Writers: Jordie Bellaire & Jeremy Lambert, Artwork: Eleonora Carlini & Cris Peter, Lettering: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Jenny Frison
Page 01: We open on Sunnydale at night, looking at the Welcome sign.
Flash to a report being just started by Rose, "The FIRST evil monarch of the".
Flash to a steaming symbol somewhere in Sunnydale.
Over all is a VO: There was no place for me in the world. There were evils far greater than I. But none could match my hunger. So I fed...
Page 02: VO continues to talk about how it fed until it did become greater. A great feast of humanity's worst fears and it's greatest hours.
Over this is Drusilla & Spike.
Page 03: VO says it will finally have a place to call its own, and it will devour all within.
We see flashes of humanity, but also flashes of some of the bad stuff that recently happened with Angel.
Page 04: We join Buffy & Angel as they stand before Drusilla. Dru calls Angel by his old name, which Buffy at first misinterprets as "I'm jealous", before realizing she's calling new recent ally, "Angelus".
Dru tells Angelus that everything was a lie. She warns that the Hellmother has been waiting for The Slayer and his arrival.
Angel tells Buffy they need to free Dru, but she's itching to just stake her.
Page 05: Dru tries to tell Angelus that Buffy doesn't know the situation, but Buffy tells her that she failed to kill Xander and they saved him from becoming like her. Dru repeats what random vampire told Xander: That she doubts Xan's ability to remain in the half-state they've induced.
But that isn't really what Dru wants to talk about, she wants Buffy to know that Angel stood there that night, and watched what was happening without intervening.
Buffy turns around on Angel, wanting to know if this is true. Angel tried to explain that he didn't know what he was seeing (I call bullshit), but that he needs to trust her now that he's a friend. Buffy calls him a liar, and points out that he doesn't even know her.
Drusilla offers that Angelus didn't tell her that he was her friend, specifically. In the meantime, the chains binding Dru start cracking free of the wall.
Commentary: I don't know. Again, I always get the sense that odd tangents in conversations keep happening with Jordie's writing. It's just weird the way things get scripted.
I like that Angel's not intervening in saving Xander has come to light. But how that topic managed to get brought up at all by Buffy is really awkward. And it seems like a very weird time and place to bother bringing up Xan to Dru at all for any reason.
But, I do like this tension between Buffy and Angel being hightened, as I continue to hope that we'll skip out on the Bangel angst this time around. We have Buffy-prime for all of those needs.
Page 06: The chains cracking from the wall wasn't Dru breaking free, though. It was actually the wall itself cracking to reveal a giant pair of clawed hands.
A voice booms through the cavern, identifying that The Blood and The Vessel have arrived.
Page 07: Buffy shouts at Angel to move, as the flooring underneath their feet cracks apart, with lava flowing just underneath. The slabs of broken stone tilt, threatening to plunge either or both of them into a flash-fry death.
(Whether that would be a good thing for The Hellmother isn't specified. If not, she should be more careful with her power-tantrums.)
Page 08 & 09: A vague humanoid shape destroys all around it, plunging Angel, Buffy and Drusilla down into a pit of mystic light, rather than a crispy instant death.
It rages on, "They will be broken again. Gutted Twisted Torn. They will tear the other apart, broken until their end, with their blood and bone..."
Page 10: ... "I will walk above."
Buffy comes to on the ground, with Drusilla nearby, recovering from her ordeal. There's no sign of Angel.
Dru warns Buffy that she's out of her depth in the Hellmouth. But offers it's as nice a place as any to die.
Buffy harshes back at Dru for being a glorified marionette doll to the Hellmother. She charges her, and uses one of the chains that had bound her to wrap around her throat.
Buffy offers to end this right now by killing Dru, but the vampire tells her that would only ensure she is trapped within, with the Hellmother, as her army ascends into the town above their heads.
Commentary: Okay, so I've been assuming that this is The First, but now I'm not sure about that. It's possible that this isn't the First Evil after all, and the Hellmother is something else completely. But I'm liking it, either way. I'm liking Drusilla's role as the Key, and I'm liking Buffy and Angel being the blood and the body.
It's still unclear which is going to play what role, but the writing for the Hellmother is interesting, and the artwork has been nicely complimenting the rambling.
Page 11: With Angel, he sees that he's alone. And his area of the Hellmouth isn't suffering the hellfire one could expect from what he'd just seen. This seems like a cool, serene place. With a "Hellmouth Hut".
Page 12: With Buffy, she and Dru are witness to a pantomime of what will happen to Sunnydale when the Hellmother walks above. Buffy at first tries to blame it on tricks by Dru, Ulfreth, the change-demon, but Drusilla tells her that this is a vision of Sunnydale's fate when the town is without its Slayer, and The Slayer is without her friends.
Dru points out that the men will not be as she knows them, but their strings will be pulled by the Mother, bringing out their misogynistic tendencies.
Something we've already seen under the influence of the cracked open Hellmouth in Giles and the boy, Luke.
Page 13: With the crazy around them, Buffy ends up freeing Dru. Drusilla questions it, and Buffy says that those she despises her and will probably end up staking her later, right now Angel thinks it best for her to be freed. And since Angel is the closest thing she has to a friend down here, she's will to trust him and then to figure out what happened with Xander and his not helping later on.
She tells Dru her primary mission is to stop the Hellmother, and she thought that was Dru. The vampire tells Buffy she had thought it would be, too.
With Buffy refraining from staking Drusilla, which implications were that this is why Buffy was led to Dru as part of the larger plan, the visions around them go on the attack against them, instead of each other.
Commentary: I like this dialog between Buffy and Dru, and I can buy the excuse not to just stake Dru now, so that's all good.
Page 14: With Angel, he goes to the Hellmouth Hut to find a small demon named Augie, stirring a pot of home cookin'. Angel explains to Augie that he's a little lost, after a giant attacked him. He asks straight up if Augie is going to try to take him out now.
The demon states that Angel smells like a vampire, and that makes him poor cooking material, so no, he won't.
Page 15: Augie invites Angel in to sit down and get his bearings. He tells Angel that in addition to being an extraordinary cook, he's also an Oracle. And he can see Angel's deepest desire to have him humanity restored to him.
He asks Angel why he's in the Hellmouth, and Angel explains its opening and his mission to close it.
Augie says that he was wondering where all of the demons were rushing off to. He's relieved to have the peace for a short time anyway. It'll give him time to heal from the last time they visited him to bully him around.
Angel expresses regret that he was hurt, which is enough for Augie to return to the topic of Angel's desires. Augie tells Angel that he's seen the vampire-to-human transformation done before, and can tell him how to go about it. But he won't like it.
Commentary: This. This is a good example of my issues with the writing. Augie just up and tells Angel about the vampire wanting to be human, which then introduces a whole new topic that has nothing to do with the Hellmouth, the Hellmother, finding Buffy, or closing the Hellmouth.
It's random. And it's just because we know from Buffyverse-prime that Angel wanted to be mortal again. It was brought up several times with the Shanshu. But this doesn't need to be addressed here. It's okay to not borrow from the prime-Buffy. And even if you liked that aspect of Angel, and wanted to play with it, WHY bring it up here and now during this arc, at this place in the Hellmouth plot??
Page 16: Back with Buffy, she and Drusilla retreat down a side corridor toward where Buffy saw Angel falling.
In the meantime, Buffy uses the chain and chunk of wall attached to it as a makeshift flail.
Dru asks what they're doing exactly, and Buffy replies that they're improvising.
Page 17: While Buffy is whipping at their attackers, taking on the form of her friends, Dru finds the small alcove of peace that Angel ended up in.
She ignores Buffy's shouting after her on where the corridor she's exploring leads, and catches the last bit of Augie's infodump on Angel's being able to reclaim his humanity.
Page 18: Augie reminds Angel that he was warned he wouldn't like what he'd have to do to get his heart's desire.
He offers Angel stew, but any more downtime is interrupted by the demonic creatures coming for he, Buffy and Dru.
Angel offers to fight them, to let Augie flee the scene.
Page 19: Angel starts melee combat, to allow Augie time enough to find a hiding place.
Page 20: Angel starts getting his ass beat, until he vamps out and goes on a counter-rampage.
Page 21: In the meantime, Buffy for the moment has beaten her opponents, when she hears Angel yell at getting hit in the face. She rushes to his aid.
Only to see him in full-on fang mode.
Page 22: Buffy stares at him wordlessly for a moment. Drusilla has vanished in the meantime.
Angel stumbles toward Buffy, hands covered in grue.
She glares at the vampire in front of her and warns him not to touch her.
Commentary: I liked this page for the artwork, and being in Angel's point of view and I like this point in the story being where Buffy finally sees that Angel has been a vampire this whole time.
I don't like Dru conveniently disappearing, especially since she seemed to have been too surrounded to slip off, but okay. I guess it was worth it to have this moment with only Buffy and Angel staring at one another.
The Good: I did enjoy the various pompous ramblings of the Hellmother. And her physical manifestation. And how the entire time, Drusilla's chains were connected to the fingers of Her, making her a literal puppet.
I did like the way that it was handled so that Buffy wouldn't just stake Dru now, and move on.
I really like the way that Buffy's finally seeing Angel is a vampire was handled.
The Bad: I won't put anything here.
Other Thoughts: The entire introduction of Angel's wanting to be human again, and how to do it was supremely awkward and out of left field. I'm keeping it out of The Bad, but it was close. I'd really like to see that Augie wasn't the nice, little demon he was portrayed as. The only way it makes sense as scripted, is Augie actually telling Angel any of this because he has to do something within the Hellmouth to get his wish, and it's ultimately leading him to fulfill the Hellmother's grand scheme, with Augie actually working for her.
Where did Drusilla suddenly go? And how did she slip away?
The Score: 3.75 out of 5 stars