Season 10, Issue 16
“Old Demons” part 1
Writer: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft’s] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: Just as Buffy and the gang were wading through their individual breakups and hookups, a new Big Bad named Archaeus came to light, and he’s someone they can’t fight alone. So, however awkward it may be -- now that Buffy and Spike are officially an item -- Buffy’s ex, Angel, has been called in to help.
Page 01: We open in the girls’ apartment where Buffy and Giles are going through everything they’ve been able to find in Rupert’s collection on Archaeus. Buffy wonders if Archaeus is an Old One, but Giles tells her not. He’s certainly old, but as a Demon Lord he’s not as powerfully primordial as the Gods. Alas, that just makes him more cunning and strategizing which can be just as, if not more, dangerous.
Rupert also tells Buffy that he’s worried about this Demon Lord making his way to Earth despite their attempts to strengthen the dimensional barriers. On the heels of The Sculptor, The Mistress & The Soul Glutton - something is clearly amiss.
In the meantime, Spike is whispering to Xan and Dawn about the last time that Buffy and Angel got together and just how quickly they ended up shagging. But Dawn reminds him that they were both under the Twilight Influence at the time. She tries to assure him that Buffy is his girlfriend now; Spike replies that Buffy doesn’t really belong to anyone.
Commentary: I like the explanation of Giles’ to differentiate somebody like Glorificus and Illyria from Archaeus. I only wish that we’d seen some of this evidence for the Demon Lord actually strategizing. Other than manipulating Spike & Angel via their dreamscapes… uh, not so much?
I also like how the big baddies [although, again, they’ve not really evidenced such status with any of their appearances thus far] are being tied together because I do believe that I mentioned in a previous review [and if I didn’t, I meant to] that for The Book’s Powers to ReWrite Magic Rules -- there sure is an awful lot of demon travel going on to Earth.
I’m a bit less pleased with Spike here. I get it, certainly! His worry over Bangel is understandable, but I think I’d prefer his concerns be kept in his head, rather than have a whine-athon at Xan & Dawnie about it.
Page 02: Xander is more concerned about his last meeting with “Ridiculous Forehead” as last time they were together, Xan was beating the holy hell out of the disoriented vampire for killing Giles. Xander tells the other two that was the start of his realizing just how much rage he’d been suppressing for years in regards to all of the supernatural shenanigans and how much it’s cost them all.
All of this is coming as news to Dawn. She didn’t hear about his confrontation with Angel after Buffy destroyed The Seed, and he didn’t bother to tell her about seeing Doctor Mike in regards to his anger problem.
Commentary: I like Xan being given this PTSD issue, because after everything and when putting it together with the many times he flew off the handle about Angel and Anya, it makes perfect sense that he was suffering this emotional issue since the TV series and nobody saw it.
But… It really felt like this was all coming from out of left field when it was introduced via his snapping at Dawn and being a general asshat toward her over nothing. I thought it was a side effect of his starting to lose his memories of her when she was fading from existence, but apparently that may have just been the last straw. I just wish we’d seen some more signs throughout Season 9 before it came to a head so suddenly is all. But I do like that Xander’s anger management is an ongoing thing for him.
And it’s neither here nor there for the rest of this scene, but it bugs me that once again Andrew isn’t anywhere to be seen. If this is a big meeting about Archaeus, Andy should be here -- Especially since the gang had just realized that sometimes they make Andrew feel like he’s not really “on the team”. You’d think they’d be far more conscientious about calling him for the big meetings.
Page 03: Dawn is relieved that she now knows what all of Xan’s outbursts have been about, but he’s not as relieved to have her know. It just brings up how they can be honest with one another now that they’re not together, when it was so difficult before.
Meanwhile, all of this emotional drama-drama is getting to Spike. He grabs a sword to go out and track down Archaeus. Giles calls him a fool and tells him he wouldn’t stand a chance, which makes Spike explode that he doesn’t know what they think Angel is going to be able to do if that’s the case.
Buffy tells Spike that maybe they should talk in private.
Page 04: Buffy assures Spike that Angel is a part of her past, while he’s part of who she is right now and his imminent arrival won’t change that.
Commentary: Yecch. I don’t like this touchy-feely crap between Buffy and Spike. I’d much rather Spike just tell her snottily that every time Angel makes the scene, she gets swoony and have her respond that if they’re going to make this work, then he needs to trust her or they’re doomed right now. She could’ve even mentioned that she already lost one boyfriend because he couldn’t understand her deep feelings toward her ex and that she would think that he, off all people, should understand her history and how complicated it is.
And leave it at that.
We don’t need to see Spike being all … Emo… about it. I’d rather this was handled with his usual sense of snark and attitude and Buffy giving it right back.
Page 05: Dawn has overheard the conversation and congratulates Buffy on how she handled Spike’s hurt feelings and doubts. Although, she does point out that Buffy may want to bend the steel weapons rack back into shape that she was squeezing now that things are settled again….
Buffy complains to Dawn about how complicated things always will be when Angel is involved. But the worst thing is, she’s not even sure what she’s feeling toward him anymore after all that has happened.
It’s at this point that Willow comes in, leading the man that is causing so much consternation.
Page 06: The first re-acquaintance between Angel and Buffy is… awkward. She puts a smile on her face and goes to hug him hello and he puts a way-unAngel-grin on his face and goes to shake her hand hello.
And both of them are left with “oh… uh…” face.
Page 07: They both grin at how silly they look before embracing. Angel then greets everyone else, but says that he and Buffy should take a moment just to clear the air between them before they all get started on their problem. Buffy agrees, though a little uncomfortably.
Wills offers her room.
Commentary: I like this part, I think. But what really made the page for me was Willow offering her room, despite this being Buffy’s apartment. It kinda acknowledges the awkward about Angel being in Buffy’s bedroom and steps around it by offering hers preemptively… very cool of Willow to figure they’d need a more neutral, less charged place to clear things between them.
I am a bit… hmm… I-don’t-know about Buffy and Angel here. It feels to me like this should’ve been a far more emotionally charged moment than it was depicted as. I wish we’d gotten just one small panel with Buffy nearly scowling at seeing Angel before deliberately pushing the past aside and I wish we’d had one small panel in the hallway between Angel and Willow with him mentioning that this feels like a worse idea than it did when he was on his way over here.
There is just too much of the horror-show between Buffy/Angel for it to sit well for me that they just grin it all off without more tension between them over what has come before.
Page 08: Angel and Buffy do broach the past and how it lies between them but both make the effort to keep it in the background.
Buffy opens Willow’s door, where Spike is caught listening in, and tells him to come in.
She breaks it to Angel, to his shocked frown, that she and Spike are very close now.
Page 09: It doesn’t fly well.
Angel accuses Spike of blindsiding him with this right as they’re on their way to war. Spike counters that he wanted to tell him over the phone to give him the plane ride over to digest it, and Buffy admits that she wanted to wait to tell him in person. She was trying to be mature. Spike scoffs that the Scooby Gang is hardly a deep font of maturity and Buffy tells him he doesn’t even try.
Angel interrupts to blow it all off as fine and wants to get his mind on why he’s really there. Buffy tries to make sure he’s going to be alright, but he nearly snarls that he said it’s fine.
Clearly, it isn’t. And nobody should’ve expected it to be.
Page 10: Spike and Angel leave Willow’s room, both stewing while Buffy is left feeling uncomfortable again.
Giles tries to break the tension by asking after Faith, since she chose not to come over. He admits that he realizes now that he was a bit insensitive when he didn’t talk to her about choosing to stay with Buffy on his return. Angel tries to tell him that Faith is really fine and everything between all of them is okay… but clearly nobody is quite ready to buy it.
Commentary: I’m really glad that they had Giles mention his departure from Faith and Angel for Buffy here, because the way he did it really bothered me at the time. I really felt for Faith, once again, being passed up for Giles’ return to “his golden girl” with barely a word acknowledging how much he values Faith and his relationship.
Page 11: Xander butts in to break the tension by turning conversation toward Archaeus.
Angel has figured out that his nightmares were deliberately targeted toward Angelus’ “specialty” by targeting nuns in them [although, we only saw one nightmare including this motif... I wish now that they'd had him have a series of dreams in that theme]. He offers that he thinks the Demon Lord was trying to break him down mentally by making him think he may’ve been losing his sanity to Angelus. With this, Spike offers that he’s been thinking too, and believes that he and Angel, being the only two members of the family with souls, were probably targeted because they have the tools in them to fight against him.
If he’d been able to make them doubt themselves before his reveal, they may have fallen under his influence before they knew what was happening to them. Angel wonders about his main goal in all of these games and Buffy offers they’ll find him and ask him… with pointy implements.
Rupert wonders if Spike and Angel should go at all before they know more, worrying that they’re being in Archaeus’ presence isn’t exactly what the Lord may want. But Angel and Spike are both willing to risk it, rather than be trapped on the sidelines and stuck with each other’s company.
Commentary: And all I can think is “Please let Drusilla be helping Archaeus by giving him the heads up when the good guys are coming. She should definitely be in this mix and she’d be easily controlled by Archaeus.” Especially since she’d more than likely be a willing accomplice as it is. And this is especially because of her bitterness toward Angel for driving her back into madness when she was sane and powerful briefly because of the Lorophage over in Angel & Faith.
I WANT her in this.
Page 12: In the hallway, Angel brings up where they start looking and everybody tells him about San Fran’s unfortunately extensive storm drain network underneath the city. Angel is about to suggest something, but this is interrupted by a pre-emptive attack on the gang by a demon sent by Archaeus.
Page 13: The demon assassin is full of spikes that he can fire, and he’s also armed with a slashing tail razors tipped with poison.
Willow takes a slash to her arm and she’s nearly immediately rendered useless and foaming at the mouth!
Page 14: As Buffy uses the Scythe to disarm the stinging tail, Buffy, Angel and Spike form a wall between Willow and Rupert so that Giles can try an antivenom spell.
In the meantime, Xan is behind the protective field of his and Spike’s apartment doorway and urges Giles to drag Wills in where the demon attacks can’t get to them.
Page 15: Angel wants to give Giles retreat cover, but Spike goes on the offensive. Buffy follows Spike’s lead, but complains about the demon’s exoskeleton making it like slicing at a wall.
Angel offers they should try to target the same spot to penetrate the armor, but all three of them aren’t coordinating and it causes Angel and Buffy to collide in their mutual attack attempt.
Page 16: Angel throws himself in front of Buffy, while she complains that she’s got this. It only leads to Angel getting another slice across his back from the flailing arm spikes of their foe.
Spike shouts at them that he knows they know how to fight together without tripping one another up as he grabs the demon from behind around the throat to draw off it’s attack on them.
Angel apologizes to Buffy for being rusty, and she offers she’s feeling it too. But she say, it’s time…
Page 17: … to shake it off and work like they know they can and have done.
They go on the collective offensive, but Angel complains it’ll take them forever to do enough damage to stop the thing. Spike tells them they should use the protective wards around Xan and his apartment to their advantage and Buffy tells him her mind was just thinking that. She shouts to the others to move out of the doorway and get ready.
Page 18: Angel leaps to Spike’s side, while Spike lets go of the demon. Buffy draws it’s focus on her so that it’ll leap at her, which it does.
At the same time, Angel and Spike each grab a foot, sending it flying over the now-ducked-down Buffy. Trajectory and momentum take care of the rest.
Commentary: I really liked how our three heroes are so unused to working together, and still uncomfortable - not to mention the simmering hostility between Angel & Spike - that they fail to coordinate in the battle. It was also very-in-character for Angel to try to protect Buffy and for her to complain that she doesn’t want his protection in battle.
It was also a nice moment when the two of them apologize for their rustiness in fighting side by side and getting in one another’s way, leading to the team work we know they’re capable of.
I liked this whole sequence, though I do wish they’d lasted another two pages or so of bumbling about before they pulled it together, especially when it comes to Spike and Angel. It could’ve been funny if they were nearly at blows over getting in each other’s way only for Buffy to shout a pissed complaint that SHE’S still fighting the killer demon down the hallway.
They missed a chance at some levity, there.
Page 19: The demon goes tumbling through the doorway, where Willow’s protective ward engages and ignites it. Dawnie takes the opportunity to follow up with a crossbow bolt to it’s lower abdomen.
She tells the others that it’s not over yet, but Angel and Buffy snarks it is, the demon just doesn’t know it yet. Our trio line up to coordinate their slice-n-dice.
Page 20: Buffy uses the Scythe to pin the burning demon to the floor by it’s truncated tail while Angel and Spike double slice it’s neck to behead it.
Commentary: Although… it does seem like that was a bad move unless both of them were secretly hoping to behead the other at the same time by their swords’ momentum toward one another’s positions.
That coulda ended with Buffy being down two vampire allies.
But I did like the way that everybody had something to do, including Dawn with her crossbow. I always enjoy it when the non-super powered Scoobies get to contribute to the fisticuffs.
Page 21: Post battle, Spike complains that they were stumbling around like The Three Stooges in the hallway. Buffy offers that they’re getting the hang of working together though.
Willow comes out of the bedroom with Giles and to Xan’s complaints that she should rest and recover, she offers that Rupert’s spell worked. She also says she wants to scan the demon before it completely breaks down.
Angel says that the Morituri demons are usually used in interhell conflicts and there isn’t a direct connection between their dimension and Earth’s. He worries over what it’s doing there.
Willow offers that she’s picking up some sort of bridging magic in play around the assassin’s remains. This leads to Giles worryingly stating that Archaeus must have access to a portal somehow, despite the fact that this shouldn’t be possible any longer.
Page 22: Buffy complains about that exact thing as they shut down the expressways to Hells, but Giles tells her that there is still certain natural phenomena that they’re efforts can’t affect… hidden Hellmouths for instance, and certain artifacts that would still retain their magical charges.
Angel tells the others that would explain the uptick in demon activity despite their efforts and Spike compares Archeaus to The Godfather, letting demons pass through while extracting a promise to help him in exchange. Rupert tells Buffy that this completely undermines their efforts to secure Earth and they must stop Archaeus and find this gateway at all costs.
Xander wonders if Archaeus set them up to be attacked by this one particular demon just so that they’d reach this conclusion and come for him. Wills agrees, but she also agrees with Rupert that they can’t ignore the Demon Lord having control over a dimensional gate. Buffy promises that Archaeus may be trying to play them, but he’s issued the invitation and he’s going to find out that he should’ve been careful what he wished for.
The Good: I do like the references to what has come before when it comes to Angel's being out up until now with the rest of the team, without it diving into the whole Twi-Debacle again. I also like Faith not coming for this, evidencing [despite Angel's assurances] her own issues with both Buffy and now Giles. Would I have liked to see her full on in this? Yes, sure. But I have no issues with her sitting this one out for her own thing.
I liked how everyone and Angel can't really work together smoothly right out of the gate and the lingering and bitter resentments simmering between Spike and Angel [but there is that tiny caveat].
I really enjoyed the battling assassin demon scenes, and I loved the gang figuring out that the only reason they would've been attacked by one, easily traceable, attacker is because Archaeus set them up to figure out he has access to a portal. It plays into Giles' earlier statements about Demon Lords being more strategic planners than other Big Bads, like Old Ones. It also makes it far more likely that the gang will step up finding him before they can really plan out a step-by-step on how to pre-empt his abilities, which can only work in his favor. It's actually quite clever, and if the demon had managed to kill a few of Buffy's team before his defeat, then it would've just been a bonus. The point was to force Team Scooby to react and push the fight before they have time to be assuredly ready for him. This is a much better tactic than we saw of the other alledged tactics guy, The Sculptor.
I also did like the hint that the other powerful players were able to get to Earth specifically because Archaeus invited/allowed them to use his portal in exchange for future services [but we've got a caveat].
I am definitely also happy with Willow's powers continuing to be limited, allowing Giles to have more of an active role in the magic side of things. I'm liking the division of scenes when it comes to the magic works. I also like that Dawn was given a panel to show that she's getting promising with that crossbow of hers.
The Bad: So while I would've liked things handled a bit differently for this first arc issue, it's mostly just refinement of the scenes we got. Nothing was badly handled [although woobie!Spike rode close to the line].
Other Thoughts: Although I appreciated everyone having their moment to discuss Angel, I would've liked to have more before his arrival. I kinda wish we'd had a filler issue and have Angel arrive near the end of this one so that we could really deal with the emotional turmoil of his arrival, as well as visiting with him for a few panels on the plane and second guessing making the trip. In fact, I would've been happy if we'd had a Half-Buffy, Half-Angel & Faith issue where each group is arguing about trying to work closely with one another again after everything that has happened. I would've really liked to get Faith's viewpoint in more detail. I also didn't really like the Woobie!Spike thing going on.
I do have that small caveat for this section when it comes to that simmering hostility between Spike and Angel that I liked... I wanted a bit more of that, too in this issue. The more I think about it, the more I wish the battle action had waited for next issue.
I did like the inference that Archaeus set The Sculptor, The Siren Queen and the Soul Glutton on Buffy as a part of his plan... until I thought about their actual impact on the plot. At that point, they're inclusion/services didn't seem to actual have a greater point which, in retrospect, makes their being tied to Archaeus kind of useless: I think I'd have prefered if they were involved in their own plot against Buffy and maybe even end up blundering into a war over who gets to kill her and for what against the Demon Lord. I like the humor that comes in the midst of big battle royales, and that could've been amusing for those three to get distracted in a pointless pissing match with Archaeus instead of focusing on killing The Chief Slayer.
The Score: This was a solid entry into Buffy and Angel's latest crossover and I had a good time with it. There could've been improvement as listed in "Other Thoughts", but this was a fun issue.
3.75 out of 5 stars
Next up: That Buffy Season 3 review, "Amends".