It's the first issue without Joss Whedon co-credits for Andrew Chambliss, and it may be the best yet. This season certainly has a flavor different from that of the cataclysmic Season Eight. Where that series got too caught up in global-level threats and final solutions, this season is keeping things decidedly small-scale. We've gone back to the delicious simplicity of Buffy fighting vamps. And vamps being mean (though slightly different in two nuanced ways: they've become popular celebrities for no good reason, even though the new ones are extra-violent).
That may be a reflection of a producer's vision of what comics can actually do. The worst things that happened in Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run (to the characters, that is) were personal: quirks of personality, acts of vengeance and betrayal, long held dreams that either came true or didn't for the main cast of distinct individuals that he choose in order to astonish us. If last season felt like one big crossover with a few too many big bads, this season feels like the kind of story comics are designed to tell.
A girl on her own in a big city. She has some roommates. She has a history, including some bad things she's done that have estranged her from some older family ties. She's not in over her head, but she is on her own, and in need of new (or at least constant) allies. We saw that in the first issue, with the sheer joy she had in her extended housewarming party. We saw that last issue, with Spike's undying devotion being apparently a given for this season. I'm all for that, as always preferring Spike to Angel with no self-doubt.
We see it this issue, as Buffy goes into hiding to protect herself from the very non-Sunnydale cops, protecting herself from one enemy while perhaps unwittingly making herself vulnerable to another. She tries to convene a session of the Scooby Gang, but it's still mostly Spike who has her back, as Willow, Xander and Dawn somewhat annoyingly all have better things to do. They barely even seem to register the new problem: vamps don't just turn demonic now with the Seed of All Magic gone. They turn mindless demonic, because the demons only possess them by remote control or some such gumbo. That's right, they're "Zompires," thank you Xander. Your work is not done, she needs more help than your portmanteaux skills!
The issue ends with not one surprise twist, but two, tying up the ongoing B subplots for the last two issues by suddenly ramping both up to A-level. That's a well-done move, a fresh step that feels particular to this season and this comic. It's clear there are many more tricks up these creator's sleeves.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.