Story Arc Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 #7-12

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill

It's been a year already. Which is about half a season in Comic Book Land, but a good time to assess. When last we checked in on Buffy, she was having a quite cogent pregnancy scare. This was new territory for the character, something never quite dealt with in the high school and college era of the show. The internets were all riled up and kind of blown away about it. What a way to be topical, and to really tread into serious territory with our formerly perkiest cheerleader of all. Of course Andrew Chambliss had some tricks up his sleeve.

It has been quite a while since college. Buffy dropped out long ago, and the first arc in this earth-bound season was about setting her up as a lone wolf agent, the kind she'd always avoided being when younger. With the rise of the “Zompire” (another bit of fallout from destroying the Seed, more hidden costs Buffy didn't foresee), even the vampires aren't interesting anymore. They're just ravening beasts without their full-on possessing demon transference to give them snarky dialogue.

On the plus side, this has sort of soured the public on their Season 8 fascination with all things vampy. Buffy has even gained a few police-force allies (some have even become hardened stake-veterans). Xander and Dawn were involved in some bizarre motivations of their own -- Xander seems inexplicably demanding, Dawn seems shallowly disinterested, and if this is circling around to Dawn only being present when Xander thinks of her, I'll be very displeased. Easily distracted Andrew was being all sneaky, and Willow was of bothering Angel, so Buffy's only remaining ally was Spike. Who told her he'd go with her for the abortion she'd decided was the only answer for a Slayer mom-to-be. Which is probably the best thing he's ever done aside from saving Dawn without being asked.

And then Chambliss revealed his complete misdirection: this wasn't Buffy at all, and it wasn't pregnancy that explained her absent period. Instead, she was a robot!

A nifty trick that was maybe too convoluted for even Andrew to explain sensibly, the best part of the fallout was Buffy considering a boring suburban life, amidst the return of the motiveless irritant Simone, the rogue slayer who continues to misunderstand every action Buffy has ever taken. She's a one woman Tea Party, and having her skip off to torture another day was a copout. This is a character who needs to reap what she has sown, many times over.

It was also a chance for Spike (with his amusing alien bug army) to take off for parts unknown (read: his new Dark Horse solo title), realizing Buffy would never return his endless love. Very high drama, very anti-Twilight, but a necessary reminder to keep Spike badass. With Willow still mad about the whole end of magic on earth thing (and her own solo series also impending), that leaves just one potential friend left for Buffy: Kennedy.

Kennedy, in the new world order, is making the Slayer army useful as bodyguards for hire, and the usual Kennedy/Buffy power struggle ensues as Buffy proves predictably less able to take orders than to give them. The coolest part of this sequence: Jeanty's reliance on the invented series characters (he remains the vital continuity between Season 8 to now), including Koh (the Nitobe demon who is as trapped as Buffy), and a Zuckerberg analogue running a pretty clever (for once) but sadly demon-ridden Facebook knockoff called Tincan. #12 also brings us as close as Buffy may ever come to a hentai cover.

Yep, the demon that Buffy faces mid-arc is just a bunch of writhing tentacles, and Jeanty has a lot of fun filling a dark warehouse with them while never letting us see the body to which they might be attached. Comics might even be the better medium for such an effect than film, if for no other reason that it makes more sense not to look into the shadows.

As promised, Chambliss is keeping this season small scale: Buffy as barista, Buffy as bodyguard, demons who aren't evil, demons with compromised powers, vampires who can't think, lovers that are unreliable, family that is self-involved. It hasn't yet become as tedious as the grim Season 6, and has also missed the big stumbles of Season 8. This is the point of the season, actually, when a little thumb twiddling happens before the real Big Nasty rears her or his head. It sure wasn't Simone. It probably isn't Wolfram & Hart.  So who's really lying in wait for our humbled heroine, and what have they been doing to Xander and Dawn?

I don't know if I'd recommend this plotting strategy for a market where sales tend to drop from issue to issue, but Buffy has both a core audience and is among the highest selling small publisher titles still. They should be alright unless they saturate the market. Spike and Willow both going solo might be pushing it, but we'll see if those titles allow for character directions that the Buffy umbrella would have limited to supporting roles. We're going to need to be convinced that they can be leads, as this is territory never attempted on TV. Though both characters have had memorable one-shots, Spike's previous solo story was definitely more humble than Angel's. Meanwhile, Buffy as a working security girl and ally to the cops? She did score really well on her police aptitude test, after all.

 


 

Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.

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