While Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 has floundered a bit in the past, especially given the highly positive reception of its sister series Angel & Faith, writer Andrew Chambliss has slowly been raising the caliber of the book ever since fan favorite Illyria joined the team. Now, as the series closes in on its last six issues, the release of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #19 seems to be heralding that Dark Horse’s flagship “Whedon” book has finally gotten its mojo back!
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #19:
This issue opens with Koh and Buffy standing over a now powerless, and potentially human, Illyria. The sentient balloon member of The Council appears and informs the trio that The Council is abandoning them and going into hiding. Despite Buffy’s protests, The Council believes that this is the best move in order to complete their mission of protecting the remaining magic on Earth.
Left on their own, Buffy takes Koh and Illyria to meet up with Xander and Dawn. During the trip, Illyria begins to ponder why she’s still alive given that the body of Fred is a mere shell that Illyria exists in. Logically, she should have been nothing more than a dead human body after The Siphon’s attack, similar to the effect he has on zompires. So, what make Illyria different?
Anaheed reveals to Billy that she’s been protecting Buffy by easing into her new life, getting her roommates and new friends to accept her, and occasionally paying rent for the slayer. Apparently, some of the slayer army is still loyal to Buffy, and Anaheed is there to provide backup for her sister slayer. While Anaheed and Billy watch over the hospital bed-ridden Dowling, the slayer recognizes the uber-zompire that Buffy tackled a few issues back. She was a former slayer who followed Simone. Apparently, the rogue slayer is experimenting on her own soldiers in a quest to become an unslayable foe for Buffy.
Meanwhile, Andrew and Xander attempt to transfer Dawn into a robot body without success. When Buffy and company arrive, Illyria reveals that Dawn is dying, because the mystical energy that transformed her into a human is now leaving her body. Apparently, it’s another downside of the destruction of The Seed. The issue ends with Buffy and Xander having it out on the roof of Andrew’s building. Xander angrily unloads on Buffy about her part in the destruction of The Seed and her cosmic boink session with Angel that made that destruction necessary. Blaming Buffy for Dawn’s condition, Xander tells his friend that he’s going to try to save Dawn on his own, because the world tends to get worse when she’s involved. Despite the bitter feelings between them, Buffy tells Xander that Dawn is her sister and even if he blames her, he’s not doing this without her.
Illyria continues to be a great addition to the book. This has been a common compliment of mine since the Blue Meanie has joined the series, but I’m continually amazed how much the character adds to each story she’s present in. If last month’s cliffhanger held the promise of heart break, then this issue certainly delivers. Having been robbed of her essence by Severin, Illyria is another demonstration of the creepy and terrifying nature of The Siphon’s powers, made even more damaging by a world sans magic. In addition, the revelation that the attack did not kill Illyria, despite the logical conclusion that all that should remain after is the empty, human body of Winifred Burkle, presents an interesting mystery to be revealed in the issues to come. Is Illyria now technically human? Is this something that could happen to, say, a vampire with a soul, who would then be left purely human, as well? My spider sense is tingling, and I have to admit, once again, that I don’t see this season wrapping up with out a little skin-to-skin action happening between Spike and The Siphon. (Hello, Shanshu!) I also want to point out that a lot of the readers have been giving artist Georges Jeanty a little bit of grief regarding his depiction of Illyria in the past few issues, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #19 should really quell those complaints. Personally, I’ve never had an issue with Jeanty’s drawings of Illyria, but this issue, with the “human” Illyria, Jeanty knocks it out of the park! Several times in the issue, it’s like Amy Acker is staring right back at you off the page. Nice work, Georges.
The sentient balloon. This character is not getting old anytime soon for me. Here’s hoping he/she doesn’t get popped.
Douchey Xander. I know that sounds harsh, so let me start off by saying that I understand where he’s coming from when Xander has his verbal throw down with Buffy. Much of the horrible stuff that’s happened can be traced back to Buffy and Angel’s Twilight-influenced space sex and the resulting destruction of The Seed. Still, even if one ignores the fact that the Twilight fiasco was influenced by destiny and potentially unavoidable, the discussion still ends up coming back to the burden of responsibility and leadership that is always placed on the Slayer. As Buffy said to Xander and Willow in the Season Seven episode “Selfless:”
“ . . . at some point someone has to draw a line, and that is always going to be me. You get down on me for cutting myself off, but in the end the Slayer’s always cut off. There’s no mystical guidebook, no all-knowing council — human rules don’t apply and Father doesn’t know best. There’s only me. I am the Law.”
You can’t really blame Buffy for being influenced by cosmic forces that are still attempting to complete their plan (via Whistler over in Angel & Faith). You can’t blame her for destroying The Seed to keep her friends and her world safe. Sometimes, there are no good choices, just varying degrees of bad ones. We’ve heard it before: heavy is the head that wears the crown. When the person in charge is forced to make a no-win call, there’s always going to be someone who thinks it was the wrong way to go, but coming from Xander, I just expected a little more understanding, especially after he and Dawn walked away from being even remotely involved with this kind of “demony” life. Buffy’s still trying to do her best for those around her, and if someone’s not even in the “game” anymore, do they really get to blame or lecture those who are still spilling blood for the cause?
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
Fan reaction for this issue has been very positive, which is a welcome change for Buffy: Season 9. The book did receive a poor review from CBR but still got good reviews from Light_Watcher and Unleash the Fanboy.
I remember this feeling. There were quite a few readers online who commented on how much this issue felt like a classic episode from the Buffy television show. I couldn’t agree more.
Hello? Anybody in there? Given Illyria’s mysterious survival of Severin’s attack, many are speculating that perhaps some part of Fred’s soul still exists, despite all the evidence to the contrary. It’s a sound theory, but I will feel a little disappointed in the retcon if this turns out to be the case.
That’s all for now, Scoobies. Keep your stakes sharp and watch your back around the sentient balloons!
’Till the end of the world,
Bryant the Comic Book Slayer