Created/Written: Joss Whedon
Penciller: Karl Moline
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorists: Dave Stewart & Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Michelle Madsen
Chapter VII: THE GATEWAY
Page 01: Harth, in his lair, is knealt before a pile of bodies. In his hand is a goblet. From this he drinks blood. He commands that someone or something awaken.
Page 02: Elsewhere, Icarus is confronting Melaka. He's been sent there to kill her by her undead brother so that she can't interfere with his plans to open a gate into Hell.
Page 03: Mel orders Urkonn not to interfere. Icarus asks her, besides her new axe (the Scythe), what she thinks she has that will allow her to win over him when she couldn't before. She glances at her Scythe, lays it down, and tells him 'faith'.
Page 04 & 05: Mel's big fight to the death with Icarus is spoiled by an airtram dropping heavily out of the sky, right onto the vampire in a two-page spread!
Page 06: As Mel stands there with her mouth hanging open, the hatch of the airtram opens. Erin crawls out! She explains that she saw the guy standing there, and she just knew he was the one that had caused so much pain for their family. She apologizes for ruining Mel's big moment, but Fray jokes that she was pretty sure she was about to get her ass killed, anyway.
Page 07: Urkonn returns Mel's dropped scythe to her and Mel makes sure that squishing would have been enough to kill Icarus. The demon explains that it tends to sever the head.
Erin is introduced to Urkonn, who explains that the Lurks attacking the warren isn't the worse that they are facing. He explains about the gateway, though Harth's intended means of pulling it off are hidden from the Old Ones.
Mel recruits Erin to gather as much help as she's able, but warns that even if she has to do it alone, she's fighting Harth and stopping his plans....
Commentary: I'm of two minds about Icarus' fate. On the one hand, I recognize Joss' enjoyment of building up a big, dramatic moment, and then undercutting it. And, it is a funny fate for the bad ass vampire. I also like how this is used to bring Erin side-by-side with her sister in resisting their brother. On the other hand though, it really would have been a cool fight, which I regret we won't get now. And, of course, I would have preferred if Icarus held onto the last chapter since he was both such a menacing presence and provided the only real eye candy. Ah, well....
Page 08 & 09: We have another two-pager, this time for Harth. He shouts out a ritual summoning at the pile of corpses. At the same time, the vampires are making their way to Mel's warren. We see that whatever he is summoning, it's enough of a strain to cause him to perspire. He grins as we see two crab-like legs burst from the pile o' bodies.
Commentary: I'll just say, though, that this did not need a two page spread for it....
Page 10: Later, a very small crowd has gathered to join Mel in her fight. They're armed with lasers, bionic parts, and simple melee weapons. The tavern owners are among the fighters and Loo's mother apologizes for hitting Mel, before. She hugs her tells her that she knows that Mel always took care of Little Loo.
Page 11: Among those who've chosen to fight are Rawls, the big mouth guy we saw in an earlier issue. He has a souped-up hover-cycle, armed with turret guns.
While Mel is happy to have the fighters that have chosen to show up, Urkonn tries to warn her that they will be slaughtered. She responds about the 'Old West' vids and a concept called "The Last Stand".
An off screen voice adds that they have another tradition in the movies....
Page 12: The speaker is Erin and she's surrounded by police forces. She tells Erin, "They called it the calvary".
Erin and Mel greet on another. She sends Rawls to spread the word that they have backup - maybe it'll draw some more people out willing to fight.
Page 13: Urkonn tells them that everyone not willing to fight should stay in their homes where Lurks can't go without an invite. Mel thanks him for the information, and then tells Erin that the police's job is to shock 'em, but she's to let the cutters and stakes do the finish work. She also warns her she's in charge.
Commentary: And right here, Urkonn made a mistake... the very logic problem I pointed out when Loo's body was found. And, I still didn't put it together until Melaka explains it later....
Page 14: The vampires swarm up from the sewers before Mel's forces are completely ready. And, they've brought numbers.
Page 15: Despite the overwhelming odds, Fray is the Slayer and she thinks to herself that she's a whole army herself. In the meantime, Urkonn is also in the thick of things as the lurks try to overwhelm him.
Rawls and his cycle are lost, when he's tackled in mid air and thrown off of it. It careens into a tenement and starts a fire.
Page 16: Over the ground battles taking place, Erin calls to her partner in a police vehicle and warns him about the quickly growing fire danger. He heads over there with Bob, working in a gun pod under the vehicle. He tells Bob to ready the CO2 guns - but there isn't a response. We see below the vehicle that a vampire had penetrated the gunner cockpit.
Below, Mel kicks the head off of a vampire, dusting it, while at the same time a stun blast is bounced off of her Scythe and into another behind her.
The tavern owners are fighting from a rooftop - Loo's mom wields a blaster-rifle, while Loo's dad depends on his giant, mechanized claw to behead them.
Commentary: These scenes are well done in capturing the chaos of this large scale street battle.
Page 17: With the battle having come, even some of those who have been hiding out in their homes get into it - throwing molotov cocktails out of their windows. But all of it isn't helping them to win. The lurks numbers are just too great and Mel is feeling that they're losing fast, when suddenly everything stops for a moment, and she realizes it's even worse than that.
Page 18 & 19: Two page spread - remember those crab-like legs pushing out through the pile o' bodies? Well, they were attached to something really large. It's a long-bodied, multi-legged, snake-headed, bony-rock-like armored monster. And it is easily destroying everything it hits.
Page 20: As everyone tries to absorb this newest combatant, including the vampires who are just as shocked as the humans, Erin on her hover-cycle sees her brother for the first time since his death. He's on the back of the snakey-dragon thing, riding it and mugging evilly.
On the street, Urkonn recognizes the beast. He shouts to Mel that the giant creature IS the portal. The creature's womb will act as the gateway allowing the birth of demons back into the mortal world.
Commentary: I like the look of this beast, but what I really like is that the thing has multiple "wombs" and they're on its skin. Note panel two - if you follow a line down from where Harth is sitting, you'll see irregular nodules where two armored plates separate. Now, on the last panel, Urkonn is seeing these nodules and there are shadow-shapes within them. Among these shapes is definitely a dragon and another looks like a Brood-shape.
Page 21: Mel jumps up from street level to grab and scramble onto Erin's sky-cycle. She has Erin pull up alongside the monster, while Erin struggles with the fact that she saw Harth (perhaps really bringing home to her that he's 'existing' in a way that Melaka telling her he's a lurk just didn't).
They get too close however, and one of the creature's crab-leg juts out and hits the cycle.
Page 22: Mel is nearly thrown off of the bike, but is able to grab a rear brace at the last moment. In the meanwhile, Erin is yelling that she can't control the craft any longer.
We see the brace Mel had grabbed break off the cycle and she tumbles down toward a hard landing. However, the Gateway Demon has also noted her fall. It coils up toward her, its jaws agape...
... And swallows her!
Commentary: I like this series of panels and Mel's thoughts of "--Oh--", "--MY--", (blank dialogue box) sitting over it's clamped down teeth....
The Good: I like the general bad-assness of Icarus being undercut unexpectedly (with the caveat I mentioned in commentary).
The general mayhem of the street battle was well portrayed.
I like the wildly weird look of the Gateway Demon and the last few panels are neat.
The Bad: Nothing was badly done.
Other Thoughts: There were some unnecessary two-page spreads. The one with Harth summoning was an especially weak place to choose a spread, especially since so much of the space was wasted on white space.
I always like it when the Slayer leads, rather than fighting alone (see S3's finally on BTVS) so it's nice to see Melaka leading her fellow residents in fighting for themselves.
I think it's a bit silly for Harth to be attacking the warren with the Gateway Demon, instead of waiting hidden away for it to birth the demons. That was the whole point of summoning it after all.
The Score: This is another decent issue with some good chaotic, battle scenes. I'm still not sure if I would have written off Icarus the way they did since he had the strongest bad-guy personality. Even Harth has been more of a cypher through the series. Even though there is a lot happening though, I still feel like this was stretched a bit overall and could have been condensed into a more exciting, adrenaline-steeped tale if it had been 6-issues.
For this part of the tale: 3.75 out of 5.