Issue 5 of 5
Writers: Jordie Bellaire & Jeremy Lambert, Artwork: Eleonora Carlini & Cris Peter, Lettering: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Vanesa R. Del Rey
Page 01: Deep in the Hellmouth, Buffy comes face to false-face with the Hellmother - who is currently inhabiting her Throne-King/minion. She tells Buffy the usual spiel re: you can't win, I'm the awesomest, etc.
[It was confusingly handled, but I'm going with the theory that King Orc-pire is the physical fist for the Hellmother's disembodied power. And as of the last scene in issue 4, that she is now possessing the Throne-King.]
Buffy tells 'her' to learn when to shut up, as she gives her a fist to the face.
Page 02: Buffy rages at Her that she's gotten sick of her twisting people and preying on their insecurities. She's basically had enough of the whole thing, so invites Her to dance. The Slayer weaves and jumps around, delivering some more solid hits, though it doesn't seem to be putting off the Hellmother any.
Page 03: During an attempted punch, her wrist gets grabbed by the Orc-pire's fist, and Hellmother throws Buffy across the cavern. Buffy is stunned after hitting the cave wall. As Hellmother readies to pummel Buffy while she's down, a voice from behind Her shouts, "Hey, thief!"
This turns out to be Drusilla! She clobbers the Orc-pire's back of the head with a wooden spoon provided by Augie. Dru shouts that the Hellmother stole her destiny, and she's ticked off.
The Hellmother turns in their direction, berating the pair as "the runt and the fool".
Commentary: I like that Dru has her own reasons for a bit of revenge, that puts her on Buffy's side in this. But I keep wondering where Angel is at, and why he wasn't made more of a factor in this battle. It feels off. When we last saw him, Angel was fighting off a possession attempt by the Hellmother, so it's weird that we haven't found out about what is happening to him. I wish that he'd been included as at Orc-pire's side, under the Hellmother's control so Buffy was clearly outpowered, before Dru and Augie's intervention.
Page 04: [In a really weird panel] Hellmother mutates Orc-pire's arm into a ... uh... stabby, elongated arm-sword(!?!). She stabs Buffy and then tosses her impaled body at Dru and Augie, knocking the two interloper's off their feet.
The Hellmother tells Drusilla that her part in all of this is finished, and as Dru fearfully shouts, she is picked up and thrown into the abyssal lake of doom. Hellmother then calls out to the dead within the Hellmouth to re-rise and join Her in marching to the surface world.
Commentary: Wow. First Jordie killed Xander Harris, and now it appears that Dru has been wiped away, as well!
I'm liking the idea of this, so I'm cautiously optimistic that status quos will continue to be broken. But if they continue to wipe the slate of characters, they're going to need interesting and fleshed out new characters to fill the void, eventually. And judging by Rose, that isn't a strength.
Page 05: As demons begin congregating around them, Hellmother berates Augie for trying to betray Her, calling him pitiful and letting him know that his days are done. She then tells Buffy that with a flick of Orc-pire's wrist, her blood will be hers, and her defeat will be complete. As consolation, She tells Buffy that at least a part of her will live on always, though her blood will be the only part that does. She mockingly comforts Buffy that at least she'll not be alone.
From out of the darkness, though, a new voice says that Buffy never was.
Page 06: Coming to the rescue is the She-Squad: Kendra, Anya, Willow, Rose and Cordelia! They ride in on Camazotz, there to fight with The Slayer - as is his fate.
Commentary: Okay, I loved this. But, I think I'd have kept Cordy home and had Jenny in her place. Cordelia isn't a fighter, and at least Jenny has some access to magic and an apparent rapport with the giant bat. Come to think of it, Rose shouldn't be here either, really, but I can see her insisting so that she can watch Willow's back.
Page 07: Hellmother is of course, unimpressed and promises that they've only hastened their own demises by coming there.
Buffy warns Willow that Angel has been possessed by the Hellmother, and she's not sure how to get to the Big Evil without killing him. Anya hands over a large sword from her stash to Buffy to go on the offensive, and to cover Willow's magick-works.
Commentary: Oh, wait, wait, wait! Lemmee get this straight. So, our Orc-pire is - in fact - actually Angel. But he's been morphed to look like some rando by Hellmother for what-reason-now?! I-I don't understand this choice!!
Dammit. So every commentary and scene description re: Throne-King/Orc-pire is now Possessed-Angel? G'dDammit! This writing is so effin' confusing! And it's stupid! Why wouldn't Angel just be kept looking like Angel, so we would know whose body Buffy has been fighting. In fact, this was the PERFECT place to have Angelus' fully vamped-out mug taking center stage! Why the f* are we seeing long, slim blond guy, if this is Angel's body we're watching?!
Arrrggghhh. Okay. Okay, not the biggest of deals - so it's Angel possessed by Hellmother so his missing in action is clear. Moving on....
[Stupid fkkin' artwork decisions.]
Page 08: While Willow starts a power-up to fight off Angel's possession, the gang spring into action to give her space. Cordelia wildly laughs as she bo-staffs demons to the head, convinced that she's unconscious somewhere from a bump on the head, and this is all a wild dream.
Page 09: In the meantime, Augie and Camazotz provide air cover and diving runs on the hoarde. Kendra teams up with Buffy to keep the Hellmother in Angel's body-looking like Orc-pire offbalance.
Page 10: Despite a good effort, the flow of the fight draws Kendra off, which leaves Buffy to face the Hellmother alone, again. She finds herself quickly overwhelmed by Her strength and is knocked to the cave floor. Buffy tries to hold her sword up as a brace against the attack, but the Hellmother easily grabs the sword blade and snaps it off, slapping the remainder out of Buffy's grip.
The Hellmother is filled with glee, now, also because she realizes that Kendra is also The Slayer. She gloats to Buffy that she has two bites at the apple. Buffy is of course completely confused by this, but thankfully despite a raging battle, Kendra is able to fill her in on the basics of being called due to Buffy's descent into the Hellmouth. Kendra promises a full debriefing later.
But that later is in doubt. The Hellmother, no longer needing to necessarily feed on Buffy's blood since there is another Slayer available, rears up to stab viciously at the fallen Slayer with the sword blade snapped off.
In the meantime, Willow warns Rose that the Hellmother is somehow fighting off her de-possession spell.
Page 11: Thankfully, Camazotz puts the Slayers' lives above everything else and appears suddenly. An arm block has the sword blade jab through him, rather than Buffy.
Augie shouts at Camazotz to use a wing strike to knock the Hellmother away from Buffy and them.
Buffy shouts to Willow that it has to be now, and tells her to draw on the Hellmouth's energy to finish the job. Will starts to do so, and shouts back that she sees the Hellmother, and she can see Angel fighting her off, too!
Together, she and Angel are able to force the Hellmother out of Angel's body.
Commentary: Except for the sudden disappearance of Jenny, and the odd inclusion of Cordelia, and the whole-Angel confusion, I did really like these frenetic battle scenes. I like that Buffy clearly couldn't do this by herself, as it very strongly reflects on the original's emphasis on the Scooby Gang as critical to Buffy's wellbeing. I'm glad to see that wasn't being ditched to make it only about The Slayer(s) doing all of the heavy lifting.
What I don't really like though, is Willow. Her power-up was sudden, and inexplicable. It's just another part of the horrible shortcuts that have been taken in the writing for the plot over character development since the first issue.
Page 12: With the Hellmother separated from Angel, we see her as a crone (and she does look vaguely like the Orc-pire, so apparently Throne-King was also only a body, and the whole time it was her when I thought it was a separate entity on her side; I'm starting to think that maybe I'm the problem, here). She tells Willow that she'll burn for interfering.
Before She has a chance to strike Willow down, Buffy races at her levitating form, and jump-tackles her out of the air.
Page 13: Buffy's trajectory takes her and Her out over the lake of doom! There are shouts of alarm as both fall toward the entrapping waters.
Thankfully for one of them, Camazotz is again on the job. He grabs Buffy out of mid-air, saving her from joining her alternate counterpart.
Page 14: With Buffy rescued, the gang watch as Hellmother is pulled down into the lake of doom by both Drusilla and alternate-Buffy working together to hold her down.
Page 15: With the threat passed, attention turns to Angel, now looking like himself. He tells Buffy that he feels like he's eaten a glass bottle and worries that the blood he feels in his system is hers. She assures him that he hasn't bitten any people. Camazotz isn't pleased to see a vampire on the ground, un-ashed. He councils Buffy to kill it. But Anya tells them that Angel's journey isn't done, yet.
In the meantime, Buffy - not realizing the chaos above, asks after Xander. Willow is left unable to speak.
Commentary: I liked this little touch, too. I like Buffy just assuming that Xander would be there fighting with them, and I like the nod to the fact that Buffy wouldn't have any way of knowing that all those menfolk got themselves possessed.
Page 16: Sometime later, Buffy, Giles and Willow are trying to deal with the aftermath of everything that happened. Giles, in particular, is taking on the guilt of not realizing that something wrong was happening to himself and Robin before it could take control of him, and for the fact that he wasn't able to help Willow and it cost Xander his life.
Buffy is also dealing with the guilt of that loss, blaming herself for not stopping the crisis sooner - even as she admits that the Hellmother was some toxic, and powerful Other. She thanks Wills for the big save in the Hellmouth, but Willow blows it off as beginner's luck, and is folded in on herself over Xan having to die to save her from her foray into dark magick.
Page 17: Rupert tells Buffy that he'll never forgive himself for not protecting her, and breaks down. While Buffy tries to comfort him, Willow flees the library, slamming the door on her way out.
Page 18: Buffy joins Willow in the hallway at Xander's locker, where she stares at a picture of the two of them he kept there. Buffy again tries some comfort, but Willow interrupts her to tell her that she can't stay in Sunnydale after what has happened.
Page 19: Buffy tries to tell Wills they can get through this together, but Willow tells her that she had applied months earlier for a study abroad program. She recently received the acceptance, and now she's decided to go. She leaves the impression that she's not sure she'll be back. She leaves Buffy standing in the hallway, with the photo of her and Xander laughing together over porn [well, I'm assuming there] on his tablet.
Commentary: I like all of this. I like the serious repercussions of the Hellmouth having opened. I like the fracturing of the relationships around Buffy due to what happened. I love that Xander and Dru are both dead. I really, really want that to be permanent... don't cheapen this by having Willow 'rescue' Xander. Let dead mean dead in this case. I like the deep damage to Rupert over his part in not being resistent to his takeover by the Hellmother.
All of this follow-up is good stuff.
Page 20: With Buffy alone in the hallway, it's her turn to break down into tears over what has been lost.
Commentary: I was glad to have this scene, too. I had been thinking that Buffy seemed oddly unaffected by Xander's death (even though I have to admit that I haven't felt this close relationship between Buffy/Xander or Buffy/Willow since everything just kind of happened too quickly overall, and we didn't get the slow build of characterization that we should've gotten), so I appreciate this image, showing that she was affected - but she's been busy trying to prop up her friends.
Page 21: Sometime later, Rupert drops in on Anyanka's secret magick doodads shop. They banter, and we find out that Anya was a Watcher at some point in the distant past, before she gave it up for demonhood and her oracleness and her collecting priceless relics.
The point of this though, is that Giles wants to seek her advice.
Page 22: Rupert is still reeling from feeling so unprepared for the Hellmouth's opening and its activation. He asks Anya if it has been closed for good, or if it could be opened a second time.
Anya shows him an "almanac" of sorts, charting everything around the Hellmouth's influence. To Giles' amazement, she retorts that she's spent a lot of time, research, magic and her open line to the Powers That Be to discover and maintain such a complete picture.
Page 23: Giles recognizes that Anya's maps include other dimensions touching on the Hellmouth, and that their Hellmouth isn't the only one, as alternate versions are spread across multiple realities, all touching on one another.
Giles despairs at the thought that even two Slayers may not be enough to keep the danger at bay. But Anya seems unworried, overall. Her concern is not the future opening of Hellmouths, but of the past coming back to haunt the present.
She warns Rupert Giles that there are more than two Slayers, and that the Slayer before Buffy didn't pass on as thoroughly as he thought.
Commentary: Hmmmm. I'm not liking this tease, actually. I want to believe that this is talking about Mara, but that seems to Angel-focused for Buffy's title - but even if it is, I don't like so many Slayers now coming into existence.
The fact that there are two already should be a major deal with wide ranging implications. But now, we've had three if you include alternate-Buffy and now we're being hinted at that there is another one? [Not to mention, the jury is still out on if Angelus' turning of Mara was due to her being the Slayer as well. If so, she's a vampire version of The Slayer.]
Page 24: Elsewhere/Time: Buffy is behind a bar at a place called 'Light Beers Away'. She's serving her apparent friend, the only customer, and complaining about how he never tips.
Page 25: This proves to be Xander. He offers to buy her a drink, but she declines, asking for food instead as she's closing up for the night.
As they're walking toward a diner, though, they're both attacked by a shirtless guy with a weird face and bizarrely pointed ears. The vampire tells Buffy she should get a real man who can protect her.
From off-panel comes a booted foot, kicking the attacking vampire in the jaw. A voice says, "I think a woman will do just fine."
Page 26: The vampire is quickly staked, and as he ashes away on the sidewalk, we see our alternate-Slayer is Willow. She calls Xan and Buffy cute together.
Commentary: Uh. Okay. The point of this?
Maybe a teaser for the upcoming Willow series? Maybe she'll be dimension hopping? I don't know, but this must be significant to justify the extra pages added.
The Good: I liked all of the fight scenes in this one. Including, Drusilla's not only being defeated, but apparently being lost in the lake of doom for eternity.
I also liked that it was the well-established lake of doom that led to the ultimate victory for Buffy and crew against the Hellmother.
I liked the emotional aftermath shown with Giles and Willow regarding his being possessed and both of them feeling responsible for Xander's death.
The Bad: I really disliked the confusion around the Hellmother's taking possession of Angel's body and the way it looked nothing like him, so we couldn't tell that it was him. In fact, I'd love to know how Buffy knew that it was Angel's body attacking her.
Other Thoughts: I find it really weird that Jenny found, woke up and led Camazotz... and now she's just vanished from the narrative completely between issues. Where the hell is she? And why is Cordelia flying into Hell to fight demons?
I'm really ambiguous about Anya introducing another Slayer for a trifecta (and possibly a fourth if Mara in Boom!Angel is supposed to be a Slayer, and isn't the one showing up in Buffy).
I didn't like the post-teaser Willow the Vampire Slayer segment. I wish that had been pushed off to some other issue, so we could've really dealt with Eric, Joyce and Robin's emotional wreckage, too. They're, along with Jenny, were completely left out. In fact, we could've started the next issue with Giles visiting Anyanka in her shop and had this one completely focused on checking in on our characters' responses to the Hellmouth aftermath.
The Score: I pretty much loved the climactic battle, but everything surrounding it felt off or confusing or focused on the wrong things.
3.75 out of 5