Jossverse morality: updated? (musings on recent IDW comics)

Mar 21, 2011 19:50

This is a compilation from my posts on different forums (BuffyForums, SlayAlive, BuffyBoards, IDW Forums) - I wanted to collect my random thoughts in one post.

When BtVS season 8 ended, it seemed that surprises were over till the next season. Of course, IDW still publishes "Angel" comics, but we know their outcome, because the events of season 8 take place later. Anyway, latest events on IDW comics proved that there are surprises in store.

Mini-series "Illyria: Haunted" (writers Scott Tipton & Mariah Huenher) deals with Illyria adapting to her life on Earth. Interestingly, Illyria's changes are directed more toward The Nature, than toward The Man. Illyria merges with Mother Nature for a while and integrates some of natural goodness into her psyche and physiology. So far, it's the first attempt to stray a bit from Joss Whedon's strict antropocentricity.

Illyria finds the connection with plants and trees - an idea that is consistent with the TV show, where Illyria talked to the plants at W&H. Clever continuity and a good set-up for Avatar-esque scene of Illyria defeating her enemy, the monster with the help of Mother Nature. Another great, inspired idea - Illyria turning her enemy into its own embryo. She doesn't kill - she restarts the cycle of life. In the final scene she goes to the beach, to the nature. She is a force of nature, literally. A bit domesticated, but still.

And - she doesn't have a soul. Interestingly, in the final issue we see Illyria's pet Ksartha (the creature looks like a distant relative of H.R.Giger's biomechanoids; definitely unsouled) sacrificing itself for Illyria. Unsouled Illyria's finds the ability to feel for this new world - and for humanity. Our pets - dogs, cats - they don't have souls, but they are able to love, to help, to protect. Illyria may not have a soul, but she feels connection to those pesky humans and souled half-breeds, and she wants to help and protect them.

Well, the soul issue wasn't crucial for Illyria's journey, so this development works well and doesn't create controversy. The soul issues are more problematic in "Spike" - new mini written by Brian Lynch. In issue 6 Spike's nemesis, John, takes away his soul. Spike's reaction? "Before it was official. Before the goddamned voodoo. I was GOOD. That glowy ball. That thing you've had a hard-on to tear from me? Hang it on your wall. Bronze it. I don't need it."

Andrew Crossett on SlayAlive likens such approach to placebo effect: "Did he [Spike] simply need permission to think of himself as good? Reminds me of the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz," who was really very clever but thought of himself as stupid, simply because he didn't have "a brain," until the Wizard handed him a diploma, at which point he could finally accept his own intelligence."

But, as interesting as such twist could be, it automatically turns Buffy into a bad guy. Why kill vampires if you can just give them "permission to think of themselves as good"?

In another mythology-bending twist, Spike finds out that according to this particular ritual he can give his soul to anybody he chooses, and he gives it to Drusilla. Some fans regard it as a romantic gesture, I think it was a dire necessity - the only way to save Spike's friend Jeremy. At that particular moment Dru was feeding on Jeremy; Willow was seriously weakened by teleporting four persons at once and couldn't stop her magically; Spike was badly wounded, he lost a lot of blood, and if he'd try to fight Dru, she'd easily overpowered him. The only way to stop her from killing Jeremy was ensouling her.

Spike's soul is and always been a controversial issue for fandom. Now Spike fans feel that Spike's whole journey is invalidated, while Spike haters got new ammo: they always maintained that the soul didn't make any difference to Spike -- he did know what he was doing, he was able to choose right from wrong and he is responsible for everything he did, unlike Angel, who can't be responsible for Angelus' crimes, because they are two different people. The debates on IDW forums became so heated that the mod was forced to lock the thread.

Curiously, 10 years ago a lot of Spike fans would cheer for such development. Back in season 5-6 the majority of Spike fans rooted for unsouled Spike's redemption story. Fandom veterans still remember a clash with David Fury who was unhappy that people root for an unsouled guy. Ironically, it was Fury who wrote that famous line (re: soul) -- "Spike has a chip - same diff." Which was true. Back in season 5 a soul - even being a part of the established mythology - was just a plot device. Even in the first part of season 6 writers actively encouraged fans to consider a soul just a joke: in Tabula Rasa, amnesiac Spike doesn't want to bite Buffy; he automatically assumes that he is a noble vampire and a good guy. But in later seasons Spike's soul quest became the crucial point in Spike's redemptive journey, and the new generation of fans regards the soul as the most important aspect of Spike's story and personality.

The problem is, Joss exhausted the topic back in BtVS s6 and AtS s4 -- as a tragedy and as a comedy. But (this is my inner ficwriter speaking) most likely this is the last opportunity to toy with soul issues. The Seed is already broken, souls, as well as lack of them, become permanent. The temptation is too big. The rewards can be great.

Can Lynch make the material fresh again? Hopefully he knows what he's doing. So far, I have the impression that, for Lynch, Spike and his nemesis John represent two absolute opposites. John reshaped his soul for evil. Spike molded his demon for good deeds. Both are the ultimate freaks. John - among humans. Spike - among demons.

The way I see it, for vampires, the notions of "good" and "evil" trade places. Soul is the moral compass. The majority of people stay on the path of good thanks to it. Yet there are freaks - very few - who can defy the moral compass. They become serial killers. Like Spike's nemesis. Demon's essense within vampires is the opposite of soul essense. Demon is an amoral compass. The majority of demons stay evil thanks to it. But there are freaks - very few - who can defy the amoral compass. Like Spike does.

We still don't know how soul will affect Dru. I read fans'excellent arguments about a soul as an enormous psychological stress. They're absolutely right, from a RL standpoint. But writers often take artistic licence (mama's boy William less devastated by the soul than hellbender Liam) according to narrative demands.

So far, soul+past experience invariably produced new persons. Angelus, cursed with a soul, didn't turn into Liam; he turned into a much better person. Ensouled Spike didn't turn into William. He turned into a much cooler person. So, if Dru will turn into much saner person, I won't be surprised - it will be a continuation of a trend. And I won't be surprised if she is guilty - but not as devastated as a pre-vampire Drusilla would be. Vampire years in Angelus company could toughen her, not unlike they toughened mama's boy William.

There are other options, of course. For example, Dru could forget everything for an unspecified amount of time. It would be a nice continuity touch: Angel didn't remember anything when Willow resouled him in season 2. Or maybe Willow helps Dru with her magic. Or maybe Dru becomes comatose and is kept in coma until Joss needs her. Faith, anyone?

I'm curious whether they'll keep Dru souled. Her line "I'll be a church girl" may be Dru forseeing her future (she gets a soul and ends up in a convent). Maybe Joss needs a souled Dru in season 9 to introduce a Spike-centric triangle: Buffy/Spike/Dru. So far, Buffy was in the center, between Spike and Angel - maybe it's time to give her a worthy romantic rival.

But I doubt that Dru will stay souled. Unless Joss has something absolutely unexpected for her, souled Dru will be too virtuous to be an interesting character. Unless the soul transforms her radically - say, turns her into River 2.0.

Interesting introduction of the spaceship. Looks like it will be Spike's analog of Angel's dragon: victims of W&H realize they were duped, raise a mutiny and find their leader in Spike.

Lynch has only two issues to wrap it up and (apparently) connect his mini to season 8 storylines. Quite a task. But, no matter what happens next, Spuffy tidbits in the issue make me incredibly happy. "Before I met her... Even after I knew her... I did terrible things. But SHE made me want to be better. The evil was strong. Heart was stronger." As corny as it sounds, it's still quintessential Spike!

Bonus: interesting fics that deal with Spike losing his soul post-Chosen:

Lost Soul by Elisi
Soul Drinker by Hello_Spikey
Collateral Damage by Cindergal
And a paradoxical piece that echoes the idea about placebo effect:
Dumbo's Feather by mahaliem

Update: rahirah, who is pleased with this new development, declares today a DAY OF SQUEE.

review, comics

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