Season 9, Issue 22
"The Core" part II
Script: Andrew Chambliss, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Dexter Vines, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt, Cover: Phil Noto
Blurb: Buffy, Willow, and Xander are reunited and prepared for battle at the heart of the Deeper Well - the tomb of Earth's greatest evils. Their goal? To prevent Dawn from disappearing, they will jump-start magic in a world that sorely needs it.
Page 01: We see The Scythe, blood flying from it in the top panel. In the next, it's intersecting with a monster arm. Next, it's blocking a two-handed sword stroke. Finally, we see Buffy holding it close to her with a look of savagery.
Throughout, Buffy's inner monologue reminds us of the Slayer weapon's power and strength. And though she can never remember its name, she hasn't forgotten how to use it.
Commentary: I love this page, especially for the bold colors and the inking. This is some great, bold artwork.
Page 02: A battle is in full swing between Buffy and Willow vs. the Mystic Council over the former's access to the Deeper Well, which even the demons don't want them messing around in. Everyone is just as happy to have Illyria's compatriots sitting where they are, inert.
Page 03: D'Hoffryn blocks Buffy's scythe and demands that she give up her attempts to enter the Well, stating that she has already damaged the world enough.
Meanwhile, Willow is readying some mojo to send at the Vengeance Demon Master. But before she can let loose, she's intercepted herself by a Zen Demon. He complains at her that she's not supposed to have power, while she retorts that he isn't supposed to be a fighter.
Page 04: Buffy has to be content with fighting off the Mystic Council's hoards of footmen, with Willow at her side. At the moment, the Well is too heavily guarded to reach. She jokes with Wills that the witch can have the demons and she'll take everything else.
Willow asks with concern where Xander is...
... who is off in the distance and texting Simone to see if she's in the other side of the Well, yet.
Commentary: Okay, so if this was live-action, I'd interject here about the clumsy disappearance of D'Hoffryn to having Buffy suddenly fighting mooks again. So -- where did the big D go?? That was a bad transition.
Also -- Xan's role in this betrayal: I've mixed feelings about his going with Simone and Sev's plans by helping them over Buffy. But, I find myself actually buying that after everything with Twit-Arc and with Dawn's life hanging by a miracle, that maybe he would betray Buffy this way... I don't like it, but I can buy it.
Of course, for those that think Xan betrayed Buffy by not telling her that Willow was attempting to restore Angel in "BECOMING", you're probably all thinking "Of course, Xander would betray her!" but since I don't see that action in that harsh light....
Still, this is definitely a betrayal. How major or minor, we're going to have to wait and see.
Page 05: In New Zealand, Simone and Severin are confronted by the Little Girl With Her Red Balloon. She's crying and asked to be left alone.
Simone and Sev get startled by the Red Balloon suddenly popping.
Page 06: And we get to see why she was carrying it around and why it could talk: There is another protoplasmic being inside it. This launches itself at Simone and Severin but he's able to warp out while Simone depends on her Slayer powers to keep from being bitten or swallowed up by it.
Page 07: Unfortunately for the two guardians, Sev didn't go far.
He warps behind the Little Girl and does his power drain. With her out for the count, the proto-being also dissipates.
Simone texts Xander with their progress.
Meanwhile, back in San Francisco - Anaheed and Billy are on a Skype connection with Devon who is reporting in from Santa Rosita.
Page 08: Devon reports that Billy has to get back home immediately, while Billy tries to tell Devon that his hands are a bit full - what with Dawn's condition and Buffy and Xander having left. In the meantime, Andrew keeps interrupting about having some of the cookies he just pulled from the oven [which I'm now convinced is some sorta stress-defense mechanism: everytime crap starts hitting the fan, he focuses on something completely unrelated and trivial].
Devon reports that his hands may be full, but while Billy is eating cookies, a zompire hoard is busy eating the town -- and they don't need invites to enter homes.
Anaheed and Billy both tell each other at once that he has to go home.
Andrew asks about Dawn.
Commentary: I wish, really wish, that the writers would stop writing Andy like he's had no character growth. They do recall don't they, that he was in charge of an entire squad of Slayers in S8? And that he went to L.A. with a squad to collect Dana from a reluctant Angel in AtS, "Damage"?
He isn't a complete moron anymore and they should stop writing him like he is.
Page 09: Meanwhile with Dawn, she's locked herself in the bathroom while Spike talks to her through the door. She's freaked out because she can't remember any of them, or her identity.
Commentary: I like this page because it recaptures that magic between these two characters that we saw in BTVS, S5 before everything turned into a disaster.
Page 10: Back at the Well in England, Simone has texted Xan that they need more time. He's afraid they may not get it, as Buffy and Willow are doing their usual stellar job. In the meantime, a demon has found Xan's hiding place and knocks the smart phone out of his hand.
Page 11: While Xan confronts the demon who decided to wander away from the main battle, in the thick of it Willow directs Buffy to go for the Deeper Well entrance while she blasts a way clear for her.
The Slayer takes off over the heads of her foes...
Page 12: ... but gets stopped again, first by D'Hoffryn who is back in the fray and then by a gargoyle that scoops her up.
She yells to be put down, and the gargoyle complies by dropping on the ground.
Page 13: This causes her to lose her grip on the Scythe and the gargoyle pins her by the throat and readies to punch her in the face.
Suddenly with a 'swiiiiish', the gargoyles eyes go wide.
Page 14: Buffy's sudden save came from Koh and a power-drained Illyria. They tells her that they received D'Hoffryn's message that the Cotswold Passage was under attack, but didn't expect it to be her.
Buffy tells them that they aren't going to stop her from reaching the Well. Koh tells her that they're on her side in this, but she doesn't buy it because she knows that D'Hoffryn can tell Koh the identity of the person that set him up for imprisonment.
Page 15: Koh though reveals that he was imprisoned for the murders of his family. And even though he obviously wants to know who the killer really is, he also understands that it won't bring his family back. But he knows that Buffy is fighting to save Dawn, and he's willing to help her save her sister.
Page 16: Back at Andrew's, Spike is wrapping up the story of how Dawn first found out she was the key and how he was there when she learned the truth. He mentions that he doesn't think she liked him much then, but things between them changed.
Dawn leaves the bathroom, though not because she remembers any of this, but just because she feels like deep inside he's telling the truth about them being close.
Page 17: Dawn throws her arms around Spike. Dawnie asks what happened after she found out she was the key but Spike frowns.
Dawn asks him what is going on, but he says nothing before rushing out and yelling for Andrew. He tells Andy to get him a tape recorder right away.
Page 18: He tells Andrew that he's forgetting Dawn now, too.
Meanwhile, at the battlefield, Willow comes to Xan's rescue. He asks if she's okay with the wonky magic thing, but she assures him she's handling it.
Page 19: Willow fills Xander in on the amount of resistence they're running into, while Buffy, Illyria and Koh have also fallen back to his position. Buffy decides they'll have to hit them fast and hard and just not stop until they're inside.
As she's talking strategy with the others, Xan retrieves his phone. He calls Simone about not being back in time yet.
She's in the tunnel with Severin and tells him to chill out.
Commentary: I'm having a minor problem with this issue as far as pacing. I think we really could've done with less of the battle scenes and focused more on the Dawn/Spike interaction in this issue. It's gotten a bit repetitive because Buffy's team is really in a holding pattern without any progress and Xander isn't doing anything except waiting on Simone and she has a long slog through the tunnel before she can do anything.
We really only needed a few panels every few pages to get all of this. The heart of this issue really could've been both Dawn/Spike and watching Billy's mounting terror as he realizes that Devon, Katie and his grandmother are in it deep and he's hours away.
Page 20: As Simone and Sev reach the Deeper Well, Simone tells Xan that they just need a little more time. Xan complains that Buffy is going to get herself killed trying to confront all of the demons in her way and that wasn't the plan.
Simone tries to remind him that after Sev turns back the clock, it won't matter if Buffy dies but this doesn't ease Xan's mind a bit. He hangs up on her with a glare at his phone... obvs not trusting her in the least.
Commentary: Which, DUH. Why would he?
The part I like about this page is the artwork. You can actually see on Xander's face that he's feeling like he's been had and that 'the plan' has spun out of his control.
But, I don't like this page because it actually doesn't quite work. Xander isn't far enough away for the others not to hear him when he obvs raises his voice but worse, it's really awkward that NO ONE wonders just who is so important on the phone that he'd be talking, rather than fighting.
Page 21: Meanwhile a world away, Spike is starting to record his memories of Dawn while he still has them. He interrupted by Ana and Billy who are getting ready to leave for his home town, but first they want Spike to try to get a message to Buffy [who isn't answering their calls] with some information they've gleaned about Simone.
Page 22: Xander rejoins Buffy just as she's getting the others clear on the mode of attack. Her plan is for her and Koh to draw the major fire power their way. Illyria and Willow will make a break through their lines and be the ones to invade the Well so Willow can grab the magic necessary to save Dawn.
Xander objects that she'll get herself killed with this suicidal run, but Buffy's willing if it saves her sister.
Page 23: Out of options to stop Buffy from throwing her life away in a fight she can't win, he yells at them that he's already saved Dawn. Xander is forced to admit to his deal with Simone and Severin, outraging Buffy and Willow both.
He tells them he did it to save Buffy's sister, but Buffy counters with:
"You did it because you didn't believe in me. In any of us."
Page 24: Illyria tells Buffy that even as a god manipulating time, she couldn't do what Severin is attempting to accomplish. She warns that The Siphon is going to tear apart the universe with his attempt.
Xan tries to apologize or explain, but Buffy doesn't have time for that crap. She tells him that thanks to him their one mission to save Dawn from disappearing has just turned into a mission to save the world... AGAIN.
Commentary: I'm not sure if it was deliberate, but I like this echo to BECOMING. There Buffy yelled at her mother that she had to save the world again, while here Buffy has grown enough that when she yells at Xander she uses "we" have to save the world again.
It's like a complete flip on Buffy's part between thinking she had to do it all back then, and her knowing that she can work with a team to accomplish the same goals now. Something that she is clearly telling Xander he should've already had faith in after all of the times that he was the one trying to drill that lesson into her stubborn mind.
It's a nice place to end this issue, though how exactly they're going to handle Xander's relationships with this fiasco hanging over their head, I can't imagine. It actually makes me wonder if they're setting up Dawn's save by sacrificing Xan. That would... not be welcomed by me.
The Good: I love the first page of this issue.
I also like that they are keeping Willow's magic from overwhemling the plot by keeping in mind that she's not used to its characteristics. My big complaint about Willow during Season 8 was that she was getting way too close to a Magic-Sue. It seems like they are making a conscious effort to pull back from that going forward.
The Bad: I'm really irritated with the way that Andrew is utilized.
Other Thoughts: I have a problem (as discussed above) with the pacing on this issue. It feels like we're bouncing about too much for one, but also, I don't think the extra 2 pages were well used. It isn't Bad, but it is a bit draggy.
I really liked the scenes between Dawn and Spike, but they were much too short in order to keep jumping back to the repetitive stuff happening at the Well. It was a real missed opportunity to put those extra pages to work with some emotional back and forth between Dawn and Spike.
The Score: This issue started out really well, but then it felt like we were largely spinning our wheels. It could've been so much more emotionally engaging but I'm afraid it ended up feeling like what it is... the middle issue of an arc.
3.0 out of 5 stars