BTVS, Season 11, Issue 05
Writer: Christos Gage, Artwork: Georges Jeanty, Dexter Vines, Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings, (Comicraft’s) Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been saving the world from the forces of darkness 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 thirteen-year-old mentor Giles, Buffy has found nothing they can’t face together… until now.
After a supernatural attack decimated San Francisco, the government cracked down on magical beings. They - including Buffy, Willow, and Spike - were forced into an internment camp called the “Safe Zone”. To get Spike enough blood to survive, Buffy has agreed to be a Trustee, keeping order in the camp.
Page 01: We open with a vampire attack on a parrot-like demon. The vampire desperately hungers for blood, and the camp is giving out meager rations, which isn’t enough.
Demon shouts for help, but nobody seems inclined to stick their noses in, despite the general animosity that demons would show toward “blood rats”. The only thing their interested in is if they can get soon-to-be-drained’s portion of food rations.
But there is somebody that feels the need to save as many lives in the camp as possible, and that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She orders the vamp to back off.
Page 02: The vampire is happy to comply. I mean, what’s more nourishing - a parrot-demon’s blood, or a Slayer’s?
That wasn’t exactly what Buffy had in mind when she interrupted. But the vampires are convinced that Spike has been getting some of that good Slayer stuff (which he did, and probably more than once before Buffy volunteered for a Trustee position), and he wants some too.
She tries to talk him down, but it’s a no-go situation.
Commentary: The only thing that rankles about this whole plot for me, is a) Willow is apparently unable to breach this super-barrier, which seems suspect despite her lesser powers in the wake of the new seed… I mean, she isn’t exactly a mewling kitten, here. And you’d think that she’d have plenty of witches in other countries siding with her and supplying illicit help. And, b) and especially - the idea that Buffy would be allowed to keep her Scythe feels ridiculous. I get the hand wave that it’s just easier not to fight with her to take it away, but I just feel like Amazonia Slayer wouldn’t stand for it, and it’s just too convenient that Buffy keeps the Slayer super-weapon without it constantly causing friction with the “trusted” Slayers (because I think they’re idiots and collaborators, and things never work out good for them), and it always being at risk for being stolen by the demons who would think it’d give them more power and influence - and ergo safety - in the camp. Especially the more desperate things become.
Page 03: Although the vampire gets her in a compromised position during the short fight, she’s Buffy and the vampire is weakened by the rationing. He ends ups dusted on the tip of the Scythe.
Buffy tries to see to the attacked demon, but he wants nothing to do with her. In fact, nobody does - both because she’s a Slayer and because she’s now wearing her Badge & Body Armor of Cooperation with the enemy.
Something which the Ogre is more than ready to pounce on as another opening to sow discord against her. But the other demons aren’t ready to risk the retaliation that would come from dog-piling her and just order her to go away and leave them all alone.
Commentary: I kind of like how the humans and Slayers (excepting Buffy & Willow, of course) are completely fine with “what happens in the camp, stays in the camp”. I could definitely see the guards in charge having a “see no evil, hear no evil” attitude and hoping that the demons do turn on each other and thin out the number they have to give the minimum amount of care to.
But, I also kind of hate it because it’d be nice if we saw evidence of marches (especially in San Francisco) and lawyers stepping forward to fight against this Un-American practice. It is happening, since it’s in the courts as mentioned by Lake, but it’d be nice to see it more emphasized rather than something happening in the far background. Not everybody would be silent on this matter, surely, if for no other reason than principle. (And because there are always people who want to picket everything… it’s like a hobby.)
Page 04: Later, after a long night, Buffy returns to Spike in their trailer. She’s frustrated and angry at the other inmates who are seeing her as the enemy, even when she’s trying to save their lives.
She goes off on Spike when he’s less than helpful, but it’s quickly smoothed over. He warns Buffy that her becoming a Trustee for a larger ration of blood probably isn’t the first compromise they’ll have to make before this whole thing is resolved.
Page 05: The next morning, Willow is meeting with Lake at the Detention Center‘s… uh, I mean “Safety Zone’s” main gate. There she’s accompanied by a few of her students.
They’re there to release two of Will’s Wiccan students, as Willow has been able to convince Lake - and her superiors - that although these two students are Wiccan, as a religious choice, they’re not able to actually summon magic.
One objects, due to having to sign a legal document testifying that they won’t be working any actual magic on the outside. Willow advises her to sign it, no matter how unjust it seems, because it just isn’t safe inside with the demons.
Page 06: Lake takes a few moments to console Willow that she did the right thing by getting her two students out of there. Wills tells her there are a few others who also don’t belong, as they can barely summon a few sparks, but Lake points out that right now, anyone who can do any magic at all are considered a threat until they get direction from the Supremes.
Willow broaches the topic of draining her students of their magical energy. Lake is surprised she’d even consider it, but Wills tells her that if they stay, her less talented students could lose a lot more.
Stevens continues to ignore the clearly concerning details of the camp’s conditions degrading and security being a concern. But she tells Wills as long as they can confirm her claims that the others can’t work magic any longer, she can arrange to get them out.
Commentary: Ugh. I hate this part (not me the reader, just me the Buffyverse fan who doesn't like to see our characters so helpless), too, especially Willow’s obvious guilt at even thinking about taking somebody else’s gifts from them. It’s a little too DarkWillow, even though I’m pretty confident that isn’t where they’re headed with this.
And Lake Stevens isn’t helping me like her any better, either. Whatever impression I had when we first met her, I’m really disliking her more every time she opens her mouth. It’s pissing me off that she doesn’t even ask Willow about her clear impressions that things are getting more dangerous.
At this point, I’m seriously wishing Willow would pull out a little dark magic. Taking over Lake’s mind and sending her out to secretly assist them where she can would be horrible, but justified right now to me. Of course, you always have the problem of its being found out, as it would just reinforce the government’s paranoia but we really need somebody on our good guy’s side and it seems that Dawn, Xan and Giles aren’t having much affect on the outside.
Page 07: Later, Wills has a heart to heart with Buffy about her decision to maybe broach the topic with her remaining students about losing their newly found abilities. She’s afraid that she’s been so hesitant to get them out of there, because a selfish part of her doesn’t want to send Calliope back to the outside world to her girlfriend, instead of just keeping her close.
Buffy offers that Willow always does the right thing, and she’ll do so now. But she also brings up that Calliope and the others may not be any safer on the outside. Dawnie has shared with Buffy on one of their phone conversations that Wiccans are being hate-crimed on the outside. She offers that maybe keeping her students close isn’t wrong.
Commentary: Okay. I’ll admit that when Buffy told Willow she always does the right thing, I did flashback to her checkered history of absolutely not doing the right thing.
I guess I really need to let that go, since she IS a very different person - having changed between Seasons 7 & 8, and she has embraced Tara’s world view… a least a lot more than before, when she seemed to largely wave off her concerns.
But still, if I was standing there, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to keep my eyes from doing a severe roll.
I do really like this page though, both for Willow asking herself if she’s delaying the right thing for selfish reasoning, and just for another moment when Wills and Buffy get to just talk to each other as best friends and family.
Page 08: Wil has a mild magical freak, but quickly gets herself under control. It’s obvious that being locked in this camp is getting to her, as well.
Buffy offers that Willow should focus right now on taking care of her students, and she’ll take care finding out some sort of timetable as far as they’re staying there. She offers it would really help with some trust issues if she could bring her new bosses something concrete. She mentions rumors of an uprising.
Willow has heard the same whispers, but she’s not gotten any details. She knows that some of her students, at least, have been rumbling-adjacent about breaking out, though.
Buffy warns her it’ll never work, and anyone trying an armed insurrection is just going to get themselves killed. Willow, despite her frustrations, knows this and offers to talk with her students with Buffy about what they’ve heard - though obvs unhappily.
Page 09: Willow and Buffy return to the former’s trailer, where they meet up with Calliope. First, Wills broaches the topic of the magic-drain in order to get her released, which Calliope is really less than receptive to. Wills admits that it’s not as easy as all that, but they’ll need to talk about risks later. Right now, she wants to know what Calliope has heard about an uprising attempt.
At first she plays, not-convincingly, dumb but Wills points out that ever since she learned the fire spells, Willow has noticed her attitude getting more militant against their jailers. She’s sure that she’s gotten involved. Buffy warns that if this goes down the wrong way, a lot of people are going to get hurt or worse.
Calliope doesn’t trust Buffy, but the Slayer assures her that if she hears the plan, and it isn’t a suicide run, she’ll be in. But she needs to talk to the organizer about that plan, herself.
With reservations, Calliope gives up the Ogre, and his idea of a mass zerg rush toward the force field when it’s lowered for the water trucks. The ultimate goal is Ops, where they’ll be able to shut the whole operation down.
The details of what happens after this seem… well, not looked at too closely.
Commentary: In other words, this isn’t a plan at all. It’s more of a “send in the pawns in a rush, and maybe I’ll get out in the confusion” notion… and Calliope - and anyone else who thinks this sounds like an actual plan - are dumb. Or just desperate. But, still dumb. Especially, if they’re looking to the Ogre to actually help, rather than do his usual “stay in the background, and urge on everyone else” schtick.
Page 10: Calliope, perhaps the reason she’s being so data-dumpy, also shares the big plan is going forward this very day.
Across the desert sands, the Ogre’s ragtag group are milling about. He tells them all to wait on his signal.
But just as he’s readying to lift his arm, a familiar Scythe gently taps on his wrist.
Page 11: Buffy orders the Ogre to shut down his operations, before he gets those whose following his wacky plan, killed. Something which he doesn’t appreciate.
Already looking at Buffy askance for putting on the Guard Badge, he now out right calls her a traitor. He grabs her up by the throat and snatches the Scythe out of her hand.
Buffy, dangling off the ground, brings up her knee into his face, drawing first blood. As he drops her in surprise to the ground, she follows up with a hard foot to his abdomen.
Page 12: A right cross puts the Ogre flat on his back, seeing stars, and allows her to grab her falling Scythe out of mid-air. She turns to his followers, and offers that anyone who can recognize she’s doing them a favor, should return ‘home’. Those who can’t see that… well, she’s standing right there and ready….
Page 13: Their answer is, “Tear her apart!” … which probably isn’t her first choice for a response.
Outside of the yard, Amazonia Slayer starts to order the other Slayers in to get Buffy’s back, but our Slayer - not liking Jordan in the least and knowing that they won’t hold back, shouts that she has it herself. Amazonia shrugs this off, but orders the shields sealed up as she and her Slayer team watch Buffy get dog-piled.
Commentary: I really wish, the longer that this goes on, that we’d get a panel or three checking in on Faith, Satsu, Leah and that there’d be a panel of Andrew worrying in Europe. We need to broaden our perspective here a bit, rather than it be the repetitive scenes of Buffy having problems being locked up, but suffering it for the good of everyone.
This issue, particularly, is slower paced - despite the aborted insurrection - and could’ve used some scenes outside of the camp. It’s also continues to annoy me that any Slayer Buffy interacts with, will be an asshole toward her. Every One Of Them.
Page 14: Buffy ends up bleeding, beaten, but triumphant. Which should tell the demons that they were not, in fact, ready to carry out their rebellion plan, but probably won’t.
She shouts at them that the force field is up now, so they have no chance and orders everyone to return to their trailers.
Outside the gate (and mystic barriers), Amazonia Slayer tells Buffy she’s impressed that she went so far to keep order and do her job. She tosses her a bone, by telling her that - making herself so unpopular - maybe she should take a few days to guard outside of the compound. She can oversee a work crew to give herself a break from looking over her shoulder.
Page 15: Buffy limps away, but agrees to start the next morning.
Willow was waiting around the corner and rushes to support Buffy, who’s looking a bit unsteady on her feet. She thanks Willow for the support spells, which worked to calm the situation, though Wills admits that so many of their fellow prisoners are desperate enough to have thrown off the affects.
But Buffy tells her it did what it needed to: She was able to break up the Ogre’s insurrection without having to kill anyone, and without the administration ordering the other Slayers to use lethal force.
And as a bonus, she’s now got a pass outside of the walls to find a way out for everybody that will actually work….
Page 16: The next morning, Jordan is good for her word and Buffy is let outside of the gate with a limited work crew. Amazonia tells her she just has to keep a watch over them, do they don’t try anything stupid.
Buffy asks Jordan how she knows that she won’t run for it, but Jordan points out that they’re surrounded by desert. She’d die of exposure, assuming the other Slayers didn’t find her first. Plus, she doesn’t see Buffy abandoning her boyfriend and best friend.
Page 17: Buffy, during her day, finds out that the work crews having been placed in a machine shop, making parts for they-know-not-what. But they get meals, so nobody is complaining.
During a meal break, Buffy is able to watch TV, which is a latest briefing on the Zone by the White House’s spokeswoman. It’s all the same, with the entire ‘Safe Zone’ being in a legal gray zone and making its way slowly toward the Supreme Court.
Page 18: Later in the day, Buffy finds more crews working on assembly of the machined parts, and a third group working on basic computer coding, but nobody is told anything about what they’re work is going toward.
There is also a restricted zone, but an armed human military guy warns her off strongly that guards aren’t allowed anywhere near the area.
Page 19: Even later, Buffy is returning everyone to the living area, when she mentions to Jordan how the guy with the big gun was ready to shoot her, even though she’s a guard. Amazonia Jordan tells her that the military has been extra twitchy about the restricted areas, and the boys love to wave their phallic symbols around to counter their women-power.
They’re interrupted by an amphibian all-but-begging that more fresh water be delivered to the water breathers being held. He complains that their living environments aren’t healthy, and they’ve got deaths. But Amazonia has no fucks to really give, and tells him that she’s made his concerns known to the higher ups and they’ve gotten the message.
To Buffy, she waves off complaints of substandard care as exaggeration and the water-breathers just wanting extra rights.
As she’s doing this, our amphibian doesn’t go back to his section as rudely ordered, but instead makes a desperate attempt for a jeep.
Commentary: Okay, seriously. Amazonia Slayer Jordan can’t not be a full-on bitch. She would’ve fit right in with Psycho-Simone, but I think that she’s being written just a little too broadly unpleasant, just to contrast with Saint Buffy of the Scythe. It’d be nice if one of our dialogless minor Slayers would at least look askance at her once from the background panel. Not all of them can be this shitty.
Page 20: Amazonia immediately calls in a “runner” and is mocked for leaving keys in a Jeep. Except, she didn’t. The amphibian has electric powers and jump started the vehicle. Buffy waves her off that she’ll grab him, but it’s too late: The rooftops have Tactical Teams at the ready. And one of these men has a scoped rifle.
Jordan grabs Buffy’s arm, and a loud shot rings out. The amphibian’s attempt to ram the gate and head out across the desert ends abruptly with one crashed Jeep, some minor structural damage, and him dead with a blown apart head.
Buffy yells at Amazonia that she didn’t have to do that, but she replies that the amphibian didn’t have to run, either. She points out that actions have consequences… and she suggests to Buffy that she remember that, and spread the word to the other residents.
Commentary: Man, if this arc doesn’t end with Jordan knocked severely on her ass, I’m gonna be really disappointed. (Or, the exact opposite and she gets a complete Karma Houdini... sometimes I like that, too, just to screw with expectations.) She’s just racking up the Bad Karma points, like she thinks the high score wins!
Page 21: That evening at Buffy and Spike’s trailer, Buffy has just shared all of the notes that Buffy surreptitiously made of everything that she saw the work crews building. Willow confirms Buffy’s suspicion that they metal was being cut into the shape of runes. And both Buffy and Spike note that the pieces look like they’ll eventually fit together into a greater whole.
Willow comments on the hypocrisy of the government cracking down on open magic usage, while at the same time being involved in obviously creating a magical artifact. Buffy agrees, but tells the others that right now they need to keep a low profile, anyway, until she can find a way to get past security into the restricted area and find out just what their jailers are up to.
Commentary: My first guess is either they’re whipping up something to open dimensional gates so they can forcefully remove “unwanteds” from the country by force marching them through the gateway to banishment. My second guess was they were going to build a machine with magic that would attempt to drain magical energy forcefully, with Willow actually having given them the idea with her talk of voluntarily draining her coven members for their good. And that made me start thinking about how stupid Amazonia and the Slayer Brigade (quick, claim that band name!) are going to feel when it’s turned against them, too.
And that made me start thinking that the second is probably going to be what the government pulls… maybe using a contraption similar to the Japanese Vampires’ attempts to use the Scythe to drain the Slayers. And that led me to wonder if they hadn’t deliberately allowed Buffy to keep hold of the Scythe, just so they would know where it is, who to take it from, and have it staying conveniently close for when they’re ready to use it --- which would mean that this was in the works before Wills shared her idea with Lake about how to get her vulnerable students out of the camp.
Page 22: Buffy, Willow, and Spike aren’t the only ones plotting though. Elsewhere in the encampment, The Ogre isn’t able to let go of Buffy’s ruining the suicidal “let’s just rush the gate” plan. And he’s probably smarting that she beat his ass, too.
He tells his gang that whatever the consequences afterward, Buffy has to die….
Commentary: Yeah. Sure, Ogre, sure.
The Good: I liked all of the fight scenes with Buffy, and I also really like that she’s trying to use her mind to find a way out of this mess, without just barging around, hitting things -- which would be ultimately useless.
I also like that Georges is giving Willow a real moral dilemma when it comes to how best help her students, and Wills acknowledging that she has a conflict of interest when it comes to Calliope, that could be clouding her judgment.
The Bad: Nothing is badly done.
Other Thoughts: I like all of the characterizations, except for Jordan. It really feels like she’s being over broadly a jerk, for no reason except that Buffy has to have someone to clash with. I wish that her character was dialed back just a bit. It would’ve been more interesting if Amazonia and Buffy had more of a conflicted sense of respect, while sparring over whether cooperating with the bureaucracy is the best thing to do in the current political climate.
Or they could’ve had Jordan being openly helpful toward Buffy, seemingly just another person caught in a crappy situation and doing the best she can, while then we see her actively fomenting rebellion inside the camp in order to have an excuse to kill all of the demons there. And then have that lead to a giant fight between the two Slayers, later.
The Score: This issue was okay, and things were moved forward with the government seemingly putting the pieces together for something big, while hiding it from the public and especially the encampment. But there is also a lot of dialog that is getting repetitive when it comes to Buffy, et al constantly talking about how they have to get out of there and how it basically sucks.
3.25 out of 5 stars