(BTVS, S11) Issue 02
"Girl Blue", part II
Story: Joss Whedon & Erika Alexander, Art: Jon Lam, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: [Read the last long, long blurb. The only new part is...] Upon hearing rumors of vampire killings, Giles has transferred to a new school to investigate. He's butted heads with bullies, discovered a demon in the basement, witnessed a force mysterieuse acting on the students and teachers here, and is crushing on his new partner, a vampire named Roux.
Page 01: The following day at Living Legend Academy, Giles is taken aback by a group of students in a dark corner of the hallway. As he peers at them, a powerful sense of deja vu comes over him. All of the students stare at him, but one in particular catches his focus. The student appears to be a clone of Rupert, somewhat disguised by a purplish light. It asks if he's 'mother'.
The vision or visitation is broken when Roux joins Giles, and startles him out of it. She asks if he's just had a little 'freak out' from the school and Giles admits he had. She tells him that happens in the building, sometimes.
Roux tells him to shake it off, so they can get to investigating their supernatural problem. In the meantime, dog barking is heard echoing down the hallways.
Page 02: Giles brings up their partnership, and Roux beats him to the punch by telling him she knows this is only temporary. They turn their attention to finding the source of the brain draining going on around the school.
Our twosome split up, in an attempt to track down the source of the mystical occurrences affecting the school and anyone in it. Their mutual attraction continues.
Page 03: As Giles is wandering down another hallway, he's grabbed suddenly into a janitor's closet. Inside, he finds his old friend, Addy - last seen under the demon's influence.
Addy and Giles spend a few moments getting caught up. Then the teacher tells Rupert that things at the school used to be far different when he'd first started there. He relates that the school was well run, the faculty happy and the students were learning. But then there was a rain, and after that, things just started going off of the rails.
Commentary: And their dialog is still sounding really unnatural, especially for Rupert.
Page 04: Addy goes on to bring Giles up to speed on the past few months. Everything started with a heavy rainfall three months before. The factory that the school used to be was built on landfill, and the heavy rain made things a bit unstable. It's still causing some settling and rumbling in the building. But in addition to the minor rattling around the building, a sinkhole had opened under the triple pass behind the school building.
After the sinkhole opened, everything changed - and quickly. Addy reports that at first it was just an overwhelming reek of peaches emitting from the sinkhole. And then later, he began to feel foggy and unfocused. Addison tells Giles that he feels like his brain has been slowly drained over the last few months.
Commentary: And at first, I was wondering why he'd be sticking around then. I was wondering if I should be annoyed, or if Addy wasn't actually his own self at the moment and the demon was just playing around with Rupert.
Page 05: Giles asks how else has been affected, and Addy shares that everyone in the building is impacted in some way. He reports that the kids who were doing so well are now either lethargic, or they're hyper-aggressive. The teachers have either fallen into a malaise, disappeared or left suddenly. Addy is hoping Giles might have some magic that can help, but Rupert tells him he isn't a wizard and it won't be that simple.
Out of left field, Addison suddenly asks Giles to take a selfie with him. As he snaps the pic, we can see Giles' friend is sporting purple, glowing eyes, which Rupert doesn't see.
But then Addison pulls out a peach and offers it to Rupert, before taking a bite. Giles points out that Addison said he hated peaches just moments earlier when describing the smell from the sinkhole. Taking a juicy bite, he tells Rupert that he detests them - deliberately showing his hand that Giles has been speaking to Peaches the entire time.
Commentary: Alas, to get to this 'revelation', we had to basically listen to a repeat of what we already saw in Issue 1 and that Giles had already, with help from Roux, figured out on his own. The rain and sinkhole are new information, but the rest of it is repetitive.
Page 06: Later, Giles is at the school library, which he finds locked up tight. Roux comes along and after a bit of banter about Sunnydale, she leads him to a broken window to gain access.
But all they find in the old library are empty shelves. Roux tells Rupert that the whole library has been digitized, but he'd only find approved sources on the internal network.
Commentary: WAIT. Wait... so... what happened with ADDY and the DEMON and GILES?!
Why are we jumping to later, when Giles friend all but threw in his face that he was the demon possessing him and practically daring Giles to do something magical about it?!
Oh, my god, this series is annoying the crap out of me - and I've only read one and a quarter issues!
Page 07: As Giles and Roux sit in the darkened ex-library, Roux brings up maybe their hooking up. Rupert tries to tell her that he's older than he looks, but she counters that she's 200-somethin'-somthin', so she doesn't have any issues with that.
They're interrupted by one of the ever-barking dogs who is for some reason in the old library. Rupert tries to clam the canine, but it looks nearly feral. It makes a charge at our two flirtatious friends, but instead of attacking, it leaps up through the broken window. Roux is left confused by what that was about.
Giles shrugs it off in order to ask Roux out on a date. She demands a corsage.
Commentary: I. I just can't with this: I don't understand what is happening with Peaches' grand plan. I don't understand why Giles and Roux are spending more time being googly eyed than investigating the supernatural goings-on. I don't understand the scene switches. I don't like much of the dialog - seemingly forgetting that Giles IS an actual adult, despite his body. I don't get all of the randomness that seemingly is just tossed in to be weird because demonic influence.
This is NOT the Giles tale I wanted, but I was willing to get lost in what we have. But all of this is confusing me, and not in an enjoyable mysterious way.
Page 08: Sometime later, Roux and Giles decide to get some answers from Boake. With Roux's strength, they're able to blindfold the Principal and hang her upside down in the dark before turning the lights back on. The Principal seems utterly unaffected by this treatment, going so far as to tell her attackers that this isn't the first time that she's been strapped to her chair and hanging upside down while being questioned.
Roux, we note, is wearing a blue corsage -- she whispers to Giles that this isn't their date.
Discussion turns to the school's operation and the money behind the charter, which Boake gives up without an argument. She tells them that everyone is supposed to come out winners from the students to the money guys to especially herself with an early retirement. But then the disappearances had started and brought the police into the situation and now everything is messed up. She insists that far from the bad guy in all of this, she's the one under siege.
Roux finds herself unimpressed with Ms. Boake's being more focused on money than student achievement and threatens to bite her, but the principal is just as lackadaisicle about this, calling herself bloodless and a shell.
Commentary: This is another weird page of dialog. In fact, since Rupert and Roux both know a demon is at play, and that it came from the sinkhole, I'm utterly confused about the focus on Living Legend's being run as a charter school.
This feels like an author's tract against the charter school, for profit industry -- which has zero to do with a demon brain draining the students and employees. But it doesn't fit in here, because thus far there has been zero indication that the Principal or the Webb Brothers behind the charter have anything to do with the demon. In fact, indications were that the school was working, until the sinkhole opened and everything changed.
I do not understand the point of this tangent, without it being tied to a partnership with the demon. And that would've been easy-peasy to set up properly, but that isn't how the story was structured. It's been set up as the demon ruined what was a good thing for the neighborhood and the kids attending this place (albeit, that came from the possessed Addy, so could've been complete lies - but nothing else that Giles or Roux have come across has suggested any different).
Who cares if Boake's primary goal was earning an early retirement, or that the mysterious Webbs wanted a prestige project. None of that is relevent to the demonic activity here. Or to Roux, which is who Giles was meant to be investigating/eliminating in coming to the school undercover in the first place!
Have I just completely lost the thread? Am I not following something?
Page 09: Sometime later, Roux and Giles are on the roof of the school. Giles offers that Boake is complicit in whatever is happening (How?) but Roux calls her a clueless tool.
Rupert asks after the reason that Roux is hanging around the high school and going through so much effort to protect the Girl in Blue, but Roux blows this off and calls a sudden end to their evening together.
Page 10: The following day, Rupert realizes that he's been muddled headed since he came to the school. He decides he needs to check out the instigating sinkhole for clues as to the demon's identity. At the same time, his mind is distacted with thoughts of actually having a relationship with Roux, the vampire, despite recognizing how bad of an idea it is.
At the same time, Roux is watching Giles covertly. She's also consumed with how ridiculous it would be to have something with a guy straddling two worlds, and yet....
Page 11: Behind the school, Rupert finds the sinkhole covered in a few sad strips of police tape. He decides there is nothing to do, but make an arduous climb downwards.
Which leads to him falling instead. Smashing through some wooden planks of a long ago structure doesn't feel good, but it cushions his impact with the ground below.
Page 12: At the bottom of the sinkhole, sits the demon himself. He welcomes 'mother' home, calling itself One. Giles questions if they've met before, because One speaks as if they had. When One confirms, Giles guesses they fought, but somehow realizes that One wasn't as he is now. The demon replies that Giles was someone else, too.
It turns out, also, that he refers to Rupert as 'mother' because he feels that Rupert's previous vanquish of him has made him who he is now.
Commentary: It also feels like one of the threads is shaping up to be Giles' view of himself, and trying to reconcile who he was in his first adulthood with who he is becoming in his second. It's an interesting premise, and I like the idea of the demon recognizing Rupert despite his changes, and the way both are different now than when they'd fought before.
But, this feels like one of many threads that are tangled up in each other. Maybe the weakness in this story thus far, is that there are too many ideas that are touched upon, but aren't focused in on? Or aren't written sharply about to keep the various threads clear from page to page?
Page 13: In a flashback, we see the previous battle between Rupert and One, where Giles was able to use a staff to command the demon to return to its supposed death, which is why Giles is confused to have to re-face him.
One explains that during that fateful battle, he had scratched Giles hand even as he was being killed/vanquished. Those precious drops of Rupert's blood allowed him to save himself and reconstitute in a new form. Partially the demon he had been, and partially Giles - the son to Giles' 'mother'.
The demon questions if Giles doesn't understand the power inherant in his blood, but Rupert waves this off as nonsense.
Page 14: Behind One, who Giles insists on calling Seed, and I keep thinking of a Peaches, sits a large device glowing with a sickly green energy.
Rupert guesses that this is what is infecting everyone above. He and the demon verbally spar, the bottom line being One's amusement with his mommy liking the black vampire chick. He also reminds Giles that the vampire has been busy with the bloodletting, including the missing special-ed teacher and Ms. Wong.
One hints that Roux is hiding other things from her crush, things that will only end up hurting Rupert before long, unless she's put down like the abomination that she is.
One is also able to confirm for Giles that his obsession with the charter school financiers was actually on the right track. The device currently brain draining those in the school is a prototype that One intends to prove works and then expand operations across the globe, drawing the greedy into financing his draining of kids everywhere.
Commentary: Finally, the evil charter schools weird tract from earlier has a point. But how Rupert was able to make the connection, I'm still not sure of, because the writing leaves me feeling like this perception was coming out of left field. But, whatever, at least there is some connections being made among the disparate threads that is making some sort of sense.
Page 15: One, now on a roll, gloats to Giles that mankind will be remade by his machines into a hollowed out populace of dumbed down animals.
As he gloats now in triumph over his plans for the future, his machine - a prototype remember - sputters a bit. Giles drolly asks if it still has kinks in it.
One waves these aside and lashes out a tentacle at his old nemesis.
Commentary: The old saw about greedy corporations and the internet making kids brainless. That is what is droll. And boring.
Page 16: So, because Rupert left himself open for an attack, he's wrapped up in one of One's/Seed's/Peaches' tentacles and lifted off the ground.
Giles has a hand free though, and is able to summon a commanding spell to warp time, the way the students in the cafeteria are warped. One finds himself momentarily frozen in place. This allows Rupert time to literally throw a wrench into the machine causing the brain draining effects over the school in an attempt to slow the thing's functioning, until he can find a more permanent solution.
Alas, the freeze spell is over all too quickly, and he's bum rushed by One.
Commentary: I wish I could tell you that the battle scenes were dynamic and exciting, but not really.
Page 17: Giles goes to flee (although where to is a question), but is again entangled in One's tentacles. This time, One begins to squeeze.
But at that moment, Roux appears, shouting at the demon that she already has dibs on him. She goes on the attack, forcing One to drop Rupert before he's squeezed unconscious. Roux moves quickly, fanging out, and biting One in the shoulder. He doesn't seem too bothered by her attack, whereas she's definitely finding that wasn't wise, as One appears to have some sort of acidic blood.
Roux yells in pain, as One spits acid onto her hands, burning them.
Page 18: Next, One snatches up some wood from a bonfire he has to light the place. He tosses this casually at her prone form, forcing her to act quickly to retreat, before she goes up like roman candle. Roux trips over an exposed root, as the fire rushes closer to her vulnerable, vampire skin.
Page 19: Alas for One, his whole obsession with peaches isn't just an idiosyncracy. As Giles shows him that he's holding one of One's prized possessions, One has a minor freakout.
Giles tosses the peach into the fires, forcing One to concentrate on saving the fruit. Rupert rushes over to Roux to help her away from the dangerous flames. He tries a small joke, but Roux isn't feeling very friendly at the moment. Before Giles realizes her intent, he's punched into unconsciousness by her.
Commentary: Okay. I'll admit to liking something -- Roux vs. One was okay for the short time it lasted. And it'll be interesting to see what's about to happen between Roux and Giles, now that he's been reminded that she's been acting as a vampire and the disappearances were her work, and not part of the demonic plot they're in.
Page 20: When Giles comes to again, he finds himself trussed up tightly and Roux staring at him. He asks about Truman, and she admits that she was going to get rid of him because he was asking too many questions about her that she couldn't answer.
Giles and Roux do some verbal dancing around how this all impacts their budding relationship.
Page 21: Roux clearly finds herself unwilling to hurt Giles, and he gives every indication of not being in a staking mood. In the distance, more of the dogs are barking, now confirmed to be another effect of One's machinations.
Roux tells Giles to ask her whatever he wants to know about her, but he suggests that their current location isn't conducive to a long discussion.
Roux offers to show Giles where she lives, if he'll agree to remain cool. He's amenable. She's still not going to free him, just in case.
Page 22: Roux hauls Giles bound figure over his shoulders. But before they can get far, they find themselves surrounded by One's stray dogs. And they're looking mean.
The Good: I like that Rupert himself is shown to be not on his game, specifically because he's not immune to the brain draining effects of One's machine. I also like that they're not making Rupert an all-powerful magi here. He's got some spellworks, but he's not as powerful as Willow by any stretch.
I also did enjoy the banter between Roux and Rupert after she has him trussed up and helpless. But I don't see how the two of them are going to keep up this friendly, flirty relationship when he still a Watcher at heart, and she's still a full-on vampire.
The Bad: The entirety of the comic up until Giles enters the sinkhole is more confused, horribly scripted, weird dialog meandering storytelling.
Other Thoughts: The revealing of One and his prior history with Giles was okay. I wanted more out of it than we got.
I did like the Roux intervention between One and Rupert, but it annoyed me that Giles kept standing there and getting caught so easily. It was also a bit too short lived to put it in the good.
There still feels like there are too many random bits with One, but at least things aren't as confused: The weird peaches obsession, the enchanted hounds, the brain drain machine, and finally the demon's interactions with 'mother' feel unconnected to one another and I wish we'd gotten an explanation of sorts, at least, for the whole peaches thing.
The Score: The story is moving in the right direction as we head out of issue 02, but the end wasn't enough to make up for the utter randomness of the beginning pages. Rupert's continued mindless and hormonal chasing of Roux has me annoyed, after the confirmation that she's not all that better than any other vampires who aren't following Harmony's rules of conduct. But their interaction with each other still has me at least somewhat charmed.
2.75 out of 5 stars