Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 9, Issue 21
"The Core", part one
Script: Andrew Chambliss, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Dexter Vines, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & (Comicraft's) Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Phil Noto
Blurb: For once, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is trying to leave the world saving to someone else - Illyria and Koh - while she concentrates on family... Dawn, finally affected by the loss of magic, is lying in a coma as magic leaves her body. Xander, in desperation and anger, has made a deal with Simone and the Siphon - seeing their plan to turn back the clock as the only way to save Dawn. Meanwhile, unknown to Xander, Willow has returned, ready to lend a hand.
Page 01: We open on Dawn, looking like death warmed over. A pair of hands comes into panel and then these hands start to glow with power around her head.
Page 02: The mystic glow-hands are of course, Willow's. Buffy sits nervously by as Wills casts a spell around Dawn. But with the chaotic nature of, and Willow's incomplete understanding with the new magic, she warns Buffy that a simple spell isn't going to get it done.
Buffy wonders if she's tried a complex spell.
Page 03: Wills assures her that she's up to extremely elaborate already and headed toward nearly impossible, but gently tells Buffy that her questioning isn't helping her focus.
Buffy retires outside to sit and worry on the curb, not liking having to put Dawn's fate in someone else's hands... even her friend's.
Commentary: I think I may be liking what they're doing with Willow and the new magic. One of the complaints that I had about Season 8, from the start - even before the Twi-Debacle, was that Wills and Amy were seemingly able to do far-reaching wonder-magicks that weren't consistent with even the admittedly inconsistent nature of magic on Buffy.
Basically, Willow was way too powerful zipping this way and that and basically able to do anything the script required with almost no signs of actual effort. It seems that Seasons 9/10 will be addressing by toning down Willow's ability to Deus Ex Magica everything. I hardily approve of this.
Page 04: As Buffy worries, Xander is transported back to Andrew's apartment. He falls to the ground, bloody and battered. He tells Buffy about Sev transporting him around and claims that Simone gave him a beating.
Page 05: Xander claims that Severin and Simone tried to convince him to help them, and basically tells Buffy the truth about their plans. He leaves out that the last we saw of him, he was agreeing to help them.
Buffy does ask if they want to change back time, and save Dawnie, why he didn't agree. He side-eyes her.
Page 06: Xander gets up in a huff about Buffy's seeming to have a real lack of confidence in Xander's ability to put loyalty above an supposedly easy fix. He points out that their fight doesn't change the fact that Buffy once died for Dawn. Severin and Simone would never do that.
Buffy gives him a huge hug. He jokes that the she's hurting him and the torture is supposed to stop once you escape the bad guys. They return together to Andy's building.
Commentary: So. How do we see Xan, here? Without reading ahead and spoiling, either Xan played Simone expertly... or he's playing Buffy just as expertly right now. Either way, I'm not so sure I like this good-liar Xan.
Especially since if he is playing Simone and Dawn somehow isn't saved [which I'm just not believing], he'll surely crack-up. If he's playing Buffy, then he's even more underhanded than during his forays into lying in Sunnydale. Once again, like with his sudden bouts of rage, I'm worried about his character not coming out of this undamaged in my eyes and I'm not sure how much I'm willing to forgive if this is the start of the darker-Xander fiction.
Page 07: As Buffy and Xan are entering the apartment lobby, Xan also spills Simone's desire to get her hands on Giles' Vampyr book that he left to Buffy in his will.
Before this can be pondered any further, a loud boom erupts from Andrew's apartment.
Commentary: Um... but where the hell is Andrew?? It's weird that he hasn't even been included in a non-speaking, background role somewhere in one or two of these panels.
Page 08: When Buffy and Xander enter Andy's apartment, they find Wills sitting against a wall and furniture overturned. Buffy asks if it works, while Xan just wants to know when Willow got back and why he wasn't told.
Wills has to report little progress is saving Dawnie, and her unfamiliarity with her new magic isn't helping.
She notices Xan and asks about his face. He wonders about her new magic.
Commentary: And, considering last issue, it's really hard not to see this as Xan doing some recalculating, assuming that he wasn't playing Simone and Severin. But, it's still possible that his seemingly signing onto their plan was just a well-acted gambit.
Page 09: Before there can be catching up, though, Dawn rises muzzy-headed. She still looks like crap, though.
Also, she seems to be confused at who Willow and Xan are... but they're too happy to have her conscious to take note of her obvious confusion.
Page 10: Dawn goes on to suddenly recognize Willow again, but wonders if she's gone darklighter. She admits that everything is really fuzzy.
Meanwhile, Willow reports that although she woke Dawn up, she hasn't been able to stop the magic leakage that is now causing her confusion... and it appears, an ongoing loss of memories about her life.
Willow reports that she doesn't think she has enough magic anymore to pull a rescue out of thin air, and Xan turns attention to the Vampyr book that Sev is after to reverse all of this.
Page 11: Sometime later, Billy and Anaheed show up at Andrew's with said book. Willow finds reference to the Deeper Well (seen in AtS, S5) and identifies it as where the Old Ones rest. She tells Buffy that during her time in England, Giles had shown her where the entrance is in England and shares that there is also an opening in New Zealand, both of which are heavily guarded against intrusion.
Meanwhile, as Dawn rests on the sofa, Billy brings up to Anaheed on telling Buffy about her status as a Slayer and about the attack on Dowling. Anaheed tells him it isn't the time and the best thing they can do is stay out of the way.
Commentary: Which is apparently also what Andrew decided, since he has up and vanished! From his own apartment! I even went back and skimmed my review of last issue to see if I'd forgotten that Andrew was preparing for a quest of some sort... but nuh-uh... he's just been completely forgotten about, despite everyone congregating at his home. Weird.
Page 12: Willow gives the explanation of the Deeper Well that we learned in Angel. Buffy brings up Illyria as their current representative of the Old Ones, but Xan points out that she's off with Koh trying to track down the surviving members of the Mystic Council.
Commentary: Obvs, this is neat and awesome and I so love cross-references in the Buffyverse. So... all happy with this. It slightly... very slightly... bugs me that talking to Angel, despite the current status of their feelings toward him due to Giles' death, isn't even broached. Since he had hands-on experience with the Deeper Well, it feels a little clumsy that he's not at least brought up by Willow before they reject talking to him. [Or actually -- this would've been a perfect place for Andrew to interject, and then had the idea been soundly rejected by the core-3.]
Page 13: At first Buffy questions how things aren't adding up with Sev being interested in their book, when he has the power to teleport anywhere through Illyria's portal power. But Xan and Wills rundown the likely security as an explanation for why the wanted the book... for the information it contained on what to expect, and how to find the entrance without tripping the alarms, so to speak.
Buffy agrees they have to go, despite her misgivings that she suspects Severin has a more complicated plan.
Commentary: On a less serious note, I'm digging the background details all of Andy's geekness: the posters and collectibles in his apartment. Also, it's kinda neat that Xander still wears shirts with Sunnydale High School's initials.
Page 14: Buffy, Wills and Xan arrange for Billy, Anaheed and the mentioned, but not seen Andrew to watch over Dawn, while they prepare for their road trip to the Deeper Well.
Buffy assures Dawn that she'll find a way to save her and Dawn tells her that she knows that; Buffy always finds a way.
Page 15: Buffy and Willow suit up with weapons and take a moment to talk. Buffy worries that they're about to make another mistake that could cause unexpectedly severe consequences. She points out that even though Xan has been harsh lately, he wasn't completely wrong.
She tells Wills that maybe if she'd given more attention to Twilight's ramping things up at the time, she'd have made better choices and the Seed would've been saved.
She just doesn't want to accidentally release a bunch of primordial demons. Willow suggests a strict 'no touching' policy while they're in the Well.
Commentary: I really like this page because of the implications here: Buffy has already forgiven Xander's outburst. She and Willow have put aside The Seed business, finally. Buffy can admit to some mistakes in handling Twi-Angel and not seeing the bigger picture of what he was doing, without wallowing in guilt or shame about it. And Willow can stop passive-aggressing her over it.
It's like Chambliss is deliberately straightening out Season 8's bad hangover so that Season 10 can get an entirely fresh start. And, that is a GREAT thing, in my book.
Page 16: Willow tells Buffy that she realizes that she has been short-sighted when it came to Buffy's decision about The Seed, and that her extradimensional quest helped her to see that.
She tells Buffy that she really feels that things are improving, now.
Commentary: HAH. See above commentary. I want to hug Andrew Chambliss right now.
Page 17: Meanwhile, in Andy's living room, Dawn is pleading with Xander not to leave her because her mind is getting so cloudy. But Xan says he can't stay on the sidelines while her life is at risk.
She tries to tell him that Wills and Buffy can handle things, but he says that they can't. He tells her that when everything is back to normal, it'll be because of what he did.
[Oh. So... yeah... he is really helping Simone and Severin vs. Buffy (and now Willow).]
Buffy comes in to tell Xan that Kennedy has a jet ready for them.
Page 18: Later, in the air, Willow realizes that Kenn has gotten independently wealthy. She jokingly wonders why she broke up with her.
Meanwhile, at the apartment, Andy [HEY, HE RETURNS TO HIS OWN PLACE!], Billy and Anaheed hear a heavy bootfall sound.
They gear up for a fight, even though Andy tries to remind Billy that he doesn't have Slayer strength. Anaheed reminds him that she does [or informs him... I can't remember if Andy knows she's a Slayer or not].
Page 19: The boots end up belonging to Spike. He's not there to attack, obvs.
Spike demands to know 'where she is', and Andy informs him that he just missed Buffy. But in this case, it isn't Buffy that Spike has come to see. He tells them that he's heard about Little Bit.
Page 20: In England, our trio have arrived at the Deeper Well's entrance and they look for a guardian to the entrance.
What they get instead, is about 40 of them... headed by D'Hoffryn!
Page 21: D'Hoffryn tells Buffy that after The Seed's destruction, the Guardians turned over responsibility to keep the Well locked to the Mystic Council. He also reports that they've received word that Sev is interested in raiding the Well and they've mobilized to protect it, whatever the cost.
Buffy tells him that they're only there to grab enough energy to save Dawn. But obvs, D'Hoffryn isn't about to let that happen.
Buffy pulls the new Scythe.
Page 22: As Buffy's team is readying to face down D'Hoffryn's team, in New Zealand Simone and Sev are staking out the other entrance, based on Xander's shared intelligence to them.
The other members of the Mystic Council are there. But, they soon transport out in order to fight "The Siphon" in England, leaving just the Sentient Balloon Avatar to guard the New Zealand entrance.
A horrible tactical error, but one that Xander foresaw when he told Simone to be ready in New Zealand.
Commentary: And, this feels like an abrupt ending to the issue. It's a minor point, but it felt to me like there should've been one more page, where we see the reinforcements arrive in England, and then have Buffy make a jest as battle is joined.
The sudden stop on Simone and Severin felt... incomplete?
The Good: I really appreciate their putting some defined limits on what Willow can now do with her magic, as well as limiting the amount of energy she can pull at any one time. It should make it more tense when she's placed in danger, knowing that she can't just mutter a spell and fix everything.
I also really liked the way that Xan's deception was handled, in so far as his using the truth to deceive. I don't like that he's doing it, but I did appreciate the cleverness and how I couldn't be sure who he was deceiving until well into the issue.
I liked the Dawn/Buffy goodbye scene, and Spike's holding "Little Bit's" hand upon arrival.
I also appreciated the reapproachment between Willow and Buffy to how they used to be in better days and the sense that S8's continued pall over everything may finally being dealt with and dismissed. We as readers could really use forgetting that storyline as much as possible going forward.
The Bad: The only thing that struck me as 'bad' was Andrew's utter disappearance after page 02, panel 01 until page 22! What the hell? And, Andrew isn't even a fan favorite for me. But, he seems to be constantly misused [kinda like Connor in Angel's titles], so I've grown a bit sensitive about it. It just makes no sense for him to disappear completely in his own apartment.
Other Thoughts: As stated in the review, ignoring any mention of Angel or Spike in relation to the Deeper Well just felt... odd. Even if they didn't want to talk to Angel [and Spike is missing at this point with the Bug Ship], it's weird that no character at least brought it up.
The Score: Yeah, it's a set up issue for the arc but I really liked the way things are being arranged.
3.75 out of 5 stars