(BTVS, S11), Issue 1
Writers: Joss Whedon, Erika Alexander, Artwork: Jon Lam, Colors: Dan Jackson, Lettering: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover Art: Steve Morris
Blurb: (a long one...) Rupert Giles is a Watcher, one of the few who guide the vampire Slayers in hunting and killing vampires and demons, and fighting against the forces of darkness. In the battle against Twilight, Giles was killed. But after a chaotic resurrection attempt, he was restored to life; however... instead of being returned to the world as a grown man he is cursed to walk the earth as a teenager.
Recently, after a supernatural attack decimated San Francisco, the government has been cracking down on magical beings. Many, including Giles' friends, Buffy the Slayer, Wiccan Willow, and ensouled vampire Spike, have been sent to an internment camp called the "Safe Zone", while Giles was able to acquire a fake ID and - *sigh* - enroll in high school as a "normal" teenager.
If that wasn't difficult enough, while Buffy and her crew worked to save the world, Giles has some trouble of his own to handle... a girl... and so much more than that...
Page 01: We open in a thunderstorm, on the Vincent Thomas Bridge, San Pedro, CA.
Giles is out on a fierce night, howling at the storm as he dives toward a tentacle coming from the dark bay waters of Los Angeles Harbor.
As Giles' mystic field protects him from the fall and the cold of the harbor, he says aloud that love sucks. He dives in begging for someone not to die without him, as he also complains he won't be able to breathe.
Page 02: We flashback to four and a half weeks earlier, where we join a boy named Truman.
He follows an African-American girl down into a dank, smelly basement of the Living Legend Academy, a charter school. We are privy to thoughts, but from whom we don't yet know. Whoever/Whatever is complaining about the dogs constantly barking outdoors, and being always hungry. It becomes apparent that Truman is following the girl to "be done". She promises to do him, but asks him to look up first.
Page 03: As he does so, tentacles begin to surround him. The girl, who will be Roux, notices the dogs barking still and the cloying smell of peaches. She immediately recognizes that a demon has joined them in the basement.
Truman is trussed up in 'Peaches's' tentacles, as Roux only just avoids another. She rushes out of the basement through a broken down garage door.
Commentary: So, immediately I was a bit confused here. I thought that Roux was bringing Truman to the demon on purpose, explaining why she told him to look up, at where the demon was hanging above them. But then her thoughts seemed to indicate that although she's obviously had some knowledge of demons, she didn't expect the new arrival.
But she didn't seem all that sad and/or shocked to see Truman die, either. And her little quip about everyone dying a little in high school seemed a bit too lackadaisicle, for what just happened. I'm left wondering about her angle and not really liking her already -- which is a problem, if she's who Giles just dived into Los Angeles Harbor to save.
[The little "cue mixtape" inserts are going to annoy me, too. I hope that's not going to stand in for proper storytelling, since I have no intention of hunting down music to explain what is happening...
As to Roux's weird, cold behavior -- that is explained as Giles gets more involved with her story.]
Page 04: Skip to a sky-down view of Living Legend Academy, as Giles is replaying [presumably Willow's or Dawn's] briefing of his current mission: Stop a series a vampire attacks. This mission also gets Rupert out of the sights of the government, allowing him to hide-in-plain-sight, as it were.
He's very not-happy with going back into high School, and even less enthused about his "undercover name" that Buffy pulled out the air: Ralph Columbo.
Page 05: Giles is in a dark mood as he makes his way through campus, observing that it's all the exact same as when he did all of this the first time around.
He's also appalled at the malaise of neglect that seems to shroud the school, including a napping teacher at this desk.
Page 06: In the hallways, Giles hears a commotion and turns to see a bully harrassing a girl. He tries to remind himself that he's there undercover to hunt a vampire, not rescue girls in distress. But, of course, Giles just isn't that kind of man.
Dropping his books loudly in the hallway, and overemphasising his Britishness with an exclaimed, "Oh, bollocks! Dearie me," he pulls attention from the girl in the blue dress to himself.
Page 07: It works like a charm, allowing 'Blue' to grab up her books and escape, while 'Ralph' deals with the bully.
Rupert is slammed up against a row of lockers, but before he has to resort to kicking the bully's ass, the principal comes through with a pair of police officers. She orders the kids to get to class, while the bully takes the opportunity to kick Ralph's book bag into her path.
In the meantime, our friend Roux tells Ralph to make a hasty retreat, though her sudden presence at his side makes Rupert do a double-take.
Page 08: Rupert is soon left alone in the hallway, and he notes that his bookbag is missing, and whoever took it left behind a bit of fuzz (which is from Roux's jacket - she has fringe sown into her jacket hood).
From an empty classroom, Giles hears an old phrase from his boyhood, and is shocked to discover that an acquaintance from that time is teaching at Living Legend -- or is supposed to be. But Lloyd Addison appears to have lost a little something. He's apparently drunk in the mid-day at work, and since he was quite the math genius, his working for this school is a rather large step down.
For his part, Lloyd is just as flummoxed when this teen kid knows things about his past that he simply couldn't. But before the two can compare notes on where they find themselves in life, the bell rings and Giles has to rush off to stay undercover.
This is why he doesn't see a tentacle stretch out from underneath Addy, where surely nothing could've been hiding only moments before, and slither its way around Lloyd. And curiously, the demon appears all too familiar with Rupert Giles, and calls his retreated back "mother".
Commentary: This. I don't understand this scene. Why was it necessary for this to be a person from Rupert's past if they don't even get a chance to really talk to one another? And how is it that both the demon and Giles' old friend just so happen to be in the school that Rupert was being sent off to in order to investigate a vampire?
I hope that Addy is some sort of avatar for the demon, and it had some type of precog power to know just where to be in order to catch up with "mother", because this whole scene felt really weird and clumsy. There has to be something more to this, surely?
Page 09: In the hallway, Giles is waylaid on his way to class by running into the mysterious Roux. Both go down into a tumble of limbs. Giles begs forgiveness and Roux pulls out some latin to do so.
But before the two can either rush in opposite directions or turn this clumsy meet into a cute meet, both are apprehended in the hallway by a mountain of a man -- school security. They both protest, but as Giles observes, the man is very serious about his job.
They both have a wrist bound in a zip tie for a walk to the Principal Boake's office.
Commentary: Hm. I don't know whether to call this some sort of fate, or just clumsy writing. Everything since Giles walked into the school feels so random to me. I just can't get into what is happening because it all feels like Giles is wandering around without purpose and just bumping into things that'll be important to the plot later. Maybe.
I suppose this could count as a cute meet between Roux and he, but the old friend just happening to be here is a bit much, and I'm having trouble with Rupert not being a bit more suspicious and asking a bunch of questions -- screw making class.
Page 10: Outside of Ms. Boake's office, Rupert overhears her talking to the two police officers she was in the hallway with.
It appears that she's called them in because of her assistant who has seemingly vanished, Miss Wong. This is in addition to the previously reported missing Mr. Crowe and now Ms. Boake is shocked that the police were already coming there because of a missing student report -- Truman.
Giles asks Roux why everyone he's met seems so surly and lethargic, even now in regards to the police's interaction with Ms. Boake. Roux says they're "walking dumb", but doesn't share what she saw happen to Truman.
Commentary: Again, this writing... it feels so off to me. I don't think Giles has investigated one thing yet -- he's just took a step here, and there's a clue. Takes a step over here, and here's some exposition for him. I do understand that the real mystery here isn't the reports of a vampire prowling, but actually about who is calling Giles 'mother' and what that means -- but there could be pretending about Giles' supposed mission or a dual-mystery going on.
Page 11: Rupert tries to get some information from Roux, but she's cagey. She'll only share that she watches over the Girl in Blue, and tries to head off the bullies. And it's established that both she and Giles are very aware of the strong scent of peaches throughout the school.
Giles asks for any advice on finding out what exactly is going on in the school, but she recommends that he doesn't look like the kind of kid stuck there, so he should get out while he can.
Roux slips the plastic restraints holding her and Rupert together and slips off, leaving Giles slightly flummoxed by his instant attraction to her.
Commentary: See, and here is why I was so confused about the relationship between Roux and Peaches. With my at first believing that Roux led Truman to his doom on purpose, and then thinking that she didn't -- her not mentioning that they're not alone in the school, even obliquely, confuses me.
She has talked to Giles and confirmed that what he has noticed, she's aware of, and then just lets things hanging like that.
Even the comment about the peach smell isn't giving Rupert any indication that Roux knows more than he does about the state of affairs in the basement. It feels like we're clumsily stretching out the story for a few pages because we want this arc to be 4 issues, but we didn't bother to write anything about Rupert's red-herring investigation for a vampire preying on kids [although, I'm assuming it isn't just a red-herring ultimately -- they're trying to set Roux up as a good guy, but her leading Truman down into a dank, dark, and isolated place in the school hints that she's not a hero].
Page 12: Later, Giles slips down into the basement himself to investigate.
He senses a miasma in the air, and with a spell manages to reveal the fact a demon is at play. He gets a glimpse of Truman, and that Roux saw what happened to the boy.
As Giles tries to pull the recent activity into focus in his vision, he feels an oily tentacle wrap around his wrist - as if the vision is being made solid! With force of will, Giles breaks the vision's hold on him, but only after the demon - whatever its origins - again calls out to him as "mother".
Page 13: Rupert rushes outside, in the midst of a panic attack, something he hasn't had in years. As he gains his breath, Giles realizes that not only did the demon know him already, but that he somehow knew it as well -- like the thing was a part of himself in some way.
While Giles is realizing that a vampire hunt isn't what he's there for afterall, Roux has been busy herself. She goes through Rupert's stolen book bag, seeing right through his "high school student" cover. She tries to discover who Ralph Columbo really is....
Page 14: For the moment, Rupert tries to slip back into being a student until he can gain more information about what demon is haunting the Living Legend Academy.
However, in the lunch room, Giles finds that all of the other students and staff are suddenly in a weird time warp that he wasn't caught in, probably because he arrived later. Everyone around him is moving at slower than normal speeds, and yet no one else seems to notice. He recognizes a demonic spell impacting the lunch room.
As Giles, perhaps unwisely, reaches out to touch someone caught in the time-altering field, he discovers that there is a second person not affected. A voice from an office in the cafeteria shouts out a warning not to touch it, and summons him over.
Page 15: In this office, Giles finds a teacher's aide, who indentifies herself as Mrs. vega. She's turned the lunchroom office into a personal haven, covered - as she herself is - in talismans to resist the demonic influence. Although, she seems to believe that she's no longer in a school, but in actual pergatory. Giles asks after others who are outside of the influence of the demon, but Mrs. Vega says she's the only one left, while the rest were drained by the demons of their little hell.
Page 16: Rupert wanders the office, to find that it's actually an old remnant of the school's past life. It's turns out to be part of an old bomb factory, heavily shielded with lead. He speculates that the lead lined walls are what has blocked out the demon's impact on Mrs. Vega - but she counters that it's her faith that has protected her, and offers Giles a talisman to take with him -- a mirror on a chain to wear around his neck. A mirror that is a bit too large and obvious to be trying to pull off.
She offers Giles a riddle and pushes the mirror necklace into his hands before demanding that he leave.
Commentary: WHAT. Who the hell is Mrs. Vega? Why is she standing around in the lunchroom, instead of running away - presumably sometime before she lost her mind? How is it that nobody has ever wandered into the empty office in the cafeteria to find her? Why is there a lead lined office just sitting in the cafeteria at all - wouldn't that have been deconstructed during the renovation to turn the factory into a school? What is the point of this character being in such a stupid, nonsense place, except to ensure that Rupert Giles doesn't have to actively investigate anything, again?
OMG, Joss & Erika, what in the hell are you doing with this story? Nobody is talking like real people do, the demon's influence is too plain and obvious to have gone unnoticed when the entire country is up in arms over the supernatural, enough to put people with magical powers into an internment camp and Giles ISN'T digging up anything! It's all just being handled to him as he randomly wanders around!
No, I'm just not liking this entire set up issue. There is too much wandering, too much stilted dialog and too much of not actually talking about the weird demon who is haunting the school, while also making it so very easy for Giles to not do anything to get pieces of the puzzle.
Page 17: Rupert reaches the end of the school day, pondering what demon he's dealing with. But before he can really slip the puzzle pieces he's received into place, he's set upon again by the bully he's made an enemy of by existing -- and that little penis insult.
[Okay, now Joss is just being weird for weirdness's sake!]
Our bully has his two wingmen in tow, and they... *sigh*... they toss Giles into a bungee-type cord that they've just happened to have strung across an alleyway... as all bullies do.
Page 18: With Giles hung up on the bungee-cord trap, all four young men take to balancing on the cord and somehow, using Olympic level balancing and gymnastic skills (I'm sure you remember as a high school student, when you also had such skills) begin fighting on the bungee-cord in a bizarrely coreographed fight!
[I thought that maybe bully and the posse were minor demons serving Peaches -- but no. Undoubtedly influenced by his presence, but still just three violent kids, tightrope-fighting. *sigh*]
Giles holds his own, due to his vast experience, when bully pulls a knife blade. A counter move by Giles to dodge sends him off of his perch, falling down hard onto his back on the alley ground.
Page 19: From out of the summoned fog that Giles used to cover his movements, comes Roux -- and she's the vampire that Rupert had been originally sent to investigate! She roars as she sets upon the three bullies, quickly rendering them a non-threat.
Bully, already having earned her ire at the targeting of the Girl in Blue, is about to have his throat ripped out, when Giles' exclamation to stop interrupts Roux's rage.
Page 20: Roux turns on Rupert, with a tooth filled snarl. He reacts quickly, using magic to body slam her against a wall and hold her in manacles as bully and the wingmen lie unconscious. Giles points out the obvious about Roux and she points out that he isn't any high school student. She demands to know who he is, and he gives her his real name.
Roux and Rupert's meet without their respective guises results in extremely awkwardly written flirting and sexual innuendo.
[Like - immediately on a dime awkwardly written.]
Commentary: Jeeezus. What is happening with Giles' character?! I don't care if he and Roux had a something in the hallway briefly -- I don't care if Rupert is hormonal. This ISN'T Giles! This scene transition from Roux about to kill an unconscious kid to having a sexually charged conversation with the entirely willing Rupert is SO awful & sudden & awkward!
I don't understand what's going on here. JOSS helped write this?!
Page 21: So, with the decision that Rupert is too horny to kill Roux, she's released. She tells Giles that she thought he was the calvary, to fight the demon, not coming for her. Roux asks if Rupert intends to kill her after she went through that trouble of saving his life, but he replies that he's not up for it at the moment.
Commentary: Okay. So putting aside the utter mess of the last few pages, I did like this -- mostly. The discussion of the bigger bad than a vampire was still way too brief & way too unnaturally scripted, but I did like the panel of Roux and Giles standing facing one another as she asks if this is where he stakes her, and he's left speechless for a long moment.
And, I can see the chemistry between the two characters now that both secrets are revealed to the other. So, I'm happy to see this duo go up against Peaches together. But getting to this moment was really badly written.
Page 22: Roux offers Giles a partnership, because the vampire has "skin in the game". To Rupert's questioning, she reminds him of her watching over the Girl in Blue. She seems genuinely caring that the young woman stay safe, but for now only tells him that the reasons are complicated.
Giles agrees, though there is an undercurrent of tension as both realize that there may not be a choice afterward but to attempt to kill one another....
[And I gotta go back and do another read through before I get into the scoring....]
The Good: A Giles solo adventure is always a welcome prospect (but I'm holding onto my bitterness that we didn't get way more of the Giles/Faith partnership).
I liked Roux being in the background and then coming into Rupert's orbit. I also liked some of their interaction, and I did end up with a sense of chemistry between the two characters, which was needed.
I do like the weird connection between Giles and Peaches. Having Rupert referred to as 'mother' is an interesting hook.
The Bad: I don't understand either Giles' old friend being at the school, or Mrs. Vega's bizarre room of weird. Neither of them had much to do with the plot, and especially in Addy's case - Rupert clearly forgets he even exists immediately after their brief and awkward reunion. Both characters are just oddly placed and have empty scenes.
There is so much of the dialog that is trying to be clever, but just comes off as forced, unnatural and bad! I just cannot believe that Joss had anything to do with the dialog scripting here. I mean, I can, but if this is where his dialog is these days, then he should step back from the Buffy franchise (although, I guess Twi-Debacle kinda pointed to that strongly, already).
I did not like the way that Giles' investigation included one page - in the basement - of actually investigating anything. Every bit of puzzle that Rupert received was literally given to him by random happenstance.
WHAT was that gymkata fight?!
Other Thoughts: Okay, I didn't really like the confused beginning with the demon, Roux and Truman but I get a much more clear sense later about what happened.
I was disappointed that Rupert's adventure had no relation to Buffy's anti-supernatural government conspiracy arc at all. I really wanted to see Rupert working underground to help the Scooby Gang, maybe with Faith, but nada. I can put that aside though, and focus on what our story is truly about.
Okay. I didn't like this one throughout, but I did like where it ended with Giles and Roux having an uneasy alliance as both of them are quite attracted to the other, even though they both recognize that this partnership probably can't end well.
I don't have any clue what the connection is, but I did find it interesting that both the security guard and Roux have AIX tattoos. Hers on her wrist, his on the back of his neck.
The Score: So. This was a rough one. And I'm mostly going to blame the meandering way Giles went about doing anything, and the unnatural dialog. Despite having some moments where I could see getting interested in what his coming, it was really hard for me to engage fully with this issue:
2.25 out of 5 stars