Living up to promises made in the wake of the bungled finale of Season 8, Whedon keeps things small and personal this issue. It’s a good way to ground Buffy again, in friends and jobs and new roomies and other domestic issues, and thus a good way to start off a new season. Giant demi-gods, demonic seeds of great power, world-shaking cataclysms, major character deaths and major ally betrayals all became a bit much in the last 10 or so issues of the previous one. Creating new universes with epic sex is a nice idea on paper, but unfortunately it was rather beyond the fresh cartoony brightness of Jeanty and the heavy-handed approach of Brad Meltzer (or really, this particular cast of eternal teenagers) to pull off effectively. Their strengths lie elsewhere, like in killing off the Big Bads. Not in becoming them.
Well, summer’s over once again, and Buffy as usual has pieces to pick up and a life to start over. Only this time she and her friends have learned to find value in each other, so Xander and Dawn, Willow and her dates, old enemies like Andrew and old lovers like Riley all show up at the big housewarming bash in San Francisco that celebrates Buffy getting off her sister’s couch and that comprises the issue’s A-plot. It’s not too different from what happened at Elena’s birthday party on The Vampire Diaries this week, actually. Except for the telling reveal that Buffy apparently has far less self-control than Elena (who watched everyone else getting high without joining in), as Buffy’s morning after is a very grim awakening (rendered in perfectly faded, migraine-y tones by Michelle Madsen).
Not so the night before though (rendered in bright and perky covers that perfectly compliment Jeanty’s upbeat display of interpersonal dynamics and human foibles), in which you can read the possibility of Buffy having not one but maybe three assignations, some with men currently otherwise engaged. At least if you can get past the barrage of funny jokes that reveal our new characters and highlight our old faves.
That ambiguity just might be a subplot in development (Joss loves those “things are not what they seem” moments), but it’ll have to compete with Willow trying to figure out what really happened to magic, some demon getting free of captivity, and whoever is killing young women (possibly would-be slayers) without traceable means. It’s all good, because it could all turn into anything at this point. Things are wide open, as they should be in a new debut.
A slow start is just what this title needed, to remind us all how much we care about the Slayer gang. And while there’s plenty of trademark Spike in this issue, there’s nary a whiff of Angel (despite his being officially back in the Dark Horse fold, and his first issue debuting before this one). Let’s keep it that way, okay, Joss?
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.