Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 9, Issue 25
"The Core" part 5
Writer: Andrew Chambliss, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Karl Story, Colors: Michelle Madsen, Letters: Richard Starkings & (Comicraft's) Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Phil Noto
Blurb: Buffy is near death after her battle with the Slayer turned supervampire Simone. With Buffy incapacitated, Xander, Willow, and Koh face Simone and a loosed Old One, the demon who created vampires - Maloker. Further down the Deeper Well, Illyria and Severin prepare to unleash a big bang that will bring magic back to [E]arth - hoping everyone else will have time to escape before they're destroyed in the blast. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Dawn continues to fade from existence, waiting for Buffy to find the power to save her...
Page 01: We open with Severin holding onto The New Seed. He's warning Illyria that he's reaching critical mass and can't hold back the explosion of magic any longer. Illyria insists that he must do so for the sake of everyone else trying to make their escape from the Deeper Well.
Page 02: Above them, Simone-pire has Buffy hanging from the shoulder on the end of the Slayer Scythe. As if that's not bad enough, the demon in charge of creating vampires in the first place, and creating the Simone-pire is also waiting to rip apart our gang.
Willow shouts at Simone that she's dead, but Simone isn't impressed. She flings Buffy off of the end of the Scythe and sends her falling into Willow below.
Koh and D'Hoffryn step up to confront Simone for what she has risked and done.
Commentary: I'm not sure if this was deliberate or not, but it is interesting that Willow's passionate utterance isn't accompanied by her Dark Willow-ing. Is this because she's now under control of herself finally? Is it the nature of the new magic that she's no longer ruled by her dark magic? Is it just an art-choice thing, where she probably should have had the black-eye effect at that moment?
I'd like to think that Will's no longer under the pall of her Dark Willow-iness because of her solo adventure....
Page 03: Buffy weakly apologizes to the gang for failing in her battle. Wills tells her not to be and assures her that as long as Dawn doesn't completely evaporate, they've got time still to save her... of course, it'd be easier if they weren't about to be magic-bombed. Buffy tells her that she's making sure that her and Xan get their exit. Xan points out how badly she's injured, but Buffy insists the hole in her chest isn't that bad.
As Buffy may be making boasts that are beyond her abilities at the moment, Koh engages Simone. D'Hoffryn meanwhile tells Maloker that a creature such as it cannot be allowed to survive. Since he's stating this as he's being snatched up easily by the giant demon bat-man, he may not be able to do much about it either way.
Koh, meanwhile, gets tackled off of the ledge with Simone and both fall onto the same level of Old One coffins that Xan, Buffy and Willow are currently on.
Page 04: Buffy's boast is quickly shown to be mostly empty, as she's the next one to be easily snatched up by Maloker. He recognizes her flowed blood as Slayer. Before she can be eaten, Koh once again goes on the attack - slicing a finger enough to force the Old One to drop Buffy. He joins her and tries to awaken her out of her stunned state.
Simone starts climbing for an exit from the Well with the Scythe, leaving the rather oblivious Maloker to kill Buffy and then die in Sev's imminent meltdown.
Commentary: And as mentioned in Angel & Faith's issue 25 review [yay - review crossover!], I find it interesting that both of the threats to our heroes involve the threatened detonation of a magical McGuffin. And in both, one of the objects of the antagonists have been to restart magic in the world -- Sev's through time travel to stop Buffy from shattering The Seed [although only as a consequence of his saving Clare] and Whistler through inducing magic mutations in the planetary population. It's be interesting to know if the two creative teams were cross-talking to one another about their issues' villain's goals and the resolutions in order to not step on each other's toes in how this will all ultimately resolve.
As to this scene though, I'm not convinced that Maloker would A) make Simone into a super-vamp-Slayer rather than simply feed on her until she's a dry husk for her power and B) that he wouldn't sense/intuit what was happening below him and make for the surface - instead of wasting time fighting a few tiny mortals.
The only one I could see him as possibly staying long enough to kill would be D'Hoffryn, assuming that he could sense the amount of power that D'Hoffryn formerly wielded. Especially since Simone already said out loud in the Vampire God's presence that Sev was near his limit. Even if Maloker doesn't know what exactly she's talking about, a simple glance down would've gone a long way toward suggesting that hanging out in the Well [which you'd think he'd make a priority of leaving considering how he was trapped there] was a bad plan.
Page 05: Buffy regroups enough to start fighting Maloker with Koh, forcing the demon to drop D'Hoffryn.
Xan suggests that Will get with the flying them out of there, but she's not able to do that after her magic-to-Seed transfer. Xan attacks Maloker's leg with an axe, while wondering where the magic guy is that floated the Mystic Council down there to intervene. D'Hoffryn tells them that he's already been eaten, along with the rest of the Mystic Council. Willow spots hope in the form of floating guy's Staff of Power... if they can get to it.
Commentary: I was very mildly disappointed with D'Hoffryn's survival here. I think the character was good for some evil amusement in live action, but really - he's not a character that we need. It seems that Maloker just stands there holding him in his grasp much too long for no good reason. D'Hoffryn really should've been killed here.
Page 06: Willow goes for the Staff, while Xan continues to try to do what he can. Koh also slices up Maloker's face, but the demon is able to grab Buffy again and his giant fist only aggravates Buffy's serious wound.
Maloker grabs Willow from her ledge before she can grab the Staff as Xander continues hacking with his axe. Buffy gets slammed into the wall, cracking her head.
Simone meanwhile gloats that Summers is finally dead.
Page 07: With it looking like Buffy's finally met her match, Koh launches himself at the demon and double slices it in the chest. This causes both Wills and Buffy to be let go of. Koh leaps across the expanse of the Well to grab the falling Buffy.
Meanwhile, Koh's deep cuts to the demon has it losing some god energy from its chest. This causes a partial collapse of more Old One coffins, and sends Maloker tumbling, which in turn, allows Willow to make another desperate climb for the dropped Staff.
Buffy meanwhile is a wreck. She laments to Koh that everyone facing certain death is all of her fault. He denies this.
Page 08: Maloker, naturally enough, tries to arrest his fall by grabbing the Old One coffins within reach. This starts tearing them out of their rock wall and begins to cause a collapse of the entire Well's structure. D'Hoffryn shouts for Willow to hurry.
As Willow successfully retrieves the needed Staff, Koh insists that Illyria mustn't be left behind but Wills insists that she wanted to stay with Severin to ensure that he does the right thing.
Below them, The Siphon and Illyria run out of time. He implodes, sending the energy into The New Seed and causing a massive fiery burst of magical fire to erupt into the Deeper Well, scrubbing everything away that it contacts.
Page 09: Sev and Illyria are instantly vaporized. Melakor quickly follows.
Above the quickly closing magical wave, Xan insists that Willow needs to go faster but she complains there isn't a gas pedal on the Staff. The destructive wall of magical fire gains on them.
Commentary: So, yes - I do like the idea that Illyria would be killed off as well in this season ender. That she chose to stay with Sev and sacrifice herself as well as convincing him to do likewise is a good exit for the character and a nice completion of her growth from the self-serving god who consumed Fred to this end.
But... I just don't believe that she'll be forever gone, though I can't explain why. It feels like her big death wasn't.... big enough? Or maybe it's just that I think of her more as an Angel character and therefore can't see her being permanently killed off outside of his title.
I also like that while all of this is going on, Whistler is still fighting with Angel over his magic-return plans/is now sacrificing himself to stop his wrong-headed plot, while Illyria is sacrificing herself to do the same thing Whistler was trying. This does add to the feeling that the two creative teams must've been in contact with one another over their series' arcs in order to keep from messing up how magic would ultimately be returned, especially if you factor in Willow's crossover from BTVS to A&F on her way to her own limited series.
As you all know -- I eat this sort of inter-title continuity up.
Page 10: As the gang race for the surface, Simone is slow-climbing up. She's not even shocked that Buffy still isn't dead. Because she's much more interested in vengeance than survival when it comes to the other Slayer, she launches herself at the coasting bubble. With a mid-air tackle, Buffy and she fly out of the protection/transport of the magical field of the Staff.
Doffler makes it clear that Buffy's not leaving alive, as our Slayer shouts at Willow not to stop for her.
Page 11: Whereever in the geography of the Well, Simone and Buffy hit the ground as the Well is collapsing around them. Simone recognizes that she's thrown her hope of exit away, but is perfectly content with that as long as she takes Buffy with her. She swings the Scythe and comes scalp-close to splitting Buffy's skull.
The Slayer tries to hold off the Slayer-pire, but she's only got one good arm. Simone holds the Scythe over her and bears down with her weight - attempting to split Buffy's head in half. The blade begins to slice Buffy's forehead open.
As they're wrestling, Buffy tells Simone that she's let her get away with far too much. She let her steal her Slayers, she let her terrorize too many people [as I complained about at the end of the S8 issue where Simone took over an entire island and nobody was sent in to reclaim it] and now she's gone and embraced everything that is anti-Slayer. She warns Doffler that she's going to stop her... finally.
Simone shrugs this off because the Slayer Scythe is hers now, but Buffy disputes this most forcefully.
Page 12: With Buffy's reclaiming ownership of the Scythe, she tells Simone that she regrets ever using it to make her a Slayer. Despite her chest injury, she's able to wrestle the Scythe out of Simone's grasp and use the stake end to dust the Slayer-pire.
Above ground, the magical compression wave from Sev's detonation blows apart the tree in the Cotswalds.
Page 13: From the crater left behind, Willow and her troop emerge a little worse for wear. Willow laments that Buffy was down in the destruction. Koh offers that if anyone could've survived it, it would be Buffy.
From the crater edge, we see a pair of arms and the Scythe which Xan takes to be Simone.
Page 14: Buffy crawls out. She tells the others that Simone isn't an issue any longer. With Willow's confirmation that The New Seed is booted up and returning magic to Earth, Buffy wants to race to San Francisco to find out if it's too late in coming for Dawn.
Page 15: Some time later, in Xan's apartment, Willow is casting her spellworks but nothing is happening. This frustrates Willow because she can sense the energy field of Dawn and she can't understand why she won't physically manifest. An outburst by Spike causes her to realize that Dawn needs something physical to coalesce around to reform.
Page 16: Willow slices Buffy's palm for her fresh blood. She starts chanting again.
Page 17: Willow goes into magical overclock trying to reform Dawn's body, but warns that something is different now with the magic.
Suddenly the room is filled with a "BAMF!"... Nightcrawler style... and a burst of light and energy. Everyone is flung around the room. It doesn't appear to have worked, and Buffy begins to weep while assuring Willow that it wasn't her fault that it didn't work. They were just too late.
Page 18: Dawn suddenly asks behind them what they were too late for.
At first, her memories are a bit foggy but then she remembers that she was fading away.
Page 19: As everyone celebrates, Buffy thanks Spike for abandoning the Bugs to race back for Dawn. Dawn thanks Xander, to his embarrassment and denials, for saving her. He's still guilty about helping Simone and Severin, while Dawn insists that he did save her because even though she couldn't remember them, she believed when he told her that she'd never disappear from his heart.
Page 20: Dawn kisses Xan on the cheek, which disturbs him. He leaves, confused.
Buffy follows him to the rooftop, while Willow grabs Dawn for a magical checkup just to insure that Dawn's stable.
On the rooftop, Xander tells Buffy that he thinks Dawn knows he betrayed them all but Buffy points out that until five minutes ago, Dawn was a cloud. He insists that the kiss she gave him was... off. He's convinced that she knows of his betrayal.
Commentary: This will be followed up on in S9, so it's a plot seed laid here but it's really clumsy. I wish they'd just not bothered here. We could've gotten this scene with Xand and Buffy over his helping Simone without pulling Dawn peck-on-the-cheek-is-oh-so-wrong because it feels much more like this is just Xander's guilty conscience talking. That guilt is well-earned, but it feels like the catalyst for his angst is a Dawn-peck and I'd have rather that it was addressed in some other way. I think I'd have had Willow still pull Dawn aside, and have the gang crowd around her with Xander silently standing away from everyone and staring at Dawn with a look of regret. Then have him quietly turn around, under Buffy's notice, for the rooftop and then they can proceed to address the elephant without it being about Dawn's supposedly wrong kiss.
Page 21: Xan and Buffy talk about Simone. She's ready to forgive him since everything worked out and technically, if he hadn't helped Severin get into the Well then The New Seed would still be spending the next millenium getting itself powered up and Dawn would've had zero chance.
She tells him that he needs to forgive himself.
Commentary: See, the Dawn supposedly-knowing-of-Xander's-guilt isn't needed for this scene. There was more than enough, the things that Xander actually mentions anyway, to justify this conversation.
At first I was a bit bothered by Buffy's easy forgiveness, but then I wasn't. I do think that it makes sense that she could forgive Xan in this instance because of Dawn's save due to Severin making it to the Well. I would like to see indications next season though, that the possibility of Xan going off the reservation again is still a concern plaguing both Buffy and Willow.
This whole thing shouldn't suddenly be a not-thing, just because it happened to work out this time around.
Page 22: Buffy returns to the apartment and asks Willow about the Vampyre book. She wants to check it out for anything that might hint at what they can expect now that there is a New Seed supercharged with stolen demonic energy. She specifically tells Wills that she doesn't want to run into another Twi-Debacle blindsiding her.
Imagine their disturbed shock when the pages of the Vampyre book turn out to be blank.
Meanwhile, Dawn has joined Xan on the roof and is wondering what is wrong. He tells her to put things off for a day and let them have this 24 hours together before he goes and complicates things.
Commentary: And once again, we have people just vanishing from a place without explanation. In this case, suddenly Koh, Spike and Andrew are no where to be seen.
So -- Koh is visiting the men's room and Spike and Andrew are in Xan and Dawn's bedroom kissing passionately out of a need to release the tension built up over days of worry and grief over Dawn.
Buffy and Willow don't notice the two have vanished to another room together because of their distraction with what New Magic means.
Page 23: Meanwhile, over in Billy's hometown of Santa Rosita a dead young girl revives. She's surrounded by the zompires who obvs turned her.
[Eventually, this will be revealed to be Vicki.]
But as she wakes into vampdom, she doesn't evince the brainlessness of the zompires around her. She's much more like how vampires used to be. Except for being really pissed at being turned in the first place. She attacks her sire, and gets tackled by the zompires who don't appreciate her lack of appreciation.
Page 24: During the struggle, new vampiress is tackled into a stream of morning light from a skylight. As expected the zompire with her instantly dusts away.
Not expected? She doesn't. She doesn't even smoke. With a look of glee she tells the zompires that she's full of surprises... AND THEN TURNS INTO A BAT and flies off into the morning sunlight.
Clearly, the New Seed is causing a complete alteration in the rules.
The Good: I completely loved the battle with Simone and Maloker, especially Buffy having to overcome some pretty harsh injuries to continue fighting. They weren't as dramatic as Nadira was dealing with, but the image of Buffy hanging on the end of the Scythe in Simone's hands was pretty brutal.
I also really liked how Dawn was rescued and the obvious effort that Willow had to go through to make it happen. Magic in the Buffyverse has been a little too easy, and I hope that the creative teams are going to keep an eye on not just using it as a lazy shortcut going forward.
The Bad: I have nothing to place here.
Other Thoughts: As mentioned, I didn't really like the Dawn-kiss/Xan-freak part just because it felt clunky to hint at next season's problem for the Xan/Dawn 'ship.
They really do need to watch how characters are clearly placed in a scene and then vanish when they're inconvenient without explanation as to where they've suddenly gone to. It's pretty blatant that they had nothing for Spike, Andrew or Koh to do and for some reason they wanted the scene of Buffy discovering the blank Vampyre book to only be between her and Willow. But since they already had the three there, they can't just not-appear suddenly. This isn't the first time that somebody has suddenly vanished into thin air without acknowledgment.
The change in the status quo for magic is interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it. But I liked the fact that Dracula had been the only vampire to have all of the shape-changing stuff due to his experience with dark magic. I'll reserve judgement on whether I'm on-board with this particular change until I see where its leading.
I liked that the season ending was given weight by the death of Illyria... but I remain unconvinced that the character won't make a return from the dead. I'd have been happier... and believed in its permanence... if it'd been D'Hoffryn who'd died. I'm also glad that Koh is still around, as I do like his character.
The Score: I really liked it.
4.25 out of 5
Next Up: I want to finish the watch/review that I've started for TS-19 of The Walking Dead.