The issue opens in the attic with Phoebe still calling out for Paige. In the interim between issues 10 and 11, Sam (Paige's whitelighter father) has arrived, but hasn't been able to help call Paige. Coop reassures Phoebe that he'll be able to help, at least by calling the other whitelighters. Phoebe feels like she's alone, and Coop reminds her she's not. Henry and Sam look over Paige's body, while Kyle and Paige discuss how to get her spirit back into her body.
Kyle tells Paige the other Elders have moved on to someplace in between (like Paige) but they still have their physical bodies. If Paige were to go into the light without hers, Kyle isn't sure what would happen. Paige asks if Piper is there and Kyle says she's someplace else.
In that someplace else, Piper wakes up, with Cole holding the apple again. Apparently the magic that will return Piper home won't work until she trusts Cole, and she won't trust Cole until she's sure the magic will work, resulting in a paradox.
Back "Up There", Neena is still working her magic on the orbs, in an attempt to break the barriers between the upper regions and the underworld to unite them. Leo protests that it will devastate the Earth, but Neena doesn't care. Leo says Neena will be destroyed along with everything else, but she explains that the unification will open a portal that will allow her to reclaim her place with her mate in the Higher Realm. She adds that she's doing this because she's tired of "fate" dictating everything, and she doesn't want to play by the rules anymore. She compresses the two balls while reciting "Iungo Iunxi Iunctum" (Latin for "join unite mate") and her eyes go all glowy.
In a two-page spread, we see the immediate aftermath, in which the underworld begins to pierce the upper realm, the realm where Piper and Cole are begins to split and Paige says "this can't be good". A massive storm breaks out on Earth, just as Victor arrives at the manor.
Henry answers the door and shows Victor the living room, where they have all the kids sleeping. Victor asks about Piper and Paige, and when Henry says they're no update, Victor says everything will be alright. Henry expresses his doubt, and Victor recognizes that he's doubting more than just their current fates. Victor explains the challenges they face being mortals married to a witch and what their role is in the whole thing. His inspirational words cheer Henry up, and he returns to the attic, but before he does, Victor notices that there's one extra child in the room (the orbed child from Issue #8). He asks who it is, and Henry responds "Henry Junior".
Back in the attic, Phoebe notes that it's getting worse outside, and wherever Paige is, she can't hear Phoebe -- and "hearing" is something only whitelighters can do. Henry says that with the Power of Three, they should be able to communicate. Phoebe says it doesn't work that way, but it did giver her an idea. She calls upon the Power of One to telepathically communicate with Piper and Paige. It works -- Cole tells Piper to tell Phoebe "hi" (she doesn't) and Kyle tells Paige that it'll work better if she just thinks her words, rather than saying them. They fill each other in on what's going on and wonder what's happening "Up There", where Leo still is.
Back up there, things are breaking down, as the universe comes apart at its seams. Leo tries to appeal to Rennek logically, but Rennek doesn't care. Neena insists that this is the right thing to do, giving total control to free will with no more grand design. Leo says the new Elders were changing, doing things better, but Neena believes they would have made the same mistakes as the other ones, and now her children will have a chance to live freely. Leo thinks Neena is just imposing her will, her rules, and Neena says she's earned that right. She just has one more little thing to do.
Piper, Paige and Phoebe are still communicating telepathically and they've come up with a plan no one really likes, but it's their only shot. Piper finally agrees to take a leap of faith and takes the apple from Cole, bites it, and comes through a portal into the attic. Henry asks where Paige is, and Kyle leads Paige into the light, where she arrives in an alternate attic, and Kyle tells her she's moved on. Patty and Grams arrive to say it's not permanent. Paige asks if she'll finally get to meet Prue, but the answer is not yet. However, Patty and Grams do have plenty of firepower lined up, and they reveal it on the final splash page: pretty much the entire line of Warren Witches (again... aside from Prue).
Man, Paul Ruditis really packs a lot into 22 pages. There was so much going on in this issue, but I never felt like it got confusing or overly expository. The only thing that probably could have been trimmed was some of the back and forth with Neena, Leo and Rennek (which I kind of glossed over in the recap), but there were some nice funny lines in there that made it a worthwhile read.
Bringing the sisters together telepathically was a solid move, because I'm not sure how much longer I could have lived with the three separate story trees going on. It seemed like Ruditis stretched the separation exactly as long as he could, before bringing the trio back together -- at least telepathically -- in one of the coolest pages in the entire run.
For me, though, what stood out about this issue from a writing perspective is Neena. While it can be cool to have a villain who is just flat out evil and whose goal is destruction, I think the better villains are the ones who think they're actually acting with the greater good in mind. Neena isn't entirely that (she acknowledges the selfish implications of her actions in this issue) but she's much closer to that than say a villain like The Source or The Triad. And because of that belief, she becomes a more formidable foe for The Charmed Ones.
The whole Prue thing is a little frustrating, but understandable. Shannen Doherty has been reluctant (read: NEVER GONNA HAPPEN) to license her image for use with "Charmed", and that didn't seem likely to change. Ruditis did a solid job writing around it while at least acknowledging the character's existence.
On the art side of things, Tess Fowler was already my favorite artist on the series, and nothing in this issue did anything to change that. In fact, I thought her Piper likeness, which was probably the roughest part of her previous issue (#6) was worlds better in this issue. I was also a huge fan of the level of detail in Paige's top; the texture really jumped off the page (no pun intended).
Neena does look a touch bustier than she had in previous issues, but I'm not going to complain about that. Also, the hashed shadows that the last couple of artists have been using are pretty much gone here, with Fowler using a more eye-pleasing tinted shadow technique. I think the only thing that stood out to me as off with the art was that Phoebe's hair is up for the entirety of the issue, whereas it was down at the end of Issue #10. I know some time (hours or so) has passed between the two issues, but it seems weird that in that time Phoebe would take the time to re-style her hair --- then again, this is Phoebe we're talking about. Maybe we're just lucky she didn't dye it blonde.
Overall this is another really strong issue in what is becoming a very strong arc for "Charmed".
Previous Issue#10, Three Little Wiccans
Last Witch Effort
#12, The Charmed Offensive