Simone and Severin reach a spot in the Deeper Well where Sev thinks he can take all the magic, though he's losing his grip on his mind. Buffy and Willow leave the Council behind to stop Severin while they look for what they need to help Dawn. Back at Andrew's, Spike finds that his recordings about Dawn have vanished, and Dawn herself is now translucent; Buffy and Willow, meanwhile, have forgotten her name. Illyria and Koh rappel into the Well, despite Koh's concerns that Illyria is too weak to make it. Xander shakes his puny fist at the Buddha-esque demon left to keep him from going to 'help', but is interrupted by his cell ringing and Spike telling him to talk to Dawn before she's gone.
Severin senses the Council approaching while he's in the throes of power-vacuuming. He asks Simone to protect him, but she's gone, climbing upward to find "him" for a "reunion." Buffy is shocked when Willow starts glowing red from her heart, but Willow says it means they're getting closer to finding enough magic to save Buffy's sister, even enough magic for everyone. Xander's on the phone with Dawn, who doesn't remember him, but he swears Buffy will save her and that she's in his heart and he'll never stop fighting for her. She smiles, but then puts down the phone. Spike picks up again and tells Xander that Simone is building an army of Slayer-vampires.
Simone finds the tomb she was looking for. She cuts her hand and drips blood onto the gems on the case, and Illyria and Koh hear a roar that Illyria recognizes and fears. Buffy and Willow hear it too, but they're headed away from it anyway, and then Buffy trips on the open tomb. Willow sees the pattern of gems and says it means Maloker, the demon who sired the first vampires. They think that Simone let him out to slow down the Council. Buffy says they can handle it, but Willow insists that this is the Slayer's job, and that she'll save Dawn herself. Buffy is reluctant to trust her, both because she's glowing red and because last time she left she didn't say goodbye, but they reconcile and part ways.
The Council fights a giant bat-faced demon as Illyria and Koh run ahead in pursuit of Severin, who we then see is being overwhelmed by the power. Buffy hears something behind her, suspects Maloker, but it's Xander, who's come to warn her about Simone's plans. Buffy doesn't understand what the point of it is, but then they find Simone, passed out and bloody around the mouth. Buffy understands the real plan at once and swings the Scythe at Simone's body, but she jumps up, vamp-faced, and stops the Scythe, saying she doesn't need an army anymore.
After so long without any notable vampire enemies in a series called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", I thought I would be more excited about a Slayer transformed by the original source of the undead. Heck, even in summary it sounds pretty cool. Aside from the generalized complaints that most of us have about Season 9, I think the main thing stopping this particular element of the story from employing the imagination is that Simone is a crap villain. She's never been sympathetic from her earliest appearances, and any threat she's ever posed is impersonal and pedestrian. There's no awe at all in seeing her turned to a vampire, even a very powerful one.
Although, it does neatly cover up any inconsistency that the Fray future had regarding the number of zompires versus the traditional intelligent vampires present. It's likely enough that those sired by Simone will be the latter, so the strain won't be in much danger of dying off. Give me a little more of a Fray link and I'll like it more - still waiting for that four-armed chimp to show up, btw.
I thought this was a pretty good issue, actually. Everyone was there except for Anaheed and Scrappy-Doo - I mean, Billy - and all of their respective threads moved along at least a little bit. Dawn's thread, probably the least, but short of permanently harming her there isn't much they can do aside from heighten the intensity of her looming demise. I like the visible aspect of her diminishing reality, though I thought there was a missed opportunity in one scene for the phone to drop through her hand (too Kitty Pryde, maybe?). And sure, Xander's little speech was touching, although frankly, I don't believe it. When she's gone she's gone, and he's not going to have any idea that there's something he should be fighting for.
Regardless, that was the strongest part of the issue in terms of recalling the essence of the show. Why? Simple: Spike's phone displaying the word 'wanker' when he was talking to Xander. That, and the line "Emphasis on the hyphen." That, and Xander instantly coining the term 'slaypires' like he didn't have better things to think about - after all, he doesn't need to think about it, he's just the guy who coins the terms. His trauma-induced flailing was perhaps a bit overboard, though, and why has his betrayal been glossed over so quickly? I don't care about how soon we're supposed to forgive him, but it was interesting. His character doesn't seem to have undergone any noticeable transformation, and personally I found it a touch annoying that before he imparts his news to Buffy he makes sure to spread the blame around. And, okay, he got away from the Zen demon by punching him?! Please can something insane happen to him in the next issue?
Willow's development since her mini-series is admirably effective, and okay, maybe her talk with Buffy was actually the scene closest to the show. Whatever the consequences, I think Willow is right when she says that the fight with Maloker is where Buffy is needed; it's a wise observation and links right into her own understanding that the core of magic is where she herself is needed. Buffy hasn't had much time to get used to the new Willow and her concerns were valid, at least enough for them to be worth bringing up in the urgency of the moment, but ultimately we could all trust Willow when she said she knew her business and wouldn't let Buffy (us) down. Also, with them separated, who do we think she'll encounter down there? Willow vs. Severin? Eh? Eh?
Illyria and Eldre Koh are...a couple of characters. Yep, that's sure what they are.
The lettercol was fairly entertaining this time around. While I was doing all those mega-reviews and getting myself up to date, I didn't really stop to dwell on the fan reaction pages, but I always read them, and I think it's interesting to see themes emerge. This time it was two virtually identical letters raging about Spike's portrayal in the A&F crossover, and since those aren't the first of their kind, I can't shake my hunch that Allie is making a point in choosing them for publication. It's hard to speculate, but I think at the least, he wants us to know how very aware he is of the vitriol surrounding the Spike matter and how long it's been going on. Of the letters themselves, like I said, nothing particularly new, though at my second glance I started wondering why both felt it necessary to point to "Spike haters" like they're under every bed. Spuffy vs. B/A hardly even erupts in public squabbles anymore; I think those of us who are still interested in the comics are content to see what happens next without putting too much stock in what it means for canon. "Ardent Bangels" like myself aren't exactly toasting every time Spike says something stupid. (I'm not kidding about the two letters being virtually identical. Both of them described us as ardent. Maybe the only point Allie's making is that the fandom needs new vocabulary.)
Art! Thank goodness it's so improved since the last issue. There were a lot of panels and even complete pages that I actively enjoyed, especially the red-hued scenes with glowing Willow. Almost every character has a compelling close-up or a nifty pose, like Buffy's and Simone's acrobatics and Spike's drama-arms. There were also weak points, like Buffy's hair still being in that stick shift style (look, we've all said it looks like a penis, let's move on), but specifically I bid you look at this one, because it's funny: when the glow hits Willow it looks like it's coming directly from her right boob. It is a MAGICAL BOOB.
Okay, that leaves me once again caught up with comics (huh, is there a new one tomorrow? Figures...), though I'm getting the sense that I'm talking to an empty room. Did anyone else even read this? Talk to me!