Illyria urges Severin to contain himself until everyone gets out. Simone tosses Buffy to her friends; Koh and D'Hoffryn attack Simone while Buffy insists that she's going to get everyone out. Maloker grabs Buffy and Koh frees her, and the two of them fight one part of him while Willow, Xander, and D'Hoffryn fight another part, talking about how to get out. Willow spies the staff that was used by one of the Council, and tries to get to it with Xander's help. A few busy panels later, she's got it and Maloker is hanging by his fingertips. Severin gives in; he and Illyria are incinerated by the transfer of his magic into the Seed. As the light from it bursts upward, Maloker is incinerated too, but Willow is using the staff to levitate herself, Buffy, Xander, Koh, and D'Hoffryn up, just ahead of the blast. Simone is above them and she jumps out and grabs Buffy as the team goes by, but as Buffy falls she yells to Willow to not stop.
Buffy and Simone land in a crevice together. Simone has the Scythe and she nearly decapitates Buffy, but instead castrates her hair. Buffy invokes the power of monologue, condemning Simone, and it gives her a boost of strength that allows her to get the upper hand and stake Simone. We see the tree at the entrance of the Deeper Well explode. Willow's team flies out of the hole and lands safely on the grass, but when they see a hand and the Scythe at the edge, everyone thinks it's Simone rather than Buffy who's survived, until she climbs out (rather bloodied up). Willow informs her about Illyria and Severin sacrificing themselves to get magic back to the world, which we see in a panel of the lit-up Seed. They hurry back to San Francisco to save Dawn.
Willow performs her spell in Andrew's apartment(?), while Buffy, Xander, Koh, Spike, and Andrew watch and ask why Dawn hasn't materialized yet. Willow figures out that they need to use Buffy's blood, and after cutting her hand to get a few drops, the second try yields a big blast and the silhouette of Dawn's face, and they all think it's a permanent fail and start grieving her and then she does the classic suddenly-standing-behind-you-asking-what's-w
Buffy goes to talk to Xander on the roof, and he tells her he could tell that somehow, Dawn knew that he helped Simone. Buffy says that Dawn will understand, that it all worked out for the best, and (with tears in her eyes) that he got her sister back. Xander asks if she's forgiving him, and she says yes, and so will Dawn, but he has to forgive himself. Buffy leaves, Dawn comes out and asks what's wrong, and he hugs her and asks if that conversation can wait until tomorrow. Buffy asks Willow for the Vampyr book, wanting to reference it now that they've planted a new Seed, and finds it blank inside. She asks what they did down there, and the scene cuts to a zompire nest in Santa Rosita. A red-haired girl wakes as a vampire, but she can talk and think. She fights the zompires who sired her, then shows them that she's immune to sunlight and can turn into a bat. The end.
Imagine Xander is Andrew Chambliss. Imagine the fish sticks are the characters of Season Nine. Good, now I won't have to quote you any dialogue from this issue. Trust me, Xander was better at it.
I tend to waffle on how much I actually care about the quality of these comics but right now, to say I'm disappointed would be a massive understatement. There is nothing emotional about this issue, nothing thought-provoking, nothing humorous. Even the surprises were boring. And it's the series finale!
Simone, for starters, is a deflated balloon of a Big Bad. A single humanizing moment would have been enough to make us care about her being a Slayer, but it never came. Her entire gig as a truly powerful enemy lasted for the space of a single issue. The team-up with Severin could have made the two lukewarm threats into a single interesting one, but they had less screen chemistry together than Amy and Skinless Warren. Severin's sacrifice at the end meant nothing to me. His entire character was a MacGuffin, which would have been fine if we hadn't spent so much time on his dead girlfriend subplot. It occurs to me that if he could funnel all of his stolen power into the Seed, he probably could have moved some power around a bit earlier, and now I'm thinking up all kinds of wasted plot possibilities, which is pretty much how I spent the entire season. So, why is there a Siphon other than that the story needed somewhere to store magic? Did he talk to his girlfriend about cool things they could have done other than becoming vampires? Did he not get his ability until after she died? Did he wonder why that should be? Anyone? Bueller?
Speaking of MacGuffins? Illyria just died pointlessly, taking whatever was left of Fred with her, and I hardly batted an eye. It felt better to see her die than it would have to see her pop up again in the next season, looking and acting nothing like either of the characters who inhabited her body. The question of whether Fred could have regained control or whether her soul was fully destroyed hardly interests me anymore. Either way, her history, as well as Illyria's, was essentially forgotten by all of the other characters, who only seemed to care that she died getting magic back into the world - and why would Illyria or Fred want to die for that, when we know that the Seedling was already there and charging it was only necessary to save Dawn, whom neither of them knew? Maybe that's why they were all so impressed by Illyria's actions, but this might be a case worth investigating beyond, "So let's make sure their sacrifice wasn't in vain." (Yes, I'm sorry, I know I said I wasn't going to quote the dialogue, but Buffy actually said that, those exact words. Then she vanished in a puff of 1950's action drama.)
Remember when I said I had suddenly become interested in Koh's backstory when we found out Illyria wasn't the demon he was looking for? Guess who it turned out to be! That's right - it's completely unresolved! From now on, instead of solving the mystery he began due to his own principles, he's Buffy's loyal watchdog, who will fight with her to his death, for no reason that's been offered to the reader.
Willow seems to have reached her peak in the last issue. She's had a lot more story this season than most of the original cast, and a lot of it has been worthwhile, so I'm not as bothered by the way she was used at the end. But if her problem of narrating her every action has become less noticeable, it's only because now everyone is doing it. There's also a lot of evidence that the writer ran out of ideas for Buffyspeak or turns of phrase that could indicate character voice - instead of witticisms in the heat of battle, we get Xander asking about the "Gandalf wannabe" and Willow saying he's "Maloker food". Everyone seems to have a lot of time and breath to expend on being cutesy, is what. Also we get to see Willow (never forget her brilliant analytical mind and expertise in witchcraft) needing Spike to awkwardly curse before she remembers how to do a spell correctly. To be fair, we also get to see her being pretty fierce and cool when she's calling for Dawn at the height of the spell. I'm not sure if I promised you this would be a wholly negative review but you knew it wouldn't be anyway.
Xander gained some crazy ninja death moves in the battle, which is probably excusable since it was the last fight and supposed to be over the top to an extent. I was interested (for real) in the way he acted toward Dawn at the end. I get the sense that he knows what's what when he says that something's changed between them, and I'm hoping it's more than just her knowing somehow about the betrayal, but his guilt came across well. Some fans have been speculating that he'll end up with Angel in London next season, and now that he's implying an oncoming departure, it might be coming true. Whatever he ends up doing, it's clear that he's got some character development coming and also that he still loves Dawn, so I'm keeping my criticism of his arc to the absolute minimum.
Alright. Dawn. This is going to be a tough part for me to write, because I have a stance here that I've never seen echoed by anyone else in fandom and I'm just going to say it right out and damn the consequences: Dawn's repaired friendship with Spike is the biggest and most shameful failure of the Whedonverse. We know that she cared for him in multiple ways when she was young; we also know that the turning point was Spike's attempted rape of her sister. There's been no mention of that event within the story since the comics began, and those of us who dislike Buffy's relationship with Spike have been forced to accept that she's forgiven him for it. One thing that always made that choice palatable for me is that it's completely in character for Buffy to forgive a crime against herself. It would be another matter altogether if someone had tried to hurt, for instance, her sister. Nothing Spike did for Buffy would ever make up for the slightest harm from him against Dawn.
That's Buffy. Now, flip it around - Spike harms Buffy. How is Dawn going to forgive him? Apparently, all he has to do is stay with Dawn while she's in trouble. No thanks necessary! Doing good is its own reward! He just cares about Dawn so darned much! Buffy confirms that this is indeed heroic, and Dawn makes sure to apologize for not remembering who Spike is. Nothing else in the history of the three characters gets a mention. So, is the AR truly irrelevant now? Or are we just meant to assume that Dawn's love for her sister - unlike Buffy's love for her - isn't enough to support a long-term grudge against Spike? Because honestly, to me that's the absolute worst possible outcome. In S7 Dawn became one of my favorite characters, and the one I can most easily relate to. She was introduced as a kind of love-object, a real person but one who only mattered inasmuch as her existence influenced other characters. Buffy died for Dawn because Dawn was her sister, but Dawn hadn't done anything of her own volition to become Buffy's sister; she literally could have been anyone as long as the physical connection was there and the memories were in place. Gradually, she begins to matter, to find out how she can do best for herself and for others. She makes her own decisions about who she'll love, and they love her back for who she is, and not because she's a symbol or a responsibility. It's a subtle transformation, but one of the best in the series because it's so drastically different from Buffy's path.
And now it's shot. Now, Buffy loves Dawn because they're sisters, and Willow and Spike and Andrew love Dawn because she's Buffy's sister, and Xander loves Dawn because I don't know, maybe he imprinted on her when she was born. Dawn does nothing. She fades out, she comes back, she thanks everyone. Perhaps it would be ungrateful for a young lady to criticize someone for attacking her loved ones long ago. There it is - she has to forgive Spike. She owes it to him.
There's one thing that might make me eat my words, and turn out a fascinating Season 10 arc in the process, and that's Dawn's odd behavior after her rematerialization. Her wooden dialogue blended right in with everyone else's, but when I looked at it more closely I thought there might be more to consider. If Xander's right and "something's different", we could be seeing early signs of her not being Dawn at all. She's got a set of memories that she's using to give everyone the reaction that she thinks is appropriate, but Willow actually brought back the right body and the wrong energy - or she's back to Key factory settings, which could mean anything. I wouldn't at all mind seeing the consequences of a twist like that, but I've pretty much lost hope for cool story ideas being explored in the next season.
I don't think I'll talk about Buffy as a character right now. She didn't really do anything anyway. Also the new kind of vampire has me captivated at the level of subzero. The empty book was cool though.
All in all I think the strongest part of this issue was the art. Most of the characters were looking pretty great in the majority of their panels, with a few really stellar views each. You could definitely see Jeanty enjoying the way the Deeper Well worked as a setting and a threat of its own, and I particularly liked the way he handled the magical stuff - the big explosions and Willow's spell at the end. Colors are bright and striking and there are a number of cool poses. I appreciated the art more the longer I looked at it.
Now, a little bit of housekeeping. I will definitely, definitely NOT be writing summaries for Season 10. I will almost definitely be reading all of the series and miniseries that are available, but they haven't been announced yet so I'm not going to claim certainty. My reviews might be nonexistent or they might be almost in depth as the ones I've been doing, but probably somewhere in between. The one thing I don't want to lose from the Buffy comics is the chance at some great conversation with you, my fellow fan friends, but there's more than one way to get that.
Season Nine has been a fun ride. I'm glad it's over.