Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 04
“New Rules” part IV
Writer: Christos Gage & Nicholas Brendon, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Lettering: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft’s] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: After saving the world from Slayer-turned-super vampire Simone and restoring magic and the life of her magically created sister Dawn, Buffy in 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 in Xander’s apartment shortly after Dracula’s escape with both Xan and the all-important Vampyr book.
Willow and Buffy have returned with a captured vampire only to find Spike with a hole in his abdomen. Andrew quickly explains, to Willow’s exasperation [and 4th wall leaning], that Dracula went “all Dark Willow” on them.
Buffy tells the others that she expected something like this happening, but wasn’t expecting the turn to come so quickly. She tells Wills that they no longer need the vampire they captured. Will released her holding magical rings around him, and instead of running for it, he stupidly tries to tackle Buffy. She gives him the pointy end of the New Scythe.
Giles then informs the new arrivals of Dracula’s plan to shape the new rules of magic through the Vampry book.
Commentary: I’m usually riding the line when a comic book makes comments about the fans or fanwank stuff, but I grinned pretty widely when Willow questioned whether she’d become a trope.
But then it kinda soured quickly when Andy jokes that he’d kill to become a trope: Uh -- like when you murdered your friend, Jonathon?
See… not funny. Somebody [Christos] needs to remember that Andy has not always been only about the comic relief and they really need to have that in mind before they have Andrew joke around.
Page 02: News for Buffy gets worse, when Dawnie shares that Dracula also took Xander with him. She’s feeling awful about not being able to get through to Xan to make him stay.
Meanwhile, Xander is in a hotel suite with his master, rubbing his feet while he bathes. He suggests that they should have a lower profile, but Dracula doesn’t do “low profile”.
Page 03: Dracula wants to get started on rewriting history of magic, starting with himself. He shows Xander that he’s been using hypnotic abilities to make people see him as young and powerful.
[We’ve seen Drac as old man in ‘Wolves at the Gate’ but I had thought it was a manifestation of his depression and loneliness -- turns out he really is that old looking.]
His first action is to order Xander to write that his youth and vigor is restored.
Commentary: I, again, really enjoy the interactions between Xan and Dracula. Though Dracula clearly sees Xander as a servant, he continually shows him much less threatening behavior than he usually displays. It’s clear that Dracula has formed an emotional bond with Xan, even though he doesn’t let that get in the way of mind controlling him into being a manservant against his will.
Page 04: With Dracula’s vigor returned, and his excitement at the apparent ease with which he can now give himself power - the next order of business is to force everybody to recognize his Lordship over the vampires.
Page 05: Back at Xan’s apartment, Giles grows increasingly frustrated with his lack of focus hampering his and Willow’s attempts to trace Dracula’s location.
Buffy decides that she, Spike and a forceful Dawn will do the old fashioned pavement pounding and beating on demons to find Dracula’s hangout.
Page 06: In a Supernatural-American social club, Dawn gets much more violent about questioning the clientele than Buffy expected. She pulls Dawn aside for a chat, leaving the rest of the questioning to Spike… because, um, better?
Page 07: In the bar’s kitchen, Dawn has to admit to Buffy about Xan’s accusation that Dawn doesn’t love him anymore. And, she has to admit that it’s the truth.
Buffy at first believes that Dawn’s just having problems adjusting to living with another person in her space 24/7, but Dawn explains what is really going on.
Dawn reveals that with her reintegration after the restoration of magic, she’s suffered an emotional reset. She remembers everything that has happened, including her relationship with Xander but she can’t feel those things anymore. It’s as if she’s back - emotionally - to being fourteen.
Buffy realizes that Dawn is going through re-feeling everything that they’d already dealt with… including Joyce’s death. They hug so Dawn can cry on her sister’s shoulder.
Page 08: Buffy asks Dawn why she didn’t tell her she was going through this huge thing. Her sister didn’t want to ruin that Buffy was finally in a good place after everything they’d gone through the past several years and thought she could deal with it quietly until it ‘fixed itself’.
Spike interrupts since he’s done “questioning”, but hasn’t found out anything useful. Except that he has noted that so far they’ve run into a surprising lack of vampire action.
Page 09: Those vampires are currently paying homage to their Master at his suite. Xander has little patience for it all, but Dracula is eating up the attention. Until one of the vampires pulls a stake and tries to take him out.
He’s quickly beheaded, but it’s strange that this could happen considering Dracula’s newly established status.
Page 10: Xander and the more obsequious vampires capture a second vampire to stake, while Dracula captures a third and throat lifts him. Drac questions how this vampire dares to raise his hand against his Lord.
Dracula discovers that naming himself the universally accepted Lord has brought out the vampires who want the throne. Kill the King, Become the King.
With this realization that he could be spending a lot of time trying to avoid assassination, Dracula orders his room emptied after beheading his foe except for Xan. He tells his manservant they have more refining to do in the book….
Commentary: I’m trying to enjoy this plot for the sorta fluffy-sorta serious thing it is, but I’m still not enjoying the idea that Giles’ Watcher book just so happens to be the focus to manipulate the new magic rules. It’d be much more interesting if a dozen books around the world are attempting to make the rules and have Dracula and the Scoobies having to constantly battle these other manipulators while trying to avoid messing things up themselves through their own book of power.
Page 11: Back at the apartment, Willow and Giles continue to fail in their tracking spells. Wills figures out that Dracula must already be manipulating the threads of magic and it’s interfering with their attempts to manipulate it through their spells.
Giles is embarrassed at his own impatience but Wills reminds him that he had to play the adult for all of them for years. It’s not a big deal that now their positions are reversed a bit -- though both admit to be a little terrified by the prospect.
Page 12: Buffy, Spike and Dawn return to the apartment with disappointment.
They mention that the vampires are scarce. Andrew points out that Spike is still a vampire and if Dracula is Lord of the Vampires, then Spike should sense him as his master.
Spike is insulted at the thought and informs Andrew that nobody is his master… well, except for the Lord of all Vampires, Dracula - of course. Spike is immediately annoyed but guesses that Dracula is playing with the book.
Buffy smirks at Spike and asks if he wants to take them to his leader, or if she should have Dawn rough him up a little, first.
Commentary: I loved this scene… it was hilarious and it was wonderful to see Buffy and Dawn sharing grins together at Spike’s expense. In fact, overall I love how this season is keeping things lighter and happier. It’s definitely a throwback to our S1-4 characters where they could fight monsters while also finding the jokes and I’m not sure that I realized just how much I’d missed this tone in Buffy.
Page 13: Back with Dracula, he and Xander are working on trying to find a way to increase Dracula’s dominion over other vampires without also making them want to kill him to take his place. Drac offers that they should write that anyone who accosts him will immediately die, but Xan brings up somebody unexpectedly making a sexual pass at him, “accosting” could have a very liberal interpretation.
Xander offers something more simple and straightforward: Dracula will become the most powerful vampire of all.
Dracula, not one for deep thought when it comes down to wanting power, agrees that this sounds good. So after it’s written down, he’s a little take aback when he suddenly suffers horrendous pain tearing through his abdomen.
Page 14: Spike leads the gang to the hotel. There they find the vampires that Dracula had expelled from his room, still being loyal and trying to stop them from invading.
Dawn worries that Spike may turn on them to protect his Lord by going all ‘Dark Willow’… Wills complains that this is going to become a thing they say, now. Spike offers he has no problem raising a hand to his Lord and Master due to his soul.
In the meantime, Giles suffers a Freudian slip when his suggestion of a “spell of cleaving” ends up being “cleavage”. He’s so mortified that Buffy has to step in to save him, complaining that his hormones are fine until they’re going to get him killed.
Commentary: Let’s talk about Giles for just a second: I was generally against bringing Rupert back from the dead, then appreciative that they didn’t just reset button things but did this different twist. I am still relatively good with the way they did things and giving us this teen!Giles - putting him into the role that the early Scoobies played emotionally while still being himself, generally speaking.
I’m okay with his being brought back and the role he’s playing in Season 10, but I was also fine with his character having been killed. So… I’m just all over the middle, is what I’m trying to stammer out.
Page 15: After breaking through the defense line, the gang rush upstairs. Buffy tells Andrew he’s on book duty, but Andy is worried about Xan getting in the way. Willow tells him he shouldn’t resort to hurting Xan, but just talk to him honestly - bringing up how Xan helped her when she turned “Dark --” CRAP.
[Heh! Even Wills is now using ‘going Dark Willow’ as a phrase. That was really cute, but it was also a bit clunky. Talking Xan down is not even a thing that should be considered right now and her advice to try to talk to him when they’re after the all powerful book is kind of dumb here, just so they can continue the joke.]
When they break into Dracula’s suite door though, everyone is caught up short.
Page 16: In the suite, Dracula is undergoing an unwanted shape shift. He’s shouting at Xan to cross out what he’d written, but the book won’t allow a simple erase. Dracula shouts at everyone to just run.
Xan, still under thrall, begs Buffy on knees to save his Master. Andy steps in to find out from Xander just what they’ve done. As they discuss the changes, Andy and Xan come to the same conclusion at the same time: They’re trapped in a “monkey’s paw” situation [which I’ve always considered to be one of the most chilling tales ever].
Commentary: I really love how this strips the gang’s being able to define the new magic laws easily. Even though they’re able to manipulate the new rules -- the magic has a will of its own and can take instructions into unconsidered directions. It makes this plot much more interesting than allowing either the good guys or the bad guys simply dominate the supernatural aspects of the Buffyverse. In addition, I really like how Dracula continues to ride the line between simply being evil and being a more sympathetic villain. I find myself not liking watching him suffering -- though I’m sure that’s because of his relationship with Xan. But I also just like the complexity we get with Dracula.
Page 17: While the gang try to restrain or kill Dracula, Andy and Xander concentrate on stopping what is happening through the book.
But Andy finds it much more complicated. Simply writing down that Dracula’s transformation is suddenly undone is ignored by the book for being a retcon [Xander lies on the 4th wall here].
Page 18: Andy next tries “Dracula was dreaming and now woke up” but it’s also removed by the magic in effect -- Xan offers the book doesn’t like clichés, either.
Giles yells at Andy about doing something soon, but Andrew complains it’s hard to come up with creative thinking under this kind of pressure.
Dawn takes this [weird] moment to apologize to Xander for not loving him, but Xan isn’t bothered. Dracula loves him, that’s all he needs.
Commentary: I don’t like this page much. I don’t like Rupert’s attitude, but I can understand it because he’s been well established now to be emotionally volatile, so he’s in character -- especially since he’s always been impatient when it comes to Andrew anyway.
But Dawn’s taking this extremely stupid moment to bring up her and Xan’s romantic troubles is purely to set up her realizing that Xan is connected to Dracula to give us the next few pages. It’s just really obvious and clumsy.
Page 19: Dawn tells Wills that Xan is still in mental touch with Dracula and it’s decided to use his link to look into Dracula’s mind and find out what is going on.
Whatever Xan sees, it takes him by surprise.
Page 20: Xander reveals that Dracula has memories that can’t possibly be his. He’s remembering the beginning of human civilization when great Old Ones still marched the Earth and prayed on and/or forced humans to worship them.
A group of mighty wizards fought the Old Ones and drove them out of our plane. But one of these Old Gods refused to leave before he began to build an army of human-demon hybrids.
Page 21: Xander then remembers the recent past in the Deeper Well when “he” was fighting Buffy. Willow and Rupert are able to make the intuitive leap to what is happening to Dracula.
In writing that Dracula became the most powerful vampire ever, the magic opened a ‘door’ for the dissipated Old One… the most powerful vampire ever because he’s the one who created the very first of them… to make a return.
Page 22: Dracula’s wording allows Maloker to return through Dracula’s body… and he’s hungry.
The Good: I like the moments of humor, even including the 4th wall stretching, throughout the dialog.
I also like that Buffy was already thinking ahead on Dracula turning on them, even though he still manages to do it by getting to the betrayal quicker than she expected.
I know I've said it before, but I continue to really love the Dracula/Xander relationship and the fine line between Master/servant and friend that they ride -- even when Dracula's using his mind control powers to enslave him.
The Bad: The only thing that bothered me enough for this category is Dawn's setting up the realization that Xan is connected through mindlink to Dracula by suddenly, and in an extremely annoying time and place, bringing up the end of the relationship. And worse, it wasn't even necessary -- any of the gang should've been able to guess this was the case considering Dracula's telepathic powers and Xan's mental domination without the extraneous subject being used as the catalyst for the realization.
Other Thoughts: I really liked the Buffy/Dawn sister relationship depicted, but I'm not wild about it coming about due to a "Dawn's been reset" plot point. It doesn't feel like it should've taken something that extreme to get these two back to a good relationship.
I was kind of bummed to see Maloker after we'd just seen him defeated as the finale to Season 9. This would've worked for me much, much more if it hadn't come so soon. If Dracula had spent the season in the background and then had his manipulation of the Vampyr book and transformation by Maloker as the end of Season 10, I'd be more interested. Especially if the season was spent deepening Xander and Dracula's relationship, only to then find out that Dracula was insincere the entire time and then ending the Season with Dracula's permanent death due to Maloker's rebirth. Coming so soon just feels like somebody thought the idea of Maloker was cool and so threw him back into the mix.
The Score: The dialog and humorous asides really make the issue for me, although the plot is not at all bad either. I enjoyed reading this one.
3.75 out of 5 stars