“Freefall, Part 1”
Script: Joss Whedon
Pencils: Georges Jeanty
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Though it both introduces new characters (Buffy’s new roommates) and re-introduces the core group of Scoobies, the bulk of this issue sees the Slayer fighting her deadliest enemy yet – a hangover! Through the course of a series of flashbacks to the previous night’s housewarming party, we gradually piece together the night’s events (and are reminded of just how dangerous the combination of booze and Buffy can be). On top of this, we are also given glimpses of a few subplots, including a dead girl with no visible wounds, Spike’s warnings (continued from the final Season 8 issue) that something “not human and not nice” is coming, something nasty freeing itself from a weakening magical prison and rogue Slayer Simone making her way to San Francisco. As the issue draws to a close, a still-hungover Buffy is patrolling with Willow and Spike when she is confronted by a demon who promises to make her pay… her student loan!
- The biggest menaces Buffy faces are a hangover and student loan payments. I can relate.
- On a related note, until the second half of the issue, the only supernatural being that appears is Spike, and those that do appear in the second half contribute little to this particular issue (one is clearly being set up for later appearances while the other provides the cliffhanger).
- Georges Jeanty is a “like” unto himself. Truth be told, I had never heard of him prior to his work on Season 8, but in the years since he has become a favorite of mine.
- Throughout the issue, Madsen uses a more muted color pallet for the scenes set in the present, as opposed to the vibrant colors that accompany the flashbacks. It’s a nice, subtle touch.
- There’s something… off about the art in this issue. It probably boils down to the fact that Dexter Vines has taken over the inking duties from Andy Owens. It’s not bad by any means, but I did find it distracting at times.
In her review, Nicole Sixx mentioned that this issue felt like “a homecoming”. She’s absolutely right, but more than that, this was about bringing Buffy back down to Earth after Season 8. A common criticism regarding Season 8 was that it was perhaps a bit too out there. Whedon and company seem to have taken that to heart, as Season 9 is shaping up to be, if anything, the opposite.
A demon attempting to collect on a loan is a classic Buffy metaphor, something that seemed to fall to the wayside in Season 8, and even toward the end of the TV show. It’s not even that these metaphors disappeared as much as they started to center around Dawn rather than Buffy (Dawn enrolling at Sunnydale High in the seventh season and even her transformations in Season 8). The problem with that is that while Dawn was a core member of the cast, it still distanced these situations from Buffy. That. Of course is because Dawn was the youngest of the group, the sole cast member in high school while the rest were dealing with the adult world between apocalypses. By contrast, putting Buffy herself at the center of any situation inevitably draws in the rest of the supporting cast.
Indeed, this issue had a number of subtle touches that seemed designed to hearken back to what many consider the glory days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is to say the first three seasons. The scope, so far, is smaller than the often globe-hopping Season 8, with most if not all of the issue taking place in San Fransisco. Additionally, more emphasis is being placed on the characters, and I don’t just mean their relationships. We’re also seeing a return of some quirks of characterization that were deemphasized later in the series’ run. The example which most prominently stands out in my mind is Buffy’s uncanny ability to mangle the English language. (Watch what she does to the word “haberdasher”. I hope she bought it dinner first…)
All told, Season 9 is off to a compelling start. By reigning things in a bit from the excesses they reached in Season 8, Whedon and company appear to be crafting a tale that feels closer to the series we all fell in love with. I can’t wait to see where things go from here.