Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 15
“Relationship Status: Complicated” part two
Writer: Christos Gage, Art: 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 open with a voiceover over flashbacks of Spike’s Slayer-killer past. The voice over comments on how great the feeling is for a vampire to kill the girl that was designed to defeat him… you never feel so alive, even as undead, than in the moment you take her life.
Our commentator is Archaeus. He speaks of Spike, and tells him that there is nothing he wants more than to feel that rush again.
Spike entire focus, in vamp!face, is on Buffy’s bleeding shoulder wound.
Commentary: This was an excellent starting page. It’s tense and exciting and though I’m a bit under whelmed by Archaeus having time to pontificate when he should be under attack by our gang, the visuals make up for it.
Page 02: The gang worries over Spike’s turn on Buffy, and Willow complains that she’s trying to mystically snap Spike to his senses, but Archaeus’ hold is supreme over Will’s magic.
Buffy meanwhile is trying the “I know you’re in there” argument. She tells Spike that she doesn’t know how to stop him without killing him.
Page 03: Archaeus swats Willow away and reminds Spike how the power feels coursing through him when he fed off Xin Rong.
Spike is swayed, but in his mind he sees an image of Buffy’s horror at witnessing the Slayer’s killing from when she was in his mind last issue.
Page 04: Spike is momentarily shocked from his bloodlust and Buffy uses the advantage to clobber him in the face with the pole of her Scythe.
Meanwhile the gang are still fighting the shape shifting new breed of vampire, except Willow who is still fighting against Archaeus. He bone spears her across the side of her abdomen, allowing him to check on his progress in using Spike against Buffy.
Buffy has William pinned against the floor, but Archaeus uses another of his bone protrusions to slice Buffy across the forehead. Her blood runs down onto Spike’s mouth as Archaeus tells Spike to remember who he really is.
Page 05: Spike launches himself off the ground, overpowering Buffy and knocking her onto her butt. Dawn worriedly shouts at Buffy to fight back. Xander agrees, despite knowing that if she does, she’ll have to put Spike down permanently.
She finally reaches the conclusion there isn’t another way either. As both she and Spike have made it to their feet again, he rushes her. She apologizes to him and prepares to stake him with the pointy end of the Scythe through his heart.
Commentary: I love the action going on, but I wish there was more intensity to it, and less of the habit of characters carrying on conversations in the midst of battles.
This scene could’ve been helped by really showing the Scoobies being pushed back by the shape shifting vamps in the background of these panels with Buffy, Spike and Archaeus in the forefront.
Page 06: Just as Buffy prepares to stake Spike, she changes her mind, exclaiming that they’re not there yet. Instead she uses the Scythe handle to block his biting attack.
Clamping his teeth on the Scythe causes enough pain for Spike to back off for a moment.
Buffy tells the out-of-control Spike that they’re not enemies, so she’s putting down her weapon. Archaeus savors the stupidity. Spike advances on Buffy.
Dawn is wrapping Willow’s wound, while yelling at Buffy. Giles is spell-blasting one of the shape shifters while exclaiming that Buffy’s crazy.
Commentary: Eugh. I don’t really like the mind controlled/lost-their-mind heroes being brought back to sanity by the “I know you’re in there” tactics. It looks like that is where we’re headed so we can all admire William’s fortitude. Blah.
I know that Buffy has a magic mouth when it comes to inspiring speeches, BUT I also remember that we were all supremely annoyed by it in S7. I don’t want a simple “we love each other, remember who you are” to resolve this battle.
Scene 07: Buffy pontificates on Spike’s real self. She tells him that he’s better than this and presents her throat. Spike doesn’t appear to be impressed by her faith in him.
Scene 08: Spike flashes back to Rong and his thrill at killing her before seeing Buffy witnessing it in his mind and remembers shame.
He remembers slaying Nikki Wood and his validation in the wake of it, but then remembers Buffy’s pain at witnessing it and his feelings of sorrow. He remembers Buffy’s love.
Commentary: Ick. I have a love/hate relationship with “The Power of Love” tropes. In this specific case, I’m not liking it. I could see this working after the gang retreat with an unconscious Spike and he’s not so close to Archaeus, but here and in these present circumstances, it feels too rote and cliché to me.
Scene 09: Spike shouts a power “NOOOOOOO” before turning on Archaeus again. He exclaims that he’s no puppet.
Scene 10: Spike goes on the assault against Archaeus, managing to snatch up the Scythe from the ground on his way. He apologizes to the gang for losing control and promises it won’t happen again.
Willow responds dryly that she didn’t doubt him for a minute.
Archaeus, however, isn’t impressed with Spike’s turnabout. He easily shrugs him off and across the room. He shouts that he is a Lord of Hell and won’t be overcome so easily.
Scene 11: As the Slayer Scythe flies through the air from Spike’s grip, Buffy snatches it.
The gang form around her, and she warns Archaeus that they’re… including Spike… are family. The implication being that together they’re more than a match for him.
Commentary: I always appreciate this particular trope, so I’ll admit to being swept up in the visual and Buffy’s pronouncement. It’s very much S5’s Family with Tara and I still dig that scene hard, so this works for me more than it should, really. Since this big bad has shown that he can hurt any of them, I’m not sure it’s the time for a “group together to make an easy target, so we can be cool with a snappy retort” moment.
Page 12: Archaeus points out that they can then die together.
In the meantime, Xander is focusing on the building around them using his construction trade knowledge.
Page 13: Archaeus tells the gang that he prefers to bring his victims to the point of hopeless despair rather than simply killing, but the latter in this case is acceptable. He goes on the attack versus Willow, blasting her down for the third time, this time with magic of his own.
Next he slams the floor, causing a shockwave to knock everyone else off of their feet.
Xan crawls over to Willow to check on her condition. He warns her that they’re outclassed by this bad guy. He tells her everyone should retreat to regroup, but Willow doesn’t know how to get everyone out safely now that they’re in the midst of the fight.
Xander says he does.
Commentary: I really, really liked Xander calling on his normal-guy experiences to get the gang out of this fix that they’ve gotten themselves into with this obvious frontal assault.
But again, we really needed more here. I did like how Archaeus’ direct attacks have all targeted Willow, pointing to his knowing that she’s the most dangerous due to her magical attacks. I also like, rather than the Willow of Season 8, how she’s finding herself being outmatched by Archaeus’ experience, if not raw power.
But, it really has felt like the gang has been holding their own just fine, rather than actually being outclassed enough to have to retreat. I would’ve liked to see Willow, Giles and Spike all wounded/rendered unconscious to emphasize that the Scooby Gang are clearly outmatched before this retreat is called for.
Page 14: Archaeus is being confronted by Spike and Buffy again and he tells Spike that everything he has is due to the Hell Lord. He tells him to watch as he takes it all away.
Xander shouts to the others to form on him, to Spike’s doubt about how that will be helpful. But Buffy trusts Xander implicitly [which is nice after the S9 mistake he made] and besides, it isn’t as if they’re doing much good up to now.
Page 15: Willow gets to Giles and they start a duo-spell. Archaeus shrugs off this attempt, exclaiming amused that he can block any of her magic.
But she points out that he can, but the warehouse’s walls just kinda stand there and take it.
Her and Giles power blasts the building’s support infrastructure, bringing the building down as the gang retreats.
Archaeus shouts to William as the vampire demon is buried that there is no escape for him or any of his children.
Commentary: I also liked that they’ve made this Demon Lord strong enough to not simply be defeated, as once again, I wondered about the tie-in to what Angel is experiencing over in his title.
I know that I’ve complained about the off/on thing multiple times between Angel/Buffy and Buffy/Spike, but I’m really hoping that this is leading to a proper crossover between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel & Faith in an epic story. This villain has a lot of potential, and I’m glad that he’s not defeated here -- whether this becomes a true crossover story, or just continues to have effects in Angel’s title.
Page 16: Outside, the gang confirms that they know their antagonist wouldn’t be killed by the buildings collapse. But Xan offers they at least have some time. Giles replies that he wished he had an idea of what to do with it.
Page 17: As the gang return home with this stalemate, Spike offers to Buffy that the Hell Lord still owns a piece of him and that he felt the thrill of what he used to be. But he also knows that he owns himself, too and informs Buffy that it was seeing her in those memories that helped him hold onto who he’s become. He thanks her for that.
She accepts everything that she saw and makes it clear that they’re going to be fine through it, together.
Commentary: And there is a huge sigh of relief [or cheers if you’re really into the Spuffy thing] that they did in fact avoid an “off again” after just having Buffy finally make a decision about trying things out with Spike.
Thank You, Writers for not stringing this along anymore!
Page 18: Back at the apartment block, it’s time to turn our attention to the other couple having problems.
Xan visits Dawn. Xan points out how brave he thinks of Andrew for confronting and accepting who he is, and of Willow’s bravery in breaking up with the mystic woman she loves because she knew things weren’t right.
Dawn sympathetically complains that it isn’t helping her for him to keep coming over to remind her that he’s in love with her and she isn’t feeling the same way anymore. But that isn’t what Xan’s intention is. He tells her that they should have the bravery to move on from one another.
Page 19: Dawn is shocked, but accepts that it must be hard on him to wait around for her to rediscover the feelings that she used to have. But Xander isn’t suggesting moving on because he’s had enough of waiting around.
He explains that before they had a romance, they had a close friendship. He suggests they should just hang out together with no pressure to force feelings that may or may not ever recur. He wants to just be friends again and let things happen naturally, the way that things just developed in one way or another before.
Page 20: Dawn accepts this. She broaches them dating other people and they decide that if they meet somebody else then they should pursue it.
Either the two of them will end up together again when it’s right for both, or they’ll just have the close friendship they had before things turned so weird due to The Seed.
Commentary: Eh. I wasn’t ever into the Dawn/Xan relationship all that much, but I got comfortable with it. I can accept either scenario without any problems. What I really want to comment on though is that I’m ambivalent about this conversation.
I like the idea behind them moving on and just letting things happen, but the dialog feels a bit clunky to me and I’m not sure it really took three pages to discuss this.
It also feels just a little too easy to actually work. You can’t just “go back”.
Page 21: In Giles’ apartment, Willow, Buffy, Spike and Giles are discussing Archaeus.
Rupert insists that they can’t defeat them on their own and will require more help. Spike brings up D’Hoffryn [REALLY??] or Aluwyn. Wills shoots down the latter as they’ve left one another with some seriously bad feelings on the Saga Vasuki’s part.
Giles also shoots down the suggestion of including D’Hoffryn as he’s too political a demon. Despite working with them on the Rules of Magic project, if he thought that Archaeus would be victorious, he’d sell them out in a hot minute.
Spike complains that they’ll have to make the bloody call then, clearly very displeased. Buffy goes on to comment that things are going to be very awkward which Willow agrees was always going to be the case for this particular reunion.
Commentary: OMG!!! Are they really going to do it?! Are we getting a cross-title crossover with Angel & Faith! And using the Archaeus arc?
Oh, my gosh, oh my gosh… I really hope this isn’t just going to be a phone call to summon Faith.
Page 22: Spike is in the other room now, fuming.
Giles joins him. Spike complains that whenever “he” enters the picture, Buffy always chooses “him”… Always.
Rupert sympathizes but suggests that the way to proceed is to act with maturity and grace in order to impress on Buffy that she made the right choice this time.
Spike agrees with Rupert’s advice… yeah, right.
When Angel answers the transatlantic call, he opens with “Hello, Wanker” to Giles’ chagrin. Angel replies that a person would think he’d block Spike’s calls by now.
Commentary: Yay! The next issue title is “Crossover”. I’m so excited! I don’t even know why since Faith, Spike and Willow have all already made the crossing before, but I am anyway. I guess because I’m hoping for a true crossover with part one in Buffy’s title, part two in Angel’s etc, so that each title’s characters get equal standing.
The Good: I absolutely loved the opening for this issue and the trip through Spike's past slayings.
I liked the ongoing battle with the Scooby's being slowly overcome by Archaeus [with a caveat in Other Thoughts].
I liked Xander once again coming through to allow our gang to retreat by using his regular guy job knowledge.
I'm really looking forward to a BTVS/A&F crossover arc!
I am very appreciative of the fact that we don't end on the Buffy/Spike relationship being off again.
The Bad: Nothing poorly done.
Other Thoughts: I have some minor issues with the amount and timing of dialog throughout the issue, even trying to cut it slack for being a comic book trope. We need our battle scenes, especially when the point is being made that our good guys are outmatched, to be tense and action heavy. The endless amounts of comments and conversation really hampers that.
And speaking of the impression that our gang is outmatched, it would've also helped to see more of our Gang on the ground and unable to effectively defend themselves. Willow is the only one who is really put out of commission and it makes Xander's insistence that they need to retreat and regroup seem overblown for what we're actually seeing during the fight.
I have a concern about Buffy/Angel again... just as Spike does. Now that a decision has been taken, I really hope that this isn't going to undo it... again... so that we can continue to drag out the "Which will Buffy be with" ongoing and unwelcomed story.
Speaking of... I could actually do with less pages being focused on Dawn/Xander, too. It's important to both characters, but I'd rather it continue to be a few panels here and there rather than taking up too much comic space.
The Score: This was another good issue, with the battle against a controlled Spike being exciting and tense [despite the obvious that Spike wasn't going to kill or be killed]. I'm very hopeful for this meeting between Angel and Buffy after everything that has happened.
3.75 out of 5 stars
Next Up: Movie reviewed, "19 Doors".