"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10" #25 wraps up the "In Pieces on the Ground" storyline and sets the stage for the final story arc of the series, which will kick off next month. While at first Christos Gage and Megan Levens appear to move two characters temporarily into a different arena (from which it will be difficult to escape), what we actually get is a nasty 11th hour surprise.
Most of the issue focuses on the portal that was opened in the previous chapter, one that is slowly expanding and promises to eventually destroy the universe if left unchecked. Gage follows through on the cliffhanger, where it was revealed they could close the portal with Dawn's powers as the Key -- but only from within the demon dimension. At first, it feels like the entire issue is going to focus exclusively on making that decision, even as Buffy and company fight to find a better way.
If that's all we had here, it would certainly be a good -- if not great -- comic. The inevitability of Dawn's decision hangs over the entire story, although Xander's choice to keep Dawn company is an intriguing one, if only because it follows through on their aborted romance; it also gives Xander something to do, which is more than he's had for a while now. It's a great character moment, even as other characters' attempts to try and stay with Dawn are shot down for various reasons. Gage's script presents the smartest possible option for the characters, even as it lets them all struggle against it for the appropriate amount of time.
Levens wraps up her guest stint on the book this month, and her art looks good here. Similar to series artist Rebekah Isaacs, Levens understands how to make the characters look like their on-screen counterparts without coming across as posed or stiff. However, there are a lot of panels with vacant backgrounds; this is a real pity when you consider that a good portion of this issue is set in a demon dimension, which has all sorts of possibilities for creativity. Still, her focus on the characters is good, and both Xander's upbeat delivery of his offer to stay and the anguish on Buffy's face as she bids her sister goodbye are perfectly realized.
As for those final pages, it's a twist worthy of the original television show itself. Characters who have been primarily in the background or too easily trusted finally step into center stage as a slip of the tongue unleashes all sorts of power into absolutely the wrong hands. It's a great setup, the perfect "gotcha!" moment to make readers sit straight up and realize that Gage has quietly been faking us out for a while now. Am I looking forward to the final storyline to kick off? Yes. Should you be too? Definitely. Gage and Isaacs' run on this title has always been good, but -- thanks to this issue -- it promises to be epic.