Severin (the new character we saw at the end of issue 2) formally introduces himself to Buffy and tries to explain the situation, but the cops arrive, so they flee the scene and head back to Severin's place. The cops are still looking for Buffy, and they strike out at both her apartment and Xander & Dawn's place.
Severin fills in Buffy on his backstory: he and his sister got in with vampires (post-Harmony), and they found someone to turn his sister, who'd then turn Severin. Only, when the sister got turned, she was feral, and Severin accidentally used his power on her when she attacked him. Buffy thinks it has something to do with the seed. She calls a Scooby meeting, at which only Xander and Dawn show, but she gets Willow on the phone and admits that things might be worse without the seed. They all talk things through, and figure out what might be going on with the feral vampires (which Xander names "Zompires") and Severin says he knows where there's a nest of them.
While all that's going on, Spike is pounding the streets -- and a small demon -- for info, which leads him to Alcatraz, and a demon who was freed from a magical prison when the seed was destroyed. He wants to thank Buffy, and warn her about something called "The Siphon," who can rip mystical energy from anything he touches. At that moment, Buffy and Severin arrive at the nest, where Buffy kicks in the door only to see they vampires are already dead, and Severin is charging up his powers.
I said that last issue felt more like an episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" than the previous issue, and the same sentiment applies here. Xander even calls it out when Buffy calls the Scooby meeting and he says "is this three years ago?" And after the season-long ongoing mystery of Twilight, it's nice to get to the point on Severin (obvious name much?) relatively quickly.
While it's easy to get caught up in the big twist at the end, a twist I'll fully admit I didn't see coming, to do so would be to ignore some of the great smaller moments in the issue. The interactions between Xander and Dawn -- both with the cops and later with Buffy -- are pitch perfect. Willow's reluctance to jump back into Scooby mode fits with her character and shows that they're not just going to throw away developments that fans may not have liked.
So far, it seems like writer Andrew Chambliss (and, obviously, exec producer/creator Joss Whedon) are doing as much as possible to distance this from Season 8 in terms of tone, if not story. The scenes in this issue take place in apartments and warehouses, not castles and military bases. The villains are vampires and Severin, who's big-bad-esque, but not exactly a dimension-creating, godlike possessive entity. And Buffy is snarky, not mopey.
If you dropped "Buffy" after Season 8, or, more likely, during Season 8, now's the time to get back in. These are the droids you're looking for.
Score: 5 out of 5
I'm not sure exactly who deserves the credit for this particular goodness, but penciller Georges Jeanty, inker Dexter Vines and colorist Michelle Madsen have collaborated to do something special with the lightning/power-sucking effect coming out of Severin's hands. It jumps out on the page when it needs to and blends in when it needs to, and I wanted to point it out because I think it's the kind of thing that most casual comics readers would just dismiss.
In the scene with the cops visiting Xander and Dawn, Xander is wearing a "Planet of the Apes" "Human See, Human Do" T-shirt, which is one of those great touches that Jeanty tends to throw in for the fans. Also, he still does a really good job with overwhelming death scenes (think back to the dead slayers in the swamp in Season 8) and the top panel of the final page is no exception here.
Lastly, I still hate Willow's new hairstyle. But considering how good everything else is, I'll let it slide.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 (why not a 5? A lot of talking head stuff in this issue... obviously not Jeanty's fault, but he's so much better with action)
Speaking of "better with action", Jeanty's alternate cover for this issue is phenomenal. It features Buffy and Severin, side-by-side with tattered shirts, fighting off a horde of vampires. Not only is it an incredible image, but it also serves as a sweet misdirect for the issue-ending twist, which probably helps explain why I didn't see it coming.
As for Steve Morris's cover, it thematically emphasizes the whole "Scoobies and Buffy not seeing eye to eye" aspect of the issue, but considering Xander and Dawn did come to Buffy's meeting and there was even a bit of defrosting between Buffy and Willow, I'm not sure if that was the way to go with this one. Also, what's up with Buffy's neck?
Score: 3.5 out of 5
The issues in this run keep getting better, and the scores keep getting better. We're up from a 3.5 to a 4 to a 4.5, and now I can't wait to see if we can take that last step next month.
Score: 4.5 out of 5