Or – “My Fair Slay-dy…”
In a very deeply hidden part of myself, I’ve always harbored a secret love for rogue Slayer Faith. Maybe it’s the dark eyes, maybe it’s her street-smart and sexy facade, maybe it’s just that I’ve always preferred brunettes to blondes, but somehow Faith has managed to eclipse even Buffy herself as my fave-rave Sunnydale character (though Spike runs a close second.) Add to that the literary stylings of the awesome Brian K. Vaughan, and we’re looking at an issue that I’ve been looking forward to, even given that the first five were pretty awesome in and of themselves. Where, oh where, has Buffy’s dark shadow been since the destruction of Sunnydale?
Previously, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8: Much has happened since last we saw our heroes. Buffy has taken up residence in Scotland, hidden in a castle keep, with the ever-faithful Xander acting as her eyes and ears, and a cadre of Slayers at her behest. Rupert Giles has been in Europe, with his own army of Slayers, and at least two girls have been publicly impersonating Ms. Summers to keep anyone from tracking her down. When Amy Madison returned from the seeming-dead, bringing with her the threat of Warren “Skinless Frank” Mears, it took the combined powers of Buffy and her best friend-slash-superwitch Willow Rosenberg to take her down. In so doing, the Scoobies have discovered the existence of “Twilight,” a conspiracy of sorts, with mysterious designs on Buffy and her slayerettes. With younger sister Dawn a giant, and geeky Andrew working with Giles, that leaves only one major player from the BtVS saga unaccounted for, and let me tell you, I’ve missed her greatly, and not just because she has hips so perfect they should be in the Smithsonian. As for where she’s been, Buffy aficionados may remember the repeated mentions of the ‘second Hellmouth’ in Cleveland… Faith does a passable Batman, save for the cigarette and the insistent bleep of her cellphone.
Robin and his band of slayers have invaded a nest of vampires, but unfortunately, have found a complication. One of the vampires was a single mother, and her children are unaccounted for. Robin isn’t sure that his young’ns could deal with the psychological ramifications of fighting a nest of baby vampires, but knows that Faith is tougher than a ten-cent steak from a sidewalk cafe in Calcutta. Sneaking into the house, Faith finds one lost little girl, seemingly crying, but is quickly ambushed by her five brothers and sisters. Thankfully, we don’t see all of what happens next, cutting to near dawn, when she returns home, and angrily drives her stake into the concrete wall of her apartment. “Long night?” asks a voice from behind, and Faith whirls to find…
..GILES! Now we’re talkin! And I dig the ‘Yellow Submarine sweater. She may be cynical and somewhat amoral, but Miss Faith is a good judge of situations and characters, as Giles explains to her that he DOES have a dangerous mission for her, one more difficult than nearly any she’s faced before. He will get her out of Cleveland, out of the Slayer bidness, and into a comfortable pension for the rest of her life if she can help him to deal with his problem. “Why would the same Watchers’ Council that tried to ice me suddenly make with the pension plan?” ‘Ripper’ tells her the truth: for all intents he IS the Watcher’s Council now, and the target she has to face is… another Slayer. I’ve been wondering what happens if somebody with the power of the Chosen One wasn’t playing the game fair, and it seems we’re about to find out… Giles reveals that all of the future-seers in his arsenal agree on one thing: if this girl doesn’t get aced before winter, we’re talking A to the P to the Ocalypse, and I don’t mean a mutant with an “A” on his belt. “So, who is this evil bitch, anyway?”
‘Lady Genevieve,’ indeed. She leaps from her mount, and runs into the woods, tracking her “fox,” who turns out to be (as I suspected) entirely human… well, NOT entirely. Surprising the Duke’s daughter, her “fox” suddenly leaps at Gigi, kicking her in the gut with superhuman force, and snarling that they’ve messed with the wrong girl. As the young kidnapped slayer is taken aback to see that her shot wasn’t as devastating as it should have been, Lady Genevieve’s formerly-smiling-Jennifer-Connelly face is overwritten by a combination of distaste, rage, and a general sense of entitlement, and she shows her true colors… blue blood, black heart, and blood-red anger.
Mmm… yeah. I can see how a woman who’d kill over a shirt might turn out to be a bit of a problem. Her ‘tutor’ steps off his horse, and calls down a pair of gargoyles who drag away the problematic body. Lady Gigi reveals that he is a warlock, and that whatever plan they have is of a very ‘deal with the devil’ nature. We cut in close on his spellbook, and the symbol of the mysterious “Twilight” conspiracy is clearly visible, as he advises her to be patient. “As a wise man once said, you can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat.” I think that wise man spent some time in an asylum, though, so make of that what you will. Now, most loyal Spoilerites have probably never dealt with class issues in the purely European sense, but our man Giles has, and he knows that there’s a lot of work to do if he’s going to turn Eliza Dushku into Eliza Doolittle. (See what I did there?)
Heh… nothing like a little oral sex joke to liven up a Saturday night, eh? Ripper doesn’t see the humor, pointing out that she’s got to fit in with the landed gentry, and in order to pull that off, she’s got to focus. “I assure you, the British class system is about much more than wealth. You’re going to have to become intimately familiar with peerage, diction, etiquette, classical–” Faith interrupts, telling him that she’s not the right girl for the job, and he places his hand on her arm. Faith has a flashback to her rather sordid past, and quickly STABS HIM WITH A FORK! Giles does a passable John Wayne “I’ve survived worse,” while Faith apologizes, or at least comes as close to an apology as Faith tends to get.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is quite as scathing as the annoyed voice that Anthony Stewart Head gets when one of his charges assumes that he’s old, and thus has never had any fun or a childhood, and I can completely hear him speaking that line when I read it. Nice dialogue work by Vaughan, though I expect it from him by now. Giles reminds her that sometimes, when you refuse to play by the rules in your youth, it forces you to repeatedly atone for the mistakes of your past, speaking as much for himself as for her. “It was a salad fork, right?” asks Faith quietly, and Giles smiles. “Er, no, actually. The salad fork has a shorter handle and a wider tine base. But that’s as good a place to start as any.” Meanwhile, back in Scotland, Xander Harris gets in a late-night workout in preparation for meeting with his slayer-crush Renee to spar the next day. “For lo, like Kurt Russell before me, I am a formidable eyepatch-clad opponent. And lest you think I refer to Captain Ron, let me assure you that the one-eyed character of which I speak is none other than the mighty Snake Plissken, who taught me the very ass-handing I’m about to deliver unto you!” Heh… That’s awesome. “Careful, Xander,” comes a voice from the door, “You’re going to taunt that poor bag right off it’s chain.” After a few moments of excellent character work, she asks if he’s heard from Giles about ‘Twilight…’
Anybody else notice how often she’s getting these prescient flashes? I wonder if it’s a late-blooming part of the Slayer package, or just a side-effect of years of standing adjacent to magicky types? Either way, we cut away to Faith and Giles, whose training montage is apparently over (and don’t think I didn’t notice the Tenth Doctor and Rose wandering by, either, even if the Tardis IS miscolored red) as Giles gives her a few final quiz questions. When Faith replies with a testy “I have no sodding idea!” Giles compliments her that her accent is ‘nearly passable.’ Heh. He assures her that she’ll do fine, and reminds her that ‘the rain in Spain falls mainly on Julio Iglesias‘ as Faith appears…
Helloooooo, nurse! By George, I think she’s got it! Georges Jeanty sometimes has trouble capturing the unusually elfin features of Sarah Michelle Gellar, but his Faith is pretty much dead on Eliza D, and oh my does that make me happy… We leave the story there, and it occurs to me that given the often-dark tone of both the Buffyverse and BKV’s writings, there’s a good-sized part of me that can’t be sure we’re going to see Faith live through this one. After all, a happy ending for the woman whose entire life has been an exercise in “What can go wrong NOW?” seems unlikely, yeah?
Still, after the wonderful done-in-one last issue, I was afraid that this new arc might have a difficult task ahead of it, but we’re off to a mighty promising start. Vaughan has the voices of Faith and Giles nailed, and the art is clear and distinct without any question of who the characters are (a recurring problem in licensed television comics, and the main reason that I can’t read most Star Trek comics.) I have yet to be disappointed with Season 8, even with the maddening questions that have been left as yet unanswered, and I’m looking forward to the dramatic confrontation between Gigi and Faith, as well as expecting some humor with Faith trying to fit in with the old-money dukes and duchesses. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 8 #6 ranks a very impressive 4 out of 5 stars, and I think even Rex Harrison might be impressed…