Things have not been easy for Giles since his resurrection at the end of season nine. Angel, remorseful for what he had done under the influence of Twilight, sought to bring Giles back by any means necessary, hoping that it would fix one of his greatest mistakes. But when Giles came back, it was with his adult mind trapped in a prepubescent body—essentially a reverse Big. Since then, he’s been unsure of his place in the group, taking to learning magic now that he has a chance to start over and not form such a rocky relationship with it as he had when discovering it in his university days.
For season 11, though, Giles was almost completely absent as he was being sent on this mission that we are now seeing after the end of the season, even though it is meant to happen concurrently. The set-up for this issue is absolutely concrete. Giles has to be sent away while all magically influenced beings are essentially being persecuted in San Francisco. But while he’s being sent off, he’s also meant to go undercover at this high school where strange events are occurring. It’s a two birds/one stone situation.
The tone of the comic is refreshingly different. This is a high school story, but a refreshingly modern one. And it has one really brilliant idea, which is to provide a mix tape of songs to listen to while reading the comic, bringing some of that old Bronze flavor back to the Buffyverse. It’s also fantastic to see Giles having to use the name Ralph Columbo, a name clearly chosen by Buffy herself. Yet at the same time, this is not nearly the fish out of water story that it should be.
The exciting thing about this comic was the prospect of seeing Giles have to step into that high school world from a completely different perspective, seeing Buffy’s mentor have to essentially step into her shoes. But this story appears to ignore everything that had been set up about Giles’s new condition right from the opening. Suddenly, for the first time since his return in the comics, teenage Giles is just that: teenage Giles.
Suddenly, without warning, he actually is a teenager in every respect, to the point of even screaming “Love sucks!” as he jumps off a bridge. He is depicted almost as a new, completely teenage character who simply has the memories of Giles so that he can remember names and faces from his former life.
The huge problem here lies in the “Love sucks!” of it all. When Giles came back, the biggest issue moving forward was how to allow him to have a relationship. The Buffy comic open and readily addressed the fact that it would be completely creepy and unacceptable for him to have a relationship with a teenager just because that was the age of his body, as he was mentally a much older man. They even went out of their way to give him a fairie girlfriend of a different species as a way to allow him to find love while navigating his new form. When he returns to human form for one day in the comics, he wastes no time jumping into bed with Olivia.
All of that’s undone here, with the assumption that Giles is finding young love even though that is incredibly gross when the comics have stated multiple times that he is not actually a young person.
It’s tough to say where that decision came from, but it would be easy to assume it came from Whedon himself. Not that he hasn’t obviously been a seminal, driving force for this universe and these comics, but this is the first story with his name on it as writer since the first issue of season nine. He’s had a hand in plotting the seasons since then, but he hasn’t been as involved and that’s an easy way to get to a story like this, which doesn’t actually match up with anything that’s been happening in the comics to date.
Those weird, out-of-character moments are truly a shame, too, because the concept of Giles having his own detective story of having to infiltrate high school as a student is absolute gold. And the artwork is truly fantastic. The mix-tape is a great idea.
But there are major themes presented that are genuinely uncomfortable and it doesn’t feel like the Giles we’ve been reading in the comics lately at all. If you’ve been a fan of the Buffy books lately, this honestly might be a hard pill to swallow. If you’ve heard of young Giles and just want to see him embark on this silly journey without any previous context, this honestly might work a lot better.
WICKED RATING: 6/10