Season 11, Issue 10
"Crimes Against Nature"
Writer: Christos Gage, Artwork: Megan Levens & 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 forced magical beings into an internment camp. After Buffy, Willow, Spike, and Faith staged a breakout, elements in the government faked a massacre by vampire escapees... as an excuse to enact plans to drain supernatural beings of their magic!
Page 01: We open at Land's End, San Francisco, a once major tourist attraction but now a restricted government research facility, designated the "Pandora Project".
Where we now find Buffy, Spike, Faith & Willow diving under the ocean around curious seals toward an underwater entrance into the facility.
Willow had found out about the Pandora Project and its location last issue.
Page 02: Our gang find that an entrance once used by the attraction for a large, salt water swimming pool has been barred now. Which is no hindrance to two Slayers.
But as they make their way deeper into the underwater tunnel, from the inky blackness comes a mass of cabling tentacles...
Page 03: ...which turns out to be connected to a giant octopus! And it's not only monstrously large, but it's also cybernetic!
Fortunately, it's also in a cavern system that the tunnel leads into, so our air-breathers are able to surface, as they begin to struggle against the partially bionic E. dofleini.
Faith screams about who ordered the freakin' giant octopus, but Buffy shushes her because they're supposed to be infiltrating sneakily.
Faith points out that if the facility has guards, the giant octopus fight has probably blown their cover, already.
Commentary: Heh-heh. I found this page amusing, and the cyber-octopus is a neat looking creation. Spike's trying to bite what is very clearly metal and cabling is stupid, though. Duh, Spike.
Page 04: With Buffy freeing Willow from a tentacle, she's able to throw some heavy heat blasts at the mollusc to drive it away, but not without getting an ink blast in return.
Wills offers that they can add "no magical detection" to their list of breaks on this caper, as the giant octoguard was reeking of magic, in addition to its mechanical parts.
Page 05: As our gang reach the underground access steps from the ocean, they encounter tanks of animals: all of them with cybernetic grafts replacing bits and pieces of themselves.
And what's more, many of them have clearly had magical manipulations as well. Buffy offers that she's getting an idea of where the magic that was drained from camp residents has gone.
Spike also guesses that the cover story for this place... to track down and deal with the Shenlong Dragon and whoever sent it... is bullocks. Either the government clearly doesn't care about dealing with the dragon currently, or they already know where it's located.
Commentary: Hmmm... which doesn't really follow - the eeeevil (please, what other kind are there) government scientists messing around in places men weren't meant to know could still be putting together an army of controllable undersea creatures to hunt down and fight the Dragon.
Obvs, it'll be something more underhanded than that, but Spike made a huge leap here in his reasoning.
Page 06: Willow finds a terminal, and gets to work on going through the facility's secrets. Buffy, Faith and Spike continue into another room of the complex, where they find battle suits waiting for their users. But these suits are combining natural elements, like being made from wood, with magic like runes and jewels.
Spike has Initiative flashbacks.
And then an off-panel energy blast knocks every one to the floor.
Page 07: To Buffy's horror, a heavily altered human being/cyborg informs them that they're intruders and he's been authorized to use lethal force to protect the complex.
Buffy barely avoids being speared by metallic claws.
Commentary: I immediately think of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and J. August Richards. I believe that was a deliberate bit of a callout, because other than being very pale, our robo-human is also bald with a similar face to Mike Peterson/Deathlok. I like it.
Page 08: Faith tries for a tackle around the throat from behind, but she's easily slammed against the ceiling. The cyborg's scanners report Slayers, and it begins to recalculate a response.
While doing so, Spike warns Buffy that this isn't a person anymore, as he starts ripping one of the murder machine's arms off.
Page 09: While some sort of energy build up is going on from the wrist of the other arm, Faith is able to tear that one off as well. In the meantime, Buffy uses the Scythe to chop off one of the cyborg's mechanical legs. It's clear that Buffy is horrified by having to do so, though.
Spike then repeats Faith's actions, but is able to use the cybernetic man's distraction by his other damage to tear out his borg eye implant. It leaves the altered human completely vulnerable and handicapped.
Spike suggests that they need to kill the person to stop the machine, but Buffy objects that he's still a person and they're not murderers. Faith gives a quiet, "Speak for yourself...", but the other two don't hear it.
Everyone looks pained, as the man starts to plead with them.
Commentary: I do like Faith's side comment, because it's nice that her previous actions -- even being years ago, are still with her every day. She hasn't just forgotten about her time with The Mayor, and still carries that regret with her. It's very much how they handled her character in Angel & Faith, so I really appreciate the consistency.
I do question, though, this being the entire line of defense for the installation, when whoever must at least be worried that Buffy and company may stop by at some point. This seemed far, far too easy.
Page 10: Corporal Diaz begs our trio to put him down permanently, fearing that when he's found, his benefactor will only repair him. When the computer is functional, Rudy is actually just a meat puppet, unable to override his controls. He tells Buffy that he doesn't want to return to that existence but isn't strong enough to live without the enhancements.
Buffy offers she can't deliberately take his life. But Spike tells the Corporal that he has him.
Off panel, as Buffy looks away and Faith doesn't, Spike mercies the soldier.
Page 11: The trio return to Willow, where Buffy tells her she wants to take the place down. But Willow reminds Buffy that nobody is supposed to know that they were there. Faith points out the mess they left behind, but Spike has that covered. He opens the cages for the land animals that were altered, so that it looks like they broke free, hopefully, and subsequently mauled Diaz.
Page 12: Back at the hotel, the news is reporting that supernatural refugees are being turned back at the Canadian border, while some ranchers in Montana are believed to have been killed by a pack of Wendigos.
Dawn points out that things are getting bad, and Buffy tells everyone it's what the government conspiracy wants to give them free reign on their "drain magic plan". She tells the gang that they've got to grab a top conspirator in order to expose this whole thing.
Willow, in reviewing her downloads from the Pandora site, tells them that Secretary of the Supernatural Ophelia Reyes and Press Secretary Joanna Wise are definitely in on it. But she worriedly tells them that the top of the pyramid looks like...
Page 13: ... Spike comes in to complete her reveal: The Vice President.
Spike tells them that Dowling sent a tip that the VP was flying into San Francisco with little notice, and not-so-coincidentally right after the trouble at the Pandora Project lab.
Our gang discuss what to do next, with Spike on the side of killing the Veep. But Dawn wisely says that won't actually help anything. Buffy turns to Wills on a "tell the truth" spell to get the information they need, and a "forget all about this" spell to keep him from remembering their interrogation.
Willow offers she can do it. But that leaves the problem of nabbing a Vice President of the United States without it being noticed.
Xander is tapped to fill-in for the Veep with a glamour spell, until they can return the real deal.
Commentary: Okay... I'm really nervous about this plan. I mean they only have a couple of issues left, so this will probably work-ish, but this is some big stuff. And, I don't like having Xander try to pass himself off as a political wonk. That just seems doomed to failure.
I also don't like how "Dowling's tip" was just tossed in there: First of all -- where was Spike, how did Dowling get any information to him at all, and how did he do it without getting caught, when surely everyone on the wrong side must know that he and Buffy had at least a good working relationship in the not-so-distant past.
It feels like that was glided over a little too quickly and easily.
Page 14: The following day, The VP arrives at the Hotel Luxe, in a pissy mood because somehow protestors found out where he'd be staying [Dowling, again? Maybe a bit of chaos to cover Our Gang's arrival into the city?].
He's barely in his room, and out of eyeshot of his security detail, when Willow and Xander appear in his suite with him.
Wills quickly zaps him.
Commentary: Again... this just feels a bit too easy to me. With magic public knowledge, I just have a very hard time believing that Ophelia Reyes isn't all up on having wards, detectors, mages and psychics vetted and assigned to security details for the President and Vice for just these sorts of road trips.
It feels like we're squeezing out some important logical details for time/page count here.
Page 15: The Veep had time to yell in surprise, but when his security detail comes in, they find him a bit goofy, but seemingly alright.
Meanwhile, the actual VP and Willow are invisible and silent floating against the ceiling.
Page 16: Willow phases herself and the VP through the ceiling, to a stairwell, where Buffy, Faith and Spike wait.
Willow gives the Vice his truth bespelling... though Faith is really interested in any Area 51 tales.
Page 17: In the meantime, Xander-as-Veep, has to deal with a reporter interview, and despite his babble, doesn't appear to be doing all that well with snowing her.
Page 18: Our Gang isn't doing well, either. They find out that a) the Vice President is actually involved in the plot, but is only interested in the money that he and his friends will make from the magic-tech gadgets that are in the pipe and b) that he also can't reveal the identity of the head person running the Pandora Project, because he's already under a pre-existing spell to keep quiet and finally, c) that the first satellite is going up into orbit the following day, with the magic absorption ray starting the day after that.
Commentary: So, at this point, I was thinking the head might be Ophelia Reyes, but that seemed too on the nose. But Joanna Wise - who we know is involved already - also didn't seem likely. I started to wonder if there was somebody in the background with a line somewhere that would be the mastermind. Then I considered that maybe Lake Stevens was going to be the actual head of Pandora.
Page 19: With Xander again, just when nosy reporter moves off of uncomfortable subjects like the supernatural, she turns to something with even more pitfalls: Economics.
Xander pulls the "suddenly sick, need to vomit" excuse in order to rush to the bathroom before he has to try to answer an economic theory question.
Page 20: While Xander is trying to pass off his sudden illness as something he ate on the plane, nosy reporter is calling in his security detail.
Thankfully, Willow is able to make the re-swap just before the agents break into the Veep's bathroom with guns drawn. And just as thankfully, the Vice President has no memory of what has been happening, so thinks that maybe he had some pot brownies at the Colorado Governor's mansion earlier.
Page 21: Back at Xan and Dawn's hotel room later, the gang are arguing with Spike and Dawn about the two of them getting out of the country immediately, in case they can't stop the satellite/drain-magical-energy plan of the conspirators in time.
Naturally, both of our Scoobies who'd be fatally affected refuse to cut and run.
Dawn, rightly, points out that whoever is behind this won't stop at the US' borders. A few satellites, and they'll be able to cover the globe.
Buffy suggests a bunker, but Willow points out that magic isn't radiation, so they can't know if that would be an effective screen or not. Buffy, a little desperate now, suggests that Dawn could risk the opening of a portal - as dangerous as that may be....
Commentary: I am glad that they didn't forget that Dawn does have her Key powers intact now, and that they're at least addressing [however late and inadequately] why we haven't seen her zipping the gang from place to place, and why they haven't used her abilities to just leave themselves, already.
I'm not sure I completely buy keeping her powers on the way-back burner, but at least they're trying to explain why they have been.
Page 22: Faith points out that once whoever wants all of this magical energy has it, it'll be a lot harder to stop them, and they'll be able to track down more magic elsewhere. She suggests that they'll all have to fight now: win or lose or it's all over anyway, no matter where Dawn runs.
Buffy doesn't like it, but she tells everybody that if they're all going to stay and fight, then they'll have to make damned sure that they win on the first try.
Commentary: Yeah... I don't buy Faith's argument for why Dawn and Spike shouldn't be running off to a side dimension, and then beyond that if necessary. I find it difficult to believe they wouldn't be able to escape the immediate threat, at any rate. I would worry that Dawn may zap her and Spike into a fire, rather than the frying pan they're currently in, but that isn't the argument that Faith is making.
The Good: Okay, I know it's ridiculous. But... I loved the giant, borg-octopus. There, I admitted it.
Spike killing Rudy Diaz, and both Faith and Buffy allowing it did get me. That was a nice few panels.
I like the revelation to Willow that their real quarry is a full-blown magic user: Not just somebody collecting magic for experimentation. Whoever it is, they can cast a spell that would take Wills days to get through.
The Bad: The only thing I'm going to put in the bad... and it is very minor, so it probably could slip into 'other thoughts', is how we get NOTHING about all of the extended people in Buffy's orbit on the recent events: No Andrew, No Kennedy, No fallout with the Slayers over their recent failures, and most problematic - nothing from Giles. Not even a panel showing Giles' reactions to everything that is happening with his family is pretty aggregious, considering the circumstances [presumably, his time away will be covered in the upcoming Giles limited series, so if he's been dimensionally shunted or something, it may make more sense in retrospect].
Other Thoughts: Uh, yeah... about that whole let's create cyborg animals thingie... I'm not sure exactly how that comports with our big bad's actual motives [which we can't talk about here... uh... 'cause I haven't read it yet and therefore would have no way of knowing who/why the bad guy is doing things... *cough cough*].
I did find the battle against the cyberman a bit too easily over. He nearly rakes Buffy, and body slams Faith, and then it's over and he's defeated.
I was going to put pacing into the good, because the story is going along quickly, but I think now that it is more of a mixed bag. There are places where it's going too fast by skating over logic problems in order to skip to specific scenes, that I didn't like noticing.
I really wanted more humor in Xander impersonating the Vice President, but it was more full of cheap and obvious jabs at our real-life President: "Fake News" ....
I'm also having problems with completely buying into the nearly throwaway mention of why Dawn and Spike aren't hopping a portal to anywhere that isn't in the firing zone.
The Score: It was a good issue, but I wanted the funny bits to be goofier/slapsticky with Xander and to see Buffy reaching out to her supporting cast more for information/assistance. I'm really bummed that characters like Satsu didn't show up at some point in this one to let Buffy know they have her back when she's ready to make her move.
3.50 out of 5 stars