Things are, as usual, a little bit rocky in the Buffy-verse.
As Dark Horse Comics' "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" continues its current story arc "Welcome to the Team," it seems that the titular crew is becoming increasingly fragmented and tenuous as Buffy has been teleported out of the fray in San Francisco by the Old One Illyria in order to aid in apprehending the dire threat of Severin, the Siphon. Meanwhile, the young, self-proclaimed Slayer Billy continues to struggle with his role, alone without Buffy's guidance, and Xander and Dawn are seeing their so-called normal life slip away from them.
Joining CBR for this installment of BEHIND SEASON 9 is Dark Horse editor-in-chief and "Buffy" series editor Scott Allie. Below, Allie discusses the events which unfolded in issues #17 and 18, giving hints at the path the series' themes may take readers as writer Andrew Chambliss and artist Georges Jeanty head towards the Season 9 finale.
CBR News: At the conclusion of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" #16, and in the opening of issue #17, Buffy is whisked away from battling a horde of zompires, leaving Billy and Dowling behind, where they are suddenly overwhelmed by Zompires. Obviously, he's in a bit over his head here, but overall, how is Billy faring in his new role?
Scott Allie: Billy is doing well, but this situation goes pretty badly for them, and he's lucky to make it out alive. Buffy was hasty in putting him in the thick of things, but he's smart, and rising to the occasion.
Maybe [Buffy] should have given it more time, but if you think back to how it started with her, Xander and Willow leapt into battle beside her with less prep than Billy had. She was eager to have a team again, and figured Billy would be safer with her and this cop than her friends were in her early adventures. She doesn't have the same protective attitude about Billy that she has with her own sister -- who, of course, resented the hell out of it and called Buffy on what she perceived to be her hypocrisy.
A lot of the mythos in Buffy has to do with fate -- the prophesied roles characters will play in certain events, the Slayer as a "chosen" warrior, etc. Is Billy, in choosing to adopt the role of Slayer of his own free will, rebelling against the forces of fate, against the Powers That Be?
Yeah, and that's what we as humans do. We buck fate, we try to define ourselves and do what we want, and we try to cheat death every day. Buffy's tried defining herself for years, but it's harder when you have this big destiny writ large like she does.
Are there forces in the Universe that are affronted by Billy's actions in adopting the role of Slayer?
Only some readers. What Billy is doing isn't much different from what Xander did, except in how he's thinking about it, what he's calling it.
This story arc, "Welcome to the Team," also sees the return (and introduction to Buffy) of Illyria, who we're seeing for the first time since the destruction of magic. What does she think of Buffy's actions?
That's a good question. It's hard to tell what she thinks of anyone, because she's so much above it all. She's more concerned with her own actions than Buffy's, I think.
How has the destruction of the Seed affected her? What's her stake in this struggle?
That all gets revealed next issue, but speaking generally, characters who have powers integral to them, part of their essence, retain their powers. It's people who channel powers from elsewhere, or travel between realms, who are the ones most affected. So Illyria's powers are not compromised, but she's concerned about the ramifications of what's going on.
Illyria whisked Buffy out of battle and brought her to Los Angeles to meet with this council of demons and deities to discuss Severin. Aside from his powers, what makes him such a dire threat?
Well, his power, misused, could take away power from anyone who has it. That would always be a dangerous thing, but with such a finite amount of magical power on earth right now, you actually have someone who could potentially corner the market and do whatever he wants. These people have lost a lot, and now someone very unstable threatens to take the rest of it. So in that way, to them, he's the ultimate threat.
At the conclusion of issue #17, just when it seems like things are going to be ok, Dawn passes out! Buffy, Illyria and Koh walk into a trap!
Yeah -- it's not going to be okay. The title "Welcome to the Team" was an ironic choice, for sure. "Welcome to the Team: There's No Team!"
Meanwhile, there's some unrest (quite literally) in the Xander and Dawn household. Dawn has taken ill and suddenly falls into a coma, while Xander is exhibiting some violent reactions to stress. What's going on with him, and is a breather from the action going to be enough?
Xander has had some stuff boiling up in him for a long time that you're gonna see a better view of in Buffy #20. He's been out of the picture so much because he's been trying to deal with his emotions, but they're too much for him.
With Severin attempting to siphon Illyria's power, there seems to be, perhaps, a metaphorical connection to Xander's struggle: Xander is facing losing Dawn and is feeling, in a word, powerless. Is there a connection between these events, beyond the metaphorical?
Yes, there is a connection there, but as we head toward the finale, the central theme is emerging more clearly. What's at the heart, the essence, of these characters? What defines us? What are we? What is Dawn? Is she Xander's girlfriend, Buffy's sister, or a mystical key? Magic remains only in those individuals for whom magic is an essential part of them. But if magic is all that you are, what happens to you if it's siphoned off?
With Dawn apparently dying, Xander and Andrew decide to rush her out of the hospital in hopes of transferring her mind to a Buffy-bot. This links back to Koh's line regarding Severin, saying that someone acting to save a loved one can't be reasoned with, but this still seems crazy, right?
This is a terrible idea. Andrew is not overburdened with good ideas, but all that matters to Xander is that he does something, that he not be the Zeppo, that he act, that he has a hand in fixing the problem -- so he'll try a bad idea over no idea.
Meanwhile, following Buffy, Illyria and Koh's first team-up against Severin, the council is reconvening. First, I love that the council is meeting in a planetarium -- I keep forgetting and thinking they're in space.
A very good idea on the part of Andrew Chambliss.
Buffy figures out what Severin is after: He hopes to bend time and save the woman he loves. Do you think this revelation complicates his actions, in any way?
In that his goal is not purely motivated by evil and greed, like Dr. Doom? Maybe he's not such a bad guy, he's just dealing badly with grief, and sudden power. It's still selfish and potentially world-ending, but it could solve a lot more problems than just his own.
Severin is a threat of a different kind than the usual Big Bad. He is, for example, very different than Eyghon, the concurrent threat in "Angel & Faith." Does this make him more relatable, in some way?
Hopefully, yeah. I think this is a meaningful way to create a human villain -- to give him a relatable human motivation rather than just a self-destructive streak of greed or bloodlust or something. What Severin wants makes sense. It's unattainable, and so his means for getting it are arrived at through desperation.
As issue #18 closes, events are rapidly escalating. Billy is attacked by zompires, only to be saved by Buffy's roommate, Anaheed, who reveals herself to be a Slayer. Buffy has always had help in her duties from the gang, but would you say this is somehow different?
Oh, yeah! Anaheed has a very different role. This was something Joss set up from the beginning of the Season for us that we're only paying off now, through Billy. The hidden Slayer, Anaheed.
How will Anaheed's revelation affect Billy? I could see it playing out a few different ways: a potential new, perhaps more available, mentorship, or a kind of "everyone's a real slayer but me" reaction.
It's a positive thing. Buffy's plan to train Billy in the field has fallen apart completely, so Anaheed's revelation effectively saves Billy, in my opinion.
Meanwhile, Buffy and the council make a plan to stop Severin, but something goes awry, leaving Severin to siphon the energy out of Illyria -- what now? Is the Siphon truly an unstoppable force?
Do you think Buffy thinks anyone is unstoppable? Buffy can do anything. But Severin is increasingly formidable.