Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 24
"In Pieces on the Ground" part IV
Writer: Christos Gage, Art: Megan Levens, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: With the Restless Door artifact, the Mistress and the Soul Glutton have continued to open portals to other dimensions, bringing dangerous demons to [E]arth. To help fight what seems to be a failing battle, Buffy and team have used the Vampyr book to increase the powers of the Magic Council. Now, if only the Scoobies can stick together, they just have to wait for the Big Bads to open another portal, leading them and the Council to what they anticipate will be a final showdown...
Page 01: One of our Trio of Portal Openers has been defeated and deadened -- The Sculptor.
Now, sometime later, Buffy and Spike are at her apartment with Giles and the Fae Folk. She and he are in an argument about his request to use the Vampyr book to make it easier to open a portal from the Fae Dimension to his apartment, so that they're not so dependant on the Fae Queen. Giles has, obstensively, been spending time in Fairyland in order to advance his magicks more quickly, because of the coming final battle against the Soul Glutton & Mistress.
But Buffy is not happy because a) using the Vampyr book brings the risks of unintended consequences, b) using it to weaken one portal barrier [which they used the book to deliberately strengthen] could end up weakening others, undermining the world's security that they've been working so hard on, and c) she doesn't think that he's thinking clearly because one of the Fae has very obviously taken to flirting and flattering him.
She accuses Giles of wanting to put the safety of the world at stake so he can have an easier time visiting his new girlfriend. She doesn't use a nasty tone, but that doesn't stop Giles from glaring at her.
Commentary: Ughgh. I hate it when Buffy and Giles fight. I hated it in S7 and it hurt in S8. Especially when Giles had cut her out of his will, except for the Vampyr book.
But I feel like I have to take a side on this one, and it's Buffy's. I don't quite agree that this is about Giles' teen love life, but I completely agree that after all the care that went into trying to make dimensional travel more difficult, and after giving even more power to the Mystic Council, the last thing they should do now is toss in one more undermining work of magic.
Rupert needs to at least bring this up before the Gang so they can hash it out, and if they decide to help out Rupert due to his need to get his magic up to snuff, then they can also work on the exacting wording that should be considered whenever adding anything to the new Book of Magic.
It's bad enough as it is that the New Seed is so unpredictable [see the new breed of vampires, Illyria/Fred's restoration, Willow's hiccups in getting used to the new energy, and the return of Archaeus]. Doing anything to change the status quo should not be made on the fly.
Plus, ultimately, I don't trust the Fae as steadfast allies.
Page 02: Rupert blows up at Buffy over how many times he's had to put up with her "interminable romantic misadventures", and snots that it takes a lot of gall for her to undermine his burgeoning relationship with Sundrop.
Sundrop worriedly tells Rupert about his anger turning is aura red and reminds him of a natural portal in Muir Woods that is within a car ride, anyway. As Buffy is trying to apologize for refusing to jump into creating more portals, he storms out instead, slamming the door in her face.
[Which some may call 'payback' from S7... but I won't... probably....]
Page 03: Later, Buffy is with Spike in his and Xan's apartment in Spike's room. She asks Spike if she's being selfish because she's letting her own feelings about young-teen Giles and a Fae getting it on get in her way of helping him out.
Spike offers that he thinks she's right about not opening more portals, at least right now, but that she's also being a bit too put out by Giles' new relationship. He offers that maybe she's reacting the way she is because it took them so long to get the "old band back together" and now life is separating them again.
Page 04: Next door, Faux-Anya Ghost is spying on Spike and Buffy and relaying the blow by blow of their discussion to him. She offers that Buffy's now trying to pretend she isn't mad, but she's giving off cold shoulder. And Spike was hoping to have sex, so he's trying to walk back his opinion. She tells him that this is what happens when people aren't just saying what they mean up front.
Xan interrupts because he's been thinking about 'them' since the possessed fake medium warned that Anya isn't really her.
He now tells whoever this ghost, whoever it really is, that they need to have a talk. "Anya" immediately takes this as bad news and wonders if he's about to break up with her... again.
Page 05: Xander tells her that he brought up this visitation with Dr. Mike who told him he was using her as a crutch against dealing with the real world. Anya snots that he uses a lot of things to avoid the real world, like his video games and comic books. Plus, Dr. Mike has no idea about the world they inhabit, despite the world knowing that the supernatural is more fact than fiction.
Xan admits that he knows that whoever she is, she's not his Anya.
Page 06: 'Anya' asks why he'd ever say that, and then goes on to snort that he'd take the word of some demon possessed, charlatan, frizzy haired stranger over the evidence of his eyes. But he tells Anya that as soon as the medium told him that she isn't who she thinks she is, he knew it to be true. He goes on to point out that relating to her has been far more easy than the relationship with the true Anya ever was.
He tells her that he doesn't know if she's a confused ghost of somebody else, or a spirit drawn to messed-up people but that his using her as an Anya replacement is wrong for both of them. He wants her to be her true self, not a delusion of Anya.
Page 07: 'Anya' complains that he can't just cut her out of his life, when he's the only one who can see and hear her but Xander tells her that if he ignores her, it'll help her discover who she really is and to move on. He picks up his game controller and tells her that he has to ignore her now.
'Anya' begs for his not to do this, as she's horribly lonely and though Xan starts to weep, he doesn't speak to her.
Commentary: I have to admit, I don't get this. I don't see what the point was of bringing Anya back, only to reveal she's a fake, only to have Xander nearly immediately realize and accept that she's a fake. What is the purpose of this particular arc?
With Dracula's recent visit and Xan's [very sudden] anger issues, and the Dawn thingie... I feel like somebody is trying a tiny bit too hard to convince us that Xander was never as mentally stable as the television show implied and are giving us "old home week" visits to remind us of his convoluted personal history as proof. It feels like they want to take Xan into some "emotionally and mentally scarred territory" plots, and they're trying to get us to feel like Xan was always one bad thing away from cracking, so we won't accuse that somebody of OOC-ness.
But the thing is, if that is the reason for this Anya-thing to be crammed in here, it wasn't really necessary. I can flow with the idea that A LOT of things have been building in Xander for the past decade and is finally wearing him down and the bad just isn't stopping.
Page 08: Back with Buffy, her introspection time with this Rupert situation is interrupted by Floaty-Head-Projection!D'Hoffryn.
He tells Buffy that the Council is currently fighting a portal invasion from the Hell of Screams, but that he has tracked down where the Soul Glutton & Mistress are using the Restless Door artifact. If she can strike them fast enough while they're engaged in summoning this portal, they may be able to take them unawares and put an end to this foolishness.
Page 09: Some short while later, the gang has gathered outside of the Black Diamond Mines in Antioch.
Wills tells Buffy that Lake's Rapid Response Team is standing by [but obviously not too close by, probably because of the tensions with Buffy over the Pentagon's involvement at all], which Buffy acknowledges is a good thing and asks them to stand by in case the Restless Door is used to summon a strike team at their backs.
Giles updates everyone that they'll need to see the Glutton's size to know how powerful he currently is. If he's giant sized, they'll need to 'convince' him to expend his energies to make him more manageable. He warns of the sea witch's tentacles and offers that they'll need to work on restraining them.
He tells everybody they can win if they work as a cohesive unit. Which causes everyone to give uncomfortable glances at each other.
Page 10: As the gang make their way into the tunnel of the mines, Andrew sweeps ahead with multispectrum goggles. He warns that the Glutton has left his slime all over the place which is making it hard to detect anything else.
Spike worries over the last time he went toe to toe with the Soul Glutton and hopes that this time, the demon has been going hungry.
It's a pointless hope. The Soul Glutton is even now towering over our adventurers with his trident ready to skewer but because he's blending into the background slime on the tunnel walls, nobody notices him about to strike.
Meantime, 'Anya' is distracting Xander by reminding him off all of the crappy things he did to her when she was alive, obvs still trying to make the point that he owes her something... even though Xan doesn't believe she's Anya anyway.
Page 11: Thankfully for everyone, Willow notices the Glutton at the last moment and is able to blast him - buying time for everybody [but her... ooops!] to dodge out of the way.
Willow is knocked to the ground, but Buffy is able to buy more time for her by going slicey with the Scythe.
Meantime, she calls for Giles to give her a levitation lift so she can put the blade to use against the Glutton's head. Alas, before Giles can do so, we see a tentacle come from off panel and hear a teasing, "Well, aren't you adorable".
Page 12: And this turns out to be The Mistress, of course.
As Giles is hauled off of his feet with a "I could just eat you up" directed at him, Spike and Xander go on the offensive with sword and axe. Meantime, Buffy's attempt to have Wills double Giles with that levitation thing goes nowhere as she's a little busy with mini fireballs at the Soul Glutton.
Glutton gleefully tells our heroes that their coming had been sensed...
Page 13: ... and a welcoming party prepared!
Andrew points out that the Restless Door is opening a new portal. He and Dawn try to shoot the artifact with his laser gun, and her crossbow bolts. Neither is successful at disrupting the mystic energy opening the portal.
Andrew shouts to Dawn that with the new portal opening, the Screaming Hell dimensional gate will be closing so the Mystic Council can regroup at their location. Good plan, except that The Mistress is pretty sure that D'Hoffryn's team will be kept busy long enough to overpower Buffy and the gang. She also laughs that her own spells will keep anyone from teleporting directly to their location.
And worse yet, both Xander and Spike have been rendered largely under control by her coiling tentacles.
Things aren't lookin' so good.
Commentary: I loved these pages, and how easily our team are being outmaneuvered here. Mostly because after The Sculptor was taken out, it felt like our bad guys were going to end up among the "talked up, but easily defeated" variety.
I also like how Wills should've been expected to sense the magical energy around the place before actually being under attack, but she didn't. Now, of course this could just be because it would've been inconvenient - or not made a difference in the plot, even if she had. But, I'd rather read into it that this is more evidence of Wills trying to get used to the new magic from The New Seed of Wonder.
Either way, I liked how even together and outnumbering the bad guys, our heroes still end up rushing in too quickly and without a solid plan to counter each of our two villains. It raises the stakes on what has been a relatively underwhelming villainous trio ... especially after last season with Simone, The Siphon and Maloker.
Page 14: With Giles now free [uh, because of Xan and Spike's attack on The Mistress I guess], he sends Buffy levitating up to The Soul Glutton's head but warns her that staying there is up to her. She uses the Scythe blade for a hold on the side of the demon's head.
In the meantime, Rupert also figures out that Xan and Spike are having so much trouble fighting The Mistress because she's sending out a subsonic song that is confusing their minds. He quickly spell casts to block this frequency, which allows our two buff men to go back on the offensive.
Page 15: With Buffy hurting the Glutton, he deliberately smashes himself into the cavern walls, sending chunks of rock falling for Dawn. Buffy has to leap off from her attack to push Dawn out of the way.
Buffy asks in a panic if Dawn is alright, and she smilingly replies of course she is. She has her big sis to watch out for her.
Page 16: With Buffy not cutting into his head now, the Glutton turns his trident on Willow, blasting her with an electrical arc and stunning her. Meanwhile, though, he also heard about Buffy and Dawn's relationship, and this outrages him. After a Slayer had murdered his family, he finally has a chance at his long awaited vengeance.
He snatches up Dawnie before anyone can respond and tells Buffy to watch as her sister's soul is devoured!
Page 17: Buffy, Xan and Spike all head for the demon, but they can't move fast enough. Dawn energy starts getting torn from her... for a second anyway... but then something odd happens.
Since Dawn isn't truly ensouled, The Soul Glutton finds that his attempt to drain her energy instead feeds energy from himself to her. The Giant Soul Glutton becomes the Man Sized Soul Glutton as he yells out in pain, and drops Dawn to the ground.
Page 18: With the Soul Glutton reduced to more of Giles Size, and recognizing that Dawn is the fabled Key whose energy is poison to it, and given one of Buffy's "I'm going to kick your asses" speeches, our villains decide it's time to take off for a regroup.
The Mistress casts a dark wall of energy between them, and tells Wills that it'll hold her off long enough for them to take their departure.
Page 19: On the other side of the energy wall holding our heroes back, The Mistress reminds The Glutton that they can't escape with the Restless Door in their possession because they need it to hold the gate open. At the same time, leaving it behind will leave a fresh trail for the Mystic Council to follow. She offers that the Restless Door, alas, will need to be destroyed for real this time.
The Soul Glutton agrees.
With The Mistress removing the protections she'd cast around it, The Soul Glutton destroys it with his trident.
Xan calls them First Graders, but thanks them for at least eliminating one of their problems. But Rupert is quick to point out that though new portals won't be opening now, the one that the Mistress just opened isn't closing on its own.
Page 20: On the other side of the portal, demons of at least three different types make a zerg rush for the now passage to Earth!
Willow quickly throws up a force field to block their entry, but she shouts that the new portal is expanding on her. In the meantime, some of the demons are already punching through her force field while Giles is casting energy darts at them.
The Mistress offers that she and the Glutton really must go as they exit down a side tunnel. She tells them that the new demons, the Anharrans are irrationally blood thirsty and brutal. She offers them an insincere good luck.
Page 21: With the demons - mostly - contained on the other side of Will's shielding, it's time for a quick conference about what to do. Their huge problem is that the portal [somehow, despite being opened by the Restless Door] originates in the hell dimension, making it nearly impossible to close from their side.
Buffy offers they'll need to fight their way through to the other side, close the portal, and then magical zap them back to the Earth dimension. But both Wills and Rupert point out that opening a portal from the hell dimension would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible, and Andrew points out unnecessarily because that is the exact thing that they'd set up themselves using the Vampyre Book!
HOISTED ON THEIR PETARDS ... DOH!
Page 22: Giles offers that even if they could fight their way through the oncoming demons to make it to the other side, there isn't any guarantee that they'd be able to close it behind them since they lack a ... key....
Buffy is immediately angered and tells Rupert he can't be serious. Xander glowers with a No. And Spike fires off a Hell, No.
Dawn then notices that everybody is looking in her direction....
The Good: I like the team up of The Soul Glutton and The Mistress, especially some of the dialog of The Mistresses when she's in a gloating frame of mind.
I liked seeing how two bad guys with a plan can out maneuver seven good guys who just kind of bumble into an attack without working on specific tactics beforehand.
I also enjoyed Dawn's unique nature helping instead of hurting, with this being a temporary setback for The Soul Glutton.
The Bad: I don't usually comment on art unless it's stellar or really poor. But. It's not that the artwork is bad or pulls me out of the story but Megan really needs to work on her arms and hands. Our group all look like they have stretched silly putty for arms and all of their hands are huge. They're starting to look freaky.
Other Thoughts: I'm still quite ambivalent about this Giles/Sundrop romantic partnership and of his getting too wrapped up with the Fae in any case. I don't trust them completely.
I'm also a bit on-the-fence about this version of Spike. The bedroom discussion between he and Buffy felt drippy and could've used some snarktastic dialog from him to remind us he wasn't completely whipped.
I'm really confused about the whole Fake-Anya Ghost thingie as a Xan-plot. I don't know what the point of the deception was if he was going to figure out that she's not Anya so quickly and easily. We'll have to wait and see where it's going.
After so much time of Dawn's not being a Key anymore being a major point repeatedly stated, I'm undecided on this sudden "wait we have a mystic Key in our midst" development. I'll have to wait and see to comment on this as well.
The Score: 3.75 out of 5 stars