Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 21
"In Pieces on the Ground" part I
Writer: Christos Gage, Artwork: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: Buffy and the Scoobies have managed to get their act together and send the Big Bad Archaeus packing. Unfortunately, his powerful artifact, the Restless Door, disappeared in the heat of the battle and fell into enemy hands. And now lesser demons are invading everywhere. The gang can't fight this war alone. They'll need to find help from the most unlikely of allies.
Page 01: Buffy and Spike are lying in bed and watching news on a laptop. On a talk show program, we're told that a combined air strike from U.S. and Argentinian air forces were able to take down a giant, horned ape that had been attacking Buenos Aires.
The talk show host introduces Supernatural Analyst, Graham Miller, for his take. Graham goes on to confirm the public's speculation that they have been experiencing an uptick in supernatural invaders worldwide, despite the lack of active Hellmouth portals. He urges that they need to find out why.
Buffy dejectedly calls herself an idiot for allowing the Restless Door to get nabbed while they were fighting Archaeus.
Commentary: Yay, another blast from the television past. Graham was, of course, one of Riley's friends in the Initiative.
And flying centipedes sounds like an utter nightmare of gross.
Page 02: Buffy complains to Spike that the demon lords causing these headaches are doing a way too well job of hiding from both them and D'Hoffryn's Magic Council. She starts to tell Spike that she's been thinking they need a new direction, when she answers a knock at the door -- supposed to be her dinner order -- to find Satsu!
Page 03: Buffy stammers over explaining about her and Spike, but Satsu is over Buffy and has moved on already. She does wonder if Spike knows about them, because Buffy's nervousness is making it sort of obvs. But Spike is aware and he's not bothered by the past dalliance of Buffy and Satsu. In fact, if they want to share stories with him....
Satsu wistfully mentions that Buffy and Spike both seemed so cool when she first met them.
Buffy wonders what Satsu is doing dropping in from out of the blue, without calling first, which would've been the less embarrasing thing for her to do. Satsu is there to offer Buffy an opportunity to help... wait for it... the U.S. Army!
Commentary: This entire page was made out of cuteness. I should be appalled, but I can't be because it's Satsu and I love her.
Page 04: Buffy is most definitely not pleased with even suggesting that they'd ever help, and that Satsu is currently helping, the Army after the Season 8 fiasco. She reminds Satsu angrily about how the Army killed a lot of their sisters and went to war with them.
Satsu reminds Buffy that the same exact thing applies to Angel, and yet somehow the grapevine has it that he's been forgiven.
She also tells Buffy that she hasn't forgotten anything that they went through, including watching kids who should've been at homecoming choking to death on their own blood. But she also says that the people responsible for the policy against the Slayers are either dead or been jailed now. And, she reminds her that the past is past and this is the present.
While giving Buffy this spiel, she also gets out her laptop.
Commentary: I have to admit to y'all dear readers, that despite my Buffy-love, I do really relish it when people cut one of Buffy's arguments off at the knees by reminding her that she's forgiven Angel for far worse than whatever she's ranting about at that moment.
There is something very satisfying in having Buffy's sometimes way too self-righteousness short circuited because she keeps finding new ways to give Angel a pass. It was pretty satisfying also, though, when Buffy brought up how Angel tends to be really gullible whenever somebody starts up with the whole "this is your destiny" talk.
Page 05: The reason Satsu pulled out her laptop is to show Buffy what the news feeds were blocked from seeing: That those flying centipedes in Rome that Graham just mentioned actually slaughtered 300 people before they were stopped. She tells Buffy that for every demon incursion that she's finding out about on television, the army has stopped three before they made the headlines.
She points out that the U.S. Government has resources that the rest of them can't touch and they're still being overwhelmed by these random attacks. They need experience to get ahead of the curve, and that's where Buffy and her group can do some good.
Buffy tells her that she can't trust the military, but she'll work with Satsu or Riley... nobody else. She then says that she also doesn't know what a few extra pairs of hands can actually accomplish.
But Satsu wasn't there to recruit her hands, but her influence. She shares that they need her to get the vampires on their side!
Page 06: Sometime shortly later, Buffy, Satsu and Spike have met with Giles. Rupert gives Satsu an update on the Restless Door being the source of the world's current demon incursion problem, and the triumvirate of demon lords who currently have it.
Buffy brings up to Satsu that if the vampires aren't friends with the army, how is a Vampire Slayer supposed to convince them to help out? Satsu shocks her by telling her that actually the vampires have already agreed to a meeting about it, and they specifically asked for Buffy to negotiate with, as she's "the devil they know".
The vamps may not like Buffy, but they do trust her to keep her word.
Page 07: In the coptor to the meeting site, Spike points out to Satsu that there are two different factions of vampires out there.
Satsu is aware. She tells he and Buffy that when the U.S. reached out to both groups, they agreed to this one-time meeting and further agreed to send one representative for each faction who could speak for their group. But the vampires then demanded that Buffy be the representative for the human's side in this perspective alliance.
Buffy brings up her surprise they'd trust that they weren't being set up, but Satsu counters that they weren't. They also insisted that the meeting take place in a highly public place with lots of civilians to act as human shields against a double cross.
Buffy reluctantly approves that was smart and wonders who the chief negotiator was. The answer is on a huge sign at the "Bacchanal Resort & Casino" in Vegas... and it's Harmony.
Commentary: I like that basically Satsu is telling us that the government isn't the group of utterly clueless bureaucrats that were running the Initiative. They've learned a lot in the intervening years, too and are keeping up to date on what is going on in the supernatural world just as well as the Scooby Gang.
I also like... even though I only can stand her in short visits... that Harmony is continuing to stretch beyond her beginning as a vacuous airhead. She still is that at her core, of course, but she's also really taken this Vampire Ambassador role to heart and I actually like that she's being treated seriously in that role. It's shocking, really -- especially when it comes to other vampires, but it's also a neat twist that the comics have given to her character.
The more I see of this side of Harmony Kendall, the more I approve of her continuing interactions with the Scooby Gang and/or Angel. Not frickin' bad, since I was complaining during Season 8 that Harmony shouldn't have even been allowed to exist by Buffy, et. al.
Page 08: Of course, Buffy still doesn't respect Harms. And she's even less pleased to see that the New Breed Vampires are still being represented by Vicki.
Vicki immediately reminds Satsu that they agreed to no military and orders her to leave. Satsu agrees, but reminds her that if things turn into a fight, it'll mean war.
After the coptor lifts off, Vicki glares at Buffy and comments that Satsu doesn't get it... for some of them, it's always war.
Commentary: I liked this part, a bit too. It was nice to see Harmony still enjoying Clem's gift of a unicorn to her. And I liked both Spike mentioning her bashing his skull in [which to be completely fair was his own fault for trusting her when the Ultimate Book of Magic Rules was lying right within her reach], and her blowing it off as not even worth holding a grudge over because, after all, the world got unicorns out of it.
I also really liked how both Vicki and Buffy are acknowledging that they're still at war with one another... it may be a quiet period in a cold war because of other priorities, but the war hasn't been ended.
Page 09: Later, Harmony insists on taking a bubble bath during the negotiations and Buffy glares at her as she lays down why it makes sense for the vampire contigent to get on board with stopping the demonic intrusions. She reminds Harmony and Vicki that the demons coming through don't like vampires and they're just as likely to lose if the demons win, as the humans.
But actually, Harmony and Vicki - suprisingly in the latter's case - are already sold on this alliance to keep out the extradimensional riffraff. The issue is trying to get the majority of their rambunctious faction members on board so they don't torpedo their efforts.
Vicki reminds everyone that vampires don't have a sterling reputation for playing well with others. Harmony adds that her faction will respect traditions, however. Vicki says that her faction respects shows of force behind words.
Spike seems to get a theme and interrupts to ask if they're speaking of...
... Harmony and Vicki both grin that they need a "trial by combat" to cement the deal.
Page 10: Vicki and Harmony have apparently already agreed to all of this before bringing it to Buffy and Spike. They explain that they'll bring both groups to Vegas for drinking, partying with groupies and a caged match between Buffy and Spike and a champion chosen to represent each faction. If Buffy and Spike defeat the vampire champs, then they'll have a deal cemented. If they lose, then at least their faction members will have had a good time, which is good PR presumably for Harmony and Vicki.
Buffy checks with Spike, wondering if this whole "trial by combat" is even a thing outside of Game of Thrones, and she finds out it's serious. Though clearly, Spike is annoyed with it.
Page 11: So, with this agreed to, the next night Buffy steps into the Octagon. It's hosted by Clem, playing MC. After he's introduced Buffy, she's booed by the crowd. Clem assures her that he still loves her personally, but she's the villain in their wrestlemania-inspired competition.
When Clem is done with his introduction spiel for the New Breed contender -- Golgotha -- but is shocked and less than pleased to find out her 110lbs will be going up against the New Breed vampire's 480.
Commentary: This was really cute, I have to say. I loved Clem trying to explain to Buffy that she's playing the villainous character in this sporting event, and her face when she hears Clem's weigh-in amount for her opponent is priceless.
The whole set up is so ridiculous, but since it involves Harmony, I'm also "of course, of course...".
Page 12: While Buffy is fighting her opponent, Harmony tells Spike that she's figured out that he and Buffy have actually finally hooked up by her scent all over him. She acts unbothered by it, but displays doubt that he's really going to be happy finally having her.
She tells him that he'd never be able to handle a woman like Buffy for long.
Page 13: She goes on to tell Spike that she gives the whole relationship a month tops, before he blows it. When he tries to tell her she doesn't know anything about it, she reminds him of the times when he made her dress up and play act Buffy.
Spike insists that was ages ago and he's changed since then, but Harmony just tells him he's being adorable. She accuses him of feeding a fantasy of Buffy as the perfect embodiment of womanhood, virtue and love, that no woman could live up to it.
In the meantime, Buffy tries to swipe the Scythe through Golgotha, only for him to mist on her.
Page 14: While Buffy is getting bear hugged and then body slammed to the mat, Harmony continues to needle Spike about how even now he must be figuring out how a real woman can't match his fantasy version.
Page 15: Buffy elbows her opponent in the face, breaking his nose for him. This allows her to get the edge and the Scythe's stake end makes with the dusting for behemoth-guy.
Meanwhile though, Harmony is telling Spike that he'll soon start doing things to push Buffy away, and then he'll find ways to hurt her so that she'll choose to do the leaving.
Commentary: I at first thought that Harmony was just being petty, but the more she's talking the more this is starting to feel too calculated. She's really getting under Spike's skin, and it seems deliberate. Now, maybe Harmony is just being petty and I'm reading too much into it, but this is feeling like she's deliberately trying to fracture the Spike/Buffy alliance.
I'm starting to wonder if Harmony has an alternate agenda going on that we'll find out about later... this sort of manipulation could be part of Archaeus' plan. Harmony isn't, as far as we know, a part of his line but she could be. It's possible that the vampire that got her was a family member of The Master's since we don't know who bit random vamp before he got to Harmony at graduation.
It'd be a neat coincidence if random vampire was one of Dru's victims hanging around the hellmouth and falling under the Mayor's sway. He bites Harmony and now it all comes to roost as Harmony becomes a follower of Archaeus, just as Drusilla has....
Page 16: Harmony goes on to tell Spike that he'll ultimately force Buffy to break up with him, so that he can play the wounded romantic who had his poetic heart broken by the woman he loves, again. Like he played when Dru left him, and like he played for that woman whose picture she found in one of his poetry books after all those years... Cecilia?
Spike explodes in anger for her to shut up, bringing Harm's body guards' attention. But Harmony tells everyone to relax. She reminds Spike that he needs to hold it for the ring, because Buffy has won her bout.
Page 17: Buffy and Spike pass each other as he goes into the ring, and she returns to the skybox to watch his fight.
In the skybox, Vicki congratulates her on winning, and tells her now Spike just has to hold up his end. Buffy isn't worried. When Vicki accuses her of overconfidence, Buffy says that it was obvious to her that they couldn't keep their mouths shut while she was fighting. She could see that Spike was pissed off and warns that the vampire's champ doesn't stand a chance.
Page 18: Vicki concedes the point, commenting on Spike's savagery as he fights his bout. She tells Buffy you can take the vampire out of the crypt, but you can't take the monster out of the vampire.
In the meantime, Spike breaks his opponents shoulder and wrenches his arm out of its socket.
Buffy tells Vicki she can quit trying to stir up trouble between her and Spike 'cause she knows what she's doing and it won't work.
But Vicki tells Buffy she's been studying her. She wouldn't bother trying to break up the lovebirds because she knows that Buffy will kick him to the curb all on her own soon enough.
Commentary: OH!! Okay... this was so clever. Obvs, Harmony and Vicki are allies against Buffy, and they're both playing on her and Spike's doubts about their pasts and how it affects their relationship now.
I didn't expect Harmony and Vicki to actually be able to tolerate each other, let alone able to coordinate an attack on Buffy and Spike's psychologies.
This is interesting. But, is it just about a petty bad vs. good thing, or is there a greater scheme afoot? I don't like forboding in the arc title in regards to this. And are Harmony and Vicki working on their own, or have they already been approached and made side deals with somebody else to break Buffy and Spike's alliance up... again, Archaeus ... or maybe even the The Sculptor's partnership?
Hmmm... I'm curious to see where this might go.
Page 19: Vicki continues playing on Buffy's feelings by telling her that she's observed that the Slayer is the kind of girl who wants what she can't have, and gets bored with what she can. She tells her that she'll find an easy way out when Spike reveals his true self and she can go on and claim that he's turned evil on her and then she can stab him and send him to hell to avoid knowing she's just not that into him after she's got him.
In the match, Spike does something completely brutal just off panel.
Vicki pretends that she's so impressed she's getting the vapors. She describes the way Spike just twisted Harmony's champion's limbs until he'll heal looking like a puzzle. They'll have to break every bone in his body just to untwist his body now.
Then she pretends to be concerned for Buffy's reaction and tells her she should just focus on how Spike didn't just dust him... because he's a "good guy" now.
Commentary: Okay, I liked the way that Vicki was playing Buffy's insecurities here but it was overdone when she told Buffy exactly what she could do to get out of her dating Spike, while giving herself an acceptable excuse. I thought, "Okay, now you're being too obvious in being manipulative and Buffy isn't going to fall for that".
Then she pulled out that reference to what she did to Angel, and I thought, "Wow. Okay, that may have just thrown Buffy off enough for her to not connect that she's being deliberately played with to put a wedge between her and Spike."
And, I really liked how she ended by that crack about Spike being a "good guy" now, after they just watched him torturously twist that vampire's limbs up after Harmony pissed him off.
Yeah, this was too cleverly set up to be just a one-off mind screw against Buffy and/or Spike. There must be a bigger objective here that Harmony and Vicki are working on together... and was it too clever for these two twits to come up with? I've got to believe right now that they've made a deal already with either Archaeus or with The Sculptor [and I'm leaning toward the latter right now].
Page 20: Vicki asks Buffy how she hasn't outgrown the "bad boy" drama yet. Buffy finally leans over and tells Vicki if she doesn't shut up, she'll shove a stake down her throat, but Harmony interrupts that there isn't any reason to be rude. Vicki agrees, and points out that Spike won his match. She congratulates Buffy on successfully forming an alliance between the humans and the vampires against the demon intruders.
Buffy and Spike leave, but both of them are angry now and no doubt have some unwelcome thoughts playing in the back of their minds.
Once they leave, Harmony and Vicki confirm that this was a coordinated plan to play on the heroes doubts by their high fiving each other.
Page 21: On the way back to San Francisco aboard Satsu's helicoptor, she notices some tenseness in the cabin. She asks if everything is alright. Spike claims he's just tired, and that he's had enough of Harmony and Vicki. Buffy seconds this, and further asks if he's ever met anyone more full of crap than they.
Page 22: But the following night, Spike is in a bar alone. There he meets a woman named Dylan. A woman who he apparently has some sort of prior history with. She's an artist that Spike met shortly after getting his soul back and before he returned to Sunnydale.
The Good: It was great to have the callback to Graham, but even better to see Satsu again! And I loved her referencing the "I Want You" Uncle Sam WWII poster and Buffy's own recruitment slogan.
I liked the entire argument between Buffy and Satsu, and how Spike took Satsu side inadvertently and quickly stepped aside from Buffy's glare.
I cannot believe I'm typing this: I enjoyed Harmony and Vicki's entire manipulation plot... especially Harmony's side of it.
I also dug that Harmony rides around on Clem's created unicorn to greet visitors.
The Clem/Buffy interaction - short as it was - was pretty amusing, too.
The Bad: Nada.
Other Thoughts: I did find the U.S. Government offering an alliance deal to the vampires to be suspect. I'm not sure I completely buy that they'd actually do that, but I like that Satsu is working with Riley in keeping the big goal in mind.
I gotta wonder about this sudden Harmony/Vicki partnership thingie... I hope that we see this as part of something else going on and not just about busting up Spike and Buffy just because they're both small and petty.
The Score: I found this one to be quite enjoyable, which was a pleasant surprise considering it has too of the characters I like least in it: Harmony and Vicki... and neither on them got on my nerves!
3.75 out of 5 stars