Dark Horse Comics’ latest season of Buffy continues to barrel towards the finish line with this week’s release of Issue #22. Writer Andrew Chambliss and artist Georges Jeanty deliver an installment that was less than satisfactory to many of my fellow comic book sniffers, but while Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #22 does have its flaws, it also has a genuine, classic “Buffy” feel to it that signals to this Comic Book Slayer that our slayer may have finally gotten her groove back.
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #22:
This issue opens with Buffy and Willow battling The Council in order to gain entrance to The Deeper Well. While they are holding their own, they notice that Xander has disappeared. It is revealed to us that Xander is hiding and texting Simone and Severin in order to help them complete their plan. Unfortunately for our heroes, Severin quickly dispatches the sentient balloon guarding the Well’s other entrance, and he and Simone proceed inside.
Back in San Francisco, Anaheed and Billy head back to Santa Rosita in order to save the town from a Xompire horde while Spike attempts to anchor a continuously fading Dawn. While he helps to some degree, the vampire panics when he realizes his memories of the younger Summers are fading as well.
Buffy and Willow continue to battle the warriors of The Council and are joined in their effort by Koh and the de-powered Illyria. Koh reveals that he was imprisoned because he was falsely accused of killing his family. While his family is gone, Buffy’s can still be saved. Reluctantly, Buffy accepts their help.
Despite the reinforcements, Buffy’s crew is horribly outnumbered, and Xander is terrified that he’ll have to witness the death of his friends if things continue. Frustrated that Simone and Severin haven’t delivered their part of the deal yet, Xander reveals what he’s done to Buffy and Willow, trying to convince them not to sacrifice themselves when he’s already “solved” the problem.
While the “time travel” plan may work in theory, Illyria insists that it would be impossible for her and that Severin is going to “tear the universe apart.” Once again, it falls to Buffy and her friends to save the world.
Buffy is back! I know that I’m in the minority in this regard, but this issue felt like an old episode of the Buffy TV show to me. While there were some lackluster moments, and I can understand how some fans read several scenes as anti-climactic, for me Chambliss’ script had a familiar and welcome energy to it, and it was great to see Buffy and Willow shine in their confidence and abilities after such a long span of uncertainty and emotional tension. Xander’s actions may feel forced, but, for the most part, this issue really worked for me.
Spike & Dawn. Chambliss’ best scenes in the script are the ones between the younger Summers and the bleach blonde vampire. While many writers have attempted to advance Spike’s character since his days on the small screen, a few (I’m looking at you, Brian Lynch.) have really managed to bring forward progress to the question of who Spike is beyond the hopeless romantic who pines for the Slayer. With his beautifully written scenes in Buffy: Season 9 #22, especially the heartbreaking scene where a panicked Spike realizes he’s losing his memories of Dawn, Chambliss shows off the skills that got him the job.
Connecting the dots. While the necessity of the focus on Billy this season is still debatable, it’s cool to see things start to fall into place as Billy and Anaheed get ready to leave the pages of Buffy: Season 9 for their own adventure in Dark Horse Presents, and then we also get the long overdue confirmation that Zompires don’t need invitations to enter your home. So far, the rumblings I’ve heard say the Billy/Anaheed story is pretty darn decent. Don’t miss their appearances in Dark Horse Presents #25-27.
The rise of the Sentient Balloon. We finally see why that balloon can hold its own in a room full of demons and monsters.
Xander’s douchery. So, it seems like Xander wasn’t double-crossing Simone and Severin . . . he was just double-crossing his friends. While I can sympathize with Xander’s anger and why he might be tempted by the chance to fix all that has been suffered because of the destruction of the Seed, this plan just makes him seem foolish and ungrateful. In the previous issue, when Buffy asked Xander why he didn’t agree to help the baddies with their timeline-reboot, he said this to her:
“It boiled down to one thing. Something I forgot last night. A long time ago . . . you died so Dawn could live. No way Severin and Simone would ever fight that hard.”
This statement make sense. It’s a very “Xander-like” take on the subject. But, if it is really just a ruse to cover his deal with Simone and Severin, this scene now plays out as a very heartless and cold thing for Xander to “fake.” Maybe I will come around to understanding what’s being explored by taking Xander down this path, but I can already hear the Xander fans screaming “character assassination” in the background.
Koh’s reveal. I actually did not find Koh’s reveal as anti-climactic as many other readers did, but I could be experiencing a delayed reaction. First off, given the fairly bland content of the reveal, Chambliss injects a surprisingly large amount of “heart” into to the scene. (Much of this can also be credited to Jeanty’s wonderful facial reactions during these moments) So, why am I all with the “good” here in the “bad” section? Well, I don’t think we’ve gotten the full story on Koh yet. Who was Koh’s family? Who framed him? Who imprisoned him? And, why do I have such a bad feeling about the answers? I’d say that Koh is still a potential threat . . .
The fall of the Sentient Balloon. The Siphon sucks the “air” right out of this balloon. Sentient Balloon, you shall be missed.
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
Fan reaction for this issue has been mostly negative, as many seemed to feel the big moments didn’t have the weight they ought to. The book also got a harsh review from Light_Watcher.
She has a [EXPLICIT] on her head!!! Let’s just say that fans had some interesting comparisons to make in regards to Buffy’s hairdo. Personally, I didn’t see it.
Spike & Dawn = brilliant. These scenes were pretty much the universally praised moments of the issue and for good reason!
The crusade against Jeanty. Fans were really out for blood when it came to Jeanty’s art in this issue. I will admit that a few of Jeanty’s images of Spike made him seem a little “worn around the edges,” but in general, I’ve always loved the emotional flavor of Jeanty’s art and can’t understand this constant barrage of negative energy coming from those who are less than satisfied. I’ll be honest, I’m a little disappointed in the fan base for crossing the line separating critique from insult. We’re better than that, gang.
That all ya got, Xand? Many expected there to be more behind Xander’s double-cross. Maybe he’d turn out to be playing everyone. Maybe he was aware of something we weren’t. Alas, it appears Xander just made a horrible, stupid call.
The Billy-haters are back. Once again, there were a lot of rumblings over why Billy took up so much time in Season 9, and how it, if at all, factored into the main thrust of the season. While I enjoy the character of Billy, many of the points made regarding the “forced” feelings surrounding the character are hard to argue with.
That’s all for now, Scoobies! Keep those stakes sharp!
’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!