The first part of a new story (#6) may not be the best place to do a Story Arc Review of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9, so let's call it an early-season report card instead. The show always did tend to start strong, meander a bit, put up some fake big bads, get distracted awhile, either start cooking on all burners or veer wildly off course, trot out the real big bad and then speed headlong to some kick-butt finales.
At least that's how I remember it. This one had a lot of pieces to pick up after the debacle of Season 8, with Angel revealed as Twilight, Buffy and him creating a new universe with sex, supernatural beings and the Army getting all riled up and finally Buffy destroying the Seed of all magic to save the world. Oh, and Giles died and everyone moved to San Francisco — save for Angel, who apparently hooked up with Faith somewhere safe and far away like London.
So we began with Buffy waiting tables, finding roomies and having a big party. Various forces are out to get her in the wake of Twilight: a demon who wants to make friends, a Siphon who wants to drain her magic might, two homicide detectives who mistake her for evil at first (in the confusing new world of some vampires being celebrities, a Season 8 development) and a Scooby Gang who just wants a well-earned break from it all.
"Freefall" (Buffy Season 9 #1-4) sort of like where we found her in Season 6, which did give us the priceless musical episode, but little else 'til the finale. Well, okay, no, Season 9 is leagues better, because she's not just back from the dead and slinging burgers, she's lately only back from Europe and slinging coffee. She still has friends and family, and her new roommates (Anaheed and Tumble) take a few issues to start to fear her. Even the cops eventually come around, trusting their gut more than most authority figures do in the Buffyverse.
Willow's more mundane as well this season. With no magic, she's reverted to using her computer skills for employment, and she's broken it off with Kennedy in favor of Aura, who's presumably not a Slayer. Oh, yes, the Slayers are after Buffy, too, but they're little more than thugs without Buffy's (or Andrew's) guidance. There's also an uber-villainess in the shadows, who wants Buffy out of the way, and who used Siphon as her agent. Simone's return was an Easter egg dropped by Joss at the end of last season, and she's going to need a more central role at some point. Right now she remains just a bad haircut with an attitude.
So this first arc was really about Buffy getting her footing in San Francisco, and while it's always shifty footing for the Buffster, so far so good.
Until #5, that is: "Slayer, Interrupted" is an interesting interstitial episode involving Slayer dreams and a little Tinkerbell-esque dream weaver who really deserved a better visual representation. She's meant to be like the Kylie Minogue's Green Fairy from Moulin Rouge, but we never really get a close-up from the otherwise able Karl Moline. His Original Slayer, however, is definitely the stuff, and this episode explores some intriguing new ground for the Slayer, recalling that of her debut in "Restless." That finale was a very bizarre coda to Season 4, one that left all the military and collegiate hijinks behind almost forever to head in a decidedly more mystical and symbolic direction regarding Buffy's destiny.
And fittingly, "Slayer, Interrupted" is the same, as Buffy's dreams seem to point to a way for Willow to regain some magic (and perhaps access to her lost lover, the naga from another dimension). She takes her leave in a way that is poignant and poetic for the two women, so used to working with each other's dream imagery, and without even the faintest intrusion of cheese slices. And while Willow gets a new direction, so too might Buffy: motherhood.
So it makes sense that the first step in the new arc is to go looking for Robin Wood, the only child of a Slayer mother Buffy knows. What lessons does Nikki still have for Buffy's dilemma, especially considering how great Robin turned out? If there's been one constant through all of this season, it's Spike, ironically — the vampire who killed Nikki way back when. He's not that vampire anymore, and Buffy was never really like Nikki. Where things might go from here is unpredictable — there's still that nasty Simone to worry about — but Andrew Chambliss has proven himself more than worthy to carry the Buffy torch further.
Keeping Georges Jeanty as the main artist (with Karl Moline from Fray as one sub and Cliff Richards from Season Eight still to come) is a very wise move, as his is now the signature look of the "show." He's got the characters down (his Spike has never been better), and if his comics-original characters take a while to really gel, they eventually do grow on you. Gotta love his Tomb of Dracula-homage cover this month, too.
Is it possible to place Buffy's world in a more realistic context without reducing her to abject misery? That's where Season 6 failed. Season 8 distracted us with world traveling, but San Fran is so far proving as hospitable a place as Buffy is likely to ever find. It's just that for her the hard choices don't ever stop, not matter where she goes.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.