Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 02
‘New Rules’, part 2
Script: Christos Gage, Artwork: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Lettering: Richard Starkings & (Comicraft’s) Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: After saving the world from Slayer-turned-supervampire Simone and restoring magic and the life of her magically created sister Dawn, Buffy is in the best place she’s ever been. There is a little weirdness going on, with the Slayer handbook’s pages suddenly being blank… But she’s back together with Willow, Xander, Spike, and Giles doing what she was meant to do as the chosen one: slay vampires.
Page 01: We open with Buffy’s team and Deepscan combining their forces to face off against a new breed of vampires – ones who aren’t the mindless zompires anymore and more pressing at the moment also are showing the array of vampire powers once only possessed by a few, such as the legendary Dracula.
Commentary: A gun Kennedy? Please tell me there are some magic/wooden bullets in that thing.
Page 02: Xan is hurling Molotov cocktails, while Giles is casting spellworks. Xan points out that he still sounds rather Giles-y despite the squeaky voice and signs of acne.
Meanwhile, Kennedy is standing side by side with her ex. That high powered gun of hers is powerful enough to decapitate the vampire foes but for extra measure she’s using silver bullets – because why not?
She tells Willow that she’s glad that she got her magic back, while Willow tells her she’s glad that Kenn is doing so well with her agency. They share smiles and then Kenn tells her that she and Willow acting all mature together is freaking her out and asks if they can get back to the slaying. Willow grins a hearty yes.
Commentary: I have to say that I wasn’t expecting to care this much, but I really liked that Kenn and Willow could fight at one another’s side like this and not be angsty or bitter/guilty about their breaking up.
Page 03: In the shadow of the store’s awning, Dawn tries to use her crossbow but her foe turns into bees. Spike takes a swig of alcohol. Dawnie tells Spike that things aren’t that bad, but then he spit the alcohol at the bee cloud and lights it on fire. Dawn retracts her comment.
Out front, Vicki the Vampire skids a car on its side between the gang and her vampires. Faith mentions to Spike that she’s really strong and teases him about not being able to do that.
He sniffs that he finds such naked pleas for attention vulgar, which amuses Faith.
Commentary: The lack of any stories where Faith and Spike take a road trip is another one of those things that I don’t understand not happening at some point. In fact, if Faith and Giles had a series, Spike should totally muscle into their assignment and then spend the entire thing snarking and arguing with them.
And it should take place right after Spike gets tired of waiting for Buffy and leaves her, so that Faith can constantly prod his sore spot over it, to Rupert’s constant irritation and consternation. It would be a comedy arc with some horror overtones, but mostly stay light hearted and nearly farcical.
C’MON DARK HORSE – MAKE THIS HAPPEN AS A FLASHBACK SIX-ISSUE SERIES.
Page 04: Vicki yells for a retreat for her troops, to Buffy’s complaint about her running out just because things are going the Slayer-team’s way. Vicki tells Buffy that she’s just lucky they’re still figuring out what the new order means, but that soon they’ll have adapted while she’s still stuck with a “nostalgia act”.
Page 05: With Vicki in retreat, Buffy takes a moment to complain that she thinks she’s just been called old.
But there’s no time for that, because GILES!
Dawn throws her arms around him in a big hug, while Xander tousles his hair and calls him cute. Willow is just plain impressed that Angel actually pulled it off.
Rupert offers to Buffy that he’d like to stay, if she’ll have him in his current state. Naturally, that’s not even a real question but Buffy does tell him that if he uses the word “if” in this context again, she’ll give him a spanking. In the meantime, Xander continues patting his head.
Rupert offers that he can see they’re all going to continue to have fun at his expense, but he’s happily grinning anyway.
Page 06: Buffy takes this opportunity to thank Faith for what she’s done for her with both showing up and returning Giles. She, very pointedly I have to think, doesn’t mention Angel the way Willow did.
Rupert also talks to Faith to ensure that she’s alright with following the Deepscan path rather than to stay on with Buffy’s team. Faith admits she’s not sure she can do the corporate employee thing, but offers that she’s learned in London that only you can make you happy and she knows that if she doesn’t like the contract bodyguard gig, she’ll find something else. She then leaves with Kennedy, which will be picked up on in Angel & Faith, #2 [where I think they handled the Rupert/Faith separation better].
Page 07: With Faith, Kennedy and her team departing, Koh now arrives. Giles is immediately fascinated with meeting a Nitobe Demon in person and Buffy credits Eldre Koh with getting them out of the Deeper Well alive. She tells him that any debt he may have owed her has long since been paid in full and offers any help she can to him in future.
He still only needs one thing from her – finding the name of the traitor who had framed him for the murder of his own family and arranged his imprisonment. Buffy realizes that Illyria had those answers, but she didn’t survive Severin’s detonation and the birth of The New Seed. She obviously feels responsible for getting his only solid link to his answers killed on him.
But Koh blows it off. He tells Buffy that if she thinks an Old One dies so easily, she clearly doesn’t understand them.
Commentary: I’m a bit “meh” about this hint that they’ve only temporarily placed Illyria out to pasture. As you know, if this isn’t your first review with me, I have a real thing against killing off characters if you don’t mean it. I don’t like ‘death is cheap’, but you can understand playing it for drama in the case of major title characters a few times throughout the life of their stories [A FEW TIMES, ‘SUPERNATURAL’!], but it starts feeling more and more cheap and pointless when you start dragging side characters into it.
On the other hand, since we’ve well established Illyria as an Old One I’m just a lot less concerned about her having a death exemption as a part of her very nature. I don’t want to see it overused, of course, but I’m not annoyed at finding out that we may see her again after all, either. I’ve far less qualms about that than I did with Spike’s temporary death in Sunnydale or Giles’ return.
On a different note, just let me say that I love Rebekah’s attention to detail in constantly including Buffy’s bite wound on her arm in her panels. She’s still got a bloody sleeve and a clear tear in her jacket.
Page 08: With a lull in the dramatic goodbyes, Andrew brings up the very real question of how these vampires were doing things that vampires haven’t been able to do previously. Willow confirms that she didn’t sense outside magic at play, so this isn’t the same as when the Japanese vampires stole Dracula’s powers. Xan also points out that Dracula’s powers are weakened during daylight, whereas their latest foes weren’t being slowed down at all by the sunny day.
Anaheed, returning with Billy and Devon says she saw the retreating vampires but didn’t realize that it what they were.
Andrew then remembers that Billy had a vision of the First Slayer around the same time that Buffy’s strike team would’ve been creating the New Seed and wonders if that could explain a basic rule change.
At this, Rupert butts in to poo-poo that a boy could be a genuine Slayer and as such, Billy couldn’t possibly have communed with anything Slayer-related. Devon takes immediate offense on Billy’s behalf to Giles’ imperious tone and tells him he says that Billy broke the old mold. He then wonders just who the heck “the kid” is, anyway.
Commentary: I have to say, that I was immediately on Andrew, Billy and Devon’s side here. Giles really did come off as a jerk, and talking down to Andrew in a way that I found unnecessarily contemptuous.
Page 09: With Giles having introduced himself, Devon backtracks quickly. But Buffy stands up for Billy and describes that he did report seeing The Primitive Slayer. Rupert quickly dismisses this as ‘delusional, wishful thinking’ until Billy tells him that he’d never heard of the First Slayer until after his vision.
This gets Giles wondering and he calls for the Vampyr book he’d left for Buffy. He wants to take a look and see if there is any precedent for a male having a connection with the Slayers [not until the future, Giles, not until the future – except for the now-ness of this all… [stupid timey-whimey hijinks]] but Buffy has to tell him that they’d found all of the pages blank after their return from the Deeper Well.
This comes as a bit of a surprise to Giles, since when he opens it himself, he can see that some of the pages aren’t blank anymore.
Commentary: Wow, Giles. Way to be dismissive, arrogant and a bit of a tool all in the space of 30 seconds. Now I hope you are 100% wrong, but so maybe you’ll feel a need to apologize for being a prat.
On the other end, I’m still refusing to call Billy a Slayer for the reasons Giles mentioned. It’s far too “make Xander a Slayer” fanfic for me.
Page 10: Later, Billy, Devon and Anaheed have stayed behind ‘for cleanup’ and are watching the rest of our heroes take off on one of Kennedy’s corporate jets back to San Fran, presumably.
Aboard the jet, Giles is still pondering the New Vampyr book. He tells Buffy that he recognizes the same Slayer history has been recorded, but that there are additions made.
Among these, is that apparently the Slayer Force has been given more Agency to choose who it believes is worthy, but doesn’t mention criteria. Although Rupert still believes Billy cannot be considered a true Slayer, he does concede that the Slayer Spirit Force clearly has accepted him as an ally.
More disturbing though, is that the book is listing the new vampires’ abilities as if they’ve always been an established fact.
Commentary: The only thing I’m going to point out here is how quickly the entire Santa Rosita issue has been shoved aside. This just feels really wrong. One Slayer, one monster hunter and one semi-watcher are going to handle “clean up” in a town that has a power base of new vampires?
Uh, couldn’t we have gotten a line mentioning turning over the Vicki problem to Vi or Rona to follow up on, rather than just… “oh well… good luck bitches!” and flying away? That was just incredibly clumsy writing.
Page 11: Buffy jokes that her procrastination paid off, as if she’d read the Vampyr book when Giles had wanted her to, it would’ve totally been a waste of time in retrospect.
Rupert, alas, is still thinking on the new wrinkle and his thoughts aren't leading to a joking mannerism. He suggests that the ‘new rules’ are a little too suspiciously favoring the bad guys suggesting that this isn’t just some random, magical phenomena but that someone is directing the way magic is reestablishing itself.
And they need to find out who….
Page 12: Sometime later at Dawn and Xander’s apartment, everyone is peppering Giles with questions and requests for help. He’s looking particularly grumpy.
Without warning, he shouts at everyone to stop. He goes on to tell them that although it felt comforting to resume his ‘father figure’ mentor role for him as well as them, they cannot look to him to continue with that role.
Page 13: Giles goes on to say that the changes in him aren’t just cosmetic. Although he remembers his life from before, he really is a hormone-addled adolescent and he cannot make decisions for them all as if they are still children who needs somebody to tell them what to do. Rupert has to admit that he can’t be what he was as long as he’s still going through a repeat of his pre-teen years.
This leaves the gang to realize the full implications of Giles being back in his new, younger incarnation. They’re just going to have to continue making decisions for themselves.
Willow explains that she could still try a spell that she was demanding Giles cast with her to trace the manipulation of the energy used to give the vampires their new powers. The problem is she’ll need a new vampire who isn’t dusted, or shape shifting all over the place.
Spike suggests Buffy contact Dowling and his S.F.P.D. vampire task force to see if they have something that would fit the bill in their custody. Buffy realizes with horror that she hadn’t thought of Dowling and the last time she’d seen him , he’d been hurt during a Slay-date and was in the hospital.
Commentary: I’ve really liked the callbacks and follow ups on last season in this first arc, so bringing up Dowling was excellent this early. And, I like how Buffy suddenly realizes that she sort of forgot about him in the ensuing chaos.
I also really enjoyed the humor going on with Giles’ situation and how it changes the group dynamic. I especially like Xan and Buffy reminiscing what they were like at Giles’ new age, and then glaring at Dawn’s look about her sister’s foibles by mentioning that she has ‘quirks’, too. That was a pretty funny moment between them.
Page 14: Buffy runs down that Andrew was correct in suggesting a Dracula-like connection with the new powers and assigns Xan to look up his ‘old friend’ and find out how he managed it in the first place [duh – don’t you read spanderverse – an old gypsy witch taught him the dark magick].
She also suggests Dawn go with as a working vacation, practically throwing her sister into Xan’s arms to help them re-bond after everything Dawnie just went through.
Rupert meanwhile applauds that the gang reached logical, grownup plans all on their own. Then, realizes that maybe they didn’t really need him at all… *awwwwww*.
Page 15: Early that evening, Buffy and Spike drop in on Dowling. While on his stoop, Spike wonders just how close they’d gotten after he left, but Buffy explains they’d barely gotten time to agree that their patrol was date-ish, when she disappeared on him. But she also tells him that wasn’t really the point, but that he’d gotten attacked after being her comrade-in-arms and she just plain forgot about him until they returned home and his name came up.
Clearly, Robert deserves the right to hate her.
But then Robert opens the door and doesn’t act at all hateful. In fact, he effusively welcomes both Buffy and Spike with a huge smile.
Commentary: And, I’m not gonna lie about being so cynical… my first thought was that he was on powerful pain meds.
Page 16: Buffy apologizes to Robert about not calling to check on him until now, but he gets her job. Billy had told him about Dawn being sick, and then when he saw the news about Santa Rosita, he figured she had her hands full.
Buffy asks Spike for a moment alone, and he accepts a beer from Robert while expressing that he’s glad Dowling isn’t dead. He steps out on the front stoop.
Page 17: Buffy tells Dowling about her history with good guys being ground up by her life and her realization that she can’t protect them from it. She refers to Riley and how the entire Slayer demand things nearly destroyed everything that she loved about him. She goes on to suggest that they shouldn’t pursue a relationship beyond their friendship because she doesn’t want the same thing happening to him.
Shockingly to her, he just says okay and thanks her for telling him before they became too attached to one another’s company… which no, not the modest reaction she had expected.
Commentary: My being the cynic I am immediately decided that Robert was possessed or his brain had broke due to the stress of his near death. Not that there should’ve been high drama over Buffy breaking things off with him or anything, considering they barely got started.
It’s funny though that Buffy was clearly expecting the kind of Angel/Riley/Spike operatic pain and gnashing of teeth and didn’t know how to react when it was completely avoided. That’s kinda funny… in a kinda tragic way.
Page 18: Back on the street, Buffy is appalled at just how fine Robert was in the wake of her breaking up what they didn’t quite have yet anyway. Spike deadpans that Robert was a right bastard. She goes on to mention that they talked about vampires for ten minutes after she broke her big news and that he would check on shape shifting vamps for them. But she’s still annoyed.
Spike offers that it isn’t really about her, but that Robert probably just realized that constantly being on the front lines of Buffy’s war on the undead probably wouldn’t work out well with his being a regular guy.
This doesn’t help Buffy feel better. She wonders if her only relationship choices are going to be being alone, or train wrecks of dysfunction… which she immediately regrets saying to Spike off all people. He blows it off to leave and get a pint, claiming it isn’t about her and he and her view of them, but Buffy kicks herself anyway.
Page 19: Meanwhile, over the Atlantic, Xan and Dawn are having an uncomfortable plane ride. Xan excuses himself to the washroom. Inside, he is also kicking himself. His regret is his recent mood swings and bouts of anger and mostly his regret at joining up with Simone and Severin. He tells his mirror reflection that Dawn is so going to break up with him.
Page 20: He’s joined by Anya-figment/ghost. She teases him over how horrible it is to have someone you love tell you they don’t want to be with you anymore… and how on a plane ride might be the worst place to tell somebody something like that… well, except….
Xan yells at her that he gets it. He was horrible to her and hurt her deeply, but it’s not he can remember it all just fine without her throwing it in his face constantly.
Anya yells back that she’s no happier about this than he is. She hopes that he does figure out what the hell is going on so he can stop it and she can move on.
She apologizes and explains that she isn’t even mad at him, she’s just angry over being stuck and not knowing why. She wonders if this is some sort of karma-debt payment plan she’s on and suggests that maybe she’s supposed to help him with his current relationship woe. She councils that he just talk to Dawn about what he’s thinking and feeling.
Page 21: Xan waits [for whatever reason] until they’re standing at Dracula’s door. He then tells Dawn that the plane trip over was excruciating and he doesn’t want them to be like that together. He tells her that if she needs to talk to him, not matter how hard what she has to say may be.
Dawn is about to open up about whatever is causing this distance between them, but Dracula chooses that inopportune moment to open the door and interrupt.
He welcomes the “peasant” to the castle.
Commentary: Is it wrong that Dracula is sorta making me like him? It’s a ploy, right? I mean, he’s DRACULA! On the other hand though, nobody has tried to stake his ass, so maybe he’s just a little okay…?
Page 22: Dawn questions the term of greeting and Dracula complains that he thought ‘manservant’ completely acceptable and she should blame Xander for ruining it.
Xander is not amused. In fact, he’s annoyed enough to unload his emotional baggage on the count and yells at him that he’s not playing with some boy anymore. He warns Dracula that he’s messing around with a “boiling cauldron of P.T.S.D.” and that “the worm has turned”.
It sounds ever so impressive and manly… until he – frustrated – ends up addressing Dracula as ‘Master’ again.
The Good: I really liked the dialog in this one and the bits of humor that were thrown in to keep things lighter than we’ve seen in a long time.
I love Dawn integrated into the full Scooby unit.
I really liked how the gang just fell back into their old pattern of depending on Giles to figure out everything and then direct them, and especially now Giles explains that this isn’t the way things can work anymore. It’s great that he’s going to treat them as adults and expect them to take responsibility for themselves, just as when he was gone.
It doesn’t affect scoring, but I want to give kudos to Rebekah and Dan for some really nice artwork in this one. Although, I’m wondering about Rebekah’s abnormal focus on hands… go back through the panels and note how many times characters’ hands are doing a lot of talking.
The Bad: I don’t like the way the situation with Santa Rosita was just… left there unfinished like it was. It felt extremely clumsy and unconvincing to just leave three people to fight against Vicki and her new vampires.
Other Thoughts: I’m enjoying the mystery with New Magic tied to The New Seed, but I’m not ready to give it a thumbs up until we learn more about what is happening. I do like that the writers spotlight that the ‘new rules’ seem to unfairly be favoring the bad guys and giving us the indication that it is deliberate for reasons other than to just make life harder for Buffy. There is obviously a specific reason they have in mind.
What the hell, Giles? What was with the immediate rudeness toward Andy, Billy and Devon??
The Robert Dowling scenes were a bit weird and I’m not sure yet whether it was deliberately suggesting something strange was going on with him, or if it’s just awkward writing to ‘cancel’ the burgeoning relationship that the writers changed their minds about. So, I can’t say whether it was clever sleight of hand in front of Buffy’s face or if it’s just not convincingly interrupting an arc the comic started.
I do still like the way Dracula is handled personality wise and his weirdly close/antagonistic relationship with Xander, but I also really wish we’d get a solid explanation for why Buffy would put up with this at all. It’s even more important now, because Dawn is involved. I just can’t see Buffy sending Dawn – right after she was fading from existence – off to Dracula’s castle with a friend who she knows is vulnerable to Dracula’s influence. It continues to not make sense and I don’t like not understanding it because otherwise it’s cute and humorous and oddly endearing. It’d be nice if Anya-ghost and Dracula got into a verbal catfight at some point over Xan’s affections… that would be a riot.
The Score: I liked this issue for the dialog and character interactions, at least between our core characters. It feels like the new characters from Season 9 aren’t quite solid in Christos’ head and I’d suggest he go back and re-read how they were handled last season. I hope he doesn’t plan on just shoving them out of the book. But as for the various plot threads… they’re not yet developed enough to judge, although the Santa Rosita thing was definitely weirdly handled and so – maybe – was the Dowling/Buffy meeting.
3.25 out of 5 stars