Buffy the Vampires Slayer
Season 10, Issue 08
“Return to Sunnydale” part I
Writer: Christos Gage, Artwork: Rebekah Isaacs & Richard Corben, Colorist: Dan Jackson, Beth Corben Reed & Richard Corben,
Lettering: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft’s] Jimmy Betancourt, Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: The rules of magic are literally being rewritten. With day-walking vampires and a male Slayer, Buffy & Co. are trying to keep the weirdness under control. Willow is focused on learning the new rules, while Giles is coming to terms with his newfound youth, and Xander is trying to save his relationship with Dawn. Still, Buffy has her family together again - and since their mission doesn’t yet feature Apocalypse spelled out in big letters, life is pretty good…
Page 01: We open in the apartment being shared by Spike and Xander. Buffy is reading the riot act at our two guys, for it seems that the all powerful, magic rules altering Vampyr book is now missing.
Page 02: With everyone else joining Buffy at the boys’, accusations begin flying around over who’d have motive for stealing the book. Xander and Spike are quick to accuse Giles who desperately wants to be re-aged. He counters that Xander and Dawn have motive in that they’d like their relationship restored.
Buffy stops the cross-accusations before they turn ugly. After a moment of thought, Rupert realizes that Andrew Wells isn’t with them and wonders if anyone has seen him lately.
We see that Andrew does in fact have the book.
Page 03: Buffy is shocked that Willow’s protective spells deigned Andrew an authorized user to the book, but Wills admits that her casting used the word “us”… not specifying. Buffy blurts out clumsily that Andrew isn’t to be trusted after his entire putting her mind into a robot without telling her, being a used-to-be-super villain, and being besties with Warren Mears, the scumbag who… she covers her mouth in appalled shock.
Willow finishes her sentence… he was best friends with the man who killed Tara. Wills apologizes for not being more careful.
Giles suggests seeing if his and Willow’s tracking sigil is operational. It is and the gang see the book is on the move… toward Sunnydale.
Commentary: I have some real issues with this set up. One, it feels clumsy that Andrew would’ve been in a position to just pick up the book and walk out. Second, it does feel clumsy also that Willow’s wards wouldn’t make it difficult for the book to be removed on a whim when everyone is so concerned with it’s location… you’d think it would take some effort for it to leave the location they’re storing it. I also didn’t really like that everyone is talking about Andrew like they’ve never been able to trust him, while at the same time he’s gone above and beyond to prove his loyalty -- it just seems harsh. Yes, they do need to keep an eye on him because he tends to act without thinking things through but bringing up his super villain past as the reason without mentioning Willow’s own super villainy feels petty. And of course, we have the issue of Andrew even stealing this all-powerful book from where it’s relatively safe to go wandering with it: The story may justify this, but I’m already a little annoyed on behalf of him that he’s stuck in this role.
Page 04: Xander points out that going to Sunnydale seems pointless since it doesn’t exist any more. But Rupert knows that the Hellmouth itself still is. Worse for their situation when they inevitably confront whatever Andrew thinks he’s doing, is that Dawn read online that the Sunnydale Crater has become a focal point for a giant Halloween party to celebrate the town that finally proved to the world that the supernatural exists.
Page 05: Buffy tells them that they need to get after Andrew, but Willow says that not everyone is needed. She takes the lead and organizes a hunting team of herself, Buffy and Spike to head out after Andrew. She leaves Xander behind, because he’s the only one with a steady job currently and she leaves Dawn because she’s back in school again. Rupert is elected to work on research mode to find out what could be luring Andy to the Hellmouth with the book.
This works for Buffy who points out that Xan and Dawn helping Giles research when they’re done with work and school will be a good bonding thing between them. She practically pushes them into one another’s arms:
Buffy: “Bonding moments. With the looming threat of death spicing it up. That’s how all the best memories are made.”
Dawn: “And somehow you’re still single.”
Commentary: Yes, that was a cute moment between Buffy and Dawn. I like the little moments of sarcasm.
Page 06: We switch POV to a narration. Our narrator is reminiscing about the past, when he was content and in love, before things went bad and his happiness was destroyed.
He is The Soul Glutton; Damnation Made Flesh; The Slithering Doom.
He strode the world back when it belonged to the demons. He and his lover settled down to run a blood farm, slaughtering humans as cattle and she brought peace to his existence.
Page 07: But then She came. During one of his culling, he netted a woman different from the other humans. He’d never heard of the Slayer, but she was ready to fight him with a mystic blade that brought him down. He could only watch as she strode with purpose toward his unsuspecting family at the farm.
Page 08: The old demon lay senseless for an indeterminate amount of time. When he awoke, to his everlasting regret, he already knew what he’d find. His family had been slaughtered by the Slayer and he had no recourse. For in the time that he had been dormant, she’d lived her life and died long before.
So now, instead he’ll make her world pay for her past crimes. He resolves to kill every living thing in the world.
Commentary: I liked these few pages, written from the perspective of the demon. Talk about evil being banal… he just looked at his slaughtering of sentient beings as “ranching”. But otherwise, he’s got the typical action-movie plot: The tough, violent outsider who suddenly finds a new way to live thanks to the love of a good woman, until the day that she’s murdered and then the action-man has to let go of the peaceful man he’d become for her and go back to his roots to find and kill everyone he holds responsible.
The only thing missing is bombs and guns with inexhaustible ammo clips.
Page 09: It turns out that our narrator wasn’t just talking to himself, but was sharing his tale of woe and revenge to a group of the Hellmouth partiers.
Naturally, the partiers are complete idiots. As the demon explains that he’s there to consume all living souls and grow his powers to destroy the world, they comment on the story’s plot points and his composition.
This gets them appropriately killed [actually we’ll find out later that only one of them immediately gets killed at this time].
Page 10: Some distance away, Andrew hears the dying screams behind him and sounds bored with the repetition [presumably he thinks it‘s the partiers and not actually people being killed by a rampaging demon]. But he’s not there to critique, but to find a hidden hatch under the desert assuming it wasn’t destroyed in the collapse.
It wasn’t. Probably not a good thing, as he shouts “At last!” at the sky and evil cackles.
Page 11: Meanwhile, Buffy is worried about all of the drunken costumed partiers. Willow reports that trying to convince them to leave magically is too subtle for her with this new chaotic magic she’s dealing with.
Spike offers to scare ‘em away with the whole bumpy-face-and-fangs. It backfires. Turns out that everyone is a fan of the vampire look. One fan tells him he’s a big fan of William the Bloody -- at least of the murderous bits -- not so much of the poetry.
The vampires has to be pulled away by Buffy as he shouts at his “fan” that he knows nothing about poetry.
In the meantime, Willow is taking comfort that the partiers are at least not going into the crater itself, and that is where she’s tracking the book to.
Page 12: Down in the crater, we join Andrew at a Trio secret hideout. He’ s interested in a lockbox and is glad that it survived Sunnydale’s destruction. The box is labeled with Jonathon’s name and Andy expositions that the D.N.A. sample and personality database for him survived in the box.
On the ground, we can see that the same samples for Warren did not. The way the box is on the ground next to the smashed test tube of Warren’s D.N.A. leaves us to wonder if maybe Andy didn’t smash it himself.
Commentary: Okay, so one of the things that bugged me about Buffy the tv series was the super-science aspects of the Buffyverse. My being bothered by it started with super-sophisticated android, Ted but I put it down to his creator being a genius and being augmented by the warping powers of the Hellmouth so it was fine. But then we got the Initiative stuff and then it really reached ridiculous with The Trio. I had hoped that at least the Warren, Jon, Andrew stuff was still a magical augmentation creating a unique situation in Sunnydale. But the comics have made it plain that this silly level of technological sophistication is a thing in the Buffyverse. I’ve never felt like the super-science fit well with the supernatural and the storylines suffered as a result. I would much rather have the comic series downplaying the super-tech rather than highlighting it every time Andrew’s schemes enter the picture.
I did like throwing in that panel showing Warren’s DNA sample smashed on the ground though without knowing if it was the town collapse, or a deliberate act by Andy.
Page 13: Andrew loads up a holo-glasses with Jon’s virtual personality matrix. Jon realizes that Andrew must’ve loaded him up because the real Jon is dead. He asks after what happened to him and isn’t pleased when Andrew admits that he’d stabbed him to death while being manipulated by The First.
But Andrew wins him over by finishing that he’s going to fix Jonathon by bringing him back with the new magic and the power of the rule book in his hands. But first, he has “one more stop on the resurrection tour”.
Since we end the page with another shot of Warren’s smashed sample, presumably it isn’t Mr. Mears that Andy is talking about.
Commentary: Yeah. The comics creators are going to need to use this arc and the one happening over in Angel & Faith, where Amy Madison is trying to resurrect Warren, to put a stop to the madness. Nothing is more irritating to me as a fan as for me to get emotionally involved in some sharply written characters, for those characters to die and tear me up inside, only for some asshole to then give us “a dramatic return from the dead” whatever its form. It cheapens the power of the death but worse, it makes me feel like a fool for allowing them to involve me so much in the first place. It’s why I stopped the Marvel Universe… NOBODY STAYS DEAD, which destroys all credibility when a hero falls.
We really need to nip the whole resurrecting dead characters to re-use in the bud right now!
Page 14: Andrew anticipates that he’ll be tracked at some point when the others realize he has the Vampyr book. To stop this, he digs out a case that The Trio designed. The case incorporates a Faraday Cage, blocking all signals from escaping.
Above the crater, we see that it is successful as Willow yells her frustration at suddenly losing the signal.
Commentary: Despite how Andrew’s intelligence is used for wacky hi-tech hijinks, I do like that he’s always shown to be highly intelligent. I just wish they’d stop using him to do dumb things, already.
Page 15: Willow, Spike and Buffy are able to locate the entrance to The Trio’s hideout bunker anyway, fortunately. Alas for them, they arrive a little too late. Buffy finds the smashed sample with Warren’s name and immediately assumes that Andy may be trying to bring back his dead, mushy friend.
Behind them, we see the shadowed figure of our revenge-seeking demon….
Page 16: Our Devourer goes on the attack, but can’t resist a boastful threat, giving Buffy time to dodge and block his trident with the Scythe. Spike tries to help by fanging the demon… slimey though he may be… and falls back gagging.
Buffy isn’t able to avoid the demon’s grasp in the tight confines of the bunker room and as she’s picked up off the ground, our “off-brand Cthulhu” tells her she’s going to suffer and die on behalf of the Slayer who wronged him.
Willow isn’t about to let that happen and unleashes a magical blast.
Commentary: Um, please. I do not see Spike as trying to fang a demon who is dripping slime under the worst of circumstances, let alone in this case where he could’ve just as easily went for snapping the lug’s neck first. That was really silly looking.
Page 17: Willow’s magic spell is of white magic, which the demon tells her is coming from her soul. Being a soul eater, our demon actually absorbs the energy and asks her for more while throwing Buffy into some nearby crates.
But Willow isn’t a white witch… at least not exclusively. She goes the veiny route and blasts him with dark energy instead. With the Devourer staggered, Buffy is able to recover enough to use the Slayer Scythe axe blade, though there isn’t enough room to really effectively swing it.
The Devourer isn’t about to lose this moment of vengeance. He lifts the trident and an electrical discharge shocks Spike, Willow and Buffy off of their feet.
Page 18: The electrical blast weakens the demon enough for him to offer that he was unprepared for this fight. In order to buy time, he brings down the ceiling on them, while telling them that his vengeance will wait until after a soul recharge.
Willow is able to hold the roof up long enough for them to make an escape, but she realizes that the demon is going to have all he can eat with the Hellmouth partiers still gathered. Buffy worries after Andrew getting away, but Willow tells her that she knows where he’ll go next.
She goes on to say that she’d heard that after they’d found the remains of Warren, a funeral had been held by his family. They buried the skin as it was all that they’d found of him. Andrew would know this and wanting to resurrect Warren will probably be going after this uncontaminated sample.
With two problems to deal with, Willow goes off to find, confront and stop Andrew. Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike have to go after the soul eater before it can drain the partiers, and get super strong on their energy.
Page 19: Sometime later, Buffy and Spike have wandered upside, but Spike follows its slime trail and finds that instead of wandering over to the crowd waiting for slaughter, Devourer has instead returned underground.
The newly discovered surviving shaft leads through one of Sunnydale’s many, many cemeteries that were swallowed by the town’s collapse. Buffy brings up with Spike that she had thought all of the tunnels had been destroyed when the town was. Spike points out that many of Sunnydale’s tunnels were not only sturdy and deep, but he can tell that the demon has been busy excavating. He’s turned sections of the sunken town into a base of operations for himself.
And he’s happened to choose the cemetery where Spike used to live in the crypt. Buffy jokes with him not to get nostalgic. He replies that isn’t a concern. He goes on to say that he never returned to his crypt after his re-soul because it hurt to remember who he was before it happened.
Buffy points out that remembering mistakes helps you learn not to make them again.
Page 20: Spike suddenly apologizes to Buffy for everything that he did to her when he was without his soul, but especially for that night in her bathroom.
Buffy has already forgiven Spike for that, just like she forgave Angel for things that happened while he was Angelus. She offers that they’re both entirely different people now that they do have human souls to guide them. She also offers that they were both in dark places at the time.
Commentary: I appreciate this Spike/Buffy moment about their regrets in regards to Season Six’s destructive relationship, and especially the obvious lingering guilt Spike feels toward the sexual assault, but this seems like a weird time to blab it out. It was also weird to me that the Devourer isn’t busy right at this moment eating to overstuffing where the actual people are. What the heck is it doing down here??
I really would’ve liked to see this scene play out after the demon’s defeat, maybe by having Buffy notice how stricken Spike seems in the wake of the battle only to discover that he’s feeling burdened and crushed by facing the past in Sunnydale again and then to have him admit that he’s never been able to deal with remembering what happened in her bathroom that night. But having this scene here and now comes across as more awkward timing, than cathartic facing of the past.
Page 21: Buffy goes on to describe what she was going through when she started her affair with Spike and how she was looking to punish herself for being angry at her friends over their “rescue” of her. Spike winces and Buffy realizes that she’s basically admitting that Spike was her punishment, a way to hurt herself. She’s mortified to lay that on him and tries to explain herself better, but Spike notices a corpse under his boot. It’s dried out and mummified… but it’s not an old body.
From a side tunnel comes the Devourer and he’s gotten much bigger again, having drained the soul of one of the geeks. He still has two of them in his giant hands, presumably slowly using them up like batteries.
Commentary: This is weird, too. So, he stabbed one guy through the chest but also drained him dry at the same time… maybe with the trident’s power? And then he dragged the corpse off to this hideout to keep it hidden? While also dragging the other two costumed partiers to the hideout where he kept them imprisoned somewhere for later?
Page 22: Back with Willow, she’s made her way to Warren’s grave only to find that there isn’t any sign of Andrew. Wills thinks over the situation, and realizes that the vial holding Warren’s D.N.A. was smashed, but the box that should’ve protected it was undamaged.
She intuits that Andrew smashed Warren’s sample himself which means that he wasn’t after resurrecting him after all. But she also thinks to herself that she can feel somebody working a resurrection ritual nearby.
But if Andy was after resurrecting Jon, then he doesn’t need to stay in Sunnydale’s ruins to do it. He already has a sample of Levinson’s blood and could disappear to work the spell anywhere.
What Willow can’t know, but we see is that Andrew has set up candles and has the Vampyr book with him at a different grave… the grave of Tara Maclay….
Commentary: Oh my god. I got chills.
The Good: I liked the description of the Devourer coming from his point of view.
I continue liking how they've reduced Willow's abilities in light of the new shifting nature of magic, which keeps her from being overpowered and doing anything at anytime as the plot demands. It feels like there is actually effort involved in her casting, again.
Discovering that Andrew is going to try to bring back Tara was all kinds of shock. Great way to end the issue.
The Bad: I found some of the misdirect at what Andrew was doing to be really clumsy... specifically including his evil cackling just for the hell of it, apparently.
Other Thoughts: I have concerns discussed that the Vampyr book -- the all important book of oh-my-godness power can simply be removed so easily from where it's supposed to be stored. This feels particularly clumsy as a means to let Andrew traipse off to Sunnydale with it.
It also felt a little strange that Willow just takes charge when Buffy is still there: I don't object, it just struck me as odd since she usually takes the back seat when Buffy is present to call the shots.
I liked the scene between Spike and Buffy and his agonized apology to her for the bathroom assault, but the timing of the scene feels especially awkward to me in light of the fact that they believe the demon is off to wholesale slaughter a bunch of people. I really wish they'd left this for after the demon's inevitable defeat.
The Score: The issue has some uneven writing in places and feels awkwardly executed, but I like that Andrew hasn't returned to his evil ways and isn't trying to bring back Warren. As usual with him, he's trying to do something noble but doesn't think through how his actions are going to be seen by others and is so busy trying to do something heroic for the gang, that he can't see all of the ways it could go wrong.
3.0 out of 5 stars