The issue opens with '70s slayer Nikki Wood fighting a vampire during her cruciamentum (the Slayer turning 18 ritual that we saw in Season 3), also while pregnant. The vampire threatens the unborn baby, which gives Nikki the strength to fight back. Nikki's watcher arrives and says she shouldn't have undergone the test in her condition, but she says it's just what she has to do.
In the present, Buffy is talking to Dawn about being pregnant, and confirms she doesn't know the identity of the father. They go over the list of people at the party it could be, and Dawn says she and Xander will support her in this tough time, especially with Willow gone.
Out in San Francisco, officer Dowling is waiting for Spike so he can learn more about vampires, and Spike arrives in his spaceship.
Back in '73, Crowley (Nikki's watcher) asks if the father could raise her baby, and she says she doesn't know who it is (symmetry!). She wants to keep it, because it could give her a reason to fight, but Crowley questions if that would be too much of a burden for the child.
In the present, Buffy meets with Robin, and he talks about growing up as the child of a slayer. He was closer to Crowley than Nikki (who, notably, he calls "Nikki" and not "mom") and often had to wait up late for her to return from patrolling... until one night she didn't return. Buffy says she knows what she has to do, and Robin reminds her that if Nikki hadn't chosen to keep the baby, he wouldn't be there today to talk to Buffy about this.
Back in the past, Nikki is fighting off vampires, and is having some trouble, but Crowley shows up to help. It's the first time he's actively gone out on patrol, because she's pregnant. He says she can stay in his cabin while he fulfills her duties, but she's more concerned about the mission, and what the council will do when they find out she's pregnant.
In San Francisco, Spike and Dowling are out on patrol and Dowling wants to take on some vampires in combat, but Spike says he's not nearly ready yet. The conversation turns toward Buffy, and Spike fills Dowling in on the backstory, in typical Spike fashion. Spike suggests Dowling should make a move on Buffy, but he's worried about her dating a cop. Spike says if anything, Buffy's the one who goes through the stuff that a regular person couldn't handle.
Buffy and Robin are still talking and Robin fills in the rest of the backstory. Crowley tried to get Nikkie to retire from slaying, and she did, briefly, but she was drawn back to it. It was her calling, and she couldn't ignore it. But Robin says Buffy isn't Nikki and she has so much more going on in her life that she could walk away from it.
Buffy texts Spike, and Dowling picks up that Spike isn't really over her. He tells Spike to be honest about his feelings with Buffy, since, as Spike just pointed out to him, she can handle anything. And now, spoiler time...
Spike meets up with Buffy at the pool at her apartment building, and they get to talking. Buffy asks Spike if he'll help her. He says he'll do anything for her. At that point she responds that she's going to have an abortion, which totally catches Spike off guard since he didn't even know she was pregnant. She explains that she thought she could walk away from being a Slayer, but it's the only thing in her life that isn't a mess, and she isn't ready for a baby yet. She asks Spike to go with her so she can have an abortion, and he gives her his hand and says yes.
Obviously all the talk about this issue is going to be focused on the last two pages. Since the Buffy comics began, they've broken into the mainstream on three occassions: when they debuted, when Buffy slept with Satsu and when the last issue of Season 8 came out on "Buffy's" 30th birthday. I guarantee this is going to be the fourth, and the outraged rhetoric from both sides is going to far exceed what we saw during the Satsu incident.
Abortion is a touchy subject, a national flashpoint, and I'm sure Joss Whedon and company wouldn't have waded into this without a well-thought-out plan. Still, there's a large part of me that would have prefered that this political minefield not encroached onto the Buffy comics, which I read in part as an escape from the everyday world.
Then there's the issue of Buffy's choice itself. I don't want to get into a big pro-life vs pro-choice debate over abortion here, so I'll just say that the choice itself, and Buffy's justification of it, feel really out of character. Not as out of character as the end of Season 8, but it felt very "back down from the challenge", which, aside from a moment of weakness late in Season 7 wasn't really Buffy's m.o. Still, it's her choice, and I don't begrudge her that choice -- nor am I going to get too up in arms about the choices a fictional character makes -- and I'm willing to see where this goes before getting too judge-y.
I do feel like if Buffy is going to go forward with this decision, then the father has a right to know (note: I don't necessarily believe he has a right to make the decision for Buffy, or even have his input considered, but he has the right to KNOW, at the bare minimum). This is complicated by the fact that Buffy doesn't know who the father is, but the creators do, and I can't help but look deeper at two moments from the issue. First, when Buffy was talking with Dawn, she conveniently left Xander out of the potential father pool. Does that mean she thinks Xander could be the father and wants to talk to him before talking to Dawn, or is she just trying to keep his name out of things to prevent another fight between Xander and Dawn?
The other possibility is that Buffy did discuss it with the father -- the father being Spike. He's definitely among the candidates for fatherhood, whether you believe a vampire can father a child or not, and she did talk it through with him extensively. That could be the creators hinting to us who the father is, or maybe we're just supposed to take it at face value that when Buffy wants to go dark, she goes to Spike.
Oh, other stuff happened in this issue too. It... happened, I guess? No, seriously, it was good. It's just totally overshadowed by the last two pages.
OK, the rest of this is going to be short, because I've written too much already.
I've always though Georges Jeanty was at this best when dealing with emotional scenes, rather than action, and this issue is packed with them. He does a good job changing up perspective frequestly from panel to panel in the longer talking head scenes, so things don't get too stale. And his work on the last two pages is great; emotionally impactful without hitting you over the head with drama.
The action is generally contained in the Nikki flashback scenes, and those are done pretty well. I like the look of Nikki's watcher, who looks appropriately British. Like Giles, back in Season 1, but ramped up to the next level. I always like the level of detail he puts into the characters he gets to create from scratch (rather than building off a likeness).
Two covers this week. Phil Noto steps in for Steve Morris on main cover duties, and paints a beautiful picture of Buffy and Spike. But I'm so much more enamored with the Jeanty cover, a reference to "Tomb of Dracula" #10, the first appearance of Blade. I love these cover homages, and this one is probably the best of the bunch so far. It's so good I'm willing to ignore the fact that a book called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" doesn't have Buffy on this particular cover.
Score: 4 out of 5