Buffy, The Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 14
“Relationship Status: Complicated”, part one
Writer: Christos Gage, Artwork: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & (Comicraft’s) Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: Buffy and the gang struggle with their newfound responsibility - rewriting the rules of magic. Between that and trying to understand the regular ol’ rules of love, things are a little heated for our heroes. But this rock-solid group of friends are still enjoying adulthood in a thriving city (oh, er… except Giles), until a seriously bad, bad guy comes to roost in a most unexpected place.
Page 01: We join Xander, Willow, Dawn, Buffy, Spike and Giles in the last’s apartment where the gang discuss what they know about Spike’s experiences lately. But more to the point, Willow has a plan that she’s already discussed with Rupert. This plan is why they’re all really there now.
Willow and Giles together explain the idea of sending someone into Spike’s mind as he dreams, looking for clues in the images Spike has that can’t be reached through typical mystic scanning.
Xander is Spike’s first choice for a traveling companion, but Willow warns that if they run into trouble and the traveler is killed in dream, they’ll die in real life. She suggests they need somebody more powerful as the anchor/traveler: obvs a Slayer fits that bill.
Commentary: Wow… XANDER is Spike’s first choice! That was awesome to my Spander sensibilities, despite not being spanderish. I love how the interpersonal relationships are being strengthened throughout this season, making our Scooby Gang a solid unit again.
And playing on that appreciation, I also really like the image of our gang all being gathered together, all on the same page as far as helping Spike, and all discussing things that are scary -- like whatever is going on in Spike’s head -- openly like this… like what they used to be able to do before S6 through S8 really messed things up.
It feels much more “back to the beginning” than S7 actually was, and it’s making me awfully happy to see. It’s even got a shout out to the multi-limbed Kali statue seen in the “She Is The Slayer” voiceover during the S1, early-S2 intro before they stopped interrupting the flow of the story to cram it in. I also loved the shout out to Rupert’s habit of cleaning his glasses by having mini-Rupert do so while he’s talking here.
Page 02: Spike offers that somebody other than Buffy would be more appropriate and suggests Xan hard, but Xander points out that despite Spike’s compliments on his stake handling - the Slayer should really go if there may be a fight of some sort.
Buffy now asks what’s the what about her going and Spike admits to his fear that when she sees things he’s done before it’ll damage them. He’s also concerned that she’ll see who he really is deep down right now and not like what she discovers.
She assures him that she’s not in there to satisfy her curiosity and she’ll keep her eyes on the prize and only prod around as it relates to finding some answers.
Page 03: Buffy goes on to tell Spike that she gets his fear, and she’d have the same thing if it was her mind being scrutinized, but she knows that he’s the type of person now that won’t let innocents suffer because of a little bit of fear.
He can’t formulate an argument to that, so he’s on board. Buffy kisses him “for luck”, which Xan immediately pegs with a Star Wars reference to Luke/Leia… and how their relationship turned out. Dawn gives him an amused knock to the back of the head.
Page 04: Rupert casts a sleep spell on Spike, which works even as Spike is in the middle of a sentence. Buffy comments on it, and Giles tells her that in his old life he worked to suppress his natural magical talents. Having been returned to his current age, he’s working on developing those skills again. It’s the only silver lining he’s found in the whole thing.
Willow starts to ready Buffy for her journey, warning her that though she’ll be in contact with Buffy, she can’t see what she’ll see. She’ll need Buffy to talk to her to let her know any details that jump out as being helpful.
Buffy worries over Spike being right about seeing things that she won’t be able to live with if they’re a couple, but Willow points out that if there are things inside him that makes her not want to be with him, maybe the point is that she shouldn’t be with him.
Buffy snarks at Will’s “pep talk” and tells her she’s ready to get this over with.
Commentary: I think I’ve probably mentioned this already but the thought I keep coming to this season, is how much lighter and breezier things are between the gang. It is SUCH a relief to see the joking and sarcasm that doesn’t have a root of real malice in it [like Willow’s mentionings of The Seed always had]. The family is family-like again and it feels wonderful.
Page 05: Buffy wonders to Willow from inside Spike’s mind about her ending up in Spike’s boring bedroom. She then spots herself straddling Spike from the night before. Willow assures her this makes sense as the most intense, recent memory Spike would have. She also reminds Buffy that she [Willow] can’t see anything, but turns the Slayer’s attention to taking control of the journey.
Buffy wonders how she’s supposed to do that, when she suddenly feels a change in the dreamscape taking place.
Page 06: Buffy is thrust into a kaleidoscope of recent memories and feelings from Spike.
Page 07: Buffy finds herself swept up in the love that Spike has for her. And it’s not an adolescent pure love, but a messy and complicated love full of doubts and annoyances and lusts but at it’s base, there is love. She cries in joy.
Willow tells her that’s all marvelous, but reminds her that they can’t linger but must push on toward their central mystery.
Buffy moves further back in Spike’s memories to when he wasn’t with the gang the previous year. She’s outraged to find images of Harmony Kendall with a pair of sexy handcuffs and a come hither look.
Commentary: And this would be Angel & Faith’s Season 1 [or as I like to call it, Angel Season 7], Issue 20 - whose highlight was definitely the Faith/Spike snark scenes.
Page 08: Wills talks Buffy through the rough moment by having her focus on how Spike’s images of Buffy are compared to anyone else. Obvs, Spike has a ‘best Buffy’ image of her, while everyone else pales in comparison.
Buffy apologizes for getting swept up in the intensity and Wills reminds her that they’re looking for something specific. Buffy sees Spike having torn the throat open on the couple.
Page 09: As she studies the images, she notices an inky, dark line leading away from Spike. As she begins following, Willow is reasoning that it could be the embodiment of the link between Spike and the real killer. Buffy tells her that she can sense that it is traveling into Spike’s past, which Willow concedes would make sense if the killer is somebody from Spike’s days as a demonic killer. She warns Buffy that things are likely to get more dangerous now.
Page 10: Buffy is assaulted by impressions of Spike’s time in the trials and the pain that he experienced when his soul was restored.
Wills tells her she needs to keep going backward, but warns her things will be harder for her to see now as she’s heading back.
Buffy realizes what she means almost instantly: The old Spike is now front and center.
Commentary: And this is actually where the conceit of being in Spike’s memories is really falling apart, art-wise. None of us would have memories in which we see ourselves from a third person perspective. Buffy should be seeing things from Spike’s viewpoint, not seeing Spike committing certain acts, or seeing differing depictions of Spike.
I can almost be okay with this, I think. If we think of this trail that Buffy is following as the actual producer of the memories… of a second party being aware of Spike’s life by some sort of remote viewing/experiencing, then this would sorta work if we’ll concede that our mystery person is experiencing everything from outside of Spike’s perspective on it.
It’s a bit… messy and not quite convincing enough an explanation, but I can make it work for me with some effort. I really wish though that we’d stayed more deeply inside of Spike’s perspective directly, at least until the following page, when things will take a twist. I think it would’ve worked better at suddenly taking us off guard when Buffy’s travels don’t stop at the moment of William’s death.
Page 11: In the midst of Spike’s vicious killing, Buffy cries out to Willow that he’s murdering people and enjoying it. Willow is sympathetic but reminds her that they all knew this would be coming. She reminds her that this isn’t the Spike that he is now.
Buffy re-sets her mind on following the trail and trying to ignore the images of the things that demonic Spike has done before Sunnydale.
She reaches the point where Drusilla turned William and is sure that the trail has reached a dead end, when she finds herself swept up in a “dark current”. The trail yanks her away from William and into Drusilla’s wide mouth and down her gullet.
Page 12: Now, Buffy’s journey is more frenzied and out of control. She shouts to Willow that she’s on a roller coaster and can’t stop moving, which Wills takes as the shadow generator being in control of the travels.
Buffy is drawn through Drusilla’s experiences, through Angelus’, through Darla’s and even through The Master’s… back and back through a lineage until she’s finally dropped to a very solid seeming ground.
Willow shouts that she’s losing her connection to Buffy.
Commentary: I didn’t really get what was going on at this point until Buffy was suddenly inside of Dru’s experiences. It hit me then where we were likely to end up, and I really like that they’ve gone all the way back to Season 1 again and Jessie’s assertion that he felt connected to something greater than himself. It’s a linkage that Holden would also mention to Buffy in Season 7 and we’re seeing it playing out here as an actual metaphysical link leading -- presumably -- to the beginning of the Spike, et al line.
(Though, also presumably not as far back as Maloker).
Page 13: [Ha! Right!]
Buffy is confronted in wherever-she-is-now by a huge, spindly demon with bone protrusions on the outside of his skin. He introduces himself as Archaeus and welcomes The Slayer, before trying to mash her into paste.
Page 14: In the real world, everyone is panicking as Buffy can’t be awoken and is in obvious physical distress. Willow shouts for Giles to wake Spike to sever the connection, but he finds that the vampire also won’t awaken.
Spike seems to be suffering as much as Buffy when suddenly both of them shoot up with exclamations of terror.
Commentary: I was chilled though by the image of the long, dark shadow fingers around Buffy’s head. I was suddenly wondering if Buffy and Spike were really freed, or if this was a fake out and they’d both be under Archaeus’ mind control.
Page 15: In the aftermath of their experiences, Buffy is able to tell the others that when she wasn’t able to get away from Archaeus, she switched directions and pushed against his illusory image. It allowed her to break free the opposite direction from what he expected.
She also tells them that she could sense that Archaeus’ hell that she was “in” wasn’t where the old demon actually is now. She tell them that she sensed that Archaeus is in their world right now, and close by.
Giles tells her she recognizes the name from his time researching The Master and Archaeus is supposed to be the one who directly sired him. Xan reminds them what they know of vampires and how a demon’s essence is partially transferred into a human body to create the new vampire. He exclaims that they’re suggesting now that the original bit of demon essence doesn’t stop there, but continues to splinter off and infect every host that the new vampire made and all of the hosts that those vampires make going forward.
Rupert offers that is the latest in Watcher thinking at the time that the Council was destroyed. As Xan gives a glass of blood to a shaken Spike, Buffy exclaims that if Angel and Spike share the same essence, it’s like she fell in love with the same guy twice in different bodies.
Commentary: This is interesting, the way that they’re maybe-sorta giving an in-universe reasoning behind why Angel and Spike’s character developments ran along parallel lines by suggesting that similar circumstances could lead to similar results because they’re far, far more similar than either could’ve known.
I’m not sure I buy it completely, but it’s interesting anyway. It’s also an interesting spin that a powerful vampire gets his power from the fact that he’s constantly replicating bits of himself in his direct progeny and all of their progeny on down the line.
Page 16: Spike is taken aback by wondering how this new development relates to Drusilla and him, but Giles points out that a demon’s essence combines with a person’s personality to create a new being. But it is clear now that a common thread not only links back through time, but can also be used to exert influence by the originating demon.
Buffy has sensed enough to know that Archaeus is somewhere in the waterfront district and Willow tells them all that they need to get moving before he can relocate.
Page 17: Before they leave, Spike asks Buffy about things she was left with. She admits there was a lot of bad in his head, but also tells him that there was good in there worth more than that. She admits confusion over how to feel about it all, but promises that she’ll tell him everything when she’s had time to digest it all.
For the moment though, they have work to do.
Page 18: At the Port of San Francisco, Buffy finds a familiar warehouse to check out. Dawn mentions the complete lack of animal life. The Slayer mentions that she felt more underground and Xander tells her the city has a lot of huge storm drains.
They spread out a bit to find any trapdoors or hatches that would lead downward. Above them, we can glimpse a bat wing extended.
Page 19: Willow warns everyone that they have “incoming” as we see the new breed of shape shifter vampires drop down from the ceiling on them.
While this is happening, Aracheus hasn’t been the run and hide sort. He breaks up through the cement floor, freely showing himself to all.
Page 20: Willow lets loose with a mystic blast, but she finds this deflected and complains that the demon is a spell caster as well. He confirms this for her, and says that though he’s not on her level, he has other talents to make up for it.
With this a bone spur from his back lashes out and slices Willow’s thigh.
In the meantime, Buffy has gotten behind him and uses the Slayer Scythe to slice off some of those bone protrusions.
Page 21: Archaeus complains about all of the distractions and orders Spike to kill Buffy.
He refuses, citing his soul being more powerful than the bit of essence the “old bastard” has in him. Archaeus isn’t so sure. He slashes out at Buffy catching her in the arm and with her blood flowing, mentions how intoxicating Slayer blood is to a vampire.
Buffy tells Spike to fight his instincts.
Page 22: Spike tries, but even as Buffy tells him that he’s been through worse than this temptation and come out the other side already, Spike is struggling. He vamps out against his will and with a growl warns her to run.
As Archaeus watches in amusement, Spike lunges at Buffy with a tortured growl….
The Good: I really like the breezy feeling we get with the Scooby Gang's interpersonal relationships again.
The plot really got interesting when Buffy's travels through Spike's psyche didn't stop at him and continued through to Drusilla and back. I was very interested in where we were going.
Obviously, I'm always happy when Angel and Buffy's respective titles give shout outs to one another. I do loves The Continuity.
The Bad: Nothing bothered.
Other Thoughts: I do wish that the memories of Spike were handled a bit differently art-wise, keeping us firmly in Spike's POV and then suddenly swapping to Dru's POV. The third person perspective is problematic for what the writing is suggesting is happening from Buffy's viewpoint.
I'm also getting slightly... just slightly... a bit bored by the "bigger and greater" threats of season on season. Now it seems like every old one is going to be making another appearance and I'm not sure that is going to work over and over. Especially if the Vampyre book isn't a least mentioned and debated as a way to keep these super powerful beings in the Well where they belong.
I am a bit concerned that Spike's turn against Buffy is going to be another excuse for yet another "off again" period in the Buffy/Spike relationship when Archaeus is defeated. I've [as I've stated a lot] am over the drama-drama of Buffy's vampire-lovers/exes.
The Score: I really was left liking this issue, especially when things to the twist of having Buffy traveling back beyond anything that William/Spike could've witnessed. Archaeus is an interesting design, though he didn't really get to shine as a super villain in this issue.
3.75 out of 5 stars
Next Up: The second Six Million Dollar Man telefilm reviewed: "Wine, Women and War".