As Dark Horse Comics' "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9," written by Andrew Chambliss and featuring art by Georges Jeanty, is careening towards its finale, Buffy and crew find themselves once again all that stands as a final defense against the destruction of the world. The Scoobies have been stretched thin of late, with zompires raging across the world and Buffy powerlessly watching her sister, Dawn, slowly and painfully fade from reality.
Buffy, Xander and Willow have rushed off to The Deeper Well in a last ditch effort to gain the power to save Dawn from forgetting herself and disappearing for good. There, they find a hearty battle awaits them. Meanwhile, rogue Slayer Simone and Severin, the Siphon, are attempting to sneak in through the back door in hopes of turning back time.
For this installment of "BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9," Comic Book Resources spoke with Chambliss about the inner motivations of the Scoobies as they rush toward Armageddon. We discuss the doubts plaguing Xander as Dawn fades from the world, Balloon Demons and hints of changes still to come.
CBR News: Before we dive in to issue #22, let's get a brief wrap up on #21. Willow manages to bring Dawn partially back to the land of the living, and Buffy leads Willow and Xander on a mission to the Deeper Well to gain the magic necessary for Willow to complete Dawn's cure. The Deeper Well is guarded, of course, and it's the Demon Council watching the gates. As Buffy dives into battle, it's revealed that Xander is, in fact, working with Simone and The Siphon. Whew!
What sort of state is everyone in, would you say? There seems to be a hint of desperation in the air.
Andrew Chambliss: Desperation is a fair assessment -- maybe even an understatement. Dawn's life is in the balance back in San Francisco. Buffy, Willow and Xander are planning to find magic in the Deeper Well. Even if they get past the council, they have no idea what they're going to face inside. And then there's the added bonus that Xander's secretly aiding the bad guys.
What is going on in Xander's mind that has led him to turn his back on his life-long friends?
Xander's still in the same place he was back in issue #20. We got a glimpse in his head there. Basically, he's stood back and watched so many people die -- most recently Giles at the end of [Season] 8. He was able to keep it together since then because he had Dawn. His ordinary life with her was an escape from living in a life where your girlfriend, friend, mentor could be killed at any time. He didn't think he was going to have to stand by and watch one more person die. But, of course, then Dawn -- the girl he loves, the girl who was helping him keep it together -- started to die because her magic was fading, and he just lost it. And whose fault did Xander think it was? Buffy's. If she hadn't destroyed the Seed, Xander doesn't think Dawn would be in this position. So when Sev and Simone came along with their offer, Xander thought it sounded pretty good -- if Severin can actually turn back the clock to before Twilight, not only can Xander save Dawn's life, but it would also mean Giles would still be alive. Willow wouldn't have lost her magic, and Buffy wouldn't have gone through all the fallout she has since she destroyed the Seed. Even though he's turning his back on his friends in the moment, Xander thinks he's actually making the tough choice that will help everyone when all is said and done.
As Issue #22 opens, we're right in the thick of battle. Buffy is fighting with the Scythe, brought back to her by Willow. She remarks that she hasn't wielded the weapon since destroying the Seed -- does the return of the Scythe herald the return of something larger? Magic? Or maybe even Buffy's confidence?
Buffy's relationship with the scythe is definitely a complicated one. The last time it was in one piece, she used it to destroy the Seed. Even though she believes she made the right decision, it's a reminder of an action that put Dawn in the danger she's in. With that in mind, I think it's kind of cool that Buffy's using the same weapon to fight her way into the Well where she hopes to find magic to save Dawn. I don't think Buffy's even thinking about any of this, though -- she's pretty focused on kicking the Council's ass. Bringing the weapon back into Buffy's world wasn't necessarily designed to herald the return of something larger. When Willow returned with it in Issue #20, it really was meant as a peace offering between friends. Willow returned with magic; she was a witch again, and she brought Buffy a weapon that reminds her of who she is -- the Slayer. It was meant as a cool little friend moment. The scythe will definitely play a role as the final arc heads into the Deeper Well, and not just as something Buffy uses to slice off demon arms -- though there will be that!
Simone and Severin are at the other entrance to the Deeper Well, in New Zealand, hoping to slip in the back door, and we finally see what Balloon Girl is made of: Georges Jeanty's Balloon Slime-mold monster is pretty fantastic!
Severin makes pretty short work of the monster, though, and it seems their path is wide open. Their plan can't be as foolproof as they make it seem, right?
I loved the balloon monster. I'd been waiting to unleash the demon hiding inside that balloon ever since we first saw that little girl as a member of the Council. Georges had a really good take on what that demon looked like -- I was sorry to see Sev kill it. But that monster had to go so they could get into the Well.
Severin and Simone are certainly pretty cocky as they head into the Deeper Well, and why wouldn't they be? Nobody's been able to stop them so far. But, yeah, your suspicions are correct: Things aren't going to be as easy as they think in the Deeper Well. I mean, they are going into a giant tomb filled with thousands and thousands of coffined demons, and not just any demons -- the Old Ones. Let's not forget that this is where Illyria had been buried before she took over Fred's body as a vessel.
Back at Buffy's place, Billy gets a call from his Watcher and decides he has to leave to stop a zompire attack in his hometown. What is Billy's role in this larger End-Of-The-World storyline? His part seems to have diminished somewhat since he was introduced.
Jane Espenson had a great idea for a Billy/zompire story in Dark Horse Presents. It's something that we just didn't have room to tell in "Buffy" once we got the Scoobies back together and sent them off on their adventure, so rather than short-change Billy as a character, we decided to give him a little side adventure. He's definitely not out of Buffy's world for good, and even though he's not witnessing the events at the Deeper Well, that doesn't mean what's happening there won't have an effect on him or what's happening in his home town going forward. He's on the ground, fighting zompires, and I think it's safe to say that we'll walk away from the season seeing how the Scoobies' actions in the Cotswold are going to affect places like Santa Rosita.
Spike is also back in San Francisco, trying to connect to Dawn and help her to remember herself. Where is Spike's place, these days? Since his space jaunt, he seems to be bouncing around a little bit, unsure of where he belongs.
I think Spike is exactly where he wants to be. He specifically didn't run to Buffy's side in England when he heard what was happening. If he had -- even though he's no longer pining for her -- I think some part of him would be wondering why he's always running to Buffy's side to help her out of a jam. Instead, he came to help Dawn. His relationship with Dawn is a lot less complicated, but that doesn't mean it's any less strong. Dawn and Spike developed a pretty tight bond back around the time when she discovered she was the Key, so I think it's only fitting that Spike's the guy at her side, helping her hang onto who she is. And even though Buffy doesn't know that Spike's at Dawn's side, I think she'd feel a lot better knowing that Dawn is with someone who shares so much history with her.
Suddenly, Buffy finds herself in a tight spot on the battlefield, only to be saved at the last minute by Koh and Illyria. The two offer their aid, but Buffy is reluctant to accept. Why the reluctance? It seems she could use all the help she can get.
Buffy could definitely use all the help she can get, but let's not forget that Koh hasn't exactly been the most reliable ally in Buffy's past. He betrayed her back when they were working for Kennedy, and he was working for the Council because they had answers for him about who put him in demon jail. At first blush, he's not exactly the guy you want at your side fighting the very same Council who can tempt Koh with answers to that question.
Ironically, though, Buffy shouldn't be worried about Koh at all -- especially when it's really one of her best friends she should be keeping an eye out for. But, given her past with Koh, can we really blame Buffy for making that mistake when she runs into him?
After Willow saves Xander from certain death by what looks like a squid-demon, he calls Sev and Simone to check in. He's beginning to have doubts about their plan -- what is fueling those doubts, and what leads him to spill the beans to Buffy?
I don't think Xander ever really thought the specifics of the plan through. He just looked at the upside. If Severin and Simone succeed, the clock gets reset. The Seed is never destroyed. Dawn's magic never fades. Lots of bad stuff doesn't happen. But in order for Severin and Simone to even have a shot at resetting the clock, someone needs to keep the Council busy -- and Buffy's doing just that. When Xander sees that she's willing to die to get Willow into the Well -- when it actually becomes reality -- it all becomes too much for him. He agreed to help Sev and Simone specifically because he didn't want to watch one more person he cares about die. When he calls Simone, he tells her that even if everything gets reset, he still can't stomach watching Buffy or Willow die -- and he's right. It would be too much for him. That's ultimately why he comes clean to Buffy, but I also think it goes a little deeper than what Xander tells Simone. He's starting to doubt whether they can pull it off. He's beginning to realize, even if he's not admitting it to himself, that Severin and Simone might not be able to do what they promised him. Maybe they're using him. Since he lost faith in his friends, which is hard to do, it's not surprising that he's now losing faith in the villains.
Xander's been stretched pretty thin, emotionally, over the past few issues. Is this fallout with Buffy going to push him to the brink, or will it catalyze growth?
Xander has been raked over the coals in the past couple issues. All the emotions he kept bottled up all season burst out, and those emotions pushed him to make some pretty questionable decisions. As Buffy scrambles to clean up Xander's mess and save her sister, Xander's going to find himself in the exact position he didn't want to be -- standing on the sidelines watching as the people he cares about are put in danger. Whether he lets the guilt of what he's done keep him from acting or whether he can push past everything and find his own way to start making some right decisions is what we'll see over the next couple issues.