Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 12, Issue 04, The finale
Story: Joss Whedon, Christos Gage; Script: Christos Gage; Pencils: Georges Jeanty; Inks: Karl Story, Andy Owens, Dexter Vines; Colors: 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 with Slayer ancestral memories meant for his twin sister, Melaka Fray, came to our era for The Reckoning, a final battle prophesied to lead to the end of the Slayers. Forming an evil alliance including Sunnydale's Mayor, Wolfram & Hart, and demons, they fought Buffy and friends, including Fray.
When Willow tried to concentrate the power of all Slayers in Buffy, Harth changed history by taking it himself!
My Blurb: Thank you, Dark Horse creative team. It's been quite a ride.
Page 01: Buffy rushes Harth with her original Slayer powers still intact and tries to wrest the Scythe from him. But, as he points out, he has all of the other Slayer powers now. He easily yanks it from her grip, kicks her hard in the gut, and proclaims that the Scythe belongs to him, now.
Erin asides to Faith that she thought men couldn't hold the Slayer powers, but Mel points out that Harth twinship obvs makes it possible, just as he had the memories that should've gone to her. She blames herself, but Giles puts the kibosh on that.
Page 02: Giles tells the others that there were rare times in the past that a male did get the Slayer powers. But men can't hold onto them, because the weight of the legacy and all of those memories break their minds. The only reason Harth has been able to hold them is probably because he's soulless.
Giles calls for an ally withdrawal, but Angel, Spike and Illyria refuse.
Illyria targets The Mayor, while Spike and Angel go for Harth to get him through a Dawn portal to hell as with the original plan, but with the two of them taking Buffy's place. Harth laughs this threat off.
Commentary: I liked that Giles did mention that guys could have Slayer powers, as they did that with Billy -- or something like it. I'm still very confused by Billy the Vampire Slayer. But it does leave a dangle behind: Does this mean that Billy's powers were only temporarily given due to the wonky Slayer line/vampire powers shenanigans ... or has Billy lost it.
It's annoying that the entire thread was dropped as it is, as Buffy went from mentoring Billy to never mentioning him again and now Giles' information just adds to the dangler.
Page 03: Willow tells Dawn they need to open the portal now, even though Will herself is weak. Dawn does so, but can't hold it long, and Willow's attempts to push the demons into the portal go nowhere, because she hasn't recovered sufficiently from the uber-Slayer spell.
Commentary: I thought maybe our team was going to retreat, and Willow with Giles was going to callback the Unity spell again to force the First Slayer into the fight by recreating Combo-Buffy... but no. It would've been a nice little tidbit if it had been mentioned, though.
Page 04: Harth easily tosses the attacking Angel and Spike to the side, as he continues gloating to Wilkins over the power boost. He tells The Ex-Mayor that he sees the appeal in giving up his humanity for full demon powers, now.
Angel tells the others that Dawn's powers are holding open the Portal. If they bum rush, they should be able to get the demons into Hell and then he, Spike, Buffy and Illyria can all be the backstop on the otherside while Dawn closes the gate behind them.
Commentary: That would be one helluva an ending, I have to admit. But I don't see that being the last panel of the last page.
Page 05: Illyria tosses Spike aside suddenly, grabs Angel to lay a kiss on him, and then tosses him aside as well. She tells Angel not to follow her into hell, before she starts glowing with her own mystic power up.
Page 06: It turns out with the Hellgate opened, Illyria can draw on its energies through the gate. Illyria goes from humanoid to her actual god-form. The demons freak a bit about having to face an Old One not restrained by being trapped in human form, but another reminds them they have her outnumbered.
That doesn't actually make a difference. Illyria's god-form has more than enough power (and tentacles) to grab the demon Lords and drag them into Dawn's portal with her.
Page 07: Illyria tells Dawn to close the portal, and wishes everyone a farewell. Something that Angel is not okay with. He shouts at Dawn that she has to re-open it, but Dawn's tapped out and needs to rest.
Xan tells Dawn to retreat, and points out that the normal demons are still there and still trying to kill them.
Commentary: I liked this. I liked Illyria being put to good use to take Buffy's place. It fully makes sense that she'd be able to do so, and I liked that the BTVS title isn't shirking the hero moments for Angel's characters. Sharing the wealth, so to speak.
I've not been onboard for the Illyria/Angel whatever-it-is, so I'm just as happy to have that relationship end with her staying in Hell to keep the demons away from the gate. And as an Old One, she has more chances of doing so than one lone Buffy would've.
It's a good resolution for that part of the prophecy.
Page 08: Mayor Wilkins offers to Harth that the "Buffy not going to hell" wasn't ideal, but that it still worked out okay. And with the demon Lords whisked away, there is a lot less they have to share of their glorious future.
But the Mayor doesn't know just how evil and possibly-mad Harth is. The Slayer-powered vampire tells The Mayor he's made a good point about not having to share power -- and uses that Scythe to behead the not-suspicious-enough Mayor.
Harth shouts at the decapitated head that the future is his, and he's not about to share it with anyone!
Harth goes on to rant at the Mayor's head that with the powers coursing through him, he can wipe out Buffy's freinds all on his lonesome. Buffy wants to test that theory, and gives him a round house kick to his smarmy face.
Commentary: Uh. Okay. It felt a bit cheap to have Harth slay The Mayor, instead of giving Faith her moment and it did feel a bit too fast and anti-climactic after the bother of bringing Wilkins back for this arc. But, okay. I didn't not like it.
And you can't go wrong with a Buffy kick to shut a bad guy rant up.
Page 09: Buffy and Mel double team Harth, but his strength is just too much. As he begins to strangle Buffy to death, after once again brushing aside his sister, he rants that he doesn't need to return to the future to rule. He's invicible now, and will simply stay and shape that future to his liking as an immortal, ultimate ruler.
He goes to bite into Buffy and drain her to death, but then grunts in pain... and confusion.
Page 10: Harth whimpers a 'no' as he drops Buffy, and then falls to his knees.
Having the Slayer memories was one thing, but now he's getting other sensations due to the uber-Slayer-power up. In addition to the memories, Harth is overcome by the feelings attached to those memories. All of those feelings at once.
Page 11: As Buffy realizes what is happening to him, Melaka urges Buffy to finish it. She snatches up her brother in a hold, and allows Buffy to stake Harth with the pointy end of the Scythe, urging her to set them all free of the soulless thing.
Commentary: I liked this, but I would've liked it more if Melaka or Erin had unexpectedly grabbed the dropped Scythe and staked Harth, instead.
I mean, it's Buffy's comic, so I get it. But I think it would've been more impactful if it had been a Fray to have taken the action to actually dust him, rather than the more passive holding him down. In fact, it should've been Mel holding Harth, and Erin staking him for good.
Page 12: Harth goes into a slow-motion ash, as the Slayer power tries to hold him together. Upon his final disintegration though, Mel is the next to rear up in shock.
Page 13: With Harth's death, Melaka is suddenly assaulted with all of the Slayer memories that had been denied her.
Erin joins her sister, wondering what happened to their future with things so changed, now.
From the cleanup battle still taking place, Faith excitedly shouts to Buffy that she's got her power back.
Page 14: A few days later, and Mel and Erin decide to go back to when they should be, despite Buffy offering them to stay in the present. Dawn and Wills are able to open a portal through spacetime, but Willow warns that they can't be sure of the final destination without Illyria's time manipulation to hold it steady.
Erin points out that the Fray sisters never take the easy way. The two Frays enter the portal.
Only to end up in a bright, shiny future Haddyn... definitely not their original future.
Commentary: At first, it felt like we didn't need all of this 'wrap up' of the arc. Especially since it is taking so many pages, cutting short the fight against uber-Harth. But then I remembered again that this is the FINAL arc. So, even though I'm still feeling this is largely anti-climactic, I get it. I welcome it. It's fine.
Page 15: In the new future, Erin and Mel find Gunther, but he doesn't recognize them and has them escorted out by telling them that if this is a law enforcement sting, they're being exceedingly clumsy about it.
So Gunther still exists via extreme body modification, and there is still crime, but Haddyn isn't filled with dark shadows, dank shanty towns and probably not lurks. Which leaves Erin and Mel to figure out how they survive in a world not their own, with nobody knowing who they are, and without Mel's primary purpose as a Slayer existing.
From off panel a voice says, "Sister Fray?" shyly.
Page 16: And we see a group of young women. Slayers. They mention that Mel showed up just where the Watcher files predicted, offering that lurks may actually not be gone, but Giles and Andrew did reconstitute a healthy and strong Watchers Council. And with Illyria having gone to hell, instead of Buffy the Slayer line continued unabated as well.
The new Slayers tell Mel, Erin and Gates that while it's true that nobody knows them because they're not in their future, due to the Watchers Files, they all know how much Melaka gave up to save them in the past. And they're ready to help them build a family in the new now.
Page 17: In present day, two weeks after Mel, Erin and Gates left, Buffy and Faith are in San Francisco.
And their wearing Police Uniforms!! [Yes, Faith is wearing a police uniform!]
Through exposition, we find out Buffy and Faith are going through the academy to become officers in the Supernatural Division of the local PD. They get picked up by Xan who calls them 'angels' and offers that he's totally going to be Charlie and not Bosley, while also complaining mildly that Dawn should be the third angel, but she's insisting on going back to school.
Page 18: A short time later, everyone has gathered at Xander and Dawn's for a congrats party for Buffy & Faith.
Willow tells Dawn that she's working on a new curriculum at the Center to guide its work toward avoiding the problems she saw in the Fray future. In the background, we confirm that Giles and Andrew are working together on re-establishing a Watchers Council to help the Slayers.
Upstairs, Buffy finds Spike deep in thought. She checks that he's doing okay. Spike assures her that he is, but offers that she should check on Angel. Spike tried to goad him into a fight, and it went nowhere, and that's pretty much his entire repertoire when it comes to vampire therapy.
Buffy acknowledges that she was planning on talking to him, but wanted to make sure that she and Spike were still good, first.
Page 19: Buffy and Spike share a hug, promising to always be there with one another. [So, another Spuffy tease?]
Commentary: Yeah. I don't have much commentary. We're seeing things confirmed that we've guessed from the new future, and this is all and extended wrap up scene to let us know that our characters are being left in a good place as we say goodbye.
It's all decent, but not riveting. I really wouldn't have minded shortening the "everyone is happy" panels in order to have made the actual battle to stop Harth more invigorating and exciting. And, other than Illyria's absence for an unspecified period of time [which may or may not be calling to IDW's Angel title where she also disappeared at some point, only to meet Angel in the possible-future of Wolfram & Hart being on top], I do think we should've gotten at least two character deaths to make the win over Harth more epic.
But they obvs wanted to leave us all with a feel-good ending. Which, fine.
Page 20: Buffy next joins Angel, where he's sitting alone in the dark in one of the rooms. Buffy lets Angel know that they're all ready to go in after Illyria at any time, but he points out that she asked them not to. Angel tells Buffy that Illyria knew that it was too dangerous to re-open the Portal, and risk allowing the demons to rush back into their world. He offers that Illyria wants enough time to kill as many of them as possible, but he's worried about her.
Buffy guesses he's afraid she'll get killed, but he's more worried that by the time they do go in after her, she'll want to stay there. But he also offers that neither of them will die of old age, so he can wait to face that danger until later.
She asks him after his plans, and he asks if she'd mind him sticking around for awhile. She poo-poos that she'd ever mind having the people she loves around. [But definitely not in a Bangel way, thankfully.]
Commentary: I think I'd have preferred if he'd planned to go back to Los Angeles to rebuild Angel Investigations with Connor and Gunn, maybe giving a not-legal-problem reference to IDW's Watcher character - Laura Weathermill and Anne. It would've been a nice callback.
Page 21: Angel and Buffy return downstairs, with night fallen, so the vampires can enjoy the yard party in progress.
Buffy mulls what her plans are going to be, now that they know of the future they need to make better, but also acknowledging that things may be quiet for awhile with so many big demons having been recently beaten by Team Slayer.
She thinks that, "The trouble with changing the world is..."
Page 22: "... worth it."
As she gazes on Willow and Faith smiling over their conversation. Dawn snuggling up to Xan at the grill, with Joyce in her arms. And Andrew and Giles playing Scrabble, with all of the words on the board being related to Sunnydale.
Commentary: And that, circling back around to Buffy S8's beginning but much more hopeful now was perfect.
The Good: I really liked the initial battle with uber-Harth, and really liked the solution of using Illyria in Buffy's place to fulfill The Reckoning. It was also nice that they had Illyria go to hell as herself, in her true form.
I also enjoyed Harth turning on the Mayor, for his being far too trusting.
I do like that dystopia-Haddyn has been avoided, for a more hopeful future for the Fray sisters. And I'm very much on board with Giles and Andrew making things better also, by reconstituting the Council in their own image as a far more supportive environment for the Slayers in future.
Buffy returning to police work, and bringing Faith along with her, is hilarious.
Buffy's returning to "The trouble with changing the world..." for the very last page was completely, awesomely right. Loved that.
The Bad: Nuthin' in this section.
Other Thoughts: I did find the past-Slayer emotions hitting Harth just as he all but won to be a little too convenient. And I do have those issues with Faith not getting to slay Wilkins, and Erin and Mel not being the team to slay Harth.
I do have a small issue with the pacing and the number of pages we spend on the 'aftermath' of Harth's defeat, instead of on the battle to defeat him. Pretty much the Spike/Buffy rehash and the Buffy/Angel scenes I could've done without to make the big fight more intense and costly to win.
The Score: After the intensity of the previous issue, this one suffers in comparison. Even though they needed to wrap up the whole of BTVS and by extension AtS, the everyone ending in a happy place still felt a little dragged out and anti-climactic. It was a pretty good wrap up for everything, but I'm left with feeling like it was unbalanced, with too little excitement in the first half and too many dialogy pages after Harth is stopped.
3.75 out of 5 stars