(BTVS, S11) Issue 03
"Girl Blue: You Can't Be Told" part III
Story: Joss Whedon, Erika Alexander; Art: Jon Lam; Colors: Dan Jackson; Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb (partial): ... Upon hearing rumors of vampire killings, Giles has transferred to a new school to investigate. After tracking down a demon who's causing a campus-wide brain drain, he and his vampire partner/crush, Roux, have returned to the question of the missing teachers, Truman, and Blue, and Roux's connections to everything...
Page 01: We open in 1816 during a solar eclipse. We open on a plantation, in which we're in the midst of a slaughter. A man and two musclebound slaves have come to slaughter everyone in their path.
Page 02: Giles has been unbound from his restrictive wraps. He tells us that the cast a vision spell and attached it to Roux's story that she is telling, so he could see the images as she speaks: He regretted it.
On that plantation, the white owners were killed, probably due to an unpaid gambling debt by the master of the house. His not fulfilling the debt caused the bondsman to send thugs to kill his family as they left him bound to a pillar of his home.
Page 03: The master's slaves, including Roux, huddled in their simple shack, but they were not to be left alone. While the other three were quickly bound tight, Roux prayed for help. The white hitman ordered all four to be killed, also.
Page 04: Giles stops Roux from going on, saying he doesn't want to watch what happened then, but she berates him for being soft for a monster hunter and goads him if her dying doesn't make him a living. He replies how harsh that was.
Giles comments on Roux's current living arrangements, which are tastefully decorated and comfortable, but it's hard not to notice the giant Buddha in her living room. He calls her a fascinating mashup of a vampire.
Roux turns attention back to her past and that night when she died.
Commentary: I think I'm going to like this issue, already. It's nice to get the background on Roux, and hopefully we'll learn why the Girl in Blue has so much of her helpful attention. I'm still on the fence about Giles' infatuation with a soulless vampire, though.
I think, like with Harmony, they're trying to proscribe 'humanity' to vampires a little too hard so we'll identify with Roux and be on Giles' side in his seeking a relationship with her. It doesn't quite work for me. The reason that I liked Bangle and accept Spuffy is because the vampires have human souls [so no, I didn't appreciate S6's Spuffy -- at all].
I'm not sure it's entirely about the soulless vampire getting a boyfriend in the Watcher, so much as I'm finding it difficult to grasp Giles' getting so involved with a vampire. It feels wrong to me for his character, in particular.
But I am liking learning much more about Roux as a character.
Page 05: The two slave-thugs quickly stab the bound to death, but Roux is toyed with a bit before a knife is placed to her throat.
But just before her neck is slashed open, another interrupts the grisly proceedings. Hovering in, an apparent vampire sorcerer stops the white shit and his two goons from killing Roux. It's not explicit, but it appears he killed the white man, and recreated the bruisers with magic, binding them to Roux.
Page 06: Our demon doesn't say why he's so possessive of the slave girl, except to comment on how strong she is, and that he knows her yearning for power over men. He bits Roux, draining her, before offering his own throat in turn. Before Roux even understands what is happening to her, she's being dragged off by the scruff of the neck by her tormentor/savior.
Commentary: I wish we'd gotten a touch more here, really. The sequence of events seems nearly random, but the dialog suggests that the vampire had been watching Roux for sometime. But we don't know for sure, and there isn't enough to form a guess as to why she drew him to her, or what he's getting out of turning her.
Page 07: Roux is then dragged to a pre-dug shallow grave and buried by her sire.
She tells Giles that she was so traumatized that she stayed in that hole, dead but animated - subsisting on only the plentiful insects, ensconsced in mud and sludge for the next 12 years!
It took her that long to decide she was strong enough to live (after a fashion) and crawl out of her makeshift burial plot.
We don't see what happened to the twins that were to serve under her during this.
Commentary: And, see my last comment. This just feels weird to have a levitating vampire turn Roux, drag her to a grave, and tell her to come out when "she can see tomorrow" ... and then utterly vanish. Why? What was it about her, the vampire and them together that caused the demon to drain her, feed her and keep her out of the sunlight but didn't give him enough of a connection to insist after a week that she needed to come out and start her new unlife.
I want to know the emotional connection that drove the demon to choose this girl to expend the effort, but not to be attached enough to bother caring whether she ever 'woke up'. It's weird.
[But actually we can justify this -- how many 'minion vampires' showed up in Buffy just to get dusted without any indication of who turned them or why. It's possible that most vampires are simply driven to 'procreate' as a physical matter. Roux could've started out as just another randomly turned victim... except that dialog from the vampire....]
Page 08: Roux picks up her tale in 1828, where despite being a creature of the night, she returned to picking cotton on a plantation.
And she wasn't very careful about how long she stayed, or her habits to fake a humanity she no longer possessed. The other slaves inevitably started noticing how she didn't age, how they never saw her eat food, and how she only worked in the darkness. The more savvy of the others marked her as a demon without much effort.
She would then be chased off by rocks and clubs.
Next, in 1862, she found plenty of blood on the battlefields of the Civil War, but still throughout stuck in the mentality of a slave - unable to accept her lack of bondage anymore. Until she ran North, as other slaves wanting escape to freedom.
Commentary: Again, I really like this insight into Roux's character, and an explanation for why she's not a more typical killer. This is all very good stuff. And I like taking the "vampire is influenced by the person they've supplanted" into her having the psychology and reactions of the enslaved young woman she was when she was turned, and that she found so hard to push aside despite having a supernatural, predatory physical body, now.
Page 09: In 1872, Roux found herself no more welcomed as a black woman as she would've been strolling around the south. So she'd had enough of watching other black women manhandled and abused, and she began to fight back. But the violence she was capable of now scared not only herself, but the women whose defense she was coming to.
So after 20 years of trying and failing to fit into human society, but never making it past the outside, she returned underground for another long rest -- waiting for the time when her skin color wasn't the only thing people saw.
Page 10: With a tale told and the intimacy of the night, Rupert tells Roux about himself being decades older on the inside than he is on the outside.
Rupert and Roux lie side by side on pillows on the floor, as things draw closer to their having a romantic kiss. But the mood is spoiled as a voice shouts for Giles to get away from the vampire.
Page 11: The voice belongs to the missing Truman, and he's pissed. Angry at Roux for tricking him into the basement with the help of the Girl in Blue, leaving him to be victimized by Seed, the demon and setting him up in the first place, he's come to tell them that they're all to follow Peaches' orders soon, just as he now must.
He tells Giles that the Girl in Blue murdered the missing Mr. Crowe in detention, and Roux helped her.
At Truman accusing 'Blue' of being a murderer, Roux fangs out. He responds by attacking her, summoning a light-crucifix and threatening to burn her with it.
Page 12: Giles intervenes to save Roux with a bookbag to Truman's face.
The boy takes off to return to his master, while Giles stops Roux from chasing him down as morning is due to make an appearance soon.
He questions Truman's account that Girl in Blue murdered the teacher, but Roux insists that Blue wouldn't hurt a flea. Before Giles can try to get an account of just what happened with Mr. Crowe, Roux reacts as if she's being called by someone he doesn't hear.
Commentary: Uh... I had kinda forgotten about Seed and his connection to the story! I was really involved with Roux's story, and forgot that we had the whole high school disappearances to still be explained, and a demon to vanquish.
Although, I'm now wondering why Roux's sire isn't the big bad here, instead of a demon from Giles' past that he apparently doesn't feel in any rush to confront and kill at the moment.
Page 13: Giles asks who is calling her, and Roux - distracted now, claims it's a friend from her past named Ebba. She wants to go running off into the dark morning after Ebba, but Giles tells her to stay with him and tell him about what happened to Truman.
She says that she took him to the basement, and was about to do something that she stops herself from saying. The demon appeared out of nowhere and took him away. She thought that it had killed Truman outright.
Giles tells Roux that there is more to the demon. Rupert guesses that she and the demon had a past, and her story-vision reveals that before the fateful meeting with the vampire Baldwin who changed her, she had already met him face to face.
The vampire killed a particularly nasty overseer that she had hated and she'd seen the whole thing. Baldwin was curious about her because she wasn't afraid of him - indeed, she saw him as her hero.
Commentary: And we're finally getting some pieces coming into place -- The first meeting of Roux and the vampire sorcerer who will change her is specifically taking place in a peach orchard. Clearly, Baldwin/Peaches/Seed IS the vampire sorcerer who Giles had vanquished at some point. It's even very possible that he set up Roux to create enough of a scene to specifically draw Giles' interest -- though how he'd know that the Watcher was alive, nearby, and would be the one to come is a question that should be answered. Assuming that all of these demon names are in fact, the same being.
Page 14: Roux reveals that night, she became an apprentice of sorts to the vampire. He'd invited her to join him, and she'd allowed him to brand her skin with his mark. Giles points out that the vampire-demon was a murderer, but Roux didn't care then. He had killed a cruel taskmaster and there were so many more who deserved the same ending.
But where she thought he was showing her how to be powerful, she realizes now that she'd only become a slave again. He used her to lure more victims to him, promising to remake her into something more.
Commentary: So. Yeah, I'm suddenly like Roux a lot more: Not enough to ignore the vampirism or deals with the devil, but her background is sympathetic and I'd feel bad for her being staked... but that wouldn't get in my way. I'm going to be really annoyed if Giles ends up sending her on her way, just because her human life was tragic and brutal.
Page 15: Roux goes on to say that her sire bound the twins to her, but she hates them both. And while there were a lot of men who died and deserved it, there were other deaths on her that she regrets.
As names suddenly glow into her skin, she tells Giles that when she's in emotional pain, the names burned into her skin - the names of her victims that she regrets - are there for her to see. One of those names is Ebba.
Commentary: Interesting. And at the same time, giving me an explanation of why Giles found something intriguing in her and why she seems to be wearing so much humanity on her sleeve. Obviously the vampire's turning of her was reeked in magic as well as the bite, so that she wouldn't just be a vampire, but something else - like he.
Page 16: Roux takes Giles' hand, and in a vision, shows her the tapestry of why she is who she is now. She repeats that her one true friend, Ebba, is calling to her.
Rupert tells her that she'll go to her, but only after she tells him why she brought him there. He asks if she was looking for forgiveness and rest. He tells her that he can feel her exhaustion.
Page 17: We skip back to 1920. Roux still works around cotton. This time as a cleaning lady in a cotton processing factory. And there she had met Ebba, a young woman working on the line.
Roux and Ebba spent a lot of time together talking about their wishes and dreams.
One day, Ebba saw a horse without its rider, and ran in front of it. The horse, startled, reared up and Ebba fell. Roux stopped Ebba from being ground under the scared horse's hooves by holding it above the girl, in full public view. That day, her friend's days were numbered as she became bait.
Page 18: Men who wanted to kill her when they realized she wasn't fully human had tied Ebba up, and dangled her over a barrel fire to draw the monster out. Men never realize that they're the monsters.
She tried to save her friend, but before she could get to her, the monsters who were men dropped her into the fire. They killed her because she was Roux's friend. And Roux showed them all that they didn't know what a monster they were trying to kill.
Commentary: So, one of the threads throughout Roux's story - as told by her - is that men are the real monsters, and that though she isn't human, she at least wasn't one. However, I'm finding it hard to believe that Roux spend centuries only targeting the "deserving", so I'm not sure just how much of her story we can take as fact.
She seems to be sharing only very specific moments, those that shed some sort of justification on her attacks. And if those were the only sorts she killed, I'd almost be fine with her running free at the end of the comic. But I think it would be a real mistake for handling Giles' character, if he just accepts that she's a "good vampire". Especially, if she is soulless despite appearing otherwise thus far.
Page 19: Roux slaughtered the half dozen men and let the factory burn to the ground.
Commentary: Interestingly, again, is her taking on Ebba's death as being on her - rather than on the men who killed her. It's starting to be hinted that maybe the undead sorcerer's magic held onto Roux's soul and she is, in fact, more like Spike and Angel than Harmony or Dru.
Now, if that is the case, then I could actually accept her not being dusted at the end of the story and maybe showing up sometime in the future for some help from Rupert. Whether I'm ready for her to be imported into BTVS with Giles... hmmm... I'm on the fence: And only if she is in fact ensouled.
I don't know. This issue is completely messing with my feelings about her character and her future with Rupert. I think I may be annoyed for that. heh-heh
Page 20: Whatever is happening with Roux and her exposure to magic and the demon, now changes her black hair to a powder blue, as she kneels before Giles and asks him if she is a monster, or just men.
She asks if maybe Giles isn't the hero that he thinks he is by killing people like her. But despite his own feelings, he turns discussion back to what happened to Mr. Crowe, and whether she was involved in Ms Wong's disappearance.
She doesn't answer directly, but tells him that watching out for the Girl in Blue is all that matters to her.
Giles tells her that he believes she may have a soul, and brings up knowing two others with them. But most vampires are soulless monsters that need to be put down when they can't control themselves. She asks him to look at her and decide if she's ensouled or a monster.
Page 21: Staring at one another in an impass over who they are and what that means to each, they fall into a passionate kiss.
Page 22: As the sun comes up, they're still left with questions over how a monster hunter and a monster are going to be able to not kill each other. Roux falls into the daylight sleep of the undead in his arms, while he sees a trophy of Mr. Crowe lying on her living room floor.
The Good: I really did enjoy getting Roux's backstory - remembering that she may not be an entirely reliable narrator. And the visuals really supported telling her story well.
I also liked the hints that perhaps the hero in Roux's history is the monster in Giles'.
Also, really well done is the way that Roux's humans existence dominated her undead one for so long.
The Bad: Some of the dialog between Giles, Roux and how she's relating her past to her present still feel awkwardly presented.
Other Thoughts: I do have mixed feelings about the way that the tale was skipping around, the effects of her story on Giles and the way that Truman suddenly shows up back in the picture just to give Giles something to ask Roux about and snap him back to the reality that he's flirting with a vampire.
Unusually for me, I was actually left okay with not knowing whether Roux was a very human-seeming vampire, or if she's got her soul, but is still involved in killing freely. Either way, she's not Drusilla but she definitely isn't current Spike or Angel, neither.
I was a bit annoyed with how many things appear to be hinted at, but we still don't get any solid answers as to what is happening and why. But, I am happy that I was actually left understanding the attraction between Rupert and Roux by the end of the issue.
The Score: I enjoyed spending time in Roux's shoes, even though I think she's left too much out to be entirely trustworthy.
3.50 out of 5 stars