With Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #20, writer Andrew Chambliss brings us one step closer to the climax of the current season and starts to ramp up the tension, excitement, and, of course, that subtle feeling of dread that accompanies many Whedon finales. Readers can’t know which beloved characters may suffer, be irreparably changed, or even be taken from us, but if there’s anything we can count on, it’s the fact that there are always consequences. Currently, it’s looking like those consequences may be awaiting one of the core Scoobies who, due to recent events, is being forced to deal with some very old insecurities.
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #20:
This issue opens with a flashback to the moments following Giles’ death in the Seed chamber. After the destruction of the Seed, Xander’s anger causes him to furiously beat Angel’s face to a bloody pulp and almost kill the vampire, before Buffy stops her friend, stating that she “can’t lose anybody else,” including Xander.
Meanwhile, Xander is feeling useless as he watches Dawn continue to slip away. He refuses to talk to Buffy, blaming her for Dawn’s condition. Buffy tries to convince him to work with her and Andrew on saving Dawn, but Xander stubbornly exits the scene, determined to find a way to save his girlfriend.
After some brooding that could give Angel a run for the money, Xander finds himself suddenly transported to a mysterious location where he finds himself face to face with the rogue slayer Simone and her partner-in-chaos, The Siphon (still riding high on Illyria’s stolen powers).
Severin and Simone spill their plan to Xander – a plan to travel back in time and stop Twilight before the space frak, thus preventing a magic-less Earth – and attempt to enlist him to help them acquire the power source Severin needs to pull off such an ambitious mission.
While waiting for Xander to show up, Buffy is overjoyed when Willow returns, bringing with her a friendly face, a brand new scythe, and some snazzy, new magical energy that might even be the key to saving Dawn.
Meanwhile, Severin and Simone continue to sway Xander to the side by explaining the similarities between Severin and Xander, the fact that he won’t remember anything, and that even Buffy will be happier if they succeed. Determined to finally shake his “watcher” status, Xander states that he’s in.
The flashback to the Seed chamber. I really can’t believe how much flashbacks have been used successfully in Buffy: Season 9 and Angel & Faith, but kudos to the writers! Xander’s physical attack on Angel feels like a piece that’s been missing for a while in regards to the Twilight/Seed arc in Season 8, and this quick revisit to that horrible event that took Giles away from us feels cathartic to the extreme.
Karl Moline’s artwork, of course. It’s beautiful, as always, and Moline excels with this issue. His talented hands make Xander’s attack on Angel as brutal as necessary, Willow’s return as touching as it should be, and utterly nails Andrew’s look and body language! Karl Moline can be truly described as the “fill-in artist” that fans can’t wait to fill-in for their book’s regular talent.
The return of Willow! Given Willow’s path this season and her obsession with restoring magic, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about her return to the Scooby gang (or if that would even end up happening). That said, I was incredibly, and unexpectedly, touched by Willow and Buffy’s reunion. Props must be given to both Chambliss and Moline for perfectly executing this scene. It’s a testament to both the creative team’s talents and the characters of Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg that, after all this time, another reunion between these two friends can still be such a powerful moment.
Simone and Severin’s plan . . . unfortunately. I hate to admit it, but their plan seems, at the very least, as solid as the monk’s plan to turn The Key into the Slayer’s sister or Angel’s plan to give Connor a new life by erasing his presence from everyone’s memories. Sure, there were hiccups in those efforts as well, but, ultimately, Connor got a new, and better, life and Buffy got a sister she loves as a true sibling. Does this mean that Simone and Severin might have the right idea? Normally, I would say Xander should know better than to side with the black hats, but these days, with all the Scooby Gang has been through, who knows what the right decision is.
Wait, Buffy has a scar? I thought healing Buffy’s scar was a great way to show off Willow’s magic, but honestly, I never realized she had gotten a scar. Time to go and flip though those back issues . . .
Xander channeling his inner Anakin. While I don’t think Xander’s building anger is bad in the storytelling sense (it’s dramatic gold), I can’t see this ending well for our favorite one-eyed Scoobie. As far as the Whedonverse goes, anger doesn’t tend to be represented as an emotion that takes you anywhere but down to your own personal Hell. Let’s just hope Xander isn’t consumed by this emotion to the point where he ends up limbless and on fire as he screams, “I hate you,” at his best friends.
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is…)
Fan reaction for this issue seems to be mostly positive. The book also got a good review from Light_Watcher.
Aren’t you a little short for a comic book? While I personally didn’t feel this way, a number of readers commented on how this issue felt shorter than the previous ones. Anyone suspect dark magic as the culprit?
So, that’s where catatonic Angel’s bloody mug came from . . . A sharp-witted Whedonesque commenter pointed out that the Seed chamber flashback finally explained why Angel had blood on his face while sitting catatonic in Giles’ flat. I had never even considered this, but I definitely appreciated the attention to detail.
That’s all for now, Scoobies. While you’re waiting for my next review, don’t use up all your magic in one place!
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
If you’re craving more goodies from the Whedon comic-verse to feed you addiction, then don’t miss my “Comic Patrol” posts every Friday at www.whedonopolis.com! “Comic Patrol” is a regular weekly feature pointing out articles, previews, and tidbits relating to the Whedon comic-verse, and it’s hosted by your friendly neighborhood Comic Book Slayer! I’ll see you there, comic book sniffers!