Like Season 8 and like all TV series, every season must come to an end and we’ve arrived at that point for Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 9). OK, this isn’t a TV series, but it’s a direct continuation of the small-screen franchise and it truly does feel like a season of the show. The brainchild of Joss Whedon has hit the end of the current season and it truly does feel like a season finale from the show. With some last minute saves, emotional tragedy, and the (supposed) demise of a long-time character, the feels exist for what was present through 7 season on our small screen. But what this issue does takes that to another step: this ends the story threads that have been lurking since Season 8 and also provides some closure to the arcs that existed in its sister title of Angel and Faith and the 2 miniseries based upon Willow and Spike that occurred earlier in the “season”.
Basically, this was the battle to end all battles… for this season. Issue #25 presents the story of “The Core – Part 5″. The core of what? That will depend on your interpretation. It could mean the core of magic, which has been lacking due to other activities at the hands of the Scoobies. The last season has been predominantly about returning magic to the Earth, and, indeed, that is what the Willow Wonderland miniseries was all about. As the last few issues have shown, a new seed of magic has been created and just needs to be kickstarted, which is being handled by the due of Severin and Illyria. The only problem: once the power is unleashed anything within a certain range of the seed will be destroyed. So how is this problematic?
The second meaning of the core is that this magical attack takes place in a Deeper Well of the earth, which is (as the name implies) pretty deep down beneath the surface of the world. Buffy and team had descended only to run into trouble (because it wouldn’t be a Scooby story without trouble – that’s just silly although having an issue where nothing happens would be something Whedon would do just for a change of pace and to keep fans on their toes). Buffy is seriously injured by Simone, a former Slayer who is now a super vamp. The majority of the battle takes place within the Deeper Well, and with the power of the Seed emanating out from the core of the planet it’s no wonder that the entire world will suddenly experience a resurgence in magic.
To be honest, I take the meaning of the title to mean the core of the group. Dawn has been fading from existence on and off over the season. It was revealed way back in Season 5 that she is really the Key, which is a mystical object. Mystical as in magic. So with no magic… you get the picture. Everyone’s memories of her have also been fading, and the battle is not only about restoring magic but restoring the core of the Scoobies. Buffy, Willow, Xander… they are all here, as is Spike and a fading Dawn. This is a battle to restore the core of the cast, the core members, and Dawn who truly is the heart and soul of the team, as even Xander made reference to during Season 7. And with the ending of Angel and Faith, we also have the return of the final true core member of the group: Giles. Slightly different, but… Well, it’s Giles.
Andrew Chambliss has scripted a final issue worthy of the TV series. It brought to a close the big items, still contained tragedy (as a Whedon finale is wont to do), but also ended with a couple of cliffhangers that will undoubtedly dive into next season (of which there is going to be one). The character personalities are such that it truly is the TV personas. Buffy’s struggle to save Dawn is reminiscent of Season 5, and Xander’s self-doubt over causing a lot of the problems and his own feeling of self-worth continues what I remember seeing on the show from time to time. He’s the human one, he makes the most human of mistakes and he blames himself more than anyone else will, even when things come out on top. If Chambliss is lined up for Season 10, I’ll be incredibly happy.
The visual team of Georges Jeanty on pencils, Karl Story on inks, and Michelle Madsen on colors did a fantastic job at ending this series just right. Visually, the characters have been consistent throughout Jeanty’s tenure on the book and, even though they don’t look exactly like their actor counterparts, you know who is who. The demons have a truly demonic look to them, and the elements of the series – such as the scythe from the final season of the show – look as we remember it. It’s this level of detail to where the stories originated from that make the series what it is – without it, this would just be some girl fighting demons and vampires. Because of that detail, this is another season of Buffy.
So there we have it. Another season done, and I think done much better than season 8. Having all of Joss’s characters under one umbrella with Dark Horse (during season 8, the continuation of Angel was over at IDW which did it justice but prevented too much cross pollination of stories) really helped bring it all together. We had crossovers, we had references, but we still had a standalone purpose to each title. We end with some interesting cliffhangers leading up to next season and in the words of Buffy from “Once More With Feeling”, we simply need to ask: “Where do we go from here?”