Or she may have grabbed her and forced her to lead the way into her own trap.
Faith says, 'screw it', and walks into it, confident that her Slayerhood will handle whatever the old biddies have planned.
Faith gets a look of unpleasant shock. Awaiting her is a vampire that she is familiar with from somewhere.....
Page 11: We see a younger looking Faith, obviously in a flashback, confronting a trio of vampires very shortly after she was called. She kills two of the three, but that third vampire gets away from her.
Page 12: The Third berates Faith for not following after him. He's already reminded her of all of the people he's killed and sired during the intervening years and how many they've killed and sired. Now, he calls her lazy and a failure.
Faith shouts at him to shut up within the alley that she's now in and starts to engage him in fisticuffs.
Meanwhile, Cort is watching Faith throwing punches and leap-kicks at empty air in the library.
Courtney tries to shout some sense into Faith, while behind the newbie Slayer we see a mass of tentacles coming from the darkness. Whatever the thing is, note the skeleton ribcage and a few skulls being dragged on the floor with it. That was a nice touch.
Page 13: While Faith is fighting with a delusion and the demon mass is creeping up on Cort, Giles is trying to convince Duncan that his situation is tenuous at best. He reminds him that the vampires are growing in strength and waiting to surge through town.
Duncan, like all megalomaniacs, can't stop from talking. He lays out to Giles that there is a demon in the town. It fed on the children, using their fears and regrets and need, before he arrived in the town.
Page 14: Back in the library, we see what had probably happened to all of the young people who have vanished as Faith's fear of and regret over The Third wins. In her delusion she's bitten, while in the real world her body falls to the floor unconscious or dead.
Meanwhile, a bit late, Cort realizes she isn't alone and spins around to find....
Page 15: The mass of tentacles-thing and the skeleton bones littering the floor.
But just as she's yelling for Faith's help, she suddenly "realizes" that it isn't a monster, but her parents' loving arms. We realize that Cort also came from a broken home. Her parents had obviously spent a great deal of time fighting with one another. Now, however, they've put that all aside for her sake.
She smiles with happiness as her "father" wraps his arms around her.
Page 16: Duncan informs Giles that the vampire is basically unsatisfied need incarnate. And, that is why they won't invade the town. The demon feeds on their needs and they know that. They know it would lead to their destruction. Of course, the problem with primal needs is that someone needs to supply such and the town had ran out of their children some time ago.
Page 17: Giles realizes, a bit late, that Duncan set up the "Slayer Sanctuary" as a way to draw in the inexperienced Slayers. Their need to be special, or to be who they were, made them perfect for the demon's needs and it in turn drives the vampires away.
But Rupert realizes this is less about saving the town for Fillworthe, than about vengeance over the Slayers becoming independent from the Council. Duncan tries to convince Giles by reminding him of what Buffy did to him by getting Jenny killed because she ignored his advice and put her love for a vampire over his council. As far as Duncan is concerned, the Slayers he's entrapped are doing something good, and being punished for the line turning away from the Watchers.
Page 18: But Duncan had another reason for reminding Giles of Jenny's murder... his regret. As Giles rushes to save Faith and Cort, Duncan is informing the town's elite that his regret will allow the demon to feed on him as well. But, just in case he proves a bit stronger willed than the others, he also orders his crossbow brought to him....
In the meanwhile, Giles busts into the library, shouting for Faith only to be confronted by the tentacled demon.
Page 19: Giles finds Courtney well embraced by the slime dripping demon, lost in her delusion about her parents. He tries to pry her loose, but Duncan is close behind him. He orders Giles at crossbow point to let the girl go. He again tries with the whole "sacrifice a few disillusioned Slayers for the town's greater good" argument, but naturally this fails with Rupert. He tells Duncan he'll regret what he's done.
Commentary: And, of course, the entire town's reasoning is deeply faulty. We don't know how often the demon needs to feed, exactly, but they've all already chosen to sacrifice their children rather than abandon the town. Now, they're forced to import new young people to feed to it... just how long do they think this is teneble? What happens if they can't feed the demon a sacrifice? And what happens if the demon gets bored and wanders away? It isn't restrained any. The vampires don't appear to be able or willing to attack the train into town, so it would have been an easy thing to pack up and get the hell out, so why do any of this?! And, how long did these people think they could maintain some sort of status quo?
Page 20: Duncan tells Rupert that he regrets nothing, which is why he's still alive.
Fortunately for Giles, Faith has awoken from her experience and dives in to tackle Duncan into the creature's grip. At first he shouts for Rupert to help his fellow Watcher, but then he makes the fatal mistake of telling Rupert that he's sorry... before realizing that he just expressed a regret... which allows the creature to begin feeding on him.
He tries to take it back, but the demon starts shoveling him into its gullet.
Commentary: No, it doesn't make sense that Duncan is so quickly consumed on first glance, while Cort was allowed to hang out in the demon's grip on and on. There are a few explanations I could offer that may make sense. One is that Duncan was trying to repress his feelings of regret, to make him immune to the monster's hunger. Perhaps the demon sensed it was going to lose a meal, so quickly ate him before he could extract himself by losing its interest in him.
It's also possible that Courtney's 'need' was less intoxicating to the demon than Duncan's 'regret'. It could have been allowing Cort's delusion to play out until it twisted into something more to its liking and took a more painful turn. She seems much too happy in her hallucination, so maybe she tasted bad at the moment.
Finally, it's possible that her youth made her taste better than old, bitter Duncan. Maybe it was savoring her, while Duncan just wasn't that 'sweet'.
Page 21: With Duncan paying the price for his treachery, Faith grabs up his crossbow. He'd already pulled the trigger, so it isn't armed, but it still makes a nice bludgeon.
Using the 'arms' of the crossbow, Faith slashes open the 'octobitch'. The wound causes some sort of mystic flame to engulf the demon and it explodes into bits.
Commentary: This has to be a mystical thing, because no one else burns up and the explosion that is big enough to be seen by the vampires outside of town doesn't blow the library to smithereens.
Page 22: As mentioned, the mystical blow-up was seen by the vampires who immediately intuit that their feared demon nemesis isn't anymore.
Faith, Cort and Giles free the Slayers who weren't fed on yet from somewhere (I guess in the library, maybe like Courtney - lost in a delusion and being slowly fed on... this is extremely vague - they're just suddenly there in a pique of rushed writing). The townspeople fear that the vampires are now going to overrun them.
One of the rescued Slayers yell at them that they deserve to die, but Faith steps in. She tells 'em that the Slayers protect people, even the crappy ones. She tells the townspeople that if they want to live now, they're going to have to fight with them, as the vampires close in from all sides.
Cort nervously tells Faith that she hasn't been trained, but Faith grins and tells her there is just one lesson -- aim for the heart....
We leave just before the big battle of Hanselstadt.
The Good: The Giles/Faith pair in the field is an awesome idea.
Faith being mistaken for Buffy and her response was pretty funny.
"The town with a dreadful secret" is a well worn trope and it's handled well here... until you really think about it, anyway.
I like the writing for Faith throughout.
I really liked the color palette of this issue - the warm, golden tones of the townspeople scenes, that nevertheless denoted menace and the greenish-flashback scenes. I especially liked the decayed, greenish look of Faith's flashback antagonists.
The Bad: I'm not crazy about the way Faith is drawn.
Other Thoughts: There were also storytelling problems with the way the demon was handled, the way the town could go on functioning with no objections to having all of the kids killed off, why Duncan was eaten up immediately, while Cort was just cuddled... I shouldn't have to fill in the blanks this much to make the plot sensible. Also, new Slayer Courtney was a bore. Duncan could have been a more nuanced character and may have been worthy as a returning threat in an "anti-Giles" way, but he was easily dispatched, which sort of made his large part in the issue a wasted potential. I think this story could have been much better as two issues, to allow the mystery to more slowly unfold in a hazy, Lovecraft-type way, but we got what we got - a one issue generic knockoff. Giles and Faith's team-up deserved more than this.
The Score: Despite my personal feelings that this story was short changed, dealing with what we have, it wasn't a bad tale. The characters outside of Giles, Faith and Duncan were entirely generic, including the personality-less demon. Even Faith's flashback within her delusion had a feeling of rote about it. The tale would have been far improved by some length and development, but what we got was okay.
3.25 out of 5
Note: We're without pictures of the issue art, due to continued severe problems with uploading to LJ. I'll correct this as soon as I am able - FIXED