Buffy the Vampire Slayer
"Guarded, Part I"
Script: Andrew Chambliss, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Nathan Massengill, Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt (Comicraft), Cover: Phil Noto
Blurb: Buffy (newly restored to her very own human body after discovering that she was actually a ROBOT) was back to patrolling the dark streets of San Francisco when fellow Slayer and lone ranger Kennedy approached her with a compelling job prospect.
Page 01: We open with a streetscape and lots of rain. A nearby rooftop has a group of paramilitarily-dressed (yeah, I knew that spell check wasn't going to like that one) young women keeping track of a car approaching a hotel.
They keep tabs on a specific man as he makes his way across the lobby and to a set of elevators. These would be Slayers.
A voiceover (from Buffy) lets us know that since the Seed's destruction there have been hundreds of Slayers out there who used to be part of an army, now suddenly without purpose in a world that seemingly didn't need them anymore.
Commentary: *sigh* EXCEPT that EVIL HASN'T GONE ANYWHERE! They are not purposeless! They haven't been since the Seed's destruction, because there are still plenty of demons and zompires in every issue that need to be destroyed!
Page 02: Buffy points out to us that Slayers she used to give orders to, she's now taking orders from, as Kennedy has taken the Slayers corporate.
She is waiting in the elevator, and introduces herself to Mr. Goldberg. He's the man the Slayers have been tracking, and she is to be his bodyguard for the evening.
Commentary: Which just adds to my observations that I can't understand the continued resentment of the Slayers that Buffy destroyed the Seed. It just doesn't make sense to me. Their lives are easier now! They still have all of their powers, but now instead of having to fight in a giant, seemingly unending war of attrition, they get to work jobs for their unique skill sets.
Willow and the Mystics have a beef against Buffy, but the other Slayers [except for the out and out psychos like Simone] really have nothing to bitch about.
Page 03: Buffy assures Mr. Goldberg that she can handle the assignment, despite her shortness of stature and retreats to her connecting room. Kenn calls in to Buffy to report a suspicious character on the same floor as their client. Buffy spots a demon ill-fittingly dressed as a bellhop.
Page 04: Kennedy reports back that the demon isn't fitting the profile, but Buffy's all "He's big, spiny and in a bad disguise -- I'm on it" and when Kenn reports that the demon is not their primary concern, she turns off her ear bud and continues to hunt him down.
Page 05: She tackles our bellhop-demon, but it turns out he really is a bellhop. As he complains about having to work three jobs to make ends meet since magic did the big poof, and Buffy's all apologetic for smashing him through a door, her panic alarm goes off from her client.
Page 06: As Buffy is rushing back to her client's room, her client is frantically pushing on his panic button as the maid has ordered him to hand over his briefcase at gunpoint.
Buffy rushes into the room, but too late to stop the maid from firing. She uses her Slayer speed and agility to get in front of the shot... but nothing happens. Buffy is shocked, but decidedly un-shot.
Page 07: We see Buffy's image frozen on a monitor, looking really foolish. Kennedy asks her if she'd like to watch it again.
It turns out that this had been an unannounced training exercise on Buffy, as the new recruit, and she failed spectacularly
by thinking as a Slayer, instead of as a bodyguard.
Buffy has to swallow her pride and apologize to her "client" and the "bellhop" both of which were actors. She tells Kenn that she gets that she put the client at risk by leaving her post to go demon hunting, but she's a bit miffed at blanks being in the gun (the "BANG", after all - she has personal experience with getting shot and losing a friend to a gun) and that Kennedy felt the need to test her in the first place.
Commentary: Don't argue that last point, Buffy. You just miserably failed your assignment. So yes, Kennedy did the right thing by setting you up to see if you'd follow orders. I'll give you the sympathy points for the gunfire though. Kennedy must know about Tara's fate in Sunnydale so it does seem a bit pushy to include bullets - even blanks - in the test.
Page 08: As Kenn walks and talks, she explains that the very point about bodyguard vs. Slayer. She tells Buffy that the maid was in a really bad outfit and she didn't pick up on it because seeing a refugee from the dimension next door grabbed all of her attention. She goes on to explain that as a bodyguard, the client needs to be protected from a myriad of threats, and as the gun-toting maid acted, they're not all demons.
She tells Buffy that she is going on an escort assignment the following day and Buffy is going to be her backup, so she needs to study up on bodyguard 101 that evening.
Page 09: Kennedy points out that there are a lot of Slayers out there who don't have the opportunities that Kenn is creating for them because of lack of education, while they were out saving the world... or doing whatever it is that they did to it.
Buffy gives her a hard look over the Seed comment.
Commentary: So, I'm not going to bitch again about everyone's being on Buffy's case over destroying The Seed this time. I'm going to mention it though, because I think you could reasonably assume that I'd be on Kennedy's case over it and I want to explain why I'll give her a pass. Her bitterness, while not justified, is understandable because the loss of magic led directly to Willow and her breaking up. Now, I'd be the first one to suggest that maybe that just meant that she and Wills weren't a solid couple to begin with [but not to Kenn's face] and that it was more Willow's fault that she pulled away from Kennedy rather than got closer to her through this situation, but be that as it may, I can understand Kennedy casting blame Buffy's way for how everything went down.
She's, at least, making the best of things and getting on with using her abilities in new ways instead of constantly moping and casting not-subtle side comments at Buffy over it (excepting this one instance). And, she is continuing to prove my point, despite her attempt to justify some Slayers' bitterness, that they still have valuable super skills and should all shut the fuck up with their whining and embrace the 'not fighting for their lives everyday' aspects.
Page 10: Later that night, Buffy wanders into the cafeteria for some coffee... or cocoa... whatever, from the vending machine.
Koh surprises her and apologizes for lurking on her first, as he wanted to make sure there wouldn't be an instant attack. Fighting her isn't why he is there. Buffy's cool and explains that "Spike told me all about your underworld bromance".
Which is hilarious.
She does wonder where he's been though, as she was under the impression he may be joining the Scooby Gang.
Page 11: Unsurprisingly, he doesn't know what that term means. Buffy just asks him what the what is. He's come to her for help in finding the demon that imprisoned him before the Seed business set him free. He's unable to locate who was responsible himself and his Code requires that he have vengeance in order to move on.
Buffy's generally sympathetic, but explains she's on a Slaycation in her attempt to build a life outside of demons.
Commentary: And when I read that, I had to cringe. We all know that ANYtime Buffy tries to lead a not-Slayer-like lifestyle it goes disastrously wrong. You'd think she'd realize by now that she is who she is and she's doing what Fate would have her do. I mean, don't get me wrong, I can understand her desires to be something else -- but after the first half-dozen times, you have to just accept that the Universe is against your idea most vigorously and give it up.
Besides which, I don't understand why she won't bargain with the SFPD for a training position of their officers.
Page 12: Koh is a bit miffed at Buffy's attitude over her trying to profit from having one of the few sources of mystic powers not affected by the Seed's absence. She takes affront to that, and tells him that just like him, she's just trying to pull her life together.
Her internal dialog lets us know that she's not even sure that she can have a regular job.
Page 13: Buffy goes to the dorm room, but finds that instead of going to sleep, she needs to be out patrolling.
Which is what she's preparing to do when Kenn interrupts her.
Page 14: Kennedy tells Buffy they need to get ready to meet their client, but Buffy accuses her of setting her up on another training run. Kenn assures her that this time the assignment is real.
Buffy complains about the zompires still being out there and multiplying and goes to leave anyway, but Kenn calls after her that if she chooses patrol over guard duty, she can consider herself fired.
Page 15: Kenn follows Buffy out, telling her that a lot of the other girls didn't want her to hire Buffy on. But, Kennedy wanted to work with her. Buffy is puzzled as Kennedy blamed her for Willow's actions, but Kenn tells her that Willow's leaving her turned out for the best as it made her realize she couldn't live like a Slayer anymore. She said it provided the impetus to provide an actual future for herself, rather than focusing on the next battle.
Buffy tells her that the Slayer responsibility isn't over - the zompires are proof of that. But Kenn's response is that humanity embraced the vampires with open arms, and now they're going to have to figure out how to deal without running to the nearest Slayer to save them.
Page 16: Kenn tells Buffy that she's one of the strongest girls she's known and that the people they're going to protect need them just as badly as random victims being chased by beings with unpronouncable names. Buffy's unconvinced. She tells Kenn that she can't just turn off being out there as a Slayer, like Kenn apparently has.
Kennedy accuses Buffy of being afraid to try. She reasons that all Buffy has known is having a Grand Destiny and now she doesn't want to admit that the world can function just fine without her. Buffy storms off.
Commentary: I really like this speech by Kennedy about Buffy's being unable to deal with the fact that her Big Purpose is complete. It's something that I could certainly agree with, if I didn't know better - seeing as a comic about Buffy doing small things would be largely boring. But, I like the idea of Buffy having to deal with life after she's no longer called on to Save The World.
Which is largely what she's trying to do actually with this season -- the Big Fight is over, and now she's left with doing things that anyone can do -- including fighting the zompires, really. It's an interesting dynamic that Kenn's brought into focus for me or, uhm, the writers.
But, as per above -- Destiny isn't done with Buffy, so Kenn's point is moot.
Page 17: Having left Kenn behind, Buffy is in the rain on the edge of a building and admitting that she might be a little afraid of not having something larger than herself forcing her to focus on larger-than-real-life stuff.
She hears a scream from an alley, and runs off for a save... and to make a difference.
Page 18: But, it turns out that Buffy doesn't make the big save. A regular uniformed cop out on patrol shoves a stake into the zompire, saving the would-be victim. He's soon joined by Dowling, who instructs the uniform to get her to the local hospital for a check and then join him back at the precinct for paperwork on the incident.
As we'll remember - Dowling has been placed in charge of the anti-zompire squad within the SFPD, and they're apparently off to a good start.
Page 19: Buffy joins Dowling to report that his officer nabbed the zompire out from under her. He tells her about the new task force for dealing with the monsters. She also expresses her sympathy for Cheung, which she'd heard about through Xander.
Page 20: Buffy's a bit take aback by regular officers out on zompire patrols, but Dowling tells her that being feral, the zomps have recognizable patterns. Once you know how they'll behave, they're easier to take down individually.
This leaves Buffy a bit chagrined that maybe she doesn't really have to take the zompire menace on her own shoulders as the Slayer, like she was trying to convince herself. Dowling tells her that they may still need her in the future, but even she has to have a night off once in awhile.
Page 21: This leads Buffy back to Kennedy's outfit. Kennedy accepts her back without busting her chops, and informs her about their client and the mission profile for his security. The client is a young internet hotshot named Theo Daniels.
Page 22: Theo's first question on getting off his private jet is to assure himself that they're both Slayers. Kenn confirms, but also assures him that they're trained to provide protection in any scenario, including those that are not demon or vampire-centric.
But, Theo has a surprise for her and Buffy. He's hired them specifically because they've experience with the supernatural. It turns out that a Hell Dimension Organization is trying to kill him for reasons not yet specified.
That organization goes by the name of... Wolfram & Hart!
The Good: I really liked Buffy's failure of her first test scenario because she can't stop thinking like a Slayer, even when Kennedy is yelling in her ear that her threat isn't demonic. It's especially hilarious when Kennedy pauses the video feedback on Buffy's looking shocked that she hasn't been shot (again) and then asking her if she'd like to watch it again.
I also like the idea of the demons having to get mundane jobs, like everyone else and some of them putting their inhuman looks to good use by becoming actors.
I really like Kennedy's plan to take the Slayers and give them a new use for their abilities, instead of moping around or turning criminal like the never-stable, Simone.
I really liked Kennedy accusing Buffy of being afraid because she's suddenly not Destiny-girl, and Buffy's at least being unsure if she isn't right.
The Bad: Nuthin'
Other Thoughts: I'm a bit unsure about the W & H involvement. Didn't we see them rushing off-planet in the last Spike series? I'll wait to see what role they're going to play, and I do like mixing and matching villains between AtS and BTVS but W&H... still?
I also like Koh, so I hope his story line will be interesting [like Buffy's saying "no thanks" is going to write him out of the series...], and I'd like to see him as a recurring character in the Scooby-orbit.
Finally, I found it interesting to see Buffy having to take orders from a fellow Slayer instead of issuing them. Especially when that Slayer is someone that Buffy was never close to.
The Score: I liked this one. It does have the "first issue of new arc" feel, in that nothing really dramatic happens but the pacing feels right and I like the character interactions between Kennedy and Buffy and between Buffy and Koh.
3.75 out of 5 stars
Next Review: Angel & Faith, Season not-9-but-7, Issue 10