BTVS, S9, I23
"The Core" part 3
Written: 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 open within the Deeper Well with Severin and Simone. Severin is ecstatic at approaching his goal of absorbing all of the energies of all of the old gods/demons held within for his plan to time travel to the past and stop Twilight from ever happening, necessitating Buffy's shattering of The Seed which led in a roundabout way to his girlfriend's loss as a zompire.
Page 02: Simone wants to make sure that they're in position for this to work, and Sev accidentally calls Simone "Clare". She gets up in his face about remaining focused, as if he can't handle the energies even now streaming into himself, he'll never be able to reach their goal.
Simone's focus is to make the Slayers relevant again by also restoring their default mode of hunters of the Supernatural before magic was excised.
Page 03: Or so she stated: With Simone, it's hard to tell what her motivation may actually be and her "And I'll never get the mojo I'm after," doesn't fill me with confidence that her stated reasons for helping Severin are all that is to her participation.
Meanwhile, Willow, Buffy and the Mystic Council and their warriors are gathered at the other end of the Well from Sev and Simone. Their goal, as mentioned in the Blurb, is to gain the magic necessary to stop Dawn's fading from existence as the magic leaks out of her body. The Council's concerns are to stop Severin from trying the crazy time travel gag before he tears the universe apart.
Buffy tells them that they'll need to start the war against Sev without her and she'll catch up after she and Willow have secured what they need.
Commentary: I love the way that the art team have drawn and colored this page -- especially D'Hoffryn who is looking particularly demonic.
Page 04: D'Hoffryn goes on to tell Buffy that the only reason they're not fighting her is because Severin has already gained access due to what Xander did in helping the bad guys. He implies heavily that she owes them her help due to this. He also tells her that there is no way she's going to be allowed to remove magical energy from the Well.
Buffy counters that she doesn't think they'll attack her before they take on The Siphon... and she's right.
Commentary: I'm of two minds about Buffy's choices here which makes it difficult [thinking forward a bit to the Best Of / Worst Of I'm going to have to tackle] to decide if I agree with her or not. She was very clear that Dawn comes first, so it isn't like she lied to the Council about her intentions, but it does strike me as supremely selfish to put Dawn over the universe in which Dawn will die anyway. And since she already faced this in Sunnydale with Glory and saw the effects of putting Dawn over the world [before her own swan dive to stop things], you'd think she'd have gained a greater perspective - especially since she also had already said as much in Season 8.
On the other hand though, it is quite clear that even if she stopped Severin for the Council, they are not going to allow her what she needs to save Dawn and if she did wait until after The Siphon problem is dealt with, she'll lose her opportunity completely. Considering that Willow has also emphasized to Buffy over and over that the restoration of magic is of equal importance to the entire world, you could conclude that it is of equal standing with stopping Severin. And, she isn't going to not fight with the Council, she's just delaying it enough for the other two concerns to be addressed.
So -- is she right to put off stopping a threat as big as Severin in order to selfishly help Dawn and restore magic to Earth? Objectively, I have to go with no. Subjectively, I have to be on her side. I want her to save Dawn and the world, even though both will be undone if Sev is successful in traveling back in time if the worst happens when he does so... Which puts me back on the Mystic Council's side... ARRGGH.
Page 05: Willow and Buffy go after the Well energy they need for Dawn/the World. Koh tells D'Hoffryn that she's right in that they don't strictly need her to stop The Siphon.
Meanwhile, at Andy's apartment, Spike is raging because everything he recorded about his memories of Dawn have left him with a blank recorder. He fangs out at Andrew for giving him a bum recorder.
A voice off-panel tells him that it isn't Andrew's fault.
Page 06: It's Dawn, looking awful still. She tells Spike that she's disappearing.
In the Well, Willow brings up pissing off the guy with a team of vengeance demons at his command as possibly not wise. Buffy tells her there isn't time for the niceties. She's forgotten her own sister's name. And so has Willow.
Will gives her a, "Right. Let's move".
Page 07: The Mystic Council army begins their descent down toward the center after The Siphon. Koh hints that Illyria may not survive their travels and battle due to her powers being in Sev's hands. She assures him that he'll need her as guide, since she spent so much time being entombed there.
Meanwhile, Xander is also champing at the bit to get down there and help. His Zen-Guard tells him there is only one way he can help now...
Page 08: ... by staying put. He shares that Xan must let go of his anger in a sub-Yoda bit of advice. Harris chooses to focus on finding a place for his fist.
This is interrupted by a call from Spike.
Page 09: Spike tells Xander that he's with Dawn, who we can see is going transparent. He offers Xander the chance to say any words he has to Dawn before there isn't anyone left to speak to. Xan also can no longer remember his girlfriend's name, though everyone can still remember that he cares about her.
Page 10: At the center of the Well, Severin complains to Simone that the Council is on their way to him. He shouts that she needs to protect him as he can't stop what he's doing now.
But Simone's help to Severin has ended for the moment. She has her own agenda to see to and has left to find "HIM".
Commentary: I know that I've complained before about how Dawn is always the damsel-in-distress and this storyline is playing that same old-same old again, so I want to make it clear here how much I actually like this plot. In this case, Dawn's disappearance from reality due to being Key energy is actually a very logical and expected result of Earth's loss of renewing magic. And Andrew Chambliss is handling the tragedy of her fading quite well in my eyes, so even though I'm tired of Dawn not having her own agency a lot of the time, in this case I'm fully onboard with her being the one at risk.
Page 11: At the other end of the Well, Buffy and Willow are making their way down among the coffins. Willow tells Buffy that she isn't sure what she needs to find, but will recognize it when they come to it. They're given a sudden hint that they're on the right track when Willow's chest starts glowing red.
Page 12: In the Well, Willow is growing more excited as she tells Buffy that she believes she's being led to magic that will be more than enough to not only save Buffy's sister but to reignite magic around the world... like a New Seed, possibly.
Meanwhile, Dawn is talking to Xander but it is obvious that she has no idea who he is.
Page 13: Dawn continues to tell Xander that she's both scared and that she doesn't think that she can continue to fight her vanishing any longer.
Commentary: Last issue I talked about wishing that the issue had more emotional heft to it. This is what I meant. I really like this page for the dialog and for Xander and Spike's expressions while listening to Dawn not remember who they are and understanding what her fate is to be. This was a really strong page.
Page 14: Dawn tells Xan that she doesn't want to die, but that with everyone forgetting her....
Xan tells Dawn that she is part of him and he'll keep fighting for her.
Page 15: In frustration, Xander goes to throw his phone against the ground, but Spike stops him just in time to share the news that Simone, should she be down there with him, has been changing Slayers into Vampire-Slayers, with the emphasis on the hyphen.
Obvs expression tells me that he knew he shouldn't have trusted her... and again is feeling like he's been had.
Page 16: While Xan is assimilating this news, and taking out his anger on the wrong person, Doffler has found what she's looking for. She cuts her hand and drips blood freely on the gem of a certain coffin.
Elsewhere in the Well, Koh hears an echoing roar and wonders if that was The Siphon. Illyria tells him it wasn't and that she recognizes the sound.
Page 17: In a side tunnel, Willow and Buffy also hear the echoing roar. Buffy expresses gladness that the magical glow in Willow is apparently leading them away from that sound, but things are less good when they run across an empty sarcophagus... one with blood on it. Willow recognizes the coffin as belonging to Maloker. She reminds Buffy that Giles gave a lecture on him.
Page 18: Buffy and Willow discuss Maloker, with Buffy wanting to leave him to the Council. But Willow points out that Maloker was the demon who sired the very first vampire. It makes him the reason that Buffy was created in the first place, along with why the Scythe was forged. Worse, if he's free then he's even now growing in power.
Page 19: Willow sends Buffy off to help the Mystic Council deal with Maloker, but Buffy is very hesitant. She tells Willow she wants to save her sister first.
When Willow tries to tell Buffy she can handle that part, she realizes that her best friend is having doubts about her as well. Buffy explains that when Wills starts turning colors, it's usually a sign of something wrong, but Willow tells her she's not connected to Dark Magick this time.
She assures Buffy that she's herself.
Commentary: Again, I like this page for its acknowledgment of the strains within the Scooby Gang and especially between Willow and Buffy. They have a lot of crap between them starting with Buffy's stripping Willow of her magic by shattering The Seed, followed by Willow's continued and vocal bitterness about it, and including Willow's Dark Willow phase when she beat Buffy around and threatened to revert Dawn to the Key for her energy.
I like the way that Buffy's doubt of Willow's motives comes as a total shock to her. It really speaks to Wills not really understanding just how awful she's been - not only in S6, but throughout S9 toward Buffy for doing what she has to do to protect the world... even from her friends.
Page 20: Buffy tells Willow her problems with trusting her isn't just about the magic, but that Wills left her when she needed her and without so much as a good bye. Willow acknowledges her slipping out with the Scythe but also assures Buffy she won't let her down this time.
Buffy dashes off to deal with Melakor.
Page 21: Elsewhere, Melakor roars at the Mystic Council members that they'll all die. One unfortunate gets bitten clean in half.
In the meantime, Koh and Illyria have found Severin, but Koh doesn't think they can get close enough to fight him. Illyria tells him they've no choice but to find a way.
Page 22: At the center of the Well, The Siphon struggles with controlling the power he's absorbing. Illyria tells Koh that the energy is going to overwhelm him.
Elsewhere, Buffy spots a humanoid figure and launches an attack with the Scythe.
Page 23: She barely stops herself from beheading Xander. Buffy confronts Xan over not being under restraint by the Zen Demon but he waves this off to focus on the new information he has about what Simone has been up to when not convincing him to betray his friends. He tells Buffy he wanted to find her and make sure she knows that Simone may have Slaypires on her payroll as backup.
He also wants to know where she's bleeding from, as the sarcophagus still has congealing blood on it. Buffy assures him it's not hers. We see Simone's body crammed between the coffin and the stone wall.
Page 24: Buffy rolls her over, to find that she's been bit. She tells Xander that Simone wasn't building an army. She goes to behead the former Slayer, but Doffler reanimates before she can complete the blade stroke. Simone's apparent plan to get into the Deeper Well was to become the First of the Slaypires and she shows Buffy just how strong she's become....
Commentary: I was really disappointed in Simone's ultimate plan, here. It seemed out of character for her to want to be undead, no matter how nuts she was before and I didn't understand the plan. But having thought on it more, I can actually see this. Simone wanted to be large and in charge and Buffy was "holding her down" over and over. I think her motivations aren't all that different from the Slayer, Genevieve or even Faith. They all want to get out from under the shadow of Buffy Summers. Faith has done so by putting physical distance between them and working her own jobs away from Buffy, up to moving to an entirely different continent and staying with Angel, knowing that Buffy won't be stopping in anytime soon.
Genevieve bought into Roden's poison words about her belonging as the "Slayer Queen" and plotting assassination.
Simone has tried something similar already by drawing her own army to counter Buffy's only to see that plot fall apart after Buffy one-upped her with The Seed's destruction and the disbandment of the Slayer unity. I could see her as not wanting to depend on anyone else now to get over on Buffy, but to have the power to do so by herself. And, in a warped way, it makes sense for that power to come from the very source that the Slayers are fighting against. In a way, Simone has gone back to the beginning of the Slayer line in order to defeat her nemesis.
I'm still not 100% convinced she'd go this route, but I'm not not-buying it anymore and I can sorta-kinda see this working motivation-wise. It's basically, "If I can't beat her as the Slayer, I'll beat her as the thing that all the Slayers hate and fear".
It's a road I'm willing to walk down with Andrew Chambliss. Just as a side note, I also find it interesting that Andrew's finale arc here and Christos Gage's finale arc over in Angel & Faith are both revolving around returning magic to Earth. I wonder, if any one knows, was there some collaboration or discussion among the two teams in regards to this?
The Good: First, I liked that we got more emotions from this issue in regards to Buffy's problems with her friends, and from Dawn's situation.
The pacing on this issue was really good in moving everything forward with a nice balance between Dawn's fading and the need to get into the Well to stop Severin and Simone.
I also really liked the artwork throughout this issue.
The Bad: I found nothing wrong.
Other Thoughts: I'm putting Simone here, as I'm still conflicted on how I feel about her willingly becoming a vampire as a powerplay for the reasons discussed.
The Score: I found this issue much more satisfying than the previous. There is more appropriate emotion going on and the plot was kept moving forward, as it should always be.
3.75 out of 5 stars