Buffy The Vampire Slayer is once again back in comic book form, with the official continuation of the series written by Joss Whedon himself, and drawn by Georges Jeanty – the same team that launched Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8. So is it five by five, or the Big Bad?
Happily, I can say that it’s far more the former, than the latter... Not only that, but it has one of the best, most unexpected final pages of the year. We’ll get to that in a moment, though. I may hesitate from saying something like, “Buffy is back, and better than ever!” But it is back, and it is good.
When last we left Buffy and her friends, she had eliminated all magic in the world by destroying The Seed, the germ of a baby universe that I think was maybe created by her and Angel having sex? Or maybe it wasn’t? I don’t know, by the end of Season 8, I got a little bit lost, and I wasn’t the only one… Even Whedon himself admits that they went just a little over the top with Season 8, embracing the “we can do anything we want!” ethic of comic books far too much, while losing track of the characters and story.
That’s not to say there weren’t high points, but with last week’s excellent Angel & Faith #1, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 #1 (out September 14th), it looks like the team is back on track.
Buffy is finally free of The Hellmouth in Sunnydale, free of the responsibility of leading an all-Slayer army (sadly, not referring to the band Slayer), and she’s even moved out from living on Dawn and Xander’s couch. We kick off with her new, crunchy San Francisco hippy roommates throwing her a welcoming party, and end with… Well, that would be telling.
In between, though, we get a time jumping story that realigns what’s good about Buffy – specifically that she’s generally a happy person dealt some unfortunate cards. It doesn’t ignore what’s come before; in fact, far from it: there’s plenty of talk of the previous season from boyfriends of old, and friends new and old. It takes time to set up where each of the main cast – now down to Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Spike, and Willow – is, and where they might be going, without making it too complicated to follow for new readers.
There’s also plenty of fun new supporting cast members with ridiculous names – a Buffy staple – and a sign that most of these people have grown, a lot. Dawn isn’t a whiney ball of energy anymore. Xander isn’t just the quippy guy, he’s been massively damaged by everything that’s happened to him. And Willow, now sans-magic, is still a lesbian. I mention that just because I figure someone would ask, but more importantly she’s far less damaged than we’d expect. Which is nice.
The issue also has a ton of set-up for the “season,” as enemies gather on all ends to come after Buffy and her friends. This issue might be happy go lucky, but it;s also heavy on danger… Though of the “steadily approaching” kind. If anything that’s it’s biggest fault: there’s a LOT going on here, and a lot to keep track of, rather than one clear point of focus. With all the enemies, and the time jumping, this is not a comic you’ll want to read casually.
On the other hand, this structure helps brilliantly set up the cliffhanger, and that’s a good thing. You’ll see what I mean when you read the issue.
Here’s the takeaway: as a Buffy fan, I’ve been burned before, perhaps too many times. However, this is a good, fun, solid issue that leaves me hankering for the next one in a way I haven’t felt since way back at the beginning of Season 8. Will Season 9 keep up the quality, the heart, and the funny for the rest of the run? I can’t say for sure, but I can tell you this: in this issue at least, Buffy is back, and better than ever!
Aw crap, I said it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 #1 hits comics book stands on September 14th, 2011!