Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 22
"In Pieces on the Ground" part II
Writer: Christos Gage, Artwork: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Lettering: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt,
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: The Restless Door, a powerful artifact with the ability to create portals to any dimension, has fallen into the hands of the Mistress, the Sculptor, and the Soul Glutton. While the trio of Big Bads is opening portals around the globe, bringing dangerous demons to [E]arth, Buffy and the Scoobies are struggling to fight this demon world war. They are also struggling to get along, disagreeing about how to solve the problem... They might just be growing up... or apart.
Page 01: We open with Willow on her first day of work with Theo Daniels and his new company... taking the place of the now defunct demon-chat service, Tin Can.
Wills assumes first, that she may be there only because Buffy pulled some strings - using her life save of Theo to get Willow in the door. This is discarded rather quickly as Mr. Daniels tells Wills it has been difficult to find someone who can both work computers and knows their stuff about the supernatural, so her agreeing to join the company is a boon.
Secondly, that she thinks she's been hired to go sniffer on the network and look for supernatural hackers and malware. She's taken aback when Theo reveals what she's really been hired for, and why it took so long to get Federal clearance. She's taken to the War Room. A global monitoring center set up to identify, track and confront the demonic incursions happening around the world.
Page 02: At first Willow is very not okay with 'government' meaning 'military' due to the ... oh, let's call it "unpleasantness" with the U.S. Military declaring war on the Slayers in Season 8. But Theo insists that was a different world and those who decided that the Slayers were the enemy have been replaced.
This introduces us to Lake Stevens. She's acting as liason between the Department of Defense and it's subgroup: The Unified Supernatural Combatant Command, who takes over explaining to Willow that the U.S. Government considers her, Buffy and the entire Slayer Brigade as allies in this new war against the incursions.
As proof that the new guard is doing things differently, she points out a monitor where Kenn is busy leading a fight. She offers that Deepscan has come aboard as a contractor to help them.
In addition, she also points out that they've formed a partnership with the 'Magic Council'....
Page 03: Wills is a bit taken aback again, but it's true. D'Hoffryn and the survivors (and new members) of the Mystic Council are partnering up with the Pentagon to stop the demonic intrusions from otherspace.
This is a lot of new information, and the military angle is disturbing. Wills tells them all she can't commit without speaking to Buffy. Ms. Stevens asks that she wait a few days for their own representative to approach Buffy with an official offer before mentioning it. She also tells Wills that if she's looking to make a difference, she'll never have a better chance than this and asks her to give them a trial period of a week to show they can work together.
Commentary: I was pretty much in Wills' shoes, here, if maybe a little more annoyed toward Theo. I find it bothersome that the military would be a part and parcel of this deal, after the Twi-Debacle. But on the other hand, there is a worldwide phenomena going on and the Scooby Gang is just too small to deal with it.
Buffy could try to reorganize the Slayer Brigades... but after everything, that just may not be possible. I'm up in the air, as far as in-universe, on this development. From a story perspective however, I like the continuing developments of showing the world adjusting -- especially governments -- to this reality. But, and I know it could be a real hot button issue which is probably why it has been avoided, but we've still seen very little of how world religions are handling this whole thing.
I'd really love to see evidence of what is going on in that sector. It'd be nice if Kennedy's Deepscan ran into a reconstituted Knights of Byzantium, for instance, on the battlefield.
Or how about snippets of arguments on cable tv in some panels between a Rabbi and a Demoness over who is more deserving of followers? A Imam and a Pagan Demi-God? A Bishop and an Etruscan Sorcerer-Priest? Etc. With all of the portal making going on, it'd be interesting if some of the mortal gods bought a ticket back and tried to regain their status.
It's hard to imagine that the subject of religion would be so invisible with The Masquerade so thoroughly broken.
Page 04: Elsewhere in a pub, Spike is meeting with Dylan. He makes it clear that he's in a relationship with Buffy now, if she had come looking for him to start something up between them. Dylan laughs this off as that would've been really pathetic and she finds it hilarious that he thinks he's such hot stuff that she'd bother uprooting her whole life to track him down.
Page 05: Dylan then admits that she did entertain the notion of running after him, but only for a quick minute after the Harmony deal with outing vampires to the world thing happened and she realized what he actually was. And there may've been a touch of hero worship. And a shallow desire to chase down a "Prince Charming" who'd saved her life.
But she realized that was all foolish and she was externalizing a dissatisfaction with her life in general. Instead of pursuing her passion, she was too afraid she wouldn't be good enough and she wanted to thank him for helping her realize things by having to take stock of her life after what happened.
Page 06: Dylan goes on to tell Spike that she's been pursuing her artist dream and has her first gallery coming up and wants to invite him. She also wants to thank him for doing his small part in helping her grow up a bit.
She does seems to have an idealized view of Spike, which he finds a little uncomfortable, but he ends up feeling better that she isn't there to pursue a romantic relationship with him.
Page 07: The following morning, and a week after Willow has started with Theo, her and Buffy are confronting this government business.
This is days after Satsu, Spike and Buffy's mission to Vegas to forge a deal with the two vampire factions. Wills, mistakenly, thought that meant Buffy was on board with teaming up with the government while Buffy is outraged that Willow would even consider an ongoing partnership with the military after the Slayers and Mystics that had died when they were on the run across the world.
Willow is adamant though that her staying with the USUCC is right.
Page 08: Willow argues that in the past week, she's already been able to save countless lives by suppressing four demonic incursions.
But Buffy is stuck on the government's ground war against the Slayers. She brings up a particular Slayer, a young girl who'd been raised under the Taliban who'd been so excited to be in a place where she was embraced and welcomed. She'd taken a gut shot in Tibet - a shot that came from the people Willow is now working with.
She implies that Wills is forgetting about all of the deaths they caused, but Wills -- getting a bit angry now -- tells Buffy that she could never NOT remember what happened to who. But she's also already said that those responsible are no longer in authority and now she points out to Buffy that she's had to put that all aside for the big picture. She goes a step to far by telling Buffy she put it aside because everything isn't about her.
Buffy slams out of the room.
Commentary: I loved this page. It tidily [and emotionally] sums up how our characters are seeing the past vs. the present and their history vs. the here-n-now. I don't particularly like our Scoobies arguing, and that dig at Buffy by Willow, implying that she's being selfish for not wanting to help the government they were at war with only two years ago seems pretty low but what I like is that it's not holding a status quo over our characters. They change, they have differences that they can't quite overcome as they age and see the world in different terms... they're dynamic.
Now, who is right in this argument? I can really see both sides clearly - honestly. And I don't trust men/women in positions of power as my personal default setting, but I really do think that Willow in particular can do much more with government resources than as a Scooby. So, ultimately, I think I'm on Wills side in this one -- but my personal sympathies are still resting with Buffy about all of this.
Page 09: Sometime later in Montana, National Guardsmen are fighting floating brains with mind control powers, turning a town's citizenry against the soldiers.
The soldiers' are ineffective against the brains because of a forcefield. But before they have to decide on shooting the possessed to stop their march, Willow comes on the scene. She zaps the brains.
Page 10: As the Flying Brains turns their attention onto stopping Willow's magical attacks, she orders the soldiers to open fire on the brains, easily slaughtering them now that their shield isn't in the way.
She's congratulated and thanked by the Guardsmen for saving them from having to fire on their own friends and family to stop them.
This of course only confirms for Willow that she's made the right choice.
Page 11: Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike catch the drama on the news. Buffy complains that Wills could've just come for her and she would've easily handled some Floating Brain Monsters.
Spike offers that Willow's adventures leaves them more time to track down the portal opening Trio and stop these sorts of events happening at all.
Buffy worries over whether Willow is right on this one and she's just being selfish about it, but Spike can't take a side in this debate. He tells Buffy that he can see both sides, having watched former allies turn to war in the past, as well as the other way around.
Buffy happens to find Dylan's gallery show flyer, and lights up at doing something 'normal person'. Spike hems-n-haws a bit about bringing up the brief fling between he and she before.
Page 12: Buffy tells Spike she doesn't care if Dylan and he were involved in the past, pointing out that they've already worked with her exes in the past few months. But what she does care about is his trying to hide hearing from her. She doesn't like this keeping secrets...
Spike cuts her off to shout that he wasn't keeping secrets, he just wanted to figure out how he was going to handle the situation and whether he wanted to go to the show before bringing it up. He tells Buffy not to make a big deal about it, which she takes as a comment, implied by Willow earlier, that she has a habit of trying to make everything about her.
Spike shouts that isn't what he was saying. He calms down and apologizes. He tells Buffy that he was trying to figure out how to handle the situation before he did or said something to screw things up, but Buffy hugs him and says that he doesn't have to use strategies with her. He just needs to treat her like a friend first and foremost.
Page 13: Meanwhile, in the War Room, Lake and Willow are working late [in a ridiculously empty control room], where they talk a bit about some changes that Wills has made to their tracking software to alert them the moment that a portal opens anywhere in the world using the satelite network in orbit.
Wills offers that her changes are going to take a while to fully implement and offers that Lake can head home if she's got somebody waiting. Ms. Stevens doesn't. Her girlfriend moved out because of the hours she keeps at work. It was even three days before Lake realized she'd been left.
It ends with Lake putting her hand over Willow's.
Commentary: Okay, so the problem that I've had with reviewing this one is how little commentary I've had to share. All of this is laying the ground work for the end of the season with Willow starting a new career and Buffy/Spike managing the search for the Sculptor, et. al.
And all of the Scoobies dealing, as they have been throughout this season, with growing up and how that introduces differences in ideas and feelings and y'know... how life stuff just puts space between the closest of high school friends.
It's all interesting from a character point of view, but it's not riveting and it doesn't give us all that much to talk about. And this is especially true, for me, when it comes to the Buffy/Spike tensions since I wasn't 'Spuffy-ied' in the first place and handle their whole romance with a shrug.
But it looks like Willow may be embarking on a new relationship, so what about Lake? Undecided. But I think in a few pages I'll have some thoughts.
Page 14: We skip forward to two nights later, where Lake and Willow are having a nice dinner... a real date apparently....
Willow has described the argument with Buffy to Lake, and though she sorta wants to apologize and clear the air with Buffy, Lake guesses her reticence about it is due to Wills feeling that she shouldn't have to. Will insists she does feel badly about not telling Buffy about the offer immediately, but puts down her waiting to the National Security thing.
Lake guesses that's really a smokescreen and the truth is that Willow had already figured how Buffy would react, and was putting off dealing with it. That's something that Wills can't completely deny.
Ms. Stevens goes on to describe how she and her friends' have grown into very different types of people since high school and though they all love one another still, their lives just don't mesh anymore. She offers that sometimes friends drifting apart is just a part of becoming adults and getting involved in your own thing.
Page 15: Willow insists that can't happen with her and Buffy, not after everything they've been through. Lake offers that they'll never lose their history together, but maybe their changing into different people. She offers again her own experiences with her close-knit group of high school friends who've made their lives while she was making her own. Their lifestyles just don't mesh very well anymore, despite their mutual affections for one another.
She emphasizes this doesn't make Buffy's choices or feelings invalid, it just might make Buffy's life and Willow's life incompatible as choices are made and their own interests are pursued.
Commentary: So, at first I was trying to be suspicious that Lake was playing some sort of intelligence op on the Scooby Gang but I'm relatively comfortable that this isn't the point of the scene. I think Lake is playing things pretty straight, if you'll pardon the expression, and is just making a point about who high school friends drift as life advances.
But what do I think of Lake Stevens as a character? I think I like her, actually. I'm still a worrier about getting too involved in Pentagon business but Lake seems a decent sort. I'm not so sure about a romance starting for Wills, but I'm not opposed to it either.
I think I need to see more of this character before I can decide on that aspect, but I'm willing to see where this goes. I do start out feeling more like Lake and Willow could be a good match much quicker than I did over the aborted Robert/Buffy awkward-dating-thingie that never quite happened.
One of my issues with BTVS - the comic, has been the lack of engaging side characters. Angel & Faith has done a much better job with introducing an ensemble of supporting cast members, and I think that still holds true. But Lake Stevens is a step in the right direction. Now if something substantive could be done with Andrew....
Page 16: With Buffy and Spike, they've gone to the gallery showing for Dylan's work. She's very excited to meet Buffy and the two girls seem to hit it off immediately.
Page 17: Dylan remains happy and excited about how her life has been going and asks about Spike's poetry, which he admits has fallen by the wayside. She recommends he get back into it, if he's still "feeling it".
She points out how her artwork has changed since she's done her own growing up in the past few years, and his poetry will probably reveal some changes in him, too.
Spike gives her doubtful side-glances, as "vampires" and "change" aren't really in sympathy with each other, as Spike and Angel have pointed out to one another.
Page 18: Dylan insists that Spike and Buffy take one of her pieces free of charge and even guesses the one that Spike would like based on what she learned of him before.
Which actually sort of points out to a worried Spike and an awkward Buffy about vampires not changing and growing from what they were -- in a subtle way.
Page 19: Back at their apartment building, Buffy and Spike say good night as they return to their own apartments. Buffy is distracted and Spike asks if she's alright. Buffy brings up the Willow thing and how when she broke up with Aluwyn, it was all about how Willow had changed and her mystic-snakewoman-girlfriend just couldn't.
She worries that her and Willow won't be able to get past Wills accepting the government help, while Buffy can't get past what that government did to all of them.
Spike councils for her to just talk with Wills. Buffy complains she's never home, but Spike tells her she'll return to change clothes eventually and she just has to be ready when the chance presents itself.
Page 20: When Buffy goes into her, Willow and Dawn's apartment, she finds Willow unexpectedly there waiting for her.
They have a brief moment of severe awkward as both wait for the other to start.
Page 21: Willow starts by telling Buffy that when she broke up with Aluwyn because of the changes she had gone through, that it hurt but it also felt like the right thing to do.
She tells Buffy that losing her doesn't feel right.
Buffy shares that she doesn't want to lose Willow either, but that she still has a big problem with her working for the Pentagon and she doesn't think she can change her mind or feelings about that. Willow offers that she still feels that it's important and necessary, but more, she likes her work and she wants to help them.
She asks Buffy if they can be okay despite their differences on this...
Page 22: Buffy laughs that she has problems with what Riley does, and with about 80% of what Andrew does, and Dawn is really good at finding ways to piss her off, and Giles, Spike and Xander all seem to find ways to annoy her, too.
She tells Willow that after putting down Hell Goddesses and First Evils, she'll be damned if something like Adulthood is going to seperate her from her best friend in the world.
Willow suggests this is an ice-cream moment, which Buffy fully agrees on.
The Good: First and foremost, I like the general trend of trying to keep our characters and their dynamic changing and fluid. It's hard work not to fall back on status quo, and I appreciate the effort being put in to allow our characters to keep growing in different directions for good and ill.
I especially like all of the scenes between Buffy and Willow, even that low-blow when Willow insinuates that Buffy is making things all about her when there is a bigger picture felt in character and right for their argument. It reminded me of Willow in Season 9, which is a nice echo of her character progression throughout the comics run thus far.
I'm glad that Lake's character was kept sympathetic with both Willow and Buffy's viewpoints while pointing out that maybe the two friends' lives are just becoming incompatible for a friendship to continue the way it had been. It would've been easy to make Lake Stevens a wedge to drive Will and Buffy apart, but they keep the character as a neutral sounding board making observations, but not value judgements.
The Bad: Nothing.
Other Thoughts: The Spike/Dylan/Buffy thing... I see where it's playing it's part in this discussion of change and adulthood and how it can affect old relationships that seemed more permanent than maybe they realistically can be, but it felt dull and took up too much space. Maybe Dylan could be an interesting character but her scenes just felt flat next to Willow/Buffy and their arguments. It also felt very strange to give so much space to Dylan/Spike while simultaneously leaving out Xander -- who should have plenty of opinions of his own about what Willow has chosen to do and the argument with Buffy, and Dawn -- who should be stuck in the middle of it considering she's living in the same apartment and has a "she's like a mother to me" relationship with Willow.
The Score: This issue was really low key which made commentary difficult, and it felt to me like the issue was drifting along in neutral whenever Willow was off with Lake or Dylan's scenes were ambling along.
3.0 out of 5 stars
Up Next: Angel & Faith, Issue 22.