The issue opens "Up There", where Paige and Leo -- disguised as demons -- have infiltrated Neena's horde and are discussing their next move. Neena stands by the gate and tells the group there are two options: she can either have them all waste a lot of energy trying to open the door or they can have Paige and Leo do it for them. Neena tells the two that she can see through the glamour and that she likes to change things up herself once in awhile. She reveals their true forms to the rest of the demons.
Cutting back to the attic, Phoebe admits to Coop that she hated this plan from the beginning, and that she should have gone with Paige and Leo. Coop reassures her that she had to stay behind in case anything went wrong, but Phoebe just wants to know where Piper is.
Piper is still in the created world with Cole, who offers her an apple to leave and return to her plane. Piper is doubtful of Cole's intentions, but Cole reminds her of the time he reunited her with Leo and saved her life after the Thorn Demon attack (in "The Seven Year Witch"), but Piper remains suspicious. Cole explains that they can't just pop back into the manor like they did last time, because they aren't in limbo, and that the apple is the escape route -- though technically the apple is just an illusion. Piper thinks this is just another play by Cole to get back with Phoebe, but he says he's just here to help. Piper asks if Cole is working with Neena, and he responds "We don't really travel in the same circles." Piper points out the vagueness of Cole's answer, but he insists he's still her only shot of getting out of there.
Back Up There, Neena tries to force Paige to help her by having Rennek hold Leo at crossbow-point. Leo tells Paige just not to let Neena into the vault. Paige isn't even sure the door will open for her, since she's only part-Whitelighter, but Neena ups her threat, saying she'd go after Paige's family. Leo thinks Neena wouldn't hurt any of her descendants, but she says she's already killed a warlock, and witches aren't all that different. Leo says that's not true, and Neena concedes the point, but says that's why she has Rennek. Paige agrees to help.
In the attic, Phoebe's continued to have no luck using magic to find Piper or Neena, when she suddenly realizes she should be looking for Neena's mate. Because Neena's magic cancels out her mate's magic, she wouldn't have been able to contact him in the Higher Realm, but Phoebe thinks she might.
Up There, Paige opens the door, and Neena immediately spots what she's looking for, two glowing balls floating above a pedestal. However, while she's distracted, Leo got the drop on Rennek, taking his crossbow and using it to take out the demons, while Paige uses her orb shield to take out some other ones. Neena blasts the crossbow from Leo's hand and Rennek grabs him again. He tells Paige to orb out. Neena attempts to stop her, but another demon blasts Paige at the same time.
When that happens, a portal opens up in the realm where Piper and Cole are, but it closes before Piper can get to it. That causes her to ask for the apple from Cole.
In the attic, Phoebe is casting her spell, which doesn't seem to work -- but certainly causes a mess in the attic. Paige's body orbs in and though she's breathing and has a heartbeat, Phoebe can't pick up anything from Paige with her empathy power. Henry comes in and sees Paige. Phoebe tries to reassure him that everything will be OK, but he's unconvinced, and takes Paige's seemingly lifeless body from the attic.
Back in the created realm, Cole assures Piper that everything will be fine with the apple. She bites into it and passes out. Cole stands over her body and says "Huh. THAT wasn't supposed to happen."
A suddenly conscious Paige appears in some other realm, where she encounters Kyle. He tells her that she hasn't moved on yet, and tries to tell her something else, but Paige needs a moment to compose herself.
On the final page, Neena manipulates the two glowing balls, which will giver her the magic she needs to "bring together the heavens and the underworld."
I've read through this issue a couple times now, and it feels very transitory. It's a full 22 pages, but the entire story feels like more of an interlude between issues 9 and 11 than a full issue on its own. Part of that is due to the separation of the sisters for the entirety of the issue, which is a technique I never really liked on the show, but is obviously critical to Neena's plan.
As for Neena, though we still don't know everything about her, she's quickly becoming one of the more interesting villains we've ever encountered in the "Charmed" universe. She's smarter than all but the most elite of the demons we saw on the show, and has proved to be a formidable challenge for the Charmed Ones, and not just through brute strength or sheer magical power. I think the only thing that bothered me about her in this issue was the line about liking to "change things up" every once in awhile. That seemed more like an in-universe explanation for the inconsistent art style on the character through 10 issues than something the character would have actually said.
Speaking of the art, I found it much improved from the previous issue, which apparently the artist didn't have a full allotment of time to perfect. I'm still not a big fan of the hashed shadowing technique that Reno Maniquis uses on this issue, but that even seems to be toned down a bit in this issue (and is really a matter of personal preference more than anything -- I know there are others out there that prefer the hashed shadows to pure toned shadows).
I thought Maniquis's likeness work for Paige (Rose McGowan) was slightly inconsistent, but the panel where Henry is carrying out her body was phenomenal. His Phoebe and Coop weren't great, but I think Alyssa Milano has proven to be the sister hardest to get right so far. I loved his likenesses on Piper and Cole, and special recognition must be given on this issue to colorist Jorge Maese, who did an outstanding job differentiating the various realms we saw through his worked. It almost seemed like each different realm -- Up There, the manor and the abandoned paradise realm -- had a different color overlay to set the tone.
I think if it weren't for Cole, I wouldn't have liked this issue as much as I do, but every time he was on the page, it really felt like I'd been transported back to the show. Paul Ruditis captured the character's tone just right, to the point I could hear Julian McMahon delivering the lines.
Oh, lastly, there's only one cover for this issue. It's another beautiful cover by David Seidman, but I know some fans will be disappointed that it's the only one. Personally, my wallet could use the break from photo covers and show exclusives for awhile.
Previous Issue#9, The All or Nothing
Three Little Wiccans
#11, Last Witch Effort