Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 03
“New Rules” part III
Writer: Christos Gage & Nicholas Brendon, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Color: Dan Jackson, Letter: 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 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 at Castle Dracula, where Xander and Dawn have arrived investigating how the run of the mill vampire is now able to shape shift, not to mention that whole immune to sunlight thing.
Dracula welcomes his former manservant by telling him he missed the latest Tuesday evening orgy and rhapsodizes about his Xan’s fun at the former bacchanals. Xander recalls no such orgies occurring. Dracula then ‘remembers’ how they started after Xander left him and isn’t that so unfortunate. Dracula mentions the ‘weird sisters’ and how bored they are with Butterfield during these wild sex-filled romps in an obvious desire to get Xander interested in coming back to the castle. Butterfield plays along with his master.
Xan tries to warn Dawn that he may act weird while there, but she offers that she still has the monk created memories of their first encounter with the Dark Prince.
Commentary: I love the snark between Xan and Dracula throughout the early portion of the book, so just let me blanket statement here… especially amusing is how slash-tastic Dracula makes every side-comment.
Page 02: Dracula complains that Xander hasn’t never once written him back after all of the care he put in to writing letters to him since Japan in calligraphy, while Xan equally complains about Dracula’s lack of embracing modern technology.
Dracula summons his full scary magnetism to inform Xander Harris that he will not be ignored as he is Lord of the Night, and Darkness made Flesh… HE IS DRACULA. This pronouncement is greeted by a lightning strike that impresses Dawn.
But Xan then tells her that Dracula can’t summon lightning, he just senses when a strike is about to occur… it’s all theatrics. Dracula mutters that he doesn’t have to tell everyone.
Page 03: Xander is finally able to get past Dracula’s drama-queening to inform him of why they’ve made the trip. At first Drac isn’t really interested, until he learns about the vampires changing their shapes in the sunlight -- an ability he doesn’t have.
Dracula orders the ‘child bride’ to pack his luggage so he can accompany them. Xan is insulted at the implication that he’s robbing the cradle and insists that Dawnie only packs his trunks. Dawn takes this as an insult - she excuses herself to wait in the jet. Dracula then orders Xan to pack his trunks instead, taking special care to mention his undergarments and how if any such garments managed to go missing, he doubts he’d even notice. That’s enough passive-aggressive slash for Xander and he also says he’ll wait in the jet.
Commentary: Yeah, yeah… I smirked and giggled. Dracula can be pretty amusing when he’s slightly pissy. I also find, as I’ve mentioned back in the Japan arc of S8, the relationship between Xander and Dracula interesting - though the fact that the Slayers haven’t gone after him and we’ve not gotten a satisfactory explanation for that oversight still bugs.
Page 04: Sometime much later in San Francisco, a group of the new vampires is offering immortality and cool powers to a pair of guys. One of our vampires freaks the couple out by shape shifting suddenly into a monstrous man-bat. The guys suggest maybe they need to think about this whole getting sired thing a little more closely. But obviously, vampire-deals aren’t really negotiable - the foursome decide they’ll just kill the humans and find some other recruits.
Fortunately for our two posers, Dracula has arrived and is working on Team Good for the moment. He orders the ‘vermin’ to kneel and beg forgiveness for not only ‘stealing’ his shape shifting powers, but then giving them out to every mortal that crosses their paths.
Page 05: Our new vampires have no respect for the classics though. Instead of treating Dracula as the master vampire he is, they compare him to the old lion who doesn’t realize his reign has passed until the young lions move in and tear him apart.
As the foursome are ganging up to take a shocked Dracula down, Buffy emerges from the shadows with her Scythe. She snarks that the kids have no respect nowadays.
Even the arrival of Buffy isn’t enough to put the young guns in retreat, as they view both Buffy and Dracula as equally old and worn out.
Page 06: As Mr. Prefers Man-Bat Form launches at Buffy, Spike joins up with the fight. He’s able to drive a stake into the new vampire. Meanwhile, Dracula beheads the Night Panther Shifter.
The last of our foursome, suddenly finding that no- he isn’t so tough, mists out. He calls Buffy, Spike and Dracula losers on his way.
Commentary: I like the callback to Stoker’s novel and the implication that Dracula had actually hired Stoker to write Dracula’s story. Apparently he hadn’t intended for the writer to turn his tale into a “bodice-ripping hackwork for repressed Victorian matrons”. Hah!
Page 07: Alas for Misty BigMouth, Willow was also tucked away close by. She’s able to use magic to change a bottle of holy water into an equally misty form. As the holy water mist meets the vampire mist, it does its job to perfection.
With seeing the results of the new vampires, Dracula demands to be shown to his accommodations so he can think. He’s clearly both miffed and extremely bothered by this turn of events.
Page 08: Back at Xander’s apartment, Dracula is again relatively demanding and insulting. Andrew has dressed in a cape and suit and gushes at Dracula about how he’s a huge fan of the Count’s. Drac tells Andy that even though he’s cloying, he is in the need of a new, more appreciative manservant.
Xan prissily tells them to get back on the subject. At this time Giles comes in, and Dracula calls him a presented snack, no doubt just to rile things up a bit more. Rupert isn’t having any of the banter. He and Willow, obviously by pre-arrangement, immediately cast a mutual spell on the Count to force him to reveal how he came about his shape shifting abilities with hope this will shed light on how the new vampires were able to acquire them.
Dracula’s answer is perplexingly simple: He believes he is Lord of the Vampires, He wills he is Lord of the Vampires, and ergo He is Lord of the Vampires.
Page 09: Obviously, this strikes as deceptively simplistic. But, Willow and Giles realize that Dracula’s rituals to strengthen his willpower over decades, along with his utter belief in his own superiority could’ve allowed him to impose that will over reality. After all, what is magic but imposing one’s will over the natural world?
Dracula offers that clearly the new vampires couldn’t be operating under the same laws as they could not have achieved their new powers so quickly. But Giles disputes this….
Page 10: Everyone realizes that under the new rules of magic instituted by Willow’s jump starting of the New Seed, humanity’s collective subconscious is rewriting the rule book by unconscious consensus. For billions, Dracula is the template of what vampires are and ergo under the new rules, it is.
Which leaves the big question of how to undo what is happening and provide more structure which won’t leave the bad guys with the power….
Commentary: I really liked this explanation for how the magic rules are being rewritten and influenced by the mass will of everyone on Earth. But, I also think that it wasn’t really taken to the logical conclusions… the common fears, desires and hopes of humanity should be having far greater influence on literally everything that humanity has experienced up through now, largely affected by each populations’ common pop-cultural or mythic references.
The story arc is a bit too focused on the vampires, so we don’t see how this is playing out in other ways, which would’ve been utterly fascinating. And it would’ve been the ideal way to have “meanwhile, in [fill in the blank]” panels checking in on our other Slayers who are ‘out in the wild’.
But this also really would’ve been a nice time to show how this new reality has impacted what Whistler tried to do across the pond, and the effects of that whole thing. This could’ve come through Nadira’s special insight and been shared with Angel, putting him in a minor crisis over whether he should risk contacting Buffy or Willow or just let sleeping lions lie for now.
Since there has been some effort to tie the two books together more closely now that they’re in the same publishing company, this really would’ve worked well without necessarily leading to a crossover arc if the creative teams just weren’t ready to bring Angel and Buffy back together.
I guess I’m saying, I’d like to see just a touch of the wider scope of all of these changes.
Page 11: Dracula offers that the next plan of attack must be to capture a live specimen of the new vampires in order to mystically take him/her apart and see what makes them work. Willow agrees, offering that the changes may not yet be permanent if they can find a way to reverse what is building. Rupert then pipes up that they should act immediately, which keeps Spike and Dracula sidelined.
The Lord retires to his coffin, but instructs his new provisional manservant to have a vein open for him upon his awakening. Andrew responds with a gasp of possible fear or excitement or both.
Xander shares that he can just buy some cattle blood and Dracula won’t know the difference. The vampire has sharp hearing though, and informs Xander that he always knew, he just chose not to mention it. He tells him that was clearly a mistake: Lack of communication poisons any relationship.
And though Dracula is obviously talking about his friendship with Xander - and his lack of staying in touch again - Dawn and Xander share a glance between them.
Commentary: This is one of those moments when I think the ‘geeky Andrew Wells’ is taken a little to extremes. It’s bad enough he’s gotten costumed in honor of Dracula’s arrival, but I find it difficult to believe that even someone as nerdy as Andy would be embracing a manservant role so wholeheartedly, being as familiar as he is with the real vampire over the movie-versions. It’s also just a little, tiny bit annoying that nobody else seems to be wondering if they should warn Andrew to cool it.
Page 12: Out about town, Buffy and Willow are teamed up to find a new vampire. They break into an apartment, only to find that the vampires aren’t there, since they’re no longer limited to going out at night.
This location had evidently been shared by Dowling, still helping Buffy where he can without trying to be a Slayer extra. Willow mentions to Buffy that things seem to be cordial between them even with the breaks put on their dating. Buffy agrees, and explains that she told Robert that it would be safer if they weren’t spending so much time with one another and he agreed.
Willow calls him a jerk, and Buffy’s like, “Right?” still appalled that Dowling wasn’t more upset by their breakup.
Page 13: Buffy brings up some help from Willow’s snake-bodied girlfriend, but Wills tells her she’s in avoidy mode right now because she doesn’t think that Aluwyn appreciated her choosing her friends over the witch-mentor.
Buffy and Willow mutually commiserate over their lack of stable love lives and Wills brings up the obvious tensions going on between Xan and Dawn of late. Buffy can’t shed any light on what is going on between them, other than she gets the idea that they’re not even sure.
Page 14: Meanwhile, Xander, Dawn and Rupert are stuck in the apartment. Rupert has discovered video games and given Xan both amusement and frustration. Giles is playing a game, obviously, whose name I should know but won’t come to me. Xander tells him he’s playing a pimp and mobster and needs to rob the hookers and shoot the cops, but Rupert refuses because he’s a gentleman.
Dawn distracts Xan from bother Rupert’s game play. Xander brings up what Dawn wanted to say to him in Transylvania before Dracula’s interruption.
Page 15: But just as Dawn is about to broach the topic, they’re interrupted… again by Dracula, whose timing is uncanny. This time it’s because night has finally fallen and he’s ready to get back to work on their mutual problem.
Andrew comments to Xander about how much more admiration he has for Xan’s tolerating being Dracula’s manservant, as he hadn’t expected him to be so high-maintenance [no word on whether Andrew actually ‘opened a vein’ or not].
Rupert interrupts their conversation about the difficulty of manservanting for the self-described Lord of the Vampires, angrily irritated at their babble.
Dracula turns attention to the Watcher and brings up the idea he had while in sleep: If the new rules were being written into the blank Vampyr book as they’re being ‘agreed upon’ then would it not be reasonable to wonder if actually writing rules into the book may not have a similar effect - codifying rules that they choose.
Page 16: Giles is concerned about this attempt to forcibly manipulate magic as it usually ends in dire consequences, but Dracula is determined. And what better man to begin experimenting than a nobleman?
Rupert points out that Dracula is also a soulless, evil monster and will not get anywhere near the Vampyr book. Dracula’s response is to point out that he’s not in the habit of asking for permission from livestock.
Page 17: Rupert’s response is swift, he incants a fire spell at the Count but Dracula is quicker - he’s sent a mental command to Xander, who is still under his thrall!
Xan clobbers Rupert in the side of the head, knocking him out and snatching up the book for Dracula.
The noise wakes up Spike, and Andrew excitedly informs him that Dracula played them… brilliantly, he may add… and has undergone a heel turn.
Commentary: Which, DUH! He’s DRACULA! And again, why or why do the Scooby Gang keep not remembering that Dracula is… y’know… not the most trustworthy of men, even when he was a man. This is what happens when you don’t eliminate the dread master vampire.
Sometimes, I’m so frustrated with our good guys. And yes, Dracula can be quite amusing as I’ve stated, but that doesn’t mean I’d leave powerful magical artifacts laying around for him to grab nor would I continually trust him alone with my friends or family. *sigh*
Page 18: Spike engages Dracula in combat. Meanwhile, Dawn reveals that she was ready for this by having a wooden stake tucked beneath a couch pillow. She tells Andy that they can rush him because he won’t mist while he’s holding onto the book he wants.
But Xander, being under the influence, steps in the way.
Page 19: Dawn tries to snap Xan out of it, but Xander tells her about how good, kind, handsome, articulate and lithe he is. [Well, when he puts it like that….]
Dawn’s response is to call him an arrogant jerk who needs to be stopped.
Meanwhile, Spike claws Dracula across the jaw, distracting Xander’s attention from blocking Andrew and Dawn.
Page 20: Xander grabs Spike from behind, throwing him off long enough for Dracula to unsheathe his sword and run Spike through the abdomen with it.
Dawn responds with rushing up on him with her stake, but she’s easily grabbed by the throat and lifted off of her feet.
This nearly breaks Drac’s hold over Xan…
Page 21: But Dracula knows that killing Dawn in front of him would be a mistake - he tosses her across the room onto the sofa and calls it a special favor to his manservant. Xan agrees he’s a merciful Lord.
They depart with the Vampyr book. In desperation, Dawn shouts at Xander that she loves him but he only glances with deep sadness over his shoulder.
Page 22: He admits to Dawn that he knows that she doesn’t. He grabs the shape shifted Dracula’s long Man-Bat legs as Drac flies off into the night sky, telling him that his loyalty is unswerving.
As the gang is picking themselves up off the floor, Buffy and Willow return with thrills at having bagged a new vampire with Wills restricting magicks.
What they find waiting for them dashes any of the excitement.
Commentary: I really love this face-heel turn coming from Dracula because both I as the reader and the characters were getting way too comfortable with Drac as a comedy character, what with his constant flirting with Xan and his bitchy asides. We needed to be reminded that Xan is a victim of Dracula’s mental domination. But this is also a problem -- I’m having trouble seeing the Buffy creative team getting rid of this great character permanently, and I’d have a lot of trouble justifying how Buffy could allow Dracula to go free after this. I’m afraid we’re going to end this with some status quo-ing that won’t make a lick of sense after this latest betrayal with something as important as rewriting the rules of magic.
We’ll have to wait and see how they handle this fallout before we judge, but I’m worried a little.
The Good: I really had a lot of fun with the dialog between Xander [pre-mental control] and Dracula.
I'm also so interested in the dynamic between Xan and Dracula as they relate to one another personally, rather than as Scooby Member to Undead.
I liked all of the dialog from Dracula, from funny to arrogant to downright threatening -- all of it.
I liked the entire battle scene in Xander's apartment against him and Dracula.
I like that Dracula is showing his villainous colors again, reminding us and the Gang that he's not all slashtastic flirting and bitchy jibes.
The Bad: Nothing is going in this section, but Andrew's behavior came close.
Other Thoughts: Once again, I find that Andrew is swerving way too close to 'odious komedy relief' and I wish they'd make him a more rounded character after all of his experiences.
I find the idea that humanity's collective will is driving the directions of new magic, but introducing this thread opens up a whole can of worms. I'd like to see a lot more discussion and impacts of this idea in future stories, but I'm not convinced we'll see them consistently. Like with revealing demons and Slayers to the public, this feels like too big a thing that the comics won't be ready to embrace and deal with properly... but we'll have to wait and see.
The Score: 4.0 out of 5 stars