Season 10, Issue 27
“Own It: The Centre Cannot Hold”
Writer: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt [of Comicraft]
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: While concentrating on rescuing Dawn and Xander from another dimension, Buffy and the Scoobies fell victim to the vengeance demon D’Hoffryn’s treachery. Having assassinated the entire Magic Council and stolen the Vampyr book to take full control of the new rules of magic, D’Hoffryn intends to make himself invulnerable. Buffy, Willow, Spike, and Giles must put aside their recent differences and rally all the backup they can muster to defeat the Big Bad. For now, Dawn and Xander will have to be on their own….
Page 01: We open in Anharra. The demons are sitting around a glowing screen and cheering on King Joffrey, apparently watching ‘Game of Thrones’ through interdimensional cable theft.
Obvs the demons are enthralled by King Joffrey and hope that he will punish the insolent peasants.
Dawn tells Xan how happy the demons are now, while Xander can’t help but notice that Dawn herself is not.
Page 02: Xan and Dawn go for a walk, where Dawn offers that she’s missing home something fierce and as The Key, she can see all of the dimensions before her. She questions Willow’s suggestion for them to stay put.
Xan reminds her that being The Key doesn’t make her The Map to Know Where The Key is leading them. But a woman says that it’s fortunate that she can help with that.
Dawn and Xan are startled and the lady introduces herself as one Lilah Morgan, formerly of Earth and still working for Wolfram & Hart… diminished though they may be. Lilah is offering the assistance of her employers [employers, enslavers, potayto, potahto] if they can reach a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Page 03: Dawn categorically refuses to even think about it, having heard enough from Angel to know an evil law firm [yeeaahhh… too easy…] when she sees one. But Lilah informs her that is a misconception… they’re really just a law firm who specializes in the subspecialty of evil law. Dawn isn’t biting, especially when Lilah tells her all that they want - vaguely - is for Buffy to make it a bit easier to open a portal here or there for the law firm.
Dawn says absolutely not. Xan tells Lilah to get lost, while also assuring her that he was looking at her giant neck scar, and not her boobies.
Lilah tells them, as she returns to the local office, that they should give it a good think. She reminds Dawn, with naught but concern I’m so very sure, that with the usual Slayer life spans, she never knows how much time she has for her family reunion.
Commentary: Usually, like nearly always, I love inter-title continuity … as I’m sure you’re already aware. However, I have to say this cameo by Lilah really left me … dissatisfied.
I have a feeling that perhaps Gage didn’t go back and really study Stephanie Romanov’s turn of a phrase. Although it’s always difficult to capture an actor or actresses portrayal in a printed page, of course, I think some coordination between Christos and Rebekah could’ve captured her sly, breezy humor while issuing taunts with facial expressions.
This Lilah appearance felt really generic. I kinda wish they’d had Random Ghost #487 for this scene and then brought Lilah forward when Ms. Random failed… and after Christos and Rebekah spent a bit of time really nailing down the personality that Stephanie gave the character.
This was just … flat.
Page 04: Back on Earth, Buffy is… [being an asshole]… raging at Willow and Rupert for ‘letting’ D’Hoffryn take the Book out from under them all. Willow calls her out on that being unfair, as they were simply overpowered, while Giles points out that they were overpowered by enhanced abilities that they ALL agreed to give to the Mystic Council.
Giles points out they didn’t know about the sub-clause in the Mystic Council’s rules that would allow one of their member to grab everybody else’s powers if they ended up dead in office prior to a replacement being named… like if they all died in really quick succession because an untrustworthy demon also on the Council murdered them all.
Buffy is too pissed for logic though, and shouts that he and Wills should’ve known this kind of thing [Okay, I can actually co-sign that one except that everybody should’ve discussed it more than they did and any one of them should’ve suggested not agreeing until they could read through the Mystic Council’s charter -- assuming there was some sort of magical binding on any of them to follow the charter, which I believe we’re just assuming is the case].
Spike tries to remind Buffy again that they all agreed it was a good idea at the time, but Buffy is not to be mollified. She screams that she and he only agreed because their ‘magic experts’ assured them it would be okay.
Well, Wills is not just going to stand there and take this crap. She glares at Buffy that the only reason they needed to give the Council so much power in the first place was because Buffy kept dragging her feet on using the damned book herself to cement rules in place to stop the dimensional incursions taking place. She accuses Buffy of always wanting to avoid responsibility and have somebody else tell her what to do.
Commentary: Yeeesh. What to say about that last, bitter line?
I’m kind of wanting to agree with Willow that this is something that Buffy would often like to do… BUT… I can’t help but think that Buffy, when push comes to shove, DOES take responsibility for the really hard decisions that only the Slayer should make: stepping up to face the Master despite being told she’ll die because of prophecy, sending Angel to Hell, sacrificing herself, going after Anya when she goes over the line, and yes - shattering The Seed.
She needs and craves good advice, but ultimately I do think that Buffy understands that she is responsible for the decisions that she has to make. I think why she’s really pissed here is because the advice turned out to be so horribly wrong, and that it’s in the way of getting Dawn (and Xander, but mostly Dawn) back.
And she’s really being an ASS about it.
Plus, altering the rules of magic wasn’t that simple when it came to the Restless Door, as Giles himself had pointed out.
Page 05: Buffy gets pointy-fingered at Wills and tells her not to lay that on her when the real problem was that her and Rupert were too busy with their sex lives to do their job.
Giles steps in to shout at Buffy that she’s the one who claimed exclusive responsibility for the Vampyr book, only to then use the possible “Monkey’s Paw” qualities it held to avoid using it, even when it was actually needed. He accuses her of always finding a reason to avoid growing up.
Commentary: Okay, I’ve changed my mind. They’re all being assholes, except Spike because somehow starting this relationship with Buffy has neutered him again, and he’s turned into wallpaper.
Page 06: Now Spike steps in to play peacemaker. He tells them that they just can’t afford all of this arguing amongst themselves right now. Giles offers that he’s right and tells the gang he’ll light out to the Fae Folk for assistance, as surely they’ll want vengeance for the murder of their Queen.
Willow offers that she’ll talk to Lake about the military’s resources [although to me, this appeared to be a bone… Wills doesn’t look like she actually thinks this will do any good].
Spike tells them he’ll dial up Wells for a “all hands on deck” alert. Buffy says fine to all of this, but she’s pretty downtrodden about how everything has turned out.
Commentary: I knew the second that Buffy made that petty insult toward Andrew, it was going to come back to bite her.
I am not liking Buffy AT ALL in this argument.
Page 07: In Anharra, Dawn and Xan have reached the decision that they need to try to find their own way back, rather than sit any longer. The demons don’t want to see them go but they’ve changed from the violent brutes they were in the time has been their Goddess [y’know… mostly…].
Lilah makes another visit, urging that going off to strange dimensions where Dawn’s powers are likely not going to always work is a bad plan. But Rancidus, the demon, tells Lilah that he’ll be acting as traveling body guard and she should depart.
Commentary: Yeah, fine. The demon names: Rancidus, Vomitia and Pusleak were cute… if a bit too cutesy.
Page 08: It turns out that Rancidus isn’t the only one demon to go on this trip. So is the horned demon that he was going to beat to death at one time and seems to really look up to Xander Harris even more than the other demons, which is oddly sweet.
But our travelers are barely through the random portal Dawn decided on, when our intrepid foursome [ew, not like that!] are immediately surrounded by generic Seymours.
Xan frantically tells Dawn another portal would be awesome, while she assures him she’s working on it.
In the meantime, in Anharra, Lilah is on her interdimensional cell to HQ to tell them that though the exact plan to gain Dawn’s cooperation didn’t work out, Lilah has nevertheless kick started her marks quest. She assures her boss that if anyone can find a way back, Dawn will locate it and then they’ll know the path: She’s placed a mystic tracer in Dawn’s crossbow bolt quiver.
She also points out that even if Dawn is killed before making it, they can still sell her last known location to Buffy, so either way they win.
Page 09: On Earth, Willow is arguing with Lake that what she’s about to do is a really big mistake. Stevens points out that if D’Hoffryn removes Wills’ barrier spells around the book, the demon will be unstoppable. She also tells her that the plan has already been agreed to at the highest levels, after D’Hoffryn chose to raise an entire island in the middle of the Pacific.
She transmits orders to U.S.S. Nevada to fire a pair of nuclear missiles.
Commentary: Yeah. D’Hoffryn could literally go anywhere… The Moon, until he figures out how to break Willow’s encryption spells. But, no. He’ll instead raise an island because that’s inconspicuous. And he’s never, ever seen a movie or a tv show or read a fable in which the all-powerful villain is brought down because he’s stupidly, clumsily arrogant and basically defeats himself.
Page 10: On the view screen, the missiles detonate just after launch with the loss of the submarine and its crew.
D’Hoffryn shows his ugly mug on their multiple viewers and tells them that he’s going to let that one attack pass because of course they had to try. But if they do anything so rash again, he’ll get angry… vengeance-taking kind of angry.
Page 11: Lake turns to Willow and asks how he could’ve done that and Wills slips up that it’s beyond the powers that they gave him in earshot of a high ranking General. He’s not at all pleased to hear about Willow and Buffy’s gang giving a Vengeance Demon increased powers.
Willow is taken into custody for a debriefing on what exactly D’Hoffryn’s powers are and what they gave him. She’s cooperative, but as she’s led out she shouts back to Lake that there is a way that D’Hoffryn could be displaying powers outside of what he should have at this point: He’s a reality warper, and if he’s changing his powers it’s because he’s gotten somebody convinced to wish those powers into existence for him as part of a personal vengeance plot!
Commentary: Hmmm. Okay. I’m having trouble seeing how wishing that D’Hoffryn is now able to take control of nuclear weapons remotely is A) Such an unusual power that a normal magic spell wouldn’t do the same thing and B) Would somehow, specifically serve somebody else’s vengeance plan [which I’m assuming is Ghost Anya, but she’d have to actually want vengeance of a particular variety and wishing for her boss to have this specific ability seems like a real stretch of the rules.
I’m not quite able to buy this is making sense.
[Oh, wait. Next page… it’s isn’t Ghost Anya looking for vengeance….]
Page 12: That night, Andrew is meeting somebody at a dinosaur park, which turns out to be Jonathon. A very, not decrepit and rotted Jonathon!
And it turns out this is because it’s Jon who has been wishing for vengeance and ergo helping D’Hoffryn in exchange for immortality and eventually ending with Jon being the first male vengeance demon.
He seems to think this is a solid plan, only making his eventual eternal reward that much grimmer.
Commentary: So, does that fix my issue with the whole D’Hoffryn can now take control of nuclear missiles where - apparently - a simple spell couldn’t before?
Hm. I’m not sure. It still seems awfully specific, and it still feels like it’d be skirting the rules to wish D’Hoffryn would have such a power just so Jon can eventually get some future vengeance, rather than making a more direct wish for immediate vengeance. And if he can do such a round-about wish for vengeance, why not just say “I wish that D’Hoffryn could do everything he wants without the Vampyr book to get my vengeance on Andrew Wells and his new friends!”
It’s just too… pat, without allowing the comic book to be over immediately by turning D’Hoffryn into the new God.
Page 13: Jonathon then reveals that he called Andy because he has to prove his mettle at taking revenge against his ex-best friend personally in order to be elevated. Andrew offers that Jon can go ahead and kill him because he deserves it after what he did to his friend.
But Jon tells him to relax, he isn’t going to kill him. He’s going to expose just what the Scooby Gang actually think of him. He shows Jon an image of Buffy telling Spike that she doesn’t see what use Andrew is going to be in their current crisis.
Of course, it’s slightly tweaked for Andy’s benefit. Willow in the vision also expresses how she doesn’t really trust Andrew at all. And Spike tells the others that if they’re looking for a weak-willed wanker easily mind controlled, they should give him a call.
Commentary: Okay. Really?
D’Hoffryn actually needs Jonathon’s zombie self to help him, but not help him by say wishing the Vampyr wards were dropped or wishing that D’Hoffryn had all the power he needed to ascend to godhood so that Jon’s vengeance will be meted out to… people who were mean to him….
No. This isn’t really making sense to me.
Page 14: Andrew is hurt, but he understands that he’s given the Gang reasons to not be fully sure of his turn to the side of the heroes. But Jonathon is easily able to show him that it’s not just the Scooby Gang who are talking behind his back about him.
Jon shows him Clive talking to some guy Andy went out on a date with. The random dude is complaining to Clive that Andrew is just too much work. He tries too hard, and it’s in all of the wrong ways and it’s just too exhausting. Clive reminds Studly that not everyone grew up in San Francisco, and they have to make allowances.
But then he goes on to tell Disco Overbite that if it was only about Andrew coming to terms with his sexuality and how to handle it, he could deal with it, but it’s really everything with Andrew. Somehow, he just doesn’t seem to feel comfortable with anything.
Andrew accuses Jon of setting up false illusions, but Jonathon tells Andrew they could be illusions, but he knows inside they’re not. He tells Andy that deep inside he knows that everything they’re saying about him is true.
Page 15: Seeing Andrew collapse in on himself is the pain Jon was looking for. He checks with D’Hoffryn that he’s seen enough and the two of them whisk away through a portal.
As they leave, Jon asks if he’s going to kill Buffy and company and D’Hoffryn says he hope it won’t be necessary. But he also points out that with the Scooby Gang, killing all of them isn’t the point. You only have to know which ones to kill and then you can watch the agony of the survivors.
Commentary: And as we know, the Buddha Godling’s enhanced power was to be able to size up an opponent’s weakness, which means D’Hoffryn can know exactly who to hit and how.
If they’re trying to make D’Hoffryn literally unstoppable, they’re doing a good job. Which makes me very afraid that his eventual defeat is going to be really lame.
Oh and also, “I really liked you Jon, but screw you! You deserve whatever hellfire you’ve got comin’ to you.”
Page 16: At that moment in the Faerie Realm, Giles is gob smacked by the utter lack of concern over D’Hoffryn by the Fae. The new queen tells Rupert that they have entered into a treaty of non-aggression with the vengeance demon because he has no designs on their realm. Attacking him would be a huge risk with little reward for their people.
Sundrop tries to explain to Rupert about the Fae Folk’s nature as artisans and tricksters. They don’t know war, and have never cared about politics of others or who is in charge of whom. That isn’t how they think.
Rupert accuses the Fae of only running away from anything that they find challenging. She agrees with him completely, and asks if this isn’t the exact reason he spends so much time there himself?
Page 17: Meanwhile, Spike and Buffy have crashed in on Archduchess Venobia, the successor to former Circle of the Black Thorn member, Sebassis.
She’s, uh, not as impressive as the former Archduke.
Page 18: Buffy is able to get past the Archduchess’ guards and her own powers to punch her out. She demands that Venobia tell her how to stop D’Hoffryn and when the monarch tells her there isn’t a way now, because of Buffy, she beats her some more.
She tells Venobia that she knows the demons have a plan to resist and she wants the details, but Venobia argues they already put their minds to it across the Hells and nobody can find a way.
[And then she suggests reaching out to Castiel, care of Dean Winchester…. *sigh*]
Buffy beats on her some more, until Spike tries to call her off as Venobia being defeated and her telling the truth.
Page 19: Buffy turns, enraged, on Spike for pulling her off and screams at him that she has to be lying. Spike tries to talk her down that they’ve been beating their way through several demon organizations only be keep getting the same answer. Nobody knows how to fix what they’ve done.
Buffy snots at Spike that all she keeps hearing from him is how screwed they are while she’s doing all the work trying to come up with a solution. She shouts that if his only advice is for them to curl into a ball and cry, then maybe she should think about calling in Angel again, who doesn’t immediately fold when things get tough.
Commentary: Wow. Okay. Wow. Uhm.
I am going to kinda go with D’Hoffryn is working on Buffy’s emotionally charged state to manipulate all of these really ugly things coming from her mouth… or I’m going to slap the shit right out of her… I’m not sure yet.
Seriously. WTH? This has to be D’Hoffryn’s doing, right? To keep the Scooby Gang from regrouping until he’s reached his ultimate goal [which as discussed should already be a done deal with the extremely loose rules we’re using to define an acceptable wish to gain human vengeance].
I mean, I can’t even argue on Buffy’s behalf here. There is nothing I can say to this if it’s just her being in Rage Queen mode.
Page 20: Spike storms off and tells Buffy to do what she wants.
Venobia tells Buffy to absolutely make Spike come back to continue the argument as it was very entertaining. And if she could get Spike to strip off his shirt somewhere in there….
Obvs, needling a pissed off Slayer isn’t wise. Especially one who has already shown herself skating the edge of losing her self control completely and beating you to death.
Buffy kicks Venobia under the chin, snapping her neck. She tells Venobia’s servant-boy that he’s now in charge and if he comes up with a way to stop D’Hoffryn, then Buffy had better hear about it.
Page 21: Sometime later, Buffy has changed her clothes and gone to Spike and Xan’s apartment. She tries to apologize to Spike for going off on him like that.
Spike complains that he’s just trying to help her but he only seems to make her angrier. Buffy tells him it’s not all him, it’s the situation that she’s caused by being insane enough to give more power to a Vengeance Demon in the first place. And she also brings up her frustration with Willow’s going over to the military and Giles spending so much time cavorting with woodland sprites instead of helping fix what he helped muck up.
Buffy tells Spike that she wishes that they had a big bad, like The Master, that she could just kill and everything would be a-okay again. But their screw ups this time go way beyond killing one demon, assuming they can find a way.
Spike tells her that it’s no wonder that children like the whole hero’s quest type stories where everything is neat and tidy at the end. Instead of taking this as Spike sympathizing with how complicated adulthood turns out to be in real life, Buffy takes it as another dig at her not growing up. She turns it on Spike, accusing him of being equally incapable of dealing with problems like an adult.
Commentary: Okay, first of all… I object to the supposition that a good temper tantrum is NEVER an appropriate response. Sometimes it’s totally the right, if not only response.
Of course, I limit mine to when I’m alone and ergo am not taking it out on somebody else who isn’t at fault and who I don’t want to tear to bits.
So, okay… Buffy is doing a shitty job of being “grown up” maybe here and now, but my general objection to a good old fashion screaming jag not being “adult” stands.
Page 22: And here it is….
Spike sadly tells Buffy that with everything that is going on right now, and how it’s affecting their relationship, maybe ‘they’ should just take a break.
Commentary: And Spuffy fans cry out in rage and anguish as, even though they must’ve suspected it, that rug they kept standing on is again yanked out from under them.
I’m standing in the Spuffy fan’s corner on this one. OH FUCK YOU, CHRISTOS.
My God! I’m SO sick of the Buffy romantic trauma conga line between Spike, Buffy and Angel… JUST SO sick of it!
The Good: I do like the changes made to the small community that Xan and Dawn have built among the demons of Anharra.
I did like the argument starting off between Buffy and Giles & Willow over how D'Hoffryn could've been given so much power without anyone making sure he couldn't use it to consolidate more, even though Buffy is totally not likeable during it.
The Bad: WTF is wrong with Buffy attitude on nearly every page?! This is too over the top to be just simple anger and frustration... right? Maybe? Whatever, it's ridiculous and I can only think it was written this way specifically to push Spike to "off again" their relationship... again.
D'Hoffryn is a real problem. He's so overpowered now, that his choices can't make sense. The entire tie-in with Jonathon is fully unnecessary, especially since you wouldn't think that D'Hoffryn would be the slightest bit interested in such small potatoes since he's working on godhood. Anything having to do with him not utterly destroying everyone who comes against him and going into seclusion until he gains full access to the Rules of Magic book are pointless and completely fails any common sense/logic tests.
Uhm, Jon's vengeance against Andy that is supposed to be SO impressive that D'Hoffryn will make Jonathon the first ever male vengeance demon? So, so small. Again, why is D'Hoffryn wasting precious time and attention on this petty shit when he's working toward being utterly in control of the universe!?
Gee. Spike and Buffy "on a break" ...who, oh who could've seen this coming?
Other Thoughts: I was left cold and blah about Lilah Morgan's appearance. LILAH MORGAN gave me a "meh" feeling! There is something deeply wrong with this.
I just don't think I fully buy Xan and Dawn being a LOT more concerned about dimension hopping after Willow made it very clear just how difficult the maze can be, and Dawn herself stuck with traveling practically at random. This just seems like a stupid excuse for a road trip adventure [I'd almost think we're going to get a Xan/Dawn limited series] that ends with Dawn miraculously showing up at the most dramatic moment to turn the tide against D'Hoffryn.
The entire "none of the gang want to grow up [except maybe Willow]" was overdone.
The Score: I left this issue really irritated by the overdone hysteria of especially Buffy and all [as far as I can tell until we know where the story is going to end up] to break up Buffy and her current beau, which we've seen so many times that I am seriously ready to send Buffy to a convent and have a Buffy-less BTVS Season 11.
I just can't even with this bullshit anymore. But I could let most of my bitter go if it wasn't for the way they've made D'Hoffryn already unstoppable without the Vampyr book, so what the hell is the point? How can anyone actually battle him that isn't going to be completely stupid and lame?
2.25 out of 5 stars