BTVS, Season 10, Issue 29
“Own It: Vengeance”
Writer: Christos Gage, Art: Rebekah Isaacs, Colors: Dan Jackson, Letters: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft’s] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Steve Morris
Blurb: Having stolen the Vampyr book to take control of the new rules of magic, the vengeance demon D’Hoffryn has plans to make himself invulnerable and take over the world --- of course. This Big Bad is also leading a corps of vengeance demons that includes some familiar faces… Meanwhile, the Scoobies have reunited, and in miracle fashion Dawn and Xander were able to find their way home. Now Buffy’s plan --- with all the sideline assistance that she has been enlisting --- is for one final fight: The Slayer and her friends vs. D’Hoffryn….
Page 01: We open in the dimension of Arashmaharr, home to D’Hoffryn and his office of Vengeance Demon employees. He is holding a meeting among his executives, where he is pontificating about how much power the Vengeance Corp has.
Page 02: D’Hoffryn the laments that with such great and potentially limited powers has come the petty restrictions of only being able to tap such potential in service to human wishing.
And he really hates that.
Commentary: And if you’ll recall, there was at least one instance in which D’Hoffryn had suggested that his Vengeance Corps worked in an office environment. It was when D’Hoffryn told Willow that one of his office drones had a picture of Warren Meers’ skinning pinned up in his cubicle.
Here actually see that D’Hoffryn’s setup is exactly like a Limited Liability Company located in an office park, and everything. And though, with the exception of Jonathon now, all Vengeance Demons are women, there are plenty of demonic males working in the back office… in cubicles. I thought that was neat, considering it was such a small, jokey one line way back when.
Page 03: D’Hoffryn’s executive circle includes Faux-Anya and he now turns to her to remind everyone about the typical human wishing and how petty it all has been.
He interrupts her to proclaim how boring it has all been up until now.
D’Hoffryn lifts the Vampyr book to revel in his upcoming removal of all such limitations.
Jon, being a newly promoted Vengeance Demon, asks about those limitations because he had thought that they only applied to the Corps, but not to the master demon himself.
Page 04: D’Hoffryn tells him this is a common misconception and though he has a lot of power, being Lord of Arashmaharr, he is still restricted. Or has been up until now. He tells his executives that he has successfully stripped the last layer away from Willow’s protections and is ready to finally receive the ultimate power that should’ve always been theirs.
Except. When he tries to write the elimination of all restrictions into the Magical Rules Book, the ink spits off the pages and into his face! Hah!!
He tries again with a bit of rephrasing, but the Book’s not having it. He gets another face full of ink. Jon snorts in amusement, but quickly covers that it’s allergies upon receiving a glare from his new boss.
Page 05: D’Hoffryn rages for a moment that it is impossible that the Book won’t accept his changes. Anya suggests that he use his expanded perception powers that came with his Mystic Council seat, and he says that he was just about to do so.
D’Hoffryn’s perceptions reveal to him what Buffy had been planning with Vicki, et al to undercut him. Basically the New Rules of Magic are based on consensus belief. It is why Vicki and the New Breed Vampires have the powers of Dracula, his being the most world wide known example of what a vampire “should be”.
Buffy is using this consensus trick to simply ensure that the majority of those who know about Vengeance Demons at all, believe that D’Hoffryn isn’t able to alter any rules. If everyone believes he remains vulnerable, then he will.
Well… he has to admire such a simple and effective plan, but it doesn’t make him any less pissed. He promises to destroy Buffy and her friends utterly as a show of force to break that belief as violent lighting and thunder boom across Arashmaharr.
Jon tries to assure himself with Anya that their master’s show of anger won’t drive away the taco truck before lunch.
Commentary: I thought this was a pretty clever, and such a small thing and I really liked the idea that Buffy was able to short-circuit everything D’Hoffryn was about to do through - basically - wishing for it collectively.
That was a neat solution to D’Hoffryn’s threat with the Vampyr book. Though, how much good that will do, when we know D’Hoffryn has all of those other powers is a question still.
Page 06: Back at Buffy, Willow and Dawn’s apartments, Dawn is extolling the virtues of clean clothes, while Xan joins her in being happy to be rid of the loincloth.
Everyone remains impressed that they were able to find their way back on their own, and Xan and Dawn tell them that is was much easier with Dawn’s Key powers. Dawn laments that they won’t work on Earth, where they’d surely be of use against the upcoming fight with D’Hoffryn.
Spike assures her that they’ll have it covered with their conventional weapons and Andy shares he’s brought some science tech to help disrupt the demon’s magical energy as well.
Page 07: But just as everyone is all grins and optimism, a peal of lightning lights up the sky, and is followed by a rain of blood.
This is quickly followed by D’Hoffryn himself, leading his executive council, in tearing the roof off of Buffy’s apartment.
Page 08: Everyone is shocked, of course, that things have come to a head so soon.
And the fact that they’re staring at Anya is all the more disconcerting. But Xan shares that she’s not actually Anya but an imposter that had been haunting him. Buffy angers at him for not sharing these things, and trusting his friends and Xan admits he was an idiot for letting himself be manipulated.
Not that any of this matters at this particular moment….
Commentary: The whole fake Anya thing feels very much like an aborted arc to me. Other than D’Hoffryn’s personal affection for the real Anya, now lost to him, her deceptions against Xander didn’t really add anything to D’Hoffryn’s plot against the Slayer. Everything that he wanted to do, could’ve just as easily been done without creating and molding a copy of Anyanka.
I was disappointed in how it all led to nothing.
Page 09: Buffy rages at D’Hoffryn that he was able to manipulate all of them, including herself into believing that they couldn’t handle the responsibilities of overseeing the Rule of Magic on their own. It allowed him to put the pieces in place for this entire power grab, and they were led right into it willingly.
D’Hoffryn gloats a bit and tells Willow that her magical protections are impressive, but it’ll only take a minute for him to unravel them. Wills tells everyone it won’t take even that long and to ready for their one shot at taking him down.
Commentary: What I like about all of this, is that D’Hoffryn has a throw away line describing power as being like chocolate: The more you taste of it, the more you want of it, which neatly gets around just why he’s not happy enough already being overpowered as it is.
Of course, if you don’t like chocolate… well, you’re an alien and none of this makes sense to you. (I kid… mostly….)
But one has to wonder just what D’Hoffryn will want next if he is successful. Would all of the realms be threatened? Is this leading up to a free-for-all of everyone banding together everywhere doing their small parts to wear down D’Hoffryn’s defenses?
I’m finding it hard to believe that one strike by Buffy is going to resolve this one… even with the Scythe… but on the other hand, we’re closing in on the season finale sooooo… we could get a lame conclusion with a quick beheading.
Page 10: As the shielding falls down, Xan, Spike, Dawn and Wells lets loose with his experimental gunnery, while Willow and Giles throw the magical energy bolts. This is enough to drive D’Hoffryn to flinch away from the onslaught, which sets up Buffy to take her strike against the Vengeance Demon Lord.
Page 11: And strike she does! Right into D’Hoffryn’s neck with that Old One killing Scythe of The Slayers.
And it does nothing. Buffy is quickly knocked out of the air and body slammed onto the floor. D’Hoffryn laughs in her face.
Commentary: Oh! Okay, well, I was really half-expecting that the Scythe plus Scoobie Onslaught was actually going to wrap up D’Hoffryn pretty quickly. At least until this all came about so soon. Then I kinda got the impression that it wouldn’t work because there was too much story for such a big bad to be taken out already.
Although having Faux-Anya unexpectedly betray D’Hoffryn to claim the status of Big Bad from him during this battle would’ve been a pretty awesome twist.
Page 12: With this big attack a complete bust, Dawn shouts at D’Hoffryn to stop acting so superior and such a jerk when he’s the one who betrayed all of them. She demands to know just what “vengeance” he thinks he’s entitled to when they haven’t done anything to him.
But D’Hoffryn rages back now that what they did, and are seemingly so blind to, was to take Anyanka from him. He describes her as like a daughter to him, and the Scooby Gang seduced her away, made her choose mortality, broke her heart along the way and finally got her killed. That is what all of his personal anger and desire for his own vengeance stems from.
Xan tells everyone that he’s right, and this is his fault.
Commentary: Ah! I shouldn’t have been this dense. And that does pretty much explain why D’Hoffryn would’ve molded a fake Anyanka. It wasn’t about infiltration and manipulating the Gang, that was incidental and convenient. Faux-Anya’s creation was really about filling an unfillable void where his genuinely loved Anyanka once resided.
Awwww. Now I feel a tiny bit badly that he has to be defeated, and most probably killed for being a giant, power mad douche.
And one has to wonder if his seeking such ultimate power over the universe isn’t at heart about being able to reach the real Anya, wherever she is, and ‘rescue’ her back beside him.
Page 13: Buffy tells D’Hoffryn that she isn’t buying it [unlike myself apparently…], and that he emotionally tortured Anya - especially with killing one of her closest friends, just to make her hurt.
Buffy points out to Jon that D’Hoffryn casually incinerates loyal employees just to make a point, implying he’s really hitched his wagon to the wrong horse.
And Xander turns to pointing out to Faux-Anya [which everyone continues to speak at as if she’s the real article] that what Buffy said was true.
Page 14: D’Hoffryn calls all of this lies and distortions and decides that enough jawing has gone on. He turns his magical blasts on the gang, going head to head with Willow.
Buffy, still trying to make the point, accuses him of never caring about Anya, but only seeing her as his possession and he’s just pissed that he sees them as taking something that he owned.
Page 15: While D’Hoffryn is busy warding off Willow’s assault, he orders his vengeance crew to “silence the shrew”. Buffy shouts at D’Hoffryn that he doesn’t know the meaning of the word love, and what he’s describing as caring is really about selfishness.
In the meantime, everyone but Wills is firing all that experimental weaponry and Giles-spells at keeping the vengeance contingent from Buffy. While she’s able to gut kick Jonathon away from her.
Commentary: I always liked Jon, and I hate what he’s come to. Even though, again, this is less Jonathon and more a simulacrum with an artificial consciousness created between The Sculptor and Andrew. He’s close enough that I’m sorry to see him fall so far, when he really should’ve been an ally to the Gang.
Now, I just want to see him put down for good. Again.
Page 16: This only makes D’Hoffryn that much angrier, and he blasts Wills with a energy wave powerful enough to knock her stunned to the floor.
Xan yells at D’Hoffryn’s forces that everything they’ve accused him of has been true, while Buffy panics for Willow’s safety and Giles tries to help her recover.
Page 17: D’Hoffryn tells Xander that all he ever tried to do was to protect Anyanka from the fate he saw for her in following him, and indeed it is the fate that befell her.
Xander wonders angrily why he never used his powers to help her, instead only ever being interested in controlling her.
This is past enough for the demon lord to put up with. He tells Xander that he’s going to die now, and it’s long past due. But unexpectedly, Faux-Anya intervenes to stop D’Hoffryn’s charging up blast.
Page 18: Faux-Anya asks to be the one to end Xander’s life, to his shock. D’Hoffryn agrees that Anya, even this recreation, has the right of vengeance.
The gang try to intervene between them.
Page 19: But D’Hoffryn, with Willow still unable to respond mystically, is now able to body slam them all and pin them to the floor, leaving Xander and ‘Anya’ to face off over their past.
Buffy tries to get Xan to run, but instead he just apologizes to Anya for everything he did to hurt her.
Faux-Anya isn’t impressed.
Page 20: Xan admits that he wasn’t wrong though, about them not being ready for marriage and that she needed space from him to find out who she was. But he does admit to the fact that he handled it terribly and should’ve been there for her when she was struggling to make sense of it all.
He tells her that he feels that he deserves whatever she’s going to mete out.
Dawn begs Anya not to do it, reminding her that they were friends. But Faux-Anya replies that they were never friends. She was never friends with any of them.
Page 21: With cries of horror, the Gang have to watch as Faux-Anya incinerates Xander Harris into dust!
Commentary: Wow. Okay… I have to admit I did not see this one coming. And it’s horrifying.
[But I have something else to say about it at the end… which blunts the horror I want to feel.]
Page 22: D’Hoffryn revels in his creations vindictiveness, while Buffy screams at Anya in anguish.
Anya, self satisfied smile in place, offers that Xan made her a ghost. She’s just returned the favor….
Commentary: So. Is Xander really, truly dead?
I want to believe he is, because that would be a crushing blow to the Scooby Gang, it would be horrible for me as a fan [and I do like a bit of pain to make the story more real occasionally] and because it’s rare to have a major character die.
So, why can’t I feel the full impact of this loss of such a beloved character? Because Rupert. Because Fred. Because I just can’t make myself believe that Xander has come to the end of his story and this isn’t all going to be reversed -- because Death has a revolving door in these things.
But I do maintain hope this isn’t just a trick of Faux-Anya’s in order to stay close to D’Hoffryn and that Xander hasn’t been teleported away/given some sort of chance at saving the day by not actually being murdered. Because Cordelia. Because Wes. Because Tara.
Xander, while a major Scooby, was at one time on the chopping block by Joss when he got a reprieve because Joss changed his mind/got squeamish about it. So maybe now he decided it was okay to pull the trigger.
Honestly? As a fan of Xander, I hate the idea that he’d be killed before sometime far in the future. But as a BTVS fan, I can see the value in upending the status quo and this death is big enough to do that. It would have a lasting impact on all of our characters for years to come, and that is great drama… but only if it’s real and only if it’s permanent.
So, I’m stuck in conflict. Save Xander because I love him or Kill Xander because it’d be good for the book?
I don’t have a final answer yet. It’s too soon.
The Good: I've enjoyed D'Hoffryn as a character and this issue is fun, especially the scenes in Arashmaharr.
The scenes of the ink spraying the demon lord's face was really funny, and I loved that image.
I really liked the way that Faux-Anya's not-heel-face turn was handled. I expected [and still half-expect, despite what has been depicted] that Anya was going to turn on D'Hoffryn. The fact that she stays on the villain's side and blasted Xander to ash [as far as we can see] was shocking [for the moment until I started wondering if this was all as presented].
Artwork doesn't affect scoring, but I do want to give a KUDO to Rebekah and Dan for this issue. So many, many of the panels look great.
The Bad: Nothing annoyed me.
Other Thoughts: If there is something to bug me, and there is but it's pretty minor, it's the amount of page space taken up with chatting between our bad guys and good guys... especially since it's also on the repetitive side.
My biggest issue is that I am having real problems with pushing my doubt to the side that Xander Harris would actually be killed outside of a "possible future" storyline. It's putting a wall between myself and the deep horror I should be feeling. Maybe I'm just burnt out on Supernatural's constant returns from the dead, and with the recent example of Fred, I'm just not able to "buy-in" the way I really want to.
Finally, I do have a small and minor issue with Jonathon, too. I just don't see why he had to be kept this long, rather than Andrew and him having a show down earlier resulting in Jon's undead body being destroyed. He's not really playing a large enough role in anything to justify D'Hoffryn taking him onboard. It'd be nice if he ended up turning back to helping the Gang and doing the self sacrifice thing to save Andrew and/or Buffy. But either way, I just don't think he needs to be kept 'alive'.
The Score: I don't have much more to say. I do wish that I could just fall all-in with the NNNOOOOO, XANDER!! thingie. I wish that a lot.
4.25 out of 5 stars