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.
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