In Dark Horse Comics' "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" #20, written by Andrew Chambliss and featuring art by Karl Moline, Buffy finds herself at something of a loss for direction. Her sister, Dawn -- a manifestation brought about by magic forces -- is dying following the destruction of the Seed of Wonder. Willow has been, for a time, missing in action as she pursues her own mission, and Xander is a slowly simmering pot of rage. Without her allies, Buffy is unsure how to pursue the current big bad, Severin, as he goes about sucking the mystical energy out of every creature he can.
In the latest installment of BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9, CBR spoke with Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief and "Buffy" editor Scott Allie for a peek behind the curtain of the most recent issue. Parsing out the motivations of the Scoobies, in their current fractured state, Allie gives readers a look into where things might be headed as the series inches closer to its finale. New schisms are forming just as old ones close and no one knows how to stop The Siphon.
CBR News: With the conclusion of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #19 and the "Welcome to the Team" story arc, Illyria has been stripped of her powers by Severin, the council of gods had fled, it's revealed that Dawn is dying because of the loss of magic in the world and Xander and Buffy have a bit of a rooftop spat about who's to blame for all this. As issue #20 opens, how would you characterize the state of the Scoobies?
Scott Allie: Unsteady. No one is properly connected; no one is rooted. The friendships that define these characters are all stretched thin.
As the issue opens, Xander is thinking back to the seed chamber: how he then felt useless, or powerless, just as he feels now sitting besides Dawn, unable to help her. Xander's character arc, over the whole series, has taken him from being the wisecracking joker to, now, a man pretty full of rage and frustration. Has this shift been a function of Xander simply growing up?
Uh, no, I think this is normal for a sensitive man thrust into a very high-stakes game for, like, the last nine years of his life -- fending off apocalypses willy-nilly, watching girlfriends die and, compared to his friends, being mostly powerless to stop any of it. Watching Giles die was the last straw.
Are his feelings of powerlessness and rage going to drive him to action, or is he really as useless as he feels?
Oh, he's gonna do something about it. We definitely didn't leave him sulking in the corner all season just to have him fizzle through the finale.
Xander is suddenly whisked away and confronted by Severin and rogue slayer Simone Doffler -- why are these two going to Xander, and what makes them think he'll flip?
Now that you mention it, maybe they didn't think of Andrew -- But no, Xander is the guy to go to because he's powerless, because he stands to lose the most in some ways. They perceive him not just as a weak link, but a weak link with standing. He is part of the Core Four, the Scoobies, and yet his only function right now is frustration and losing his shit. He's the target they need.
Meanwhile, as Buffy is brooding on the rooftop, Willow suddenly appears, fresh from her search for magic! Willow's return seems to lift Buffy's spirits, and the fact that she has brought back even a small amount of magic fills her with hope. It seems that without her gang working beside her, Buffy often feels lost -- do they simply give her confidence? How much does she really need her Scoobies in action?
She needs them. The thing that sets her apart from every Slayer who came before her is that she has this support system, this team of friends. Buffy, the Whedonverse, all of Joss' work is all about friendships, and Buffy is not all she can be without her friends. It's not just confidence. They are all of them better when they're together, even when they're not at their best.
Though she's missed out on a lot of the action in San Francisco, Willow has been through her own tribulations. In what ways has she changed or grown since her last appearance in "Buffy?"
In my opinion, Will has been a bit of a brat since Season 6. Maybe "brat" trivializes what happened to her in Season 6, but bottom line is that since that season she hasn't been her best self. I found her too often annoying in the first few issues of Season 9 that she was actually in. I think in the miniseries she faced a lot of that, she got better, and she's way more together than Buffy or Xander as we head into the end.
Severin reveals his plan to turn back time to Xander, and requests his help in obtaining Giles' book, "Vampyr," from Buffy. In some ways, Severin sells this plan pretty well -- he must have some ulterior motives, right?
I think one of the most interesting things Andrew [Chambliss] has done in this climax is how he's set up Severin's motives, as opposed to Simone's motives. For those still asking, these two are the Big Bads, make no mistakes. Their motives are different. The means by which they intend to get to their goals are different. Their roles in the climax are going to be different. I don't know if ulterior motives cover it, but they're both playing Xander like a fiddle, for sure.
Billy's story is left on hiatus for issue #20, but we saw him in "Buffy" #19 getting to know a bit more of Anaheed's story. Why is he absent from this issue, and will we see him back in the fray going into #21?
We really wanted to use #20 to focus on Xander's arc. As originally conceived, #20 was a standalone issue, perfect for another artist. So it made sense to leave certain threads for when Georges [Jeanty] got back. In the writing, #20 really became more of a piece with #16-19, but plans were what they were, and we were happy to reduce the cast for an issue to focus on core characters. Billy and Anaheed are back in the middle of things in #21, before they depart completely for an offshoot in Dark Horse Presents #25-27, also drawn by Karl Moline, who's probably drawn more for us this season of Buffy than anytime since "Fray."
Billy is a civilian who has, without being chosen, taken on the mantle of Slayer and is fighting the Zompire plague. On the other hand we have Simone Doffler, a chosen slayer who has cast her lot with some pretty dark forces, and who seems to be, above all, power hungry. I'm curious what your thoughts are on these two sort of opposing forces. Does this possibly have to do with where we find strength, or the role of fate versus free will?
Yeah, I see more of a lesson about fate vs. choice in these two, but maybe what we see in a story just reveals who we are. I see them as two studies in choice. Buffy was chosen -- Billy chose. Simone was chosen, but she's rejected everything good that Buffy is about.
Throughout the issue, it seems like Buffy is feeling just as powerless as Xander: unsure how to move forward, or even who or what to call on to defeat Severin. Is she simply exercising patience, or is she out of ideas?
She's somewhat out of ideas. She's more focused on Dawn than the villains, and in that she is powerless. There is nothing she can do for her sister. If she were to pop through some blue hole and kill Severin and Simone, it wouldn't help Dawn.
If Buffy doesn't stop Severin, wouldn't she lose her sister, anyway? How heavily is guilt weighing on her, and to what extent does the previous loss of her mother play into her current state?
This season to some extent has pushed Buffy to look at her own choices, her fluctuating tendency to focus too much on the big picture, or too much on the personal picture. Either way you go, either way she has gone, you sacrifice something. Think back to the "Guarded" arc, with the Tin Can guy.
Also, considering the fact that Buffy and the rest of the team function best when all are present and accounted for, how will they cope with Xander's betrayal?
I like to think there are some surprises in store there…
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9."