BTVS, S9, I19
"Welcome to the Team", Part IV
Script: Andrew Chambliss, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Dexter Vines, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt (Comicraft), Cover: Phil Noto
Blurb: In the midst of trying to have a normal life - for a Slayer - Buffy was mytically pulled away from a zompire battle by the demon Illyria and a mystical council who are set on making Buffy clean up the magicless mess she created -- starting with the Siphon. So far, fighting him alongside Koh and Illyria has resulted in the loss of Illyria's powers. Meanwhile, in San Francisco and unknown to Buffy, Dawn's illness has put her into a coma...
Page 01: We open on Illyria just coming back to consciousness to see Koh and Buffy staring down at her with concern.
Page 02: We next see Illyria sitting up, but she looks a little different. In addition to the shock of having her powers stripped by a mortal, Illyria must now contend with the fact that she's once again wearing Fred's face.
Buffy tries to remind her that she's had to operate on "decaf" before, but Illyria tells her that this time feels different.
Meanwhile, Koh realizes that the mystic council is nowhere to be seen.
Page 03: The balloon entity reveals through the little girl holding it that the council has flighted over fighting.
The entity tells our trio that they've chosen to protect what little magic remains left and that going against the Siphon would not be in keeping with that goal. The little girl then lets the balloon go, which informs the gang o' three that they'll be regrouping without them.
This is something that Koh is not happy with, since they've failed to tell him who imprisoned him, the knowledge of which is his goal. The balloon, as it drifts away, informs him that the deal was information in exchange for stopping the Siphon. With his escape, Koh gets nothing.
Commentary: I have to admit, that the balloon was a rather neat, and extremely unusual, avatar. I was really hoping that the little girl was going to suddenly reveal that she'd been possessed the whole time and didn't even know where she was or what was happening... sorta a reminder that the members of the council are NOT the good guys either... but....
Page 04: As Buffy, Illyria and Koh review the situation the little girl avatar disperses on the wind.
Illyria tells Buffy that they're looking at another Apocalypse if the Siphon succeeds in turning back time to undo his girlfriend's turning and messing with the timeline. Buffy chooses to continue the fight, even if the council isn't going to have their backs.
Commentary: I like both Buffy's frustration at the A-word creeping back into her vocabulary words, and the fact that she points out that she has more experience in end-of-the-world scenarios than anyone she knows. It's a cute moment in a sea of suck for her.
But, I wish that the little girl hadn't been a mystic artifact. It would've been a neat touch to have her be a poor, possessed kid. It would've added a little SPN-like darkness to Buffy's "allies", which would've been appropriate.
Page 05: Back with Xander, Andrew and the comatose Dawn, they're trying to transfer Dawn's consciousness into the one-armed Buffybot that has been laying around Andy's home-lab.
Andrew questions whether Xan is really sure, and he is.
Page 06: Over with Billy and Anaheed, they continue to dust the nest responsible for Robert's injuries. When the cleanup is completed, Billy turns on Anaheed for spying on Buffy without telling her that she is a Slayer. Ana tells him to chill out, and that she was guarding Buffy from a world that wasn't going to be understanding about her actions in the Sunnydale pit - presumably, she is specifically talking about the "disloyal" Slayers.
Page 07: Ana refers to herself as a protector of Buffy's attempts to fit normalcy into her Slayerworld.
Billy asks about her creeping around Buffy's room, but Anaheed reveals that wasn't about spying on Buffy, but on Billy who she was suspicious of. But, since Billy voluntarily rushed into the vamp-nest twice, she's decided that he really is one of the good guys.
Page 08: Buffy, Koh and Illyria are at that moment sneaking into her apartment in an attempt to keep her "normal roomy", the actual normal roomie and Billy from being aware of what she's gotten involved in this time.
Illyria continues to be traumatized by her current, powerless condition. She wonders aloud about not being dead.
Page 09: Buffy insists that Illyria's not dying on her watch, as she requires her expertise on the powers that Severin stole from her. But Illyria wasn't stating that she wanted to have died, only that she should've. Without her essence animating Fred's body, it should have stopped functioning.
She and Buffy are interested in why she didn't end up hollowed out like the zompires after Sev's power-suck is used on them.
Page 10: Buffy's attempts to keep the demon-homework out of the roomies' lives is short-lived. Tumble is home and comes into her room. She tries to blow off the situation, but he's not really all that bothered by the demons in the room. As Anaheed pointed out to Billy, she'd been slyly conditioning Tumble toward acceptance since Buffy moved in.
But Tumble isn't there out of curiousity over the voices going on about Apocalyptic doings in Buffy's room. He's there to tell her to quit losing her cellphone and to call Xander back.
Buffy gets the news about Dawn's worsening condition.
Page 11: Which brings us back to Andrew's lab. Andy's studying the monitors silently... and silence that Xan is taking as of the not-good, as such silence is not being filled with inappropriate pop culture reference-babble.
Meanwhile, over at another hospital bed, Ana and Billy are sitting with Dowling and reviewing the security footage of Buffy's disappearing act, again on a tablet.
Page 12: Anaheed, looking at the video again, realizes that she knows the zompire that managed to kick Buffy across a room. Robert, temporarily brought around by a need for more pain killer, reveals that Buffy stated the same thing to him before everything went sideways.
Billy tries to apologize for not keeping Robert from being bitten, but this is quickly passed over, as Robert tells Billy that guilt over on-the-job accidents isn't going to lead anywhere helpful... obvs, he's referring to Cheung's fate.
Anaheed points out that the Slayer-kicker in the vid was a former Slayer herself in Rona's squad. She reveals that Tessa Freer was one of the Slayers that threw-in with Simone.
Commentary: This was pretty much revealed to us already with some pretty heavy hints, so it wasn't really the reveal it could have been... but I think more than that, I'm finding this "investigation" part pretty dull because there isn't any clues for Anaheed or Billy to find about Buffy's disappearance. She popped out without evidence left behind that they'd be able to detect without a mystic, so this is all spinning wheels.
I'm sure that it's being used to lead back to Simone, which we already know was involved with the Siphon. I can see where they're investigation into Tessa's fate is being led back to Buffy's current work to stop Severin and bring Simone back into the upcoming season finale... but it feels like a lot of time being spent on them finding nothing useful and waiting for convenience [like Ana just happening to know this particular Slayer] to make their inclusion in the big event at the end possible.
And, of course, since I'm not emotionally invested in these newer characters yet -- they're dialog heavy scenes isn't doing anything for me. I'd much rather they have extended cameos to focus on Buffy's action heavy story and Xander/Dawn's emotionally draining plotline.
Page 13: Meanwhile, HEY! SPEAKING of Simone...
We're with another Slayer, in heavy chains, being threatened by a zompire. She pleads with the off-panel voice to stop, since she was loyal to her over Buffy [so yes, it is obvs we're talking about Simone without a future spoiler tag needed].
Off-Panel Voice tells her to be a good soldier, as she has the zompire force vamp-blood into her mouth. The voice reveals that she needs to be stronger than Buffy.
Page 14: Hey, Simone.
She tells unfortunate minion that she isn't about to experiment on herself... which is ominous.
But back with Buffy, she's joined Xan and Andy at Dawn's bedside. Andy reveals that the brain-transfer to the 'bot didn't take for reasons unknown.
Unknown that is, until Illyria reveals that the monitor isn't picking up brainwaves from Dawnie, but is a mystic energy signature. She reveals for the mortals that Dawn's energy is leaking away from her.
Page 15: Buffy and Xan realize at the same time that this is tied up in Dawn's Key-nature. Buffy gives Illyria the short version about where Dawn came from [but the interesting part is how Buffy describes herself as still being a child when this happened, showing how S6, S7 and S8 has left her feeling a lot less innocent compared to how she thinks about herself being back in the Glorificus fight].
Illyria reports that Dawn was being kept whole due to her magical nature. It still takes Buffy a bit longer that it should, and a strong hint from Illyria that Dawn's current condition is directly tied to The Seed's shattering.
Commentary: As already talked about, I really like that Dawn's being impacted in this way because it makes too much sense for it to have been ignored as long as it was. It's a bit late coming, but I'm willing to waive the timing away, since it's being addressed and treated seriously now.
Meanwhile -- is Andrew just interested in Koh's armor, or is he having a homo-erotic moment in the background?
Page 16: Buffy is left devastated... again... by her right-for-the-moment actions regarding The Seed.
Elsewhere, Simone dusts the zompire that was her fellow Slayer as a voice from off panel sarcastically asks if she's still playing with vampires.
Page 17: The voice this time belongs to our Siphon. A Siphon now sporting blue hair.
Simone and he renew their uneasy partnership, as Sev reports that even with Illyria's siphoned power, he doesn't have the juice to travel backward through time as far as he'd need to in order to reach his ultimate goal. But in exchange for Simone helping him again, he promises to help her reach her goal of reaching a vampire state that will make her invulnerable to Buffy.
Commentary: Which explains Simone's attempts to turn her Slayer-gal. Simone was always one brick shy of a well built wall -- but she is clearly way off the meds at this point. The idea of a Slayer-Vampire hybrid has been addressed way too many times in other sources from Tales Of The Slayer, through fanfic, so the whole idea of it is... cliche' at this point. It's a little disappointing that Simone's ultimate purpose is just to be a super-vampire.
It could've been much more interesting if Andrew Chambliss had used this opportunity to pull Dracula back into the thick of things by having Severin nab him for Simone's experiments, instead of using random zompires. After all -- Drac is the only known vampire to take a direct Buffy-powered stake to the heart and walk away that is still existant.
And more of the bizarro-world friendship between Xander and the Count over Dawn could've been very interesting.
Page 18: Over at Andrew's, Xan is catching some air on the rooftop when Buffy joins him. She tries to be comforting in her assurances that they'll figure out a plan to stop Dawn from dying. His response is to yank his hand out of hers and turning on her with rage.
Page 19: Xan starts punching the concrete walls around the rooftop, until Buffy yanks him away and tosses him onto the ground. He coldly tells her to get her hands off of him.
She realizes that he's blaming her for Dawn's condition.
Page 20: Xan points out he's not the only one, and he's not ready to forgive and move on. But, Buffy [thank you, Andrew Chambliss] points out the giant asterisk in the tale that everyone keeps forgetting about, where Twilight was about to win and send the entire world into The End.
Buffy points out that she gave Xander and her sister time to play domestic couple because of what she did under Sunnydale, instead of their story being reduced to might-have-beens.
She tells Xander to focus on the current issue -- how to save Dawn's life, now.
Commentary: Do I even need to comment about how much I love Buffy's throwing what was happening back at Xander and how there wouldn't have been a Dawn/Him/Apartment-bliss if it wasn't for her shutting down the Twilight Arc with her drastic action? This is something that Buffy needed to shout in Willow's face long before this, so it felt particularly good for me here when she didn't collapse into a ball of shame in the face of Xan's rant. A rant - that not for the first time, and probably not for the last - I wouldn't mind slapping him over.
Yes, it sucks that there has been unintended consequences and yes, I can imagine that Buffy will have more than one lifetime of regret if Dawn didn't make it -- BUT SHE DID THE RIGHT THING AT THE MOMENT.
It'd be swell if her "family" wasn't being such assholes over it, constantly.
Page 21: Xander admits that Buffy couldn't have foreseen what destroying The Seed would've done, but that doesn't get Buffy off of his meat hook. He next turns on her for her boning Angel and causing the new universe in the first place that necessitated her having to smash The Seed into pieces.
She tries to explain that things were out of her control for much of that, because of a Prophecy coming into play directly manipulating both her and Angel in their actions. When she tries to point out that Giles' warnings weren't sufficient to clue her in -- Xan warns her about trying to say anything negative about her deceased Watcher.
Page 22: Xander turns his back on Buffy by telling her that everytime she tries to save the world, the world ends up worse that before. He tells her he'll handle saving Dawn without her.
Which she responds to by accepting his blame and his anger, but isn't going to accept his shutting her out of saving her sister's life.
They leave the rooftop together... but seperated-- forever, this time?
The Good: I really liked that Dawn's save isn't going to be an easy Dawnbot, and despite my wanting to punch out Xander, the argument between he and Buffy was well written and powerful.
I do like how all of the season's main arcs are coming back together for the obvs finale coming [with the caveat mentioned in the review].
The Bad: Nuthin' really, though the comments obvs makes it clear that I'm on Buffy's side over Xan's rant.
Other Thoughts: I'm not putting Xander's turning on Buffy into the bad, because I don't feel like it's out of character for him to turn on her necessarily and at least he isn't playing passive-aggressive games about his anger. It feels honest, even if I want to beat him for it. And the rant's contents are largely redeemed for me by Andrew Chambliss letting Buffy respond strongly about why she did what she needed to do at the time. Xander's little "you only make things worse" was shitty of him... but again, it's understandable when you remember just how many girlfriend's have died by being connected to Buffy's calling. I'm angry toward the character, but I'm not outraged at the writers [again, unlike the situation with Willow, where Buffy wasn't allowed to point out that Will was being selfish and self-pitying].
I'm less sanguine about Illyria being given a pass on the logical fallout of her being drained. The whole "I'm special in some way" thing is a little too easy and obvious. I'd like the reason for her not being dead after her draining as being down to Sev deliberately not draining her dry, in the hopes that he could tap her again later if need be after she regenerated a little. Of course, that wouldn't really work unless he took her hostage....
I'm also a bit disappointed in the Simone-wants-to-be-a-vampire thing. It just doesn't track for me that a Slayer - even a demented one - would ignore that she won't be her, but just an infested corpse. Simone should know too much about what a vampire is and isn't to be interested in this line of attack against Buffy. Especially since something more akin to a merging with a demon, rather than being replaced, should be her focus and a zompire turning wouldn't accomplish that. The logical extension of her plan is failing on the face of it without her having a way for her to be ensouled after the change, and we're not seeing that she's thought that far ahead -- and again, even with her homicidal hate on Buffy, it just feels like that would be uppermost in her mind while she's planning her power grab.
The Score: The sections with Buffy/Illyria/Koh and the parts with Andrew/Dawn/Xander are interesting, especially the intensity of the argument between Xan and Buffy. But, then you've got pages of Anaheed/Billy/Robert and again, these characters just aren't that interesting in their own right. Their scenes are taking up too much space in the comic that could've been better spent elsewhere.
3.25 out of 5 stars.
Next Review: Angel & Faith, #16.