'Buffy Season 9' #1 review: A world without magic, but not without problems. Or parties!

Before we can really discuss the first issue in Buffy Season 9 — the second volume of Joss Whedon’s comic book continuance of his TV touchstone Buffy the Vampire Slayer past its 2003 series finale — we need to look back for a moment at the mammoth events of Buffy Season 8.

Back then, things in the Buffyverse were really complicated. There was that army of Slayers to corral, a mysterious Big Bad named Twilight to contend with, and a world that had discovered that vampires were real — and, even worse, everyone thought they were the coolest thing ever. (Sound familiar?) By the end of the 40-issue run, things became so convoluted — Buffy and Angel transformed into gods and had god-like über-sex, creating their very own universe that threatened to rip the fabric of our universe to shreds — that Buffy herself became rather lost amid the epic, magical derring do.

Whedon’s solution? No more magic. After Angel — who had be pretending to be Twilight until he actually became Twilight (toldja it was convoluted) — snapped Giles’ neck, Buffy destroyed the seed of all magic on Earth. WHAMMO: No more army of Slayers, no more Slayer line period, no more spells for super witch Willow, and no more godlike boinking spawning vengeful sentient universes. Everything demon-y that was on Earth already — like vampires and such — remained, but otherwise, life suddenly became a lot more simple.

Except, well, it didn’t. That seems to be the underlying theme of “Freefall, Part One,” the inaugural issue of Buffy Season 9 – written by Whedon, and penciled by Buffy comic regular Georges Jeanty with his usual thoughtful flourish — that finds Buffy working as a waitress in San Francisco. Her sister Dawn and best friend Xander are having a go at playing house; Willow has a new girlfriend she doesn’t seem all that attached to; and Spike is still stalking the alleyways looking out for Buffy’s best interests. (Angel and fellow Slayer Faith are off in London getting their redemption on in their own spin-off comic series.)

And Buffy? She’s finally stumbling into that rootless stage of life when staying up all night in a drunken haze of a massive house party seems like a fabulous idea — until the morning hangover makes clear it was a very, very, very bad one. Watching Buffy act like a normal twentysomething screw-up is adorable, and a refreshing reminder that, even without the weight of the world on her shoulders, our heroine’s life can still be a bit of a mess. If the 24-page issue was just about this party — during which Buffy introduces her friends to her new roomies, and after which Buffy deals with consequences of her party-hardiness, both physical and emotional — then it would have been a fascinating, human-scaled change of pace from the fast-paced phantasmagoria of Season 8. 

Instead, Whedon seems twitchy to get the major story arcs for Season 9 moving right away, intercutting three other plots into the main story. (One continues an unresolved storyline from Season 8; one evokes, intriguingly, Angel‘s first TV season; and one is so fantastical, it feels left over from Season 8, which I’m guessing can only be by design.) He also cross cuts the aftermath of Buffy’s house party with the party itself, making for a slightly puzzling reading experience, while sprinkling in other plot strands about Riley’s anti-terrorism work and a secret Xander’s keeping from Dawn. And he ends things with a choice twist that I can only describe as Whedonesque.

It’s a lot for one issue. I think that may be the point — even if Buffy’s life has gotten much smaller, the world remains a big place, and it’s always spinning forward. But I still hope that as Season 9 unfolds, Whedon et. al. allow the relative simplicity of Buffy’s life to reflect more in the storytelling itself. As any Buffy fan knows, the woman is plenty captivating just on her own.

Follow Adam on Twitter @adambvary

Read more:
VIDEO: Joss Whedon talks ‘The Avengers,’ ‘Cabin in the Woods’ and the new ‘Buffy’ comic
Joss Whedon on the end of the ‘Buffy Season 8′ comic, and the future of Season 9 — EXCLUSIVE
Joss Whedon: Master of cult TV

Comments (52 total) Add your comment
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  • Flip

    This was a really fantastic issue. Back to basics and really felt like the Buffy I know and love. Can’t wait for more!

  • HD

    Wow, all that happened in season 8? No wonder I checked out after the first 4 issues. It just wasn’t the same as the show (as much as I tried to visualize it) and I’m not into comic books enough to appreciate it on its own merits. Sounds like it’s going to be the same for season 9. But for those who appreciate it all, happy reading!

  • Flip

    Adam, if you wanted it any more scaled back, there wouldn’t have been a plot to this issue. I thought it was a perfect balance.

    • Serqei

      I’d add firefly, the wire and Farscape, but then most codieems are rewatchable. If you enjoyed The Office, Seinfeld or Friends, you’d more likely than not re-watch them. If you didn’t, obviously you wouldn’t (Just a pre-emptive strike at all the eew-friends posts).I’ll probably re-watch Lexx some day too. If you actually watch it through, it’s a pretty good mix of 50 s sci-fi and steampunk with a decent storyline.

      • Komang

        CharityHi, Melissa. I saw your post, as well, and thought the same thing, so I’m glad you came over. I had to work all wekened, so I haven’t gotten to explore as much as I would have liked yet. I know exactly how that can feel when your dreams are calling to you to do one thing, but there are all these other things holding you back, and some of them aren’t bad like a house or friends! Facing the unknown and walking away from what’s comfortable really is terrifying. The closer it gets for me, the scarier it gets, but I keep reminding myself how much I want things, and that seems to help on the days part of me just wants to run and hide with my blanket of familiarity.Good luck to you, too!~ Charity

  • Liv

    I don’t read these comics, just check in on the EW posts about them and can I say that after the finale of Buffy I always thought they should have sent Faith over to Angel too. Her dynamic with Angel was always so perfect because they understood each other in ways the Buffy and Angel could never understand each other. Also, any world without Giles is a sad world indeed.

    • Liz

      Um, no, Buffy was/is the one who, not only understood Angel, but also loved/loves all of him.

      • Flip

        Agreed. Buffy and Angel are true love soulmates and belong together. I hope they get their happy ending together one day.

      • Mary

        OMG…no shipping wars here. PLEASE! We get enough of that with Twilight…and True Blood. But, if we must, Spuffy forever, lol!

      • rocky

        Buffy is cookies, and Angel is waiting for her to be done.

      • Liv

        I’m not saying Faith and Angel should be romantically involved. I don’t think they match up well that way, but they do make a better team than Buffy and Angel. Buffy and Angel it’s all moony eyes and I love you I hate you blah blah blah.

      • B/A all the Way

        The true test for Buffy and Angel’s love for each other is that Angel’s own adorable arrogance caused Twilight to manipulate him and kill Giles through him. First off, Giles was old and useless to Buffy so she got over her tears pretty quickly. Second, Buffy loves ambition. Spike’s a loser. He failed to save Dawn. He failed to kill himself after attempting to rape Buffy which would have been the honorable thing to do, but of course Spike has no honor because he’s a loser. Spike failed to realize that he doesn’t even deserve a soul and that it really doesn’t matter because Buffy will never love Spike no matter what he does and she will hate every single fiber of his pathetic being. Hopefully, Season Nine will reward us Buffy/Angel fans by bringing our beloved couple together and showing the slow torture, dismemberment and death of Spike brainwashed with both Buffy and Angel conditioning Spike into believing that he never had a soul, he never destroyed the Hellmouth it was actually Angel’s amulet that did all the work because he’s too pathetic to have the heart and strength to do it on his own, and that everyone hated him as a human including his own mother, and that Fred will always hate Spike for failing to save her, and Buffy will always see Spike as a failure in everything he is or does. He’s as uselsess as his cellulite freak friend Clem and I hope he wakes up with Clem’s head lying right beside his in his coffin, with a signed note reading Buffy and Angel 4ever! B/A all the Way!

      • AN

        Ummmm, wow. I am Team Angel, too, but I love me some Spikey.

      • Bander

        I am so sick and tired of Buffy and Angel saying when will they get there happy ending. I’m sorry but that day is never coming after Liam or Angel or Twilight or Angelus(seriously how many alter egos does he need) killed Giles that sunk any chance they ever had of ever getting together. Giles was like her dad an Angel himself said he can’t blame everything that happened on Twilight. So my question to you is how many chances do you feel Buffy and Angel should get. You Bangels are ilke the kid who strikes out at kick ball but wants to keep trying because he knows he can just get it right if he gets just one more chance. Seriously how about we let someone else take a turn. Season 8 there wasn’t a better someone to take the chance then Xander. Buffy hadn’t opened herself up to anyone the entire season more then she did Xander. You could see them growing closer and closer as the season progresses. Then they throw Dawn Xander at us. Even in season 9 opening you can still they are hinting at it happening and I say it’s time we finally get our chance. Frankly Angel and Buffy have had there chance it’s time for someone else. Xander has been the only character to be buy her side. When Angel left her or her dad or Giles or Spike or Riley. Xander has earned the right to be with her. It angered me that when she wanted him. When she came to him and asked why not me. I wanted to tear up the issue. I am begging Whedon to end the travesty that is Dawn and Xander and finally give Buffy Xander a chance. I’m sorry Angel fans but you have had your chance. 3 strikes you are out..

      • Veiriti

        Why do you people still believe in that crap “Buffy and Angel – soumates”?! Why do you still believe that two people who don’t know each other and don’t even trust each other are still soulmates?! Why do you still believe that your “soulmate” is not able to do anything for you instead constantly to bring you a pain?! Why do you think that the man who abandon Buffy so many times, who was plotting behind her back and working against her, who ordered to kill her fellow slayers and killed her father figure with his own hands, is still her “soulmate”?!
        Spike is e truest champion; he saved the day twice, unlike Angel who tried to cause the Apocalypse twice! Angel who betrayed Buffy and put her in this depressive state again! So who is the loser now?!! Buffy loves Spike, she always believed in him, she knows her and really loves her! Spike and Buffy are the real soulmates! SPIKE AND BUFFY FOREVER!!!

  • MWeyer

    WOW this was painful. Buffy shown as a party girl, no idea of her life was a sad fall for this great character, making her seem annoying and whiny. No real action either and that annoying ending was just a total joke. This looks bad and sad to see Joss falling so far with the characters.

  • AN

    Wait – Xander AND Dawn? Like together together?

    • Xander

      Yup. Like that kind of together.

      • Flip

        Yup. And it’s awesome. :-D

      • AN

        Oh I don’t know how I feel about this….

  • mdc

    Dawn and xander? i thought she was under age. Hopefully buffy and spike are in a romantic relationship, buffy and spike forever.

    • Wei

      Word! Love Buffy and Spike!

  • briguyx

    Enjoyed the issue but I think Joss could use a little more editing. When Buffy’s male friends come to the party, they’re never introduced by name and while it’s obvious one is Spike, it took a while to figure out the other two are Riley and Andrew (I think).

  • EricMontreal22

    Buffy Season 8 really lost me somewhere in the middle–it just got too big, too convulated, etc (I know one of the advantages of a comic is you can make it big, but…) I did finish the whole thing but I guess I’ll wait till I can find the first graphic novel collection cheap before diving into this.

  • Jordan

    So what happened to Willow’s old girlfriend, Kennedy?

  • Ian

    Really didn’t like season 8. It become a huge mess and I pretty much checked out.

    As much as I love Buffy, I have no interest in this anymore.

  • Nate

    This was a terrible series opening. Buffy as a party girl was painful. At one point I had to flip back to the beginning to make sure Joss really wrote this. I’m a Buffy fanboy all the way. I really wanted to enjoy this. I was unable to on any level. Fingers crossed that this comic is able to progress into the brilliance that was Season 8.

    I agree that this issue needed some major editing, and a real ending. Student loans? Really?

  • Amber Liu

    I’m not sure how I felt about this issue. On the one hand, the party scenes were funny, but trying to go back and forth between remembering and seeing the deed was really confusing. Usually, I like that approach. But this just seemed harder to follow. And then Xander and Buffy in the bedroom. Were they hooking it up? Buffy hit on Riley? Did she maybe sleep with her boss at the coffee shop? I just wasn’t sure what some of the hints were hinting at, or even if they were that important. As far as showing what Buffy has missed during her college years, and is now experiencing in her mid-20’s, that is cool. I like getting back to basics. And I thought the Student loans ending was funny. But what I really hate about Season 8 is that it made the supernatural world more apparent to the real world. And I love how in the series, normal people could ignore it, pretend to be unaware of it, if they wanted. Because clear demons working in everyday jobs, just seems wrong for the series. I liked it better when the supernatural was still on the down low for most people. Anyone with me on that?

    • John Hansen

      Amber, I agree. The change in the Buffyverse at large (the fact that it got big and political, rather than being a secret club of sorts) is my least favorite development over the course of nine seasons. However, I’ve never stopped liking the characters; they are like old friends. So overall, it’s a wash, I guess.
      Does anyone know what Adam was referring to when he mentioned the “Angel” Season 1 parallel in this issue? Maybe it’s obvious, but it’s been awhile since I’ve watched “Angel.”

  • GV

    I purchased the first 10 issues then gave up didn’t even read half of them. However I did buy the DVD version of the comic and can’t recall that all that is in this post happened. Guess it wasn’t that memorable. I love Buffy and always will is just so hard to like this format where you have to wait a whole month to see what happens and it not enough happens or it gets too complicated is hard to hold your interest.

    • Mary

      MacGyver, it’s not as easy as it looks. I’m re-watching the shows via Netflix, having watcehd them last when I was about ten years old, thinking it would bring back the memories. Oh it brings back the memories about how many shows that I liked when I was ten were incredibly formulaic and repetitive. (How many times can MacGyver clever his way out of a situation involving personality-less goons, a mildly attractive woman who always falls for him, and a precarious situation with just enough odd materials at hand to solve? It is the EXACT SAME THING every show. I’m having a hard time not pushing the discs off in the queue.MacGyver (like the A-Team) is a great memory, but leave it there story-wise, it has nothing on some of the stuff we take for granted on television today.

      • alamera

        Hi Ben, I think Halloween’s not a bad episode to come in on if you do a have a litlte background (or a lot as the case might be).With the captcha I do use akismet and find that on it’s own I was dealing with 45 to 100 spam comments a day and people’s actual comments were getting caught up in it. Now it’s down to 5 or 6 which get caught by akismet.Obviously I didn’t want the regulars to have to use it over and over so I did suggest to everyone at the time that if they register on the blog they’d only ever had to do it the one time: Getting around the QYDJ captchaI should probably put a note to that effect somewhere near the comment form. Reply

  • Cherryll

    To you who write spike is a loser he is not a loser he cares a lot for them he loves with his heart and is a pretty good guy vampire

    Angelus on the hand even in his human days was a selfish bastard there did not think about others than him self Angel is a okay guy but not more
    Buffy and Angel well that ship is sailed long ago and Angel you have to wakeup and face the reality blame on Twilight was lame for I think with Twilight Angelus took over
    Season 9 to me it looks like Buffys life is way out og kontrol in any way it can be she dont need to hit on guys girls or sleep with them when she is drunk she need help and if Xandre was a friend as he say he is then he will help her not let her hit on him and stuff and you dont hit on your sisters Boyfriend its of limits

    If Angel was her Soul mate will he stop feeling Guilty and help her but I think Spike will be the hero here
    and I think
    Buffy put yourself together stop feeling sorry for yourself and do some thing with your llife other than drinking

    • B/A all the Way

      Cherryll, he’s a loser because Buffy said so. Actually he’s not even a loser, he’s a shell of a loser. And I don’t care whether this was said in Season Three or Season Seven. It’s canon and canon is binding. She never refutes it. She never once says to Spike that he isn’t a loser so to me she still sees him as a loser. Now about the whole loves heartburn and is a pretty good guy but is irredeemably flawed, I suppose if the writers are that stubborn and stupid about it then they can keep Spike a “good guy.” Definitions of good sur ehave changed, though. I mean perosnally I would love to see Buffy cut off Spike’s limbs, disembowel him and hoist him up by his entrails to be used as a punching/kicking bag, but we’ll play it your way.

      So here’s my wish for Spike if he’s a good guy in the comics. Buffy has to make a choice between saving either Angel or Spike. Angel is totally super-redeemed now after his Twilight business (which, honestly, I had no problem with and wished he killed more traitorous slayers and army men who disobeyd his direct orders but I digress) so if he dies he’ll go to the heaven dimension. Angel is also gravely wounded and death seems certain. Spike meanwhile is totally healthy (physically, IMO. He’s deficient in every other way). WIhtout hesitation, Buffy lops off Spike’s head. Angel questions Buffy about his choice because to him Spike is a valued ally and Champion and he would have found completionand salvation at last. Buffy replies that it’s because she loves him and that Spike is a champion, all right! Champion of the losers. Then she goes on a tangent about how that statement’s an oxymoron which kind of fits becaue Spike is a moron. Angel laughs and they both kiss and we find out in a postscript that Spike’s soul is being tomented forever in Hell and, thnaks to Willow’s astral projection, Buffy and Angel can peek in on Spike’s eternal torture and suffering and have a good laugh while making Youtube clips. Then actual readers of the comic can watch these clips with the option of listening to Buffy and Angel’s laugh track and goofy noises.

      Totally great way to end the comics! Joss, make it happen! B/A all the Way!

      P.S. If Buffy needs to drink to unwind that’s fine. Just as long as she throws empty bottles at Spike’s head and cuts out his tongue so we don’t have to hear him bloody-well yapping. Tee-hee!

      • nsmith

        B/A Forever:

        You do realize this is all FICTION right. Made up, not real. You are quite demented

    • Baadal

      I do not consider it helyrbope to talk about the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as scaling operatic heights, culminating with the glorious aria of Becoming, Part 2, which I still relentlesly tout as one of the ten best dramatic hours on television I have ever seen in my life. I have watched a lot of television and have been teaching classes about this topic for over half my life, so I believe I can make a pretty convincing case. We witnesses the potential of this series in Season 1, when creator Joss Whedon held off on the revelation that the mysterious Angel was really a vampire, who just happened to have a soul and loved the Slayer, until half way through the abbreviated first season. In Season 2, we find out just how far true love can go wrong.Love continues to be a very painful thing for the Scooby Gang, as Cordelia ( Some Assembly Required ), Xander ( Inca Mummy Girl ) and Joyce ( Ted ), find out. Then again, prospects look much better for Willow ( Phases ), although we never really do take the Cordelia-Xander romance ( Go Fish ) to be anything more than a cosmic joke, which does offer up the delightfully twisted Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered as the exception that proves the rule (footnote: Buffy spends most of the episode as the Buffy rat because Sarah Michelle Gellar was hosting SNL that week). Of the off-arc stories, Halloween and Ted are clearly the best of the bunch. But when it comes to romance, Buffy and Angel are truly on the road to hell paved with the best of intentions.It is clear in the season premier episode, When She Was Bad, that things are different. When Buffy dances seductively with Xander, taunting him with her sexuality, the ante has been upped considerably. The pivotal point in the season comes with episode 13 (of 22), Surprise, when Buffy unknowingly undoes Angel’s curse on the night of her 17th birthday by making love to him. Why the gypsies put in the Faustian (in the Goethe sense) escape clause via the moment of true happiness and contentment is debatable, but the galvanizing effect on the show is truly impressive. When Angelus brutally slays Jenny Calendar in Passion, leaving her body in a grotesque display for Giles to discover in his bed (while opera music soars in the background), it is the symbolic Hellmouth of the show opening up. The audience is shocked into realizing how bad things can get, only the worst is yet to come. Giles’s anger buys him one shot at Angelus, but Buffy has to rescue him. They turn on each other in anger, and Buffy actually slugs him to the ground before they collapse weeping in each other’s arms. Buffy tells him, I can’t do this alone, but this proves to be most ironically incorrect.Clearly Whedon constructs each season around two half-season story arcs. The first half of Season 2 heralds the arrival of Spike and Dru, and the quick departure of The Annoying One. Of course now we look back and are amazed at what James Marsters has done with the role of Spike, but at this point it is Juliet Landau’s ditzy psychotic vampire who provides the flair of the dark side. Whedon brings the first half to a climax in What’s My Line?, the show’s first two-parter, where we are introduced to Kendra the Vampire Slayer. It seems Buffy’s brief moment of death at the hands of the Master in Prophecy Girl has some long reaching implications we only begin to appreciate at this point. But with the return of Angelus everything changes. Spike and Drusilla are trying to reassemble the Judge, a grotesque who cannot be killed by any weapon forged. Then everybody learns the truth about not only Angel’s transformation but also Jenny’s betrayal. Thus begins the deadly game of cat and mouse between Angel and his former allies, which culminates in the two parts of Becoming. Both parts of Becoming are written and directed by Whedon, and represent the apex of his work on the series. When Angeleus opens the portal to Hell, only his blood can close it, but things are not going to be that easy for Buffy. The dramatic culmination contains the best fight sequence (with swords) in a show that prides itself on innovative staging of its fights, and is an ultimately emotionally shattering experience captured beautifully by Sarah Michelle Gellar’s slow dissolve into tears while the haunting Sarah McLachlan song Full of Grace is played. Joss Whedon had set this moment up from the first episode of the series. It is a payoff usually reserved for the final episode of a series and not simply the end of the second season. Becoming is truly an astounding accomplishment in the history of dramatic television and when you watch the entire second season again you can appreciate how brilliantly this shattering conclusion is set up. The original theatrical film was a teaser, the first season on television was an appetizer, but the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was epic and once you see this, whether again or for the first time, you are not going to want to stop here. It is especially nice to see that the extras have gone up a couple of notches for the Season 2 DVD collection which is clearly priced to be accessible to BtVS’s loyal fans. Yes, we all appreciated having the entire first season, just like our Buffy brethren across the sea, but certainly we expected more goodies from Whedon and crew, especially given the high quality of The Watchers Guide, the show’s official companion volumes. Clearly there is a lot of thought put into this show, which means any and all insights and looks behind the curtain are greatly appreciated.

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