S12, Issue 3
Story: Joss Whedon, Christos Gage; Script: Christos Gage; Artwork: Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Andy Owens, Dexter Vines, Dan Jackson; Lettering: Richard Starkings & [Comicraft's] Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Stephanie Hans
Blurb: Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been fighting the forces of darkness since she was a teenager. Alongside vampires-with-souls Spike and Angel; her best friends, Wiccan Willow Rosenberg and normal guy Xander Harris; her sister Dawn; her mentor Giles; and Old One/human hybrid Illyria, Buffy has saved the world... a lot.
Harth, a future vampire who has Slayer ancestral memories meant for his twin sister, Melaka Fray, has come to our era. Forming an evil alliance including Sunnydale's Mayor, Wolfram & Hart, and demons, his knowledge of future events guides them.
Buffy and friends went to his future, where Fray and her sister Erin helped them learn that Buffy is destined to banish the forces of evil to Hell... but be trapped there forever with them.
Page 01: We join our team at Willow's Women's Empowerment Center, where the Slayers who've answered Buffy's call to arms are gearing up.
Andrew has joined them, as well, bringing the ear buds that Buffy requested from him so that the large group can stay coordinated during this battle.
Page 02: Buffy greets Andrew with a huge hug. Andrew tells Buffy he's brought the state of the art in-ear receivers, and to his telling her they'll need a coordinator to manage everybody, Giles steps forward as the natural choice.
Andrew leads Giles and Buffy out to the parking lot, where his suped-up van [a callout to The Trio's in BTVS, S6] awaits Rupert, with its rows of monitors.
Page 03: Giles compliments Andy.
Andrew tells Buffy that he's ready to fight by her side in the coming battle. He's come armed and has gotten his gun license. But Buffy tells Andy they've already talked about it, having guessed he'd want to be in the action, and have decided that he shouldn't be in the thick of things. Andrew protests that he's not useless in a fight anymore and can help.
Rupert points out that one more fighter won't change the tide of the battle, but there is a responsibility he wishes to hand the young man. Giles tells Andrew that The Watchers Council never recovered in the future from the actions of The First Evil. He tells Andrew that it is imperative that the Council be rebuilt, and though he intends to start the process, he'll need a successor. Andrew Wells will be that man to guide the development of the New Council.
Andrew is appropriately touched and promises Giles he won't let him down. But he also tells Buffy that he and Riley have worked together over the past year. He reached out to him, but found he and Sam in Afghanistan, and not by accident. He warns Buffy that powerful human elements are making sure that they're on their own for this battle.
Commentary: Yes! I loved this scene between Giles and Andrew, and Andy's coming such a long way from an insecure, weak willed twit to being someone who Giles would entrust The Watchers Council to. It was great that he was included in this [presumably] final battle of 'my' Buffyverse, and I liked the way that he wasn't the butt of a joke.
Page 04: Buffy hugs Andrew again, and tells him that if the battle goes badly, it gives her strength that he's out there continuing the greater fight.
Meanwhile inside, Xander and Dawn are arguing over who is going to stay out of the frontlines. Xan argues that he's the man and does the fighting, but Dawnie points out they're standing in a women's empowerment center, so that argument isn't as persuasive as he thinks. She insists he stay back to watch after little Joyce if she doesn't make it.
Dawn points out that she has to be here to open the portal to the hell dimension, if they can't avoid things happening the way that it is written to have. She also points out that Xander can't do anything that the other Slayers wouldn't do better.
Xan tells her that he can stand beside the woman he loves, so she isn't facing death alone.
Dawn and he hug, and Dawn tells him that his mother can watch Joyce. Although she hopes that she won't have to raise her.
Commentary: This was another nice scene, and I liked Xan trying to play the 'man' card without being an ass about it, really. I also really liked that Dawn pointed out the practicalities of just how much good he'd actually be, also without being an ass about it, really.
It was a nice scene of them trying to protect one another in the baby's name. Very sweet.
Page 05: Up on the roof, twilight has fallen over the city. Angel stands staring out over the city, with Fred at his side. He talks to her about making sure that it's really her choice to fight, and not Illyria influencing her into going along.
But Fred tells Angel that in the past year, she's gotten okay with the Old One and he being together, and she's good with Illyria taking them into this battle. She points out that she's died before, and she had a lot more to lose the first time around [Wes].
She admits that since she was resurrected, she's felt unmoored, so this is the first time in awhile that she's felt sure of what she's doing there. She offers that she wishes she could've said good-bye Gunn, but she didn't want him to rush to their aid and get himself killed. Angel offers similar sentiments about Connor, having set up an email (with Willow's help) to go to Connor after the fight should be finished.
Commentary: I do very much like the shoutouts to other characters in the Buffyverse throughout this issue. But it is making me nervous about how this is all going to end. Being the last issue - for the forseeable future, maybe ever - of our incarnation of BTVS, they really could turn issue 4 into a bloodbath, if they wanted to. This would be the perfect arc to go ahead and destroy the status quo.
I do wish that Connor had been invited to this battle, though. He was largely ill-used after his arc completed with his killing Jasmine, so it would've been nice to see him kicking ass as The Destroyer next issue. And seeing him tearing through demons side by side with Illyria tickles my "if only" bone.
Page 06: Faith looks in on Willow, who is in a funk about having gone dark again when things went badly. She had been so sure that she'd reconciled herself to her past and put that behind her. She tells Faith that it feels like everything that she's done was pointless, if she's just going to tap into the dark magicks again anyway.
Faith reminds her that they're supposed to be changing Fate. And Wills acknowleges that they'll try, but she fears that Buffy may have to accept her fate, and Willow, hers.
Further discussion is prevented, as Wills senses the demonic army passing through her mystic defense perimeter. Faith smilingly tells her it's time to go punch Fate right in the nads.
Commentary: I've always liked the Faith/Willow dynamic, especially after Faith's redemption and I liked this character moment between them immensely.
Page 07: In the weapons room, Spike and Buffy have found themselves with a minute alone. Buffy apologizes to Spike for the way that things didn't last between them, but Spike points out that he's spent his whole unlife trying to "be with someone" from a crazy vampire to a robot. He needed to get comfortable with finally being on his own.
They hug. And then walk out together, ready for battle.
Page 08: The Slayer Troop gather in front of Will's center. Buffy gives last minute instructions on Harth being the primary target, and offers that Mel and Erin don't have to be the ones to target him, but Melaka tells Buffy that it isn't her brother they're going to kill - it's the monster wearing his skin [a callback ALL the way back to S1, E2 when Giles told Xander forcefully the same thing].
Erin is also on board with killing the monster wearing her brother's face.
On the other side of the block, Harth tells the Mayor that the Slayers waiting for them is exactly as the scene in his memories.
Page 09: The two foes come crashing together, with Buffy shouting to the Slayers to show them whose world this is. The Mayor points out to Buffy that the demons were there first, and offers they'll also be there last.
Page 10: In the Command and Control Van, Giles listens in as Team Blue is decimated with a 50% casualty rate after repelling an assault. He's devastated by the early loss of so many.
In the meantime, one demon Lord tries to convince Illyria that she's being misled by her human taint and they could help her become the goddess she should be. Her answer is ripping off his prehensile tail for him.
Page 11: Erin and Mel make it within shouting distance of Harth, and Mel tries again to talk him down from what he's doing that could endanger the entire world they've known.
For a moment, he seems unsure... but then reveals that was a trick, just to make his telling her to go stuff it a bit more painful on her.
Erin points out to a crestfallen Mel that Harth isn't their brother, and isn't going to become him again.
Page 12: Mel and Melaka fires their blasters that should be enough to ash Harth, but the Mayor takes the blast first, followed by a flunky demon to protect their vampire leader.
Across the battlefield, Spike and Angel are battling back to back. Spike starts their old pattern of aggressive insult, before telling Angel to sod their past, and agrees with Angel that over the years, they've become a good fighting combo team.
Commentary: I do kinda wish Spike would throw back on his earlier, brash, insulting persona here. Between his and Buffy's scene and now his and Angel's... I'm kinda missing old Spike, suddenly. Get Angry, Spike!
Page 13: Over comms, Faith seeks a sit-rep from Giles, which isn't good news. Although the Slayers are killing the demons three-to-one, the demons outnumber them by five-to-one. They're losing the battle of attrition, and Harth is still on the field.
Rupert offers that maybe the remaining Slayers losing their powers and memories might be the better option. Faith narrows her eyes.
She makes her way over to Willow and offers that they need to follow the original history, but she'll stand in Buffy's place. Will's exclaims that she can't....
Commentary: Ahh!, not Faith!
Page 14: Faith makes a passionate defense why it should be her on her way to hell after all of the horrible crap she did, that nobody should've been able to come back from.
But Wills explains that Faith literally can't. Though she compliments her bravery, the power-up from the Slayers to Buffy has to be channelled through her Scythe and is tied to the spell she worked before. Only Buffy and her Scythe can make this work.
Commentary: And I've already been on record in other issues about why I don't like the Scythe being Buffy's in the first place, so I'm just gonna move on, now.
But just as a different side-note... going through the issue again for this review, I was disappointed to realize that we don't see any of the Deepscan people here, nor do we get Satsu rushing to Buffy's side, or Leah... it's a real missed opportunity not to have named Slayers from past issues standing with Buffy.
Page 15: With Faith's offer of self-sacrifice going nowhere, she turns her attention to settling scores with the Mayor.
She promises Wilkins-demon that she'll send him off to hell in pieces.
Page 16: As the battle rages, Buffy comes to a conclusion and tells Giles to have the core team form on herself.
Page 17: Angel warns Buffy that the other Slayers can't hold the line for long. Buffy has come to the conclusion that they can't win this, not the way its going with their enemies knowing what they're going to try already.
Dawn suggests a Portal to somewhere else, but Buffy isn't happy with that plan because they don't know what happens after that. The demons could be flushed with their victory here, and gain even more reinforcements to finish the job due to that win.
She tells them that they already know one sure way that the world is saved: They allow history to take its course.
Page 18: Spike and Angel protest, but Buffy tells them that they're losing too many to win. She turns to Willow to ready the uber-Slayer spell for another transfer of powers. Buffy reaches out to Giles, and there is so much for the two of them to say to one another, but no time to say it.
Giles can only tell Buffy how proud he is, before opening a general channel to all other Slayers.
Page 19: Buffy rallies the other Slayers to go into retreat and wishes them lives where they don't have to fight anymore. The core group covers their exit as much as possible while Wills gets ready to transfer their power to Buffy.
Page 20: As the other Slayers retreat, Will readies the uber spell. Mel won't be affected since she's out of time, so she covers the exodus with Erin, Angel, Spike, Xan, and Dawn. In the meantime, Faith offers to Buffy that she can take her powers, but there is no way she's running out on the fight -- especially since Gates has gotten a "ray gun" into her hands, and she's been fantasizing about one of those things since she was a kid!
Commentary: I expected Faith to stay put, and I'm glad she did. But I'm really worried that Faith's power moment is going to come when she re-kills Wilkins, while also losing her life. I don't want Faith to die! How far she's come since BTVS, S3. And how great the comics did with her character, that she is one of my faves.
But if she does die taking out The Mayor, I can accept it.
Page 21: Willow and Buffy grab the Scythe as Wills power spells her -- but [awww... crap!] Harth remembered this was coming, too.
And with that staff, he hooks the Scythe right out of their grip! And we find out the staff that was of such import that he allowed himself to be tortured in order to set up the Wizard who had it, IS the very staff used by the WIZARDS WHO CREATED THE FIRST SLAYER!
With Harth grabbing the Scythe, the power boost flows to him through the Wizard Staff! Buffy is easily clobbered off of her feet!
Harth points out that it was men who gave Buffy her power, and now a man is taking it back.
Commentary: Wow! LOVED THIS. Well, not loved Harth getting this huge a power moment, but loving how we're going right back to the beginnings of the Slayer line. All because despite knowing that Harth has access to the ancestral memories, our heroes weren't able to plan around his already knowing how history played itself out the first time. Brilliant twist.
Page 22: Harth excoriates all of their whining over changing history, before gloating that he's just done it. Mel tries to intervene, but his power boost is too much, and she's easily batted aside.
Harth continues to gloat that The Reckoning they all heard about is cancelled. Now he'll kill them all, return to the future to conquer it, and hand Earth back over to the demons.
Buffy complains that [her power moment being usurped by the evil guys] wasn't supposed to happen....
The Good: Seeing Andrew again was great, and I loved that Giles has seen enough personal growth in him to give over the responsibility of shepherding a New Council of Watchers to him. That was lovely.
I liked the slow build to the battle, and then most of the battle scenes (a little less dialog would've been fine).
Faith. I loved her throughout.
Loved Harth's staff coming from the original Slayer creators, and the twist that The Reckoning was cancelled because of his foresight, and our heroes lack of the same.
The Bad: I've got no complaints.
Other Thoughts: I did like Xan and Dawn's argument over which of them are going into battle, but I also did feel that Dawn caved a bit too quickly, just sidelining the real possibility of Joyce being left orphaned with both of their risks.
The Fred/Angel scene before Illyria takes over to fight was also a nice bit. And while I liked the call outs to the extended BTVS/AtS families, I was bummed that Connor was again kept out of it. Also would've liked to have seen other named Slayers joining the big fight.
The Score: What a great third issue of this four issue arc. I loved everybody.
4.50 out of 5 stars