BTVS, Season 11, Issue 01
"The Spread of their Evil..."
Script: Christos Gage, Artwork: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been saving the world from demons and the forces of darkness on a regular basis since she was a teenager. Alongside her vampire boyfriend Spike; her best friends, Wiccan Willow Rosenberg and normal guy Xander Harris; her sister Dawn; and her formerly old but now magically reborn as a thrteen-year-old mentor Giles, Buffy has found nothing they can't face together... But the world hasn't stopped throwing new challengers their way.
Page 01: We open in a drainage tunnel or sewer. Buffy and Spike are together, battling a giant, segmented leech-like critter with stubby arms.
Spike finds his dagger ineffective, and Buffy complains that the Scythe is going to take a while to get through the leech's tank-like hide. In the meantime, she's been coiled up and is being carried by the creature's body toward it's waiting multi-teethed mouth. Which Spike doesn't like, but Buffy tells him it's part of her less-than-best plan.
Commentary: I just want to start this season by saying how happy I am with the creative team- at least for the moment- having made a final-ish decision on who Buffy is going to be with. Spuffy shippers can rejoice still that they didn't have a break-up between seasons.
What I want to mention here really though, is how much I like the detail of Buffy's wearing a SFPD badge around her neck. I like Robert Dowling as a supporting character who can drift in and out of the story as needed, and I'm very relieved that the dating relationship between he and Buffy was very quickly approached and ended. I don't like him THAT much.
One thing that does annoy... just slightly... is how often Spike is taking to biting things as an attack strategy lately. It started last season, and is getting a little silly. I can understand it for human-like monsters and demons, but what in the world made him see a giant leech covered in sewer water and think "Maybe I can have a bite?"
I hope that bug's slime & the dirty water combo gives you the-runs, Spike.
Page 02: Buffy's, unlike what I thought she was doing - namely getting swallowed stupidly to cut from the inside - plan was to line up the spear tip of her Scythe to puncture the back of the giant worm's throat and through its brainpan.
Spike complains about the risk she took, but she tells him to chill. They flirt.
Robert appears with a couple of uniforms to joke about the sewer-air's romantic vibe. Buffy jokes back that he's being pretty mouthy for somebody whose backup has arrived late. But he pins the blame on Patterson having seen a sewer-gator, that turned out to be a trash bag.
Page 03: So, during the cataloguing and cleanup, Robert mentions to Buffy that the SFPD would hire her on full time, but she demurs, saying she's happy as a consultant-as-needed.
After she's out of earshot, Rob checks in with Spike on his and Buffy's relationship as it seems to be going good. Spike mentions that they had a rough patch a few months ago, but they got through it and things are going aces. Robert seems pleased that Spike is in such a good place.
Commentary: So, the only thing that feels off about Robert's character is what feels like his over-investment in Spuffy. His dialog feels a little clumsy here, like Christos is either going out of his way to assure Spuffy-fans that they're not about to be clobbered - again -, or that Robert is trying a bit too hard to show he doesn't have any hard feelings about his aborted romance with Buffy.
I also don't like the last panel, that seemingly indicates that Spike may still be harboring something about his current romance... doubt, worry, the neurosis that he insists he's over... I'm not sure. I'm not even sure that it was meant to impart anything significant, but the close up of his face and his downcast eyes are surely meant to reflect -something-.
Hopefully... *sigh*... not more romantic foibles for our current super-couple. Because I've been pretty adamant and clear about being over Buffy's romantic-traumas over the past 10-frickin'-seasons.
Page 04: In the meantime, Willow has taken to offering classes in Wicca - and not just the spellcasting, but in how to reach a new equilibrium through connections with both the natural and supernatural world.
Commentary: This is nice to see, actually. I like that Willow has come out of the "magic as a problem solving shortcut" through "magic as a way to express rage" through "magic as a mostly defensive weapon" to embracing the philosophy behind it that Tara embodied but that Wills was too immature to understand at the time. It's a really nice, years-long, through-arc for the character.
Page 05: Buffy & Spike come in and pass through with smiles and waves. They continue up the stairs, which apparently Buffy's apartment has roof access now with the rebuild from D'Hoffryn's caused damage [*cough*... and they're still getting a "good price" on the apartment that they can afford... hmmm, *casting a doubtful glance*].
On the roof, Xander, Giles, & Dawn are barbecuing. Giles mildly insults Dawn's attempt at pasta salad.
Page 06: While Spike checks with Giles on an identification for their leech-monster, Dawn gets caught up with her sister. She's thrilled with her latest grades, and Buffy is very proud, but also jokingly telling Dawn she haters her for "ruining" her own academic legacy.
Dawn takes the opportunity to check on Spuffy's status, because she says that Buffy has been giving her a vibe of being unsettled somehow.
Buffy assures Dawn that she and Spike are better than ever, but she's right that something has been off about her sis.
Commentary: See, I can totally buy Dawn being invested enough in Spuffy to ask questions about them & how things are progressing on that front. It's way more natural from her, than from Dowling.
Page 07: Buffy's current kinda-deal is that everybody else feels like they're exploring new things and growing. While Buffy is currently... fighting monsters... still, and only.
Dawn breaks out into a huge grin and derides Buffy for being half-empty girl. She points out all of the things that Buffy has done that no other Slayer before has accomplished.
Page 08: Buffy concedes the point that for somebody who was supposed to have a very short shelf-life, she's doing pretty alright for herself. Dawn tells her she's just feeling antsy because things have been relatively quiet lately. Her advice is to enjoy the downtime while it's there to enjoy.
Whether it's Buffy's ansty dissatisfaction or Dawn's jinxy mouth, the quiet just happens to end right now with a huge thunderstorm coming in from off the ocean. Xan exclaims for everybody to save the buns.
Commentary: Oh, Dawn & Buffy. Honestly. You'd think you'd have learned by now to just not talk about it out loud when things are going quietly. Especially Dawn after that whole RV thing when she no sooner told her sister that things couldn't get any crazier, and then the Knights started filling the vehicle with crossbow bolts. At least have some wood to knock on if you feel compelled to say things are quiet. :-)
Page 09: Willow comes out onto the roof then from her class, because she's sensed something unnatural about the storm... something beyond SIRI lying to Xan about the weather that day.
She casts a magnification spell to look out over the sea.
Page 10: What they see is a giant, flippin' dragon! Chinese, I believe. And it's heading straight for their city!
And unfortunately, it's not only bringing thunderheads and lightning with it, but a tidal surge of water.
Page 11: On their apartment building roof, Giles and Willow try a simultaneous blast to drive the dragon off, while Buffy orders Xan, Dawn and Spike inside.
Page 12: She yells at Spike to grab weapons, anything they've got, while Giles and Willow's attempts to block the dragon's entry into San Francisco fails. Buffy takes off for the building edge as the dragon makes landfall.
She leaps out to jump on the dragon's face... which doesn't seem all that great an idea.
Page 13: Buffy lands Scythe-edge first, stabbing our monster in the nose. Something which causes more irritation by the looks of it, than actual injury.
Commentary: I love the artwork especially on these two pages. Rebekah and Dan have a great partnership when it comes to the artwork and coloring working together to make pages pop, and this is some nice stuff. I especially liked the bottom panel on this page, with the dragons glowing crossed eyes to gaze on the gnat biting its nose.
Page 14: Buffy gets thwacked with the dragon's tail, and sent flying through an apartment window.
In the meantime, Giles is recovering from shock and a bloody nose caused by the dragon barging through the barrier spell he'd attempted. He's able to tell Willow that it's a Shenlong Chinese Storm Dragon, but this doesn't actually help them deal with it.
Willow takes to the air to blast the dragon with heat, in hopes of dehydrating it and driving it off. On the streets below, the torrential rain and storm surge continues to flood the bay area while the dragon is present.
Page 15: As Giles fires another spell from the rooftop, Dawn and Spike return with crossbows. But Dawn complains that her bolts aren't even reaching it due to the winds accompanying the stormfront. In the meantime, those on the roof are nearly flash fried by lightning.
Spike shouts for Willow to try teleporting it, but she reports it's too big for that [you'll recall that before the New Seed, she was transporting a submarine with the whole of the Slayer contingent aboard - so, as I've also said until you're probably sick of hearing it - I really appreciate the limitations placed on Will's powers]. She's also nearly knocked out of the air by a dragon tail whip.
Page 16: As she's recovering from blocking the dragon's tail strike, it rears up to swallow her whole, or bite her in half but Buffy saves her with a well-timed distraction... the Scythe to its eye.
Page 17: The dragon swings its head with a roar of pain, causing Buffy to go flying again, but this time [probably as Buffy expected, considering how many times she and Wills have had to use this maneuver] Willow is there to levitate her.
The dragon's writhing however, brings down a building into the raging waters.
Page 18: Taking to the air, the injured dragon flies back out over the sea, taking the storm with it.
Xan questions whether it's over, but Buffy replies 'No.' as the gang survey the damage left behind.
Commentary: So, at first I was hoping that we'd have a smaller story to start out the season, but I'm okay with this one, because they're taking the time and a few pages to actually address the affects of a giant monster attack.
I know that this season is going to be a lot shorter than 8-10, so we probably will have more focus on the big arc. That has me worried about the little character moments that are so important for the Scooby Family to work correctly, and I'm hoping that the beginning of the issue isn't all that we'll get as we're thrust into the mystery of the new bad guy. But that is my only quibble with this huge attack.
Page 19: The gang go down into the disaster to start helping victims in the aftermath.
Page 20: More scenes of the gang helping in individual ways as they begin moving debris to find those who are still alive, but buried. Spike warns her that things are only going to grow worse as morning starts to arrive.
Page 21: Buffy already figured that, as anyone they haven't helped through the long night would have to be buried under tons of debris. But Spike clarifies that isn't what he meant.
He's clearly worried about an attack of this magnitude: What it'll mean from whoever launched it, and what the government is going to respond with.
Page 22: Later that morning, the White House is trying to deal with the consequences of what just happened on the West Coast. While the President wants to know how a dragon could come up out of nowhere and disappear just as thoroughly, the Vice President has a different question: Just what is the U.S. government going to do about this outrage.
He's clearly very pissed. And he looks disturbingly like Darth Cheney.
Commentary: Which... uh... other than calling him "Darth", I really don't want to start a political argument, and am not feeling very good about the allusions being drawn here. We've already had rocky relationships between Buffy and the Administration - whether the War on Slayers, or Lake Stevens' brand of militarism and control. I really am hoping that this isn't going to turn into a slog of political commentary by Christos, whichever POV he personally has. But making the angry, scowling "What are we going to do about this!" rager into the Vice President character who just happens to look an awful lot like Dick is making me a bit nervous on this point.
The Good: Artwork doesn't impact scoring when I'm judging comic books, but I wanna say again that there are some really nice panel work done by the Isaacs/Jackson team. I especially liked the battle-panels against the Storm Dragon.
I enjoyed the easy banter between Robert and Buffy and the convo between Dawn and Buffy before the badness starts.
I'm also glad that they didn't drop a citywide disaster on the characters and then leave out the logical, area wide affects it would have.
The Bad: I didn't find anything bad.
Other Thoughts: I do have a few concerns about the underlying political implications on the last page, and Spike's worries over what may happen next.
I also did find Robert's questions about Spike and Buffy's relationship status to be ... off-putting and clumsy scripting. And just a little weird.
The Score: It's an alright issue, with the highlight really being the action scenes over the character interactions, which on looking at it, do seem a bit rehashed [especially the Buffy/Spike status convos].
3.50 out of 5 stars
Side Comment: Oh, and since apparently Andrew got the boot this season, it'd be nice if we got a cameo of him with his Slayer Disaster Recovery Nonprofit helping out, that we heard about exactly once in Season 09.