Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 10, Issue 25
“In Pieces on the Ground” pV
Writer: Christos Gage, Art: Megan Levens, Color: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt [of Comicraft]
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: The Mistress and the Soul Glutton have eluded the Scoobies once more… leaving them with an ever-expanding portal to contend with! Willow struggles to keep the portal from expanding further, while on the other side an army of demons waits to invade [E]arth. Buffy and Co. must find a way to close the portal before Willow’s strength gives out and the demon dimension is allowed to merge with ours…
Commentary: Why will whoever writes the blurbs not realize that Earth is a proper name and ergo is capitalized in the context that they’re using the word. It’s bugging me, now.
Page 01: We open in the aftermath of Giles’ suggesting that Dawn will need to go through a demon portal surrounded by demons so that -- he’ll just assume, because why not -- she’ll hopefully become a Goddess due to her original key nature and be able to close the portal from the originating side. And then be stuck there, because too bad, so sad.
Dawn mentions that she keeps forgetting that she’s not a real person. Buffy argues again that she is now and there is no way big sis is allowing her through a demon infested portal.
Rupert tells them that they’re options to stop this invasion are limited and he only sees one: Using Dawn’s Key powers. This only pisses off Spike. Everyone is left nonplussed about a different way.
Commentary: So first thing is to just restate my ambivalence about introducing Dawn’s Keyness again, when the series went out of its way to pound us with the message that she was only a Key for that one point in time-space. Joss seemed pretty intent on making her just Buffy’s sister and burgeoning Scooby member. I suppose since Joss is technically still in charge, he could’ve signed off on reintroducing that Dawn does actually still have powers with the combination of the New Seed changing magic and with her being [presumably soon] in a demon dimension.
I can’t exactly object since I was playing with her Key identity in spanderverse -- when I still had some ideas on that front. But I’m still wishy-washy on this development. I also didn’t like how this page was written necessarily. Revisiting the “is Dawn a real person”, even tangentially seems like a throwback that we’re past now.
Page 02: Andrew brings up a good point, wondering if Dawn is presumably going to be getting her Goddess on, why she won’t be able to just pop back to Earth once she’s done. Giles clarifies that he said “god like” not omnipotent. Not only does the Vampyre Book still hold sway, with the gang’s new rules to make dimension hopping to Earth more difficult, but even if Dawn did open a new portal to come home, that would only leave a new portal to be closed behind her and putting them back at square one.
Buffy objects to this talk about Dawn going off to a Hell dimension since she just told him that this isn’t going to happen. But Dawn points out to her sister that this isn’t her call. Dawn says that if this is the only way, she’ll do it. Spike insists it isn’t the only way, but Dawn points out that nobody else seems to be making alternate suggestions.
Page 03: Buffy resigns herself to their having to try, but she’s not letting Dawn rush in alone. There are still the demons at the threshold and they don’t even know if Dawnie really will have access to these fabulous powers that Giles is suggesting.
She has Willow pushback against the flow of demons as hard as she can to open a space for everyone to rush through.
Commentary: I’ve said before that I really like what they’ve done with Dawn’s character. I think she was still more strongly written in latter-Season 08, though [after her bizarre transformations period]. But I like that they’ve really done a consistent job of making Dawn more than the McGuffin for Buffy - giving her opinions and letting her take actions of her own. And I like that it’s Dawn who makes the decision ultimately here and makes this about her choices. Not Buffy’s. Not Giles’.
Page 04: Rushing through the portal, Spike snarks that he thought the demons were going to be tough. But one of our blood beasts assures him that they’ve got a lot more where he came from. Behind him, stretching to the horizon is an army on the march toward the portal.
Page 05: Xander looks to Dawn worriedly for any signs that she’s feeling godlike but she replies she doesn’t even know how this Key energy is supposed to work.
Buffy takes this as the sign she expected that this was a dumb idea and orders everyone to make a retreat where they’ll work on blocking the portal again.
She’s interrupted by a bellow of NO! And before them strides a God King Giant who calls himself Kerberon. He tells Buffy that he’s going to claim the Earth plane for his own [Sure… the whole dimension?? Good luck keeping it with all of the other Gods, Devils and Demons who are also after it. And I think Illyria is going to have something to say about anyone claiming God-King status over Earth.], and they’ll basically be smears to be washed off of his heels.
Commentary: I’m very much liking the demons designs for the Multi-Eyed, Starfish-Mouthed Bears and I also like the look of Kerberon, who at least looks intimidating.
Page 06: Willow’s fireballs of doom don’t do diddly. Giles squawks for a retreat now, too. But Dawn tells everybody to hold on a second.
Kerberon suddenly shouts in pain…
Page 07: and is completely disintegrated to a small mountain of ash by Dawn’s Keyness!
Commentary: I presuming that Dawn’s Energy Lifeforce was shown to have a dramatic effect on the Soul Glutton specifically to set this up. But I’d still love to know just how Portal Powers equates to Disintegrating God-Kings Powers.
It seems like Dawn’s powers should be rather more limited to y’know, her original purpose. But okay… I’m rolling with this for now. Not enthusiastically, but I’m onboard.
Page 08: With this display of powers, it’s a mass retreat for the denizens of wherever we are. Which gives our gang a few minutes to consider that the portal is still expanding behind them.
Willow brings up also the problem inherent in Dimensional Walkabouts, even if Dawn and whoever stays behind manages to find a way out of their current dimension to one that is closer to Earth. She reports from her previous experiences [when she was working on bringing a New Seed of Wonder to Earth in Angel & Faith and her own limited series] that each dimension will have it’s own rules about how magic will work.
Page 09: Conversation turns to who will need to stay after the portal’s sealing, now that Buffy is ready to concede they don’t have another immediate option to stop this invasion.
She tells Andrew and Xander to head back home, with Andy admitting he should feel insulted but is only relieved. Giles points out that with the Mistress and the Soul Glutton still causing trouble, Buffy is needed home. She brings up the Mystic Council but Giles points out how pushed to the wall they’ve been trying to deal with all of the incursions that have already taken place, and they don’t know how many demons are out there right now that owe a debt still to the Mistress. They could find themselves remaining hard pressed. In addition, her Scythe has been the only weapon so far to have an impact on the Soul Glutton after he’s fed well.
Buffy is shocked and appalled that he’d suggest that she leave her sister in the Hell Dimension, and though he’s sickened by it, he tells her it’s necessary.
He apologizes to Dawn but points out the logic of her staying here to shut down the portal, while the others go back to deal with the current crisis and then work on finding their way back to her afterward.
Page 10: Spike tries to get up in Giles’ face, but Dawn calls him off. She tells him that after all of the sacrifices they’ve made for her, she’s glad there is finally something she can do to pay it all back. And she points out that her Key powers are more than enough to keep her protected.
Spike turns to Buffy to back him up, but she’s left realizing there isn’t another plan that can work right now.
Commentary: I have to admit, I was more than a bit surprised that they were actually going to write Dawn out of the story but leaving her in this Hell dimension without the gang. I like the development, because I think that Rupert is correct, even though it’s shitty. I think maybe Buffy does come to the decision to accept it a bit too easily… but then I remember how she was willing to leave Dawn missing when the Slayer HQ was threatened with an attack for the greater good. I can accept that she’d make this decision now. But I would’ve liked to see much more anger about it than we get on this page.
Page 11: Spike tries to argue with Buffy about it, but as she points out Dawn is an adult now and she’s made her decision. And the gang can’t stay here with the ongoing threat to billions of people back home because of what the Mistress and Soul Glutton have been doing. She tells him that she’s proud of Dawn, and though they all hate this, it’s what has to happen right now.
Page 12: Spike tells Dawn he’ll stay with her then, but Rupert objects to that. He warns Spike that he could lose control because of the unpredictable nature of Hell dimensions on vampire-demons.
Willow has to back up Rupert. She’s seen the problems Angel had in Quor’Toth and she’s gotten his backstory of what happened when he was in Pylea. Giles warns him that he could lose control of his bloodlust, and though Dawn should be able to protect herself with her new access to her internal power, she may not be able to do so without severely hurting him or worse.
Xander offers to stay instead. Dawn tries to beg off that she would never ask that, but he points out that she didn’t, he offered. He won’t let a friend stay in Hell alone.
Commentary: I think I can sorta see where this is coming from and maybe going. It’s a way to point out that Xan has made his peace with Dawn just being a friend, while pointing out just how deep that affection still runs. And it makes sense for Xan to play the white knight as far as his character.
But really… Xander is going to get through a Hell Dimension in one piece? I’m not sure what the logic is here in his staying. I guess I could accept that it’s about the moral support to keep Dawn from being driven to despair from loneliness. But, my immediate thought was “She’s going to have to spend all of her time keeping you from being eaten, Xander. I just think you’d be more help back on Earth.”
I’m also less surprised that they’d write Xander out of the comic, if they’ve already made the decision to do so with Dawn. I think as an ongoing character, despite our fan-affections, if we look at it coldly -- Xander has been the character that we could lose since Season 7. He had a resurgence there in Season 8 -- in which I also loved what was done with his character -- but he’s sort of floundered again since Season 9 as far as the writers giving him arcs. So from outside the comic, I can see why he’d get the nod to leave the book for awhile. I’m just not quite buying anybody thinking it’s a wise choice within the comic.
Page 13: With this decided, the good-byes are said.
Page 14: While Dawnie is giving hugs around, Ghost Fake-Anya is on the other side of the portal. She pleads with Xander that she can’t cross over the barrier and begs him not to leave her with nobody being able to hear or see her on the other side.
But he whispers that this is her chance to do as he suggested before --- figure out who she really is, and stop trying to be somebody she never was.
Fake-Anya isn’t comforted. She reminds him she was a Vengeance Demon and rages at him that she’ll find a way to make him pay for abandoning her.
He walks away to say wish his friends well, and offers his confidence that this isn’t good-bye so much as “see ya later”.
Commentary: AHHHH, C’MON! I wanted to see Spike Great-Hug Xander!
Even under these circumstances, I can’t buy even the slightest Spander… what a gyp!
[Okay, there is Spike’s look of sadness but that wasn’t adequate.]
Scene 15: With everyone now entering back through the portal to home, excepting Dawn and Xan, Dawn finds it remarkably easy to close the gate.
She and Xan are left on a strange world, in a strange dimension. Xander offers lightly that they should see what Hell offers in the way of food.
Commentary: And potable water would be a good thing, too. I just don’t like this… even though I know that the actual practicalities of being stuck in a hell dimension will no doubt not be touched on when it comes to real-life things like drinking water, food, breathable air….
I’m sure that this and every other dimension that they may roam will be remarkably Earth-like. But it’d be nice if the next time we see Dawn and Xander, their characters are markedly changed by their experiences.
And I do wonder if we’re going to be following them semi-regularly now, or if the intent is actually to kind of “leave them to it”. I also wonder if this is just a short-term thing so we can focus again on Buffy angst. I’d really like us to have no idea what Dawn and Xan are going through and not have them shown again until the beginning of Season 12... Just let the situation with these characters stew… but I really don’t see that happening.
Page 16: Back in the cave on Earth, Buffy has finally busted out into tears. Andy tells Spike that Buffy could use some reassurance, but Spike demurs. He can’t believe that she allowed this for her sister, or that he did too.
Andrew offers that sometimes life just sucks and there isn’t any good choice. He offers that he and she will need to pull together until they get the others back, but Spike defers until later.
Meanwhile, Willow tells Buffy that she’s going to start immediately researching how to trace back to Dawn and Xander, and they’ll find a way.
Page 17: Buffy tells Willow that she wishes the Mystic Council could just wipe out the Mistress and Soul Glutton without bothering them so they could just focus on getting her family back.
Ghost Fake Anya is there… and she really is a Vengeance Demon Ghost. She tells Buffy, unheard of course, that her wish is granted.
Commentary: Okay. So back in Issue 20, on the final page, we saw the revelation that Ghost Fake Anya was in fact fake Anya and that she and Xan were being manipulated for some shadow-figure’s agenda.
It now seems clear, since Ghost Fake Anya is a Vengeance Demon, that D’Hoffryn is going to be that shadow figure. And this makes me wonder if Fake Anya is going to be revealed to be Halfrek. DON’T BE HALFREK. She was destroyed already, and we already pulled the revisionist crap on Fred.
But what this really does is make my own worries about increasing the Mystic Council’s collective powers even worse! Clearly D’Hoffryn isn’t only interested in driving out the invaders to this dimension, but has designs of his own. Which our Good Guy Idiots should’ve suspected all along because - hello - he’s a BAD GUY. A master of the Vengeance Demon contingent and a guy who has never been a white hat. UGH!
And now I have to wonder if he’s heading up a conspiracy among all of the Mystic Council members against Earth and the Scooby Gang. Even that Fae Queen who I didn’t trust to begin with, and Sundrop who may be manipulating rather than in a real relationship with Rupert. DOUBLE UGH!!
Crap, crap, crap. Why can’t our make believe figures on a piece of paper actually hear me when I rant these things at them, before they go on blithely making drastic assumptions? *sigh*
Page 18: Shortly after, in Silicon Valley somewhere, the Soul Glutton has feasted well on poor, trident-speared people, restoring him to power.
He promises the Mistress that he will have his vengeance. But a voice from off-panel tells him that he shouldn’t be so sure of that.
Page 19: It’s D’Hoffryn. And he’s now invulnerable to any attack from The Mistress or the Soul Glutton because of Buffy’s granted wish by his minion.
Even without the Mystic Council at his side, he openly leaves himself to be attacked by the Soul Glutton’s power blast… which obvs does nothing, to the demon’s shock.
Page 20: D’Hoffryn pulls the absorbed soul energy from the Glutton, shrinking him enough to be easily stepped on and squished to death.
He tells the Soul Glutton that he’s served his purpose…!
Commentary: OH, FUCK! Y’mean that this whole thing has been a deliberate con job since the beginning to increase his own powers through the Mystic Council with the good guys’ help?!
That the Soul Glutton, Mistress and Sculptor were always set up to assist a Machiavellian plot by D’Hoffryn?
Page 21: The Soul Mistress offers her compliments on disposing of the “simple minded fool” of her partner in crime. She wheedles herself into a partnership deal attempt with D’Hoffryn, offering her help in getting anything that he desires.
What D’Hoffryn desires, he rants, is the same powers that his Vengeance Demons have, but that has been denied to him. The power to reshape reality to his liking. He rants that every time he feels the universe being rent and torn to reshape to a wisher’s request, he’s felt omnipotent but it’s always a fleeting moment, dependent on somebody else.
He wants the true power to command the cosmos according to his own desires and wants.
The Mistress offers that such power could be his with the Vampyre Book defining the rules of magic. Something that D’Hoffryn has already concluded himself long before speaking to her… and he doesn’t really need her assistance in closing in on possession of it.
So long, Mistress Thought-She-Was-The-Big-Bad.
Commentary: DAMN IT. I knew it! I knew that D’Hoffryn could not and should not have been trusted from the very start! Damn Buffy, Giles and Willow for not finding a way to neutralize him long before now and not accepting his “help” at face value. Damn, damn, damn.
That just leaves the rest of the Council. Are they in on it with him, or are they also dupes?
Page 22: Ghost Fake Anya offers her congratulations to D’Hoffryn and comments on how that’s the closest they’ve ever granted a wish to what the wisher actually intended.
He compliments her on granting the wish with such precision and ruthlessness. It becomes obvious through following dialog that D’Hoffryn is holding a very vengeancey bitterness toward the Scooby Troops for leading the real Anya astray and his real affection for her is why he created this duplicate copy of her to be his cat’s paw.
And now that she’s proved so helpful, he offers her a physical body and an immortal existence to live as Anyanka, and help him rebuild the Vengeance Demon corps.
He promises that their future will be glorious.
The Good: I like Dawn taking responsibility for her own choice to help Earth by going to hell, and I do like that Buffy actually agrees that this is her decision, allowing her to grow up.
I liked all of the D'Hoffryn showing his true colors bit. And I like that the gang has no idea where their real trouble lies, as they don't know that the Mistress and Soul Glutton are no longer the Big Season Bad. I especially liked how quickly the Soul Mistress tried to sidle up to D'Hoffryn and talk like they're natural partners and how D'Hoffryn wasn't having any of it.
I also like the Ghost Fake Anya being a copy of the real Anya because D'Hoffryn really does miss the genuine article.
The Bad: Nothing was bad in this one, though some of the story logic got a bit swervy.
Other Thoughts: Some of the writing in this one was a bit shakey or 'short cutted' in ways that I found oddly disaffecting, but it's not anything worthy of The Bad.
Am I the only one in which the entire dimension is supposed endangered by the Bad Guy? I mean really... An Entire Dimension is at risk every time? Don't these bad guys ever fight each other over things like this? It'd be nice if the Big Bads had slightly more realistic goals more often. On the other hand, since Kerberon only thought himself a big bad, I guess his goals are moot. And D'Hoffryn really could be a major Universal God under the right circumstances.
Dawn's Key to Portals power becoming Disintegration Goddess Powers feels supremely clumsy to me in order to allow Buffy to leave her without worrying she was going to be instantly eaten. The jump from her described powers to what she can do just because she's in a demon dimension, and the rapidity with which she finds herself doing it feels really abbreviated and clumsily written.
I like the idea of Dawn and Xander being written out of the comic for awhile, but I need to wait to see how it's handled. Is this a temporary few issue development, or are they actually going to be 'missing' for an extended time?
The Ghost Fake Anya part of yelling at Xander through the portal, while he's whispering back at her and somehow nobody notices his talking to the air also felt supremely clumsy. And it wasn't actually needed at all, except to hint that Fake Anya was tied to D'Hoffryn... but since this is revealed anyway outright in the same issue, it was wasted page space.
The Score: This one was humming along being an average issue. But the last few pages really bumped up the issue's score.
3.75 out of 5 stars
What's coming up: I'm waiting for Angel & Faith 25 now, which should be coming anytime... I think.
In TV/Movie reviewing -- we're hitting both with one entry: The Six Million Dollar Man's third tele-film, "The Solid Gold Kidnapping".
Then we'll have X-Files' "Eve", SPN's "Shadow" with another visit from "Shut up, Meg", BTVS' "The Zeppo" and then the Hamlin "Clash of the Titans".