Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 9, Issue 20
Script: Andrew Chambliss, Pencils: Karl Moline, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt (Comicraft)
Cover: Phil Noto
Blurb: Everyone is struggling with the lack of magic in the world – more than most, those who’d had a connection to it before. Dawn Summers, Buffy’s sister, was created by magic and now lies in a coma as magic leaves her body. No one knows how she can be saved. Buffy feels helpless. Xander feels useless… and angry. But no one is giving up yet…
Page 01: We open… ick… on a sprawled out Giles, his neck snapped, his eyes half open on The Seed Chamber floor. Xan is voiceovering that he went there to make a difference… but didn’t.
Meanwhile, Angel is recovering from his Twi-Angel-ness and is asking a distraught Buffy what exactly happened, and if they won.
[Presumably, this is to echo his “Buffy? You’re hurt…!” when he returned from being Angelus in BECOMING. But because of the Twi-Debacle, it doesn’t actually work as far as bringing up any actual sympathy in me.]
Commentary: I just want to compliment the opening panel being nothing but dead-Giles. That was really harsh… but undeniably effective. I also really like the artwork depicting Xander turned away and covering his face upon seeing Rupert.
This whole page was a real sucker-punch on first read, and it’s still effective now.
Page 02: As Angel is standing looking with a “my god, what’s happened” look and Buffy is doubled over in grief, Xander monologues that he’s watched a lot of people around him die: Tara, Anya, Renee & now Giles.
He says that’s what he does [and I’m imagining he’s thinking this in a berating tone toward himself]. He goes on to say that “it” … i.e. “rage” builds up and hides in you until it becomes a part of you.
We see his hand clench into a fist.
Commentary: I can’t help but think this is supposed to be explaining Xander’s bouts of anger at Dawn in their apartment before she got sick – uh, no. Raging at the monsters, and especially Angel, doesn’t explain the sudden OOC-bitchfest toward his girlfriend.
Page 03: Angel is still trying to get out of Buffy what happened to Giles, but she’s clearly in no shape to actually speak.
It’s okay. Xander tells him all about it – with his Fist Of Fury. He shouts in Angel’s face that he killed Giles.
Page 04: Angel tells Xander through being beaten down into a lump that it wasn’t him, but Twilight… meanwhile, Xander is clearly not in control of himself. Blood is flying from Angel’s face as Xan doesn’t stop beating him mercilessly.
Page 05: With Angel on the ground and blood all over the place, including up Xander’s jacket, Xan tells Angel that he doesn’t care about his explanation. He snatches up the broken tip of the Slayer Scythe and goes for the final staking of Angel as the vampire lies unresisting and blinded by the blood in his eyes.
Page 06: His wrist is grabbed by a sobbing Buffy. She tells him not to. He shouts in her face that he killed Giles, and she agrees, but starts to tell him that this isn’t like himself. He says that is the point of doing it.
She tells him that she can’t lose him, too… and is clearly talking about losing him to his rage monster. He tells her he just wants to do something…
Commentary: I really like Buffy’s calling back to Xander’s own fear for her when she decided to take a huge knife and go after Faith and Xan was telling her the same thing.
Page 07: …so that he doesn’t feel so…
Buffy fills in “useless?” as she stares at her Watcher’s body, completely helpless.
We time skip forward, with a parallel being drawn between Giles lying lifeless on the floor, and Dawn lying in a coma on a cot in Andrew’s room/lab. Xan thinks to himself that ‘useless’ is exactly how he feels.
Buffy storms in giving a rundown on her failures to get help from anybody that used to be an ally: Faith is occupied and ergo self-centered. Kennedy and her girls wouldn’t know anything about magic if it turned them into centaurs. Spike is MIA with the BugShip. Koh & Illyria are out chasing after the so-called Mystic Council, whose members are already thinking this is her mess to clean up anyway.
Page 08: Xander ignores her. She tells him that whatever blame he’s pinning on her – he needs to get over it so they can work together to fix what’s wrong with Dawn.
He speaks to Andrew, instead, and tells him to tell Buffy that he left the supernatural stuff behind for his and Dawn’s “normal” life, so has no idea how he’s supposed to help now.
Page 09: Buffy gets in his face and talks with the pointy finger. She tells Andrew to tell Xander that if she doesn’t find the answer because he doesn’t have her back through this, then he’ll be just as much to blame for what happens.
Xan’s answer is to grab his coat and storm out, pushing past her. We see that his fist was shaking, and he probably needed to go right then, or punch her.
Page 10: He returns to his apartment and slumps on the couch. He looks at a photograph… in fact, the photo of Dawn, Buffy and Joyce on Buffy’s bed. Dawn in the photo has turned transparent.
He crunches it up and berates himself for not being able to do anything but watch, just like he couldn’t do anything for their other dead relatives/friends/lovers.
Page 11: As he looks at the crumpled up picture in his fist, a warp opens just behind him. With no fanfare, Xan finds himself in a different place.
Page 12: He’s been nabbed by Illyria’s power used by Sev. And he isn’t alone. He’s teamed back up with Doffler, who Xan goes to punch out – Slayer, or no. He doesn’t get the chance.
Severin uses Illyria’s time manipulation to freeze him in his tracks. Simone cocks her pistol in Xan’s face and comments on all of that anger he’s expressing… she sarcastically tells him she likes it. Meanwhile, Severin has plucked the photograph from Xan’s hand while telling him that the two of them aren’t all that different.
Commentary: The only thing that feels a bit off to me is Simone and Severin still working together. She left him behind without help in Issue 4 and he now appears to not actually need her for anything, except possibly for a free energy meal. I don’t understand why these two are still a duo of convenience, at least on The Siphon’s part.
Page 13: Severin goes on to mention that he knows that he’s about to lose his girlfriend, after seeing Dawnie fading transparent in the photograph. He mentions also that he already lost his.
Xander only now realizes that Severin is The Siphon, and asks about his new look. Sev tells him everything is about Clare.
We get a flashback showing us Severin and Clare sitting at a table on a balcony overlooking the bay at sunset. He asks her if she doesn’t wish that it could last forever, but Clare tells him it can – if they’re willing to become a vampire.
Commentary: Oh, stupid Clare. Very much like the Vampire-Club in Buffy’s S2, there are still too many people who don’t seem to grasp the difference between being a vampire and having a vampire walking around with your face and memories.
Of course, you can almost understand it – after all, Harmony doesn’t appear all that different from her alive self, if you ignore the fact she drinks blood now. Still, maybe the Slayers wouldn’t have had so much problem with being seen as the bad guys in Season 8, if they’d hired a good PR firm or three to get the actual word out on what a vampire really is and what they actually do after they bite people.
Page 14: We return from Sev’s memory to his telling Xander that if Clare hadn’t turned into a zompire, she’d still be there with him. Xan isn’t really that interested and has no idea how this could involve him.
Simone explicates that they both lost someone they cared for, and it can be laid at the feet of one, common person.
Page 15: Meanwhile, Buffy is on the roof of Andrew’s apartment building looking out over the city. Andy is with her, waiting for Xan to cool off enough to come back and get back into the research. He expresses confidence to Buffy that she is going to find a way to save Dawnie.
She thanks him, but wishes that she’d be told that by someone she could trust.
Commentary: That was really harsh, and at first I was really annoyed by that slight at Andrew while he was trying to be supportive and comforting. But, then I remembered that he’d just gotten done with stealing the mind of a passed out Buffy and putting it into a robot without her knowledge… it kinda dissipated my anger toward Buffy and made me think more along the lines of “Yeah, Andy – you’re really kind of a little douchebag. Why don’t you go do something somewhere else?”
Anyway, an off panel voice says, “Like me?”
Page 16: This turns out to be Willow! She’s back from her sojourn with a Scythe that is all back in one piece [obvs this is all related to Willow’s sojourn in search of magic to bring back to Earth, but since I didn’t buy her limited series, I can only pick up the outlines from Buffy Wiki… whatever happened though did a real number on her hair… and lordie… what the hell is she wearing!?!].
Buffy tells Wills about how much she’s missed her and how badly she needs her right now.
Page 17: Willow and Buffy share a moment, where Wills mentions Buffy’s scar from when Koh sliced her with his magic blade. Buffy tries to blow it off, by Willow says it makes her look worried. She index fingers Buffy’s head, and the scar vanishes.
Buffy excited yells that she has magic, again. Willow grins widely, and tells her that the new energy is more limited [a welcome development, to me] and a bit hard to control, but yea – she’s back in the game.
Commentary: I don’t really want to dive into this too much. It’s impossible to know how this affects all of the future timeline we saw in “Time of Your Life” and the “Fray” series. It’s possible that the future has now been irrevocably re-written; It’s possible that Fray exists now in A future, rather than THE future; It’s possible that Willow will still become Dark Willow at some point and that nothing has changed, excepting that perhaps she’ll be twisted over time by this new extra-dimensional magic that she’s been exposed to/is carrying within her [which would be the coolest option].
I doubt that we’ll ever be given any sort of explanation in regards to this, since time travel stories nearly never discuss how present changes impact the future we’ve seen, no matter what the franchise.
Page 18: Willow and Buffy embrace with Buffy finally believing again that they can save Dawnie now that she is back.
Off at the warehouse, Simone is expressing the exact opposite. She tells Xander that right now Dawn is only fading in a picture, but that the real thing will be fading away soon enough.
Severin tells him that he can fix this. With Illyria’s powers he can time travel backward to before things went pear-shaped for both of them, but to do so without ripping apart the universe around them is going to require more power than currently available.
Simone tells Xander that believe it or not, they’ll need his help to complete this mission.
Page 19: Xander still doesn’t understand why Sev going back in time to stop his girlfriend from being zompired is any of his business, but Severin points out Clare will still want to get herself turned. He wants to go further back than just that decision.
Xan’s next guess is that this is about Buffy not smashing The Seed, but Severin points out that Buffy had to do that in order to stop the demon apocalypse, so that also isn’t an option.
[See, even Buffy’s foe recognizes that she did what she needed to do… Willow.]
Finally, Xan guesses this is all about killing Buffy, again. But Sev, once more, says that he’s on the wrong track. Though, Simone butts in to agree that she’s fully okay with killing Buffy.
Severin explains that he wants to go back far enough to stop Twi-Debacle from ever happening in the first place [and all of us S8 readers rejoice and immediately sign up for Team Siphon]. But, in order to get to where/when he needs to be to stop Angel’s descent into Twilight, they need the book that Rupert left to Buffy and they’re depending on Xander to steal it for them.
Page 20: Xander tells them that despite his issues with Buffy, he’s not a villain and won’t betray her. But, Sev and Simone put together a convincing argument that Buffy’s just as unhappy about the Twi-Debacle as anyone and that he won’t be betraying her, but helping her.
And, the great part about it is when this all works, no one will even remember that Xander sided with Sev and Simone behind Buffy’s back. Not even them.
Page 21: Simone tells Xander that right now Buffy is trying to cook up a big plan with whoever will still actually talk to her to save Dawn. No matter what she comes up with, she’ll not be able to know if her plan can even work. But, Simone and Severin know that they will be successful.
Meanwhile, in Andy’s apartment, Willow is mystically scanning Dawn. She admits to Buffy that she doesn’t know if she can save her.
Commentary: So, at first I rolled my eyes a bit that of course Dawn will be saved. But then, I remembered that we’re dealing with Whedonverse… and Dawnie did seem a little too happy with her coupledom… Huh.
I still don’t see Dawn actually dying, just because it wouldn’t be dramatic enough for her to just slowly fade into oblivion… but I’m not quite as confident as I would be with any other series.
Page 22: Xander, meanwhile, is reflecting that maybe this once “Tank Girl” is right and that he doesn’t just have to stand by and watch his loved ones suffer and die.
When Simone asks him if he’s in, Xander affirms that he is.
The Good: The opening page was really impactful and well-drawn.
I like Xander’s being given the chance to completely dominate Angel, even though seeing all that built up rage was pretty scary [although I have to caveat about the artwork not being up to the task, here].
The Bad: As is common, Andrew’s mildly comedic relief was unwelcome and ill-timed for the circumstances. They really need to stop forcing this character to remain a cartoon.
Other Thoughts: I’m not completely pleased with the gliding over of any resentment between Simone and Severin in regards to their last meeting. Presumably, they both have too much riding on changing the past to hold grudges, but it would’ve been nice if that had been addressed at least in dialog – perhaps with Sev admitting to Xander outright that he doesn’t trust Simone, and she isn’t exactly fond of him and then go on to explain what they want in this team-up.
I’m also just slightly annoyed with Willow – some more. It really felt off to me that if Wills was supposed to be on a journey of self-discovery during her quest for magic, it appears that she didn’t take many lessons away from it. She’s still resorting to magic over mundane things – making Buffy’s scar disappear for purely aesthetic and/or showing off her new powers and then later, we see her in a totally different outfit so apparently she changed her clothes with magic too. I don’t see how this comports with Willow’s having learned more respect for the powers that she wields and taking things more seriously and respectfully when she’s using them [of course, I’m going by sketchy reviews of her series – maybe I’m reading too much into what her actual adventures were about].
The Score: This is a really solid stand-alone issue that also advances the main arc of the season, so I’m really happy with it. I really appreciate the glimpse into Xan’s psyche over what they’ve gone through thus far and the acknowledgement that he does have a lot more going on under the surface than what we usually see.
3.50 out of 5
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