The issue starts with a flashback to three months ago. Severin is hunting down vampires, looking for his sister. A shadowy figure shows up and tells him to look for Buffy instead, and destory her. Back in the present, Severin attacks Buffy, and says he's not the bad guy -- she is, and he's going to take her power.
At the police station, they get an anonymous tip about the dead vamps (claiming Buffy did it) and head to the scene, where Spike and his demon friend are also headed, via motorboat, while filling each other in on their back stories. They all arrive at the same time, and stand outside the wharf, where Buffy and Severin are having their knockdown, drag out fight. Buffy realizes she just needs to tire Severin out, so he loses his charge. She attacks him and they crash through the floor, revealing even more zompires waiting.
Xander and Dawn are watching TV when they see the news about Buffy, which also lets the cat out of the bag to her roommates. Back at the wharf, Detective Dowling makes his way in. Severin attracts the zompires attention away from Buffy (who could kill her before he can power-suck her) then kills them all with a massive blast of his powers. Dowling encounters Spike and the demon, then hears the commotion downstairs. They all spring into action, but Severin blasts Spike and the demon away, then starts power-sucking Spike. Before he can finish Buffy and Spike off, Dowling unloads three shots into his chest, and he collapses.
Dowling tells Buffy she's off their most wanted list, and Willow shows up, not to help (since she has no magic) but to offer support in the event Buffy got sucked dry. Willow says she's not mad that Buffy has power and she doesn't and Buffy says she'll try and figure out something for Willow.
Severin, meanwhile, is in the hospital when his shadowy friend shows up. He says he just needs to recharge, but -- REVEAL -- Simone (the rogue slayer) says he failed and now she'll need all of her power to kill Buffy
This issue was very action packed, but there were a lot of subtle moments between the action that laid groundwork for the rest of Season 9.
I'll get to that, but first, the action itself. The big fight was exactly what we've come to expect from Buffy, particularly in the TV series days. Season 8 was all about the massive magic-fueled battles, so it was nice to see some Buffy-vs-baddie one-on-one.
Of course, this isn't the same world from Buffy the TV series, and the way the fight ended reflected that perfectly. If this were, say, Season 5, Buffy's friends would have bailed her out, probably with a big magical assist from Willow. But Buffy's friends are dwindling in number, and Willow isn't Witchy anymore, which is why Buffy needed a more Earthbound bailout.
I did think making Severin just a tool, and not the real big bad, was a bit of a letdown, but moving things back toward Buffy vs. Simone makes sense. Also, I do like that Simone tried to weaken Buffy before taking her on, since there's no chance A slayer (even one as evil and focused as Simone) could realistically take out THE slayer.
As for those subtle character moments, I loved Xander and Dawn's reaction upon seeing the news, and the reaction by the roommates was tinged with Whedony dialogue. And the stuff with Buffy and Willow at the end felt a lot like the interactions between Angel and Faith at the end of their first issue, just minus the giant sweeping proclamation. I can't help but wonder if Buffy's quest to help Willow and Angel's quest to resurrect Giles will end up tying into each other.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 (only knocking off half a point because I thought the scene with Spike and the demon kind of dragged)
Last issue I called out the amazingness of the lightning effect from Severin, and it got even better this issue. The color blending on the panel where Severin is blasting the zompires away is just brilliant.
I also continue to love Jeanty's work with Buffy's eyes. I know this Buffy isn't supposed to be a perfect Sarah Michelle Gellar likeness, but when Jeanty does a panel up close on Buffy's eyes, it really looks like her.
Then there's Spike. Sometimes Jeanty nails the likeness, but there are a couple stray panels where he just looks off enough to throw the reader. It's the only thing that keeps me from giving this a perfect 5.
Score: 4.5 out of 5
One of the reasons the "off" Spike panels bug me is that Spike looks really good on the Jeanty cover. It's one of the cooler Spike images I've seen from him, and the action is really dynamic, and it just looks awesome, even if it has very little to do with the plot and doesn't have Buffy on it.
Morris's cover does feature Buffy, and a pretty beautiful image of her. It took awhile for me to get the symbolism of the strips and what Buffy and Severin were doing with them, but once I did, I realized how cool it was.
Neither cover is perfect, but they're both really cool.
Score: 4 out of 5
I really want to give this a five, but that score should really be reserved for something that blows me away from start to finish, and this issue didn't quite do that, but it was still really good, and I can't wait to see where things go from here.
Score: 4.5 out of 5