Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 9, Issue 24
"The Core" part 4
Writer: 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 [E]arth'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 on Simone-pire and Buffy confronting one another. Buffy rages against Doffler for releasing the oldest vampire in the world and getting herself turned as un-Slayer-like behavior.
Simone snarks back at Buffy that she doesn't need a lecture about power, duty and the proper way to hold a stake.
Xan is left to see the fruits of his helping Simone get this far.
Commentary: It's interesting what they did with Simone, as far as her visual features. Rather than making her a zompire, or reverting her to the classic Buffy vampire, they went with more of a "Fright Night [original]" look in that her mouth is stretched into a rictus grin full of sharp teeth. What's more the color for her skin is slightly violet, recalling the vampire in future Fray.
It's not how I would've gone with it, but I don't hate it.
Page 02: Xander tries a heroic leap at Doffler, but she's more than aware of his presence and without looking backhands him mid-air. He's left in a stunned, bloody heap.
Simone tells Buffy that she didn't get to choose to be a Slayer, but her new form is something she chose for herself, and she's determined that it was the best decision of her life. With her increased strength, she's able to force Buffy to drop the Scythe and pick her up by the throat to dangle her above the ground.
Commentary: As discussed with last issue, Simone's becoming a vampire to beat Buffy is one of those kinda-yes/kinda-no things for me on working for the character. I can accept arguments on both sides as to whether Simone Doffler would allow herself to become one of the things she stood against because she wants to defeat Buffy just that much.
While personally, I started out thinking that her entire motivation seemed too petty and was disappointed with how small her entire plan turned out to be - I've now become comfortable with this choice after thinking on it more. Simone's hatred of Buffy is, I think, that psychotic. What I'm still unclear on though is her and Severin's partnership. Unless Simone thinks she can kill Buffy and then rush to stop Severin from turning back time, then all of this that she is doing is ultimately pointless as Buffy will never know she was beaten. On the other hand, it could just be that Simone never bought that The Siphon could do what he said he wanted, and that all of her talk to Xander about helping Sev undo The Seed's destruction was just another smokescreen.
Page 03: Elsewhere with Willow, she's closing in on where she needs to be to kickstart the New Magick. But as she starts to look for the Deeper Well Battery that is going to help her save Dawn, she senses something has gone wrong with her assumptions....
Page 04: Willow gives a scream as power flows out of her into the Central Well, rather than pulling magic in to help her spellcasting.
At the same time, Severin is yelling himself at the magic he's been yanking in from around him and begging the lost Clare to help him.
At the same, same time, the Mystic Council is still dealing with the first Vampire Demon, Maloker. Both Koh and Illyria agree that stopping Maloker is the least of their worries at this time.
Page 05: Koh worries over their defeating Maloker, only to lose to the Siphon. Illyria offers to go confront him while the others are busy keeping the Old One confined to the Well. Koh worries that Severin will only drain what little magic is keeping her in Fred's body and that body alive but Illyria is convinced that something else is keeping Fred's corpse from being corpse-like and Sev already has what he can take from her.
She rappels down into the shaft after him. Unfortunately, Koh can't choose to help her with her mission because he had his back turned to Meloker who has now grabbed him in his giant's grip.
Page 06: Back with Buffy, Simone wants to beat her to death, so naturally she just didn't snap Buffy neck when she had the chance. Buffy has kicked Simone off of her and tries to get her on track to stop Severin from destroying everything.
Simone basically confirms my suspicions that she didn't believe in Severin's plan to begin with. She tells Buffy that The Siphon isn't going to destroy anything except himself and hopefully the self-appointed Mystic Council. She accuses Buffy of always being such a pessimist about the world ending. She also tells Buffy that she appreciates her always looking on the dark side of things, as her destroying The Seed for it has allowed her to now become the strongest being on the planet. Something she shows by tossing Buffy around like a rag doll.
Commentary: Of course, one can argue that Maloker will be more powerful than Simone but let's just assume that Doffler isn't thinking through the logic of her boasts at this moment.
Page 07: Xander has come around and hits Simone in the back of the head with a rock, yelling at her for using him and promising that everything would be undone by Severin's plans.
She points out that she was the last person who he should've trusted to help save whatshername. She taunts him a bit, and then drops him down the Deeper Well shaft to be a smashed pile of bloody bits when he finally reaches the bottom.
Commentary: Yeah. We've discussed Xan's role in this elsewhere. All I wanna say here is that while I appreciate his desperation, I'm fully on board with Buffy's outrage that he didn't trust the Gang enough to save Dawn and that he went along with the clear villains. I'd understand helping Severin, as unwise as his plan really is, but with Simone's involvement? That's just bad news right there and her arguments about wanting the Slayers to be relevant again was always a pretty weak sounding excuse for her to be helping The Siphon.
So, I'm not ready to forgive Xander for not telling everyone the truth about his meeting with Simone and Severin - even if he does now die because of it.
Page 08: Buffy tries to leap in after Xander - because Slayers ignore the laws of physics of two falling bodies and always manage to fall faster and catch up to their target - but Simone grabs her by the coat collar and hauls her back up on the ledge.
As Xander falls to his fate, he says that he's trying to save Dawn... her name is Dawn.
Buffy tells Simone she's dust and goes to swing at her with the recovered Scythe.
Page 09: In the Central Battery Chamber, Willow sits up from her ordeal. She finds that the magical compass she was following wasn't bringing her there to find the magic that was going to save Dawn, but to birth a New Seed to save the world. And consequently explaining how Xander is remembering Dawn again.
Page 10: Willow turns her attention to casting the 'save Dawn' spell, but New Seed won't allow it. It states to her that magic will return to the world, but can only do so very slowly over Millenia [explaining its lack in Fray, with the exception of Willow's existence in that time line?].
Willow berates herself for coming in there and now dooming Dawn anyway. Well... "unless...".
Page 11: In Andrew's apartment, Dawn has completely faded from sight. Andy asks if Spike is sure that she's still there and all Spike can offer is that he hopes so.
In the Deeper Well, the battle against Maloker continues apace. Koh had somehow ended up released but several of the Mystics are lying around dead. The Gandalf stand-in is snatched up and tossed away. Melokor next snatches up Koh again who threatens to cut the vampire demon apart from the inside out.
He's not able to see if his boast is accurate, as Xander has fallen through the world from New Zealand and happens to intercept them. He and Koh continue in freefall.
Commentary: I'm just not even going to try to understand the physics going on here. It's a Twilight Zone in the Deeper Well, that's enough for me. One can only think the least of the weirdness is Xander's not picking up speed during his long, long fall or he'd be jelly and tear Koh in half on his way through.
Page 12: Koh and Xander fall through several Old One coffins, obliterating them. They come to rest on top of another with neither of them jellied.
Above them, or below them... Simone assures Buffy that she can't win. Buffy tells her that she doesn't need to, as her friends will win for her. Simone sends Willow's new Scythe off the edge with a gloat.
Page 13: She tells Buffy that she's going to do something that she's wanted to do since hearing the word Slayer - she's going to kill her.
In the center, The Siphon is lying prostrate and begging somebody to make it all stop. He hears a voice telling him that she can help him. He takes this to be Clare, but of course, it's Illyria.
Page 14: Illyria bluntly tells Severin about what he's going to do to the Universe if he doesn't stop and tells him in no uncertain terms that Clare is gone and isn't coming back. She tells him to concentrate before he loses containment of his absorbed power and kills them all. He tells her he can't hold out any longer.
Willow shows up with The New Seed and offers a way to use Sev as jumper cables to restart magic [thus negating my naive attempts to tie 'now' into 'the future', because I'm truly silly when it comes to continuity of timelines -- I can't even think about Friday the 13th or my head will 'asplode].
Commentary: I really like the bright white artwork for the streams of energy around Severin... it's almost eye-searing.
Page 15: With Simone and Buffy, the vampire is again taunting Buffy that she'll never stop her. She throws her over the side to die when Severin goes atomic explosey. Buffy is able to shift the coffin they're standing on enough to bring Simone down... up... with her.
Page 16: The two of them do the fall/bounce from coffin to coffin destroying more of the Old Ones on their way. Simone recovers more quickly and gives Buffy a heavy booted punt. She yells at her for not giving up, already.
Page 17: Buffy spots the Scythe, but telegraphs her relief. Simone also catches site of it, and she can make the leap to where it is faster than Buffy can collect herself.
Page 18: Back at Severin, Willow tells Illyria they need to transfer The Siphon's energy into the The New Seed. Illyria points out that will kill Sev, but Willow points out he's going to blow up anyway and end up killing them all along the way.
Severin though, refuses, as he cannot give up on his "turn back time, save Clare" plan of action. Illyria tries to get him to understand that changing the past isn't in their power.
Page 19: Illyria goes on to tells the very short version of Wes' attempts to save Fred. She tells him that he couldn't do so and died instead, but he died saving the world instead of destroying it.
She tells Severin that he has the chance to save Earth by returning magic to it, rather than destroy it by pursuing his hopeless quest.
Page 20: Sev agrees with Illyria acting as a guide for helping The Seed to grow. In a self-sacrificing moment influenced by Fred's personality [as shown by her looking particularly Fred-like in the bottom panel] she orders Willow to get out and save herself. She tells Willow that when The Seed is transformed she'll have enough power returned to save Buffy's sister.
Page 21: Willow starts repelling up... down... and passes the site where Koh and Xander have returned to continue the battle against Maloker. Xan asks for a magical assist, but Wills can't help until The Seed's regeneration is completed by the "magical Chernobyl" she's expecting at any time.
Koh tells them both to go while he keeps Melakor busy. But Simone's voice echoes through the chamber, yelling that nobody's leaving.
Page 22: She has Buffy dangling by the shoulder, where she's run her through with the pointed shaft of the new Scythe.
In the Center, Sev tells Illyria that he can't hold on but she insists that the others need enough time to escape.
Simone asks who will be next up, now that Buffy clearly isn't in fighting shape anymore....
The Good: I love the way the entire plot is handled between Simone-pire vs. Buffy and Xander and Willow/New Seed, and Mystic Council vs. Maloker and Illyria/Severin. All of these strands are well handled seperately and intertwining in some impressive story control by the writing.
The Bad: Nothing chafed.
Other Thoughts: My only problems are minor - specifically with how everyone keeps managing to find a way to "fall" right into each other and the really tough time of knowing where in the shaft everybody is at any given moment in relation to the other group.
I'm also still back-n-forth on Simone's choosing to be a super-vampire and releasing a vampire god just to beat up Buffy.
The Score: The constant frantic battles around the Deeper Well were excellent. They were exciting, they had dynamic artwork, and the bits with Willow, Illyria and Severin kept the momentum flowing in the story, rather than only being a series of empty battle panels. I just really had a good time with this issue, and I like how Simone is really being made the Big Bad in an arc that has been continuing all the way since S8 when she was just an annoying, anonymous Slayer with a grudge. In fact, I really like all of the character work done for Simone, Severin, D'Hoffryn, Xander [even though I'm angry at him] and Illyria throughout this epic arc.
4.25 out of 5 stars