BTVS, Season 10, Issue 17
"Old Demons" part II
Script: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt(Comicraft),
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 with Dawn at the weapons' cabinet in Buffy, Willow and her apartment. She's frowing at the gang and asks if everyone is in control of themselves before she starts handing out the weaponry.
Everyone else takes umbrage that she thinks they can't act like adults with Giles in particular berating her for acting like they make it a habit of fighting with each other... before the looks on everyone's faces testifies that actually they do seem to do that alot. Spike breaks the awkward with a command to just hand out the gear already.
Commentary: I just want to say how much I've enjoyed the way that Dawn has been written overall, and not just this season, but last as well. I did complain about her not reacting much to Xander's very scary angry outbursts, but other than that, she's been pretty amusing. We don't see get a lot of her whining anymore, and she manages to not be kidnapped and to actually get in on the fighting.
So, yeah... I'm a huge comics Dawn fan.
Page 02: As everyone grabs their preferred weapon, Xander walks up to Angel. He apologizes for beating the crap out of him under Sunnydale after Twi-Angel killed Giles. Angel accepts that in a lot of ways he was partially responsible for everything he did as Twilight, which is why he hasn't retaliated over it. He and Xander compare their repressed anger issues.
Commentary: I liked this moment, as I had thought that they (meaning the writers) were just going to sort of ignore the last time Xan and Angel were in the same space. But it was nice here that it was addressed and then moved on from.
Page 03: Xan continues to suggest that his therapist has been a great help and maybe Angel should look into one in London, but Angel doesn't appear all that receptive, no doubt because it may interfere with his ability to brood.
Next, Angel addressed Dawn and asks her about how much she remembers him with her memories issues and she explains that her fake memories are clear again, but that she does realize that they're not real. She's glad that they're going to have a chance to build real ones and get to actually know each other.
Xan and Buffy both get hard looks on their faces when Dawn throws a hug around Angel.
Page 04: Buffy uses the fact that they have a Demon Lord to fight and a Portal Opening Artifact to secure to grab Dawn and pull her away from Angel. She asks Willow and Rupert what their plan of attack is.
Wills and Giles confirm that they've been able to detect both the Portal energy of the artifact and Archaeus' energy. But, for some reason, they're not in the same place.
Spike suggests maybe they've got a bit of luck on their side, but Angel offers that it sounds more like a trap and maybe even a snipe hunt expecting them to go after the object.
Spike asks him if he's seriously suggesting that they're going to split up to hunt down Archaeus and the object at the same time, and Buffy steps in before they can fight about it. She offers that splitting up into teams is exactly what they'll do.
She suggests that both teams stay in contact and whether they find the artifact or the Demon Lord, one team will join the others to either grab the object or fight Archaeus as a full group. For now, they'll be on a recon mission.
Commentary: Or so I'm gathering by the suggestion of Buffy's. I don't think this was particularly explained well, as it didn't sound to me like Angel was suggesting they split up at all. If anything, it sounded more like he was suggesting that the artifact could be a trap or a deception and they should all focus on confronting Archaeus first, but since he doesn't get a chance to respond to Spike - maybe I just took it wrong. I suppose that Spike would be more in line with Angel's way of thinking than I.
Page 05: Giles suggests that keeping in touch could be problematic as the Demon Lord undoubtedly has the ability to mystically jam communications.
It's fortunate then that Andrew has made his late appearance. In answer to a summons (apparently?), he's thought ahead and brought "Banana Coms" with him... transmitters in the shape of bananas which was whipped up when Andy, Warren and Jonathon were busy being The Trio.
Xander points out that they could've made a mint if they'd just patented the inventions they came up with instead of robbing banks. But Andy responds that these super-transmittor devices are actually U.S. Government issue: They stole them when they were hacking. He tells the others that they wouldn't believe the amount of stuff the government has already invented, but kept out of the public eye.
He then proudly updates Angel on his being out of the closet now; Angel questions if he was ever in it.
Commentary: I do love this issue for just being a continuity-whore paradise. They're seriously going back and picking up on ever so much stuff from the past Buffy episodes in this issue, so you all know, readers, that I am having a ball. But both Andrew's unexplained sudden arrival at just the right moment and his having exactly what they needed even though he had no idea they'd be splitting up for the mission ... well, how utterly convenient on both fronts.
Page 06: Andy asks if everyone knew he was gay, except himself and Buffy says "Yes" before moving onto the next decision. She orders that Angel, Xander, Willow and Giles will form Team One. Angel asks Buffy if that's wise - to put both spell casters on the same team and leave Team Two without a magic user - but Buffy claims that she doesn't want to leave their magical power halved since both will be needed whether they're dealing with shutting down the Artifact, or running into Archaeus.
Angel isn't convinced. He accuses her of teaming him up with two people who will be able to take him down, if he suddenly loses control and turns on them. She admits that the calculation did enter her thoughts and asks him if he's sure that she's wrong for considering the possibility.
He, very dejectedly, says they should just get to it.
Commentary: Okay... WTH, Buffy? Why even call Angel in if you don't think he can be trusted, and furthermore when you add this display right on the heels of your deliberately yanking Dawn away from him -- well, actually that leads me back to my original question: Why did you summon his help, if you don't trust him that far?
I mean "Yowtch" ... I'm all for keeping Buffy and Angel separate as much as possible because it's just easier that way, but dissing him to his face like that after all of the talk about getting over the past was a real slap in the face.
Page 07: In the drains, Willow walks side by side with Angel and asks him not to take Buffy's attitude personally. She explains that Spike already had the mind whammies put on him by Archaeus and was able to fight off his influence, so his reaction is a known quantity.
She asks about Faith and him, sensing that there was more to the story of why she's not here at his side looking out for him. He tells her that things have been tense... again... but they're working through it. Angel sighs that he tends to mess up people's lives a lot.
Willow offers that she's developed a theory based on her own relationship troubles with Aluwyn. She thinks that people tend to be dynamic - always changing, always adapting - but for immortals, like himself -- they just don't change or at least not fast enough to be in step with the humans they're forming relationships with.
Commentary: Geez... I'm just commenting myself to stubby fingers here. But I want to express how much I'd have loved to have a page of nothing but Buffy and Faith arguing and sniping at each other over Angel.
It's probably better that Christos just didn't... it would've definitely turned into a cluster-f**k with Spike throwing in his nickle and then Angel getting on Spike's case over whatever insult he'd thrown at Faith....
And, yeah, that could be half an issue all by itself really.
Page 08: Angel asks what her point is, and if she thinks Buffy is better off without him [I answer YES!] and points out that Spike is immortal, too. But Willow counters that Spike's return soul only happened a few years ago and that was a huge change.
Angel tells her he remembers how big a change it is, he was already there and did that! Wills asks him a pointed question about how he's different now than he was in, say, 1922. At first he shouts that he's a lot different, and then goes on to describe everything that we've seen him be in just the past year kinda proving her point that he can't change with the rapidity and flexibility of the mortals around him.
He tells her he's going to go guard the rear flank.
Page 09: Meanwhile, Spike is going on to Buffy about how it's not like he doesn't have sympathy of Angel, what with his being the ex who was thrown over due to messing up the very thing that she's now working out beautifully with him.
He goes on to tell her about how different things are between he and she than they were between Angel and her. But after a few seconds of thought, all he can come up with is that he's British and Angel's Irish and that's like the difference between night and day.
Buffy snaps and tells him to go guard the rear flank.
Page 10: Andrew walks up to take Spike's place with Buffy leaving the vampire to pair with Dawn at the back. She tries to tell him not to take things too personally, describing Buffy's second guessing as a part and parcel of who she is. Spike mopes that he's sure that she's going to come to her senses and see this as another vampire-lover mistake all too soon, but Dawn tells him to cheer up. She tells him that Buffy respects and trusts him and if she's worried about repeating old patterns from her and Angel, it's because she's afraid for him, not of him.
He tells Dawn that he wishes he had more confidence that he was the right thing for her now.
While Spike is
Page 11: Andy can't offer her any answers, but that "What If" isn't going to do her any good. All that constantly asking herself that is going to do is eat her alive. She just has to be honest with herself and then with whoever she's dating.
Their conversation is diverted by the arrival of a Rat-Spider [which is very much an affectionate nod to the Rat-Bat-Spider-Crab... and I loved it].
Page 12: Meanwhile in another tunnel, Angel's group has also run into a Rat-Spider ambush. Xan complains to Giles that he was expecting the creatures to be either the size of rats or spiders and considers his warnings false advertising. Giles, who has amusingly already been stuck to a wall, snarks that he'll complain to the management if he's not eaten.
After the quickly hacking part, and while Willow is freeing Rupert, Angel apparently is picking up on a conversation he was having with Xander: He accuses him of never liking him being with Buffy [apparently implying that Xan likes seeing Buffy and Spike together]. Xan mentions that his viewpoint was influenced by his turning evil on them, but he also mentions his own recent betrayal of Buffy so his viewpoint has gotten more nuanced.
Angel asks him to just tell him if Spike is good to her and if she's happy with him.
Page 13: Xan confirms, as gently as he can. But when he asks Angel how he's doing with all of this, he deflects by bringing up Dawn and her trying to deal with her artificial memories feeling artificial. He mentions that he's had experience with that sort of thing because of Connor.
Xan brings up that news report about Connor strapping a bomb to himself and threatening to detonate it.
Page 14: Angel tells him it's part of a long story, but that he knows that they know, at least subconsciously, when their memories aren't real. The important thing is to make real memories, but adds "Whether that means you being in them... or staying out." referencing both Connor and Buffy.
He tells Xan that he can smell more Rat-Spiders ahead of them.
Page 15: Over with Buffy, her team have arrived at the end of a water outflowing tunnel, where they're now ambushed by two of the new, shapeshifter vampires. But with teamwork, including a snazzy focused-ultraviolet phaser of Andy's, they're successful... although these attacks seem quite mild.
Page 16: After our pair of ambushers are defeated, Buffy's Team realizes they've ended up at a Ship Scrapping Yard, where Andrew is able to detect with his Super-Goggles, mystic emanations. Buffy comments the inside of a rusted out ship seems like a pretty good place for an ambush and cautions everyone to keep their eyes opened.
Page 17: In the wreck, they find the artifact strangely not guarded. Spike tells Andy to get in contact with the other team, but it turns out that their own course led to the same place by a more circuitous route.
Buffy questions the tactics at work. Angel opines that maybe they were meant to have a few of them picked off before being set up for the real assault coming, but Giles says that the level of resistance they met was suspiciously inadequate for that. Xander reminds everyone that if one of their paths led to the artifact, then shouldn't the other have led to...
The sides of the old iron ship suddenly implode in shrapnel.
Page 18: Archaeus berates them for being so easily manipulated and predictable. Spike tosses back that his attempt to divide and conquer didn't work worth a crap.
Buffy orders Xan, Dawn, Andrew and Giles to work on relieving Archaeus of the Portal Box, while the rest keep him occupied.
Page 19: Xan tries to destroy the box instead with his axe, but the blade shatters against it.
A casting by Giles tells him that the box appears to have originated from a hell dimension, and isn't native to Earth, while Andrew's mystic goggles tells him that there are several layers of magic at different frequencies protecting it.
Dawn warns that they can't touch it, or they may end up like Wonder Axe, which was Xan's favorite.
Rupert tells them he's going to have to peel the magic layers off like peeling an onion and that's going to take time.
Time which they don't have, as the actual resistance force of Archaeus' makes itself known.
Page 20: Willow gets snatched up by the shape-shifters in the Man-Bat forms, where they try to pin her arms. She warns them that she doesn't need to gesture in order to burn them (this may be a subtle nod to Marvel Comic's Scarlet Witch who has to use her hands to summon her Hex Bolts), but Archaeus replies that it does leave her open though, as he magic blasts her over Buffy and Spike's heads.
Page 21: Buffy leads a charge with Spike and Angel against Archaeus, where Buffy tells him that if he knew how many Big Bads she'd taken down already, he wouldn't have tried the lame divide-and-conquer thing.
Spike adds that now he also won't be able to play with his or Angel's minds either while he's busy defending against them. Spike sarcasms that it's a pity that his strategy didn't work out.
But Archaeus grins with a "Didn't it?"
Page 22: Archaeus tells him that his diversionary maze gave them all of the time they needed to doubt and resent and bring their fears and hatreds close to the surface where they'd be easy for him to grab.
He gloats that he gave them time for their worst enemy to weaken them: Themselves.
As Archaeus laughs, Angel spears Spike through with his broadsword!
Commentary: Hmmm... I kinda feel really badly here for Angel. It feels like Christos is a little too in the bag for the Spuffy, but whether it's deliberate or just for the story I don't know. But Angel is basically treated like the interloper that everyone wishes they could do without throughout the last two issues, and now he's the one that turns on the gang... AGAIN... in order to screw them up... AGAIN...
I'm starting to want to stand with Angel just because he's really getting piled on. I'm suddenly questioning my entire desire to have this crossover and I really hope that he gets a hero moment SOMEWHERE in this arc!
The Good: I love Dawn for some reason in this issue, and in general. She's quite often the one person saying what should be said, but she does so with sardonic humor that I can appreciate.
Obvs, I loved all of the references to the gang's history, and this issue is full of those moments.
I'm in love with Rat-Spiders and want every bad guy to have several from now on.
The Bad: Okay, by the end I was really feeling sorry for the way Angel is getting treated by Gage, let alone the characters.
Other Thoughts: There were some weird writing moments: Buffy's tactics of both splitting up and keeping the only two people who can throw magic together on one team for one. But also, I didn't really like the way Buffy was treating Angel after last issue when it seemed like they could make this work: Here she was just... rude.
Andrew's fortuitous arrival and with the exact super-science communicators that Buffy's now split up team needed was just a leeetle toooo conveeeenient. And then they didn't even use them, anyway so... way too convenient for no purpose on top of it.
The Score: This was a great issue for references to the knotty history of the Scooby Gang with Angel and I really liked the way that all of the characters are being utilized when it's time for fighting. But by the end when Angel turns on Spike, it really felt like Christos Gage is just picking on the character. Despite that though...
3.75 out of 5 stars
Next up: Kolchak The Night Stalker, in which we've left the tv movies for the tv series and his next monster (after the vampire and the Hyde-alike) is Jack The Ripper.