The new magic-less status quo of the Buffy universe has really let Joss Whedon and Co. get Buffy to a simpler time, a back-to-basics approach that is only helping a story that got far, far too big for its own good; and judging by the letters in the back of this issue, the further away from crazy the better. If Season 8 became a bit of a failed experiment, than Season 9 seems to be making amends, although there is still plenty of work to be done.
As I said in my review of the first issue of Season 9, Buffy is now focusing on the quarter-life crisis, where demons come for student loan payments and the expectations of the future become much more concrete than in university. Buffy seems to operate better with a larger metaphor to work with, whether it be high school as hell, university as stressful and eye-opening, or the other ideas that the Buffy writers and crew have tried to work with. But all this is still in the set-up stages of this book, as are the overall plot points. This issue is definitely part of a much larger arc, and as such the plot is moving slowly. And with a slow plot, there has to be things to keep readers engaged and, unfortunately, this issue doesn’t have too much going on elsewhere either. The characters, for example, seem to be on repeat, with Willow’s only line being about her magic being gone before she disappears into the night with an ellipsis. Buffy and Spike’s relationship is also fairly static, the banter back and forth coupled with Spike keeping an eye out for loyalty's sake has been done time and time again, to the point where their interactions, while still putting a smile on my face, seem completely unnecessary. The only characters experiencing change are Dawn and Xander, ironic considering Willow’s lack of magic has stagnated her, but they are in a way that seems to be somewhat out of character. Xander, the one who ‘sees’ and has always been loyal and willing to help out, now won’t even let Buffy sleep on his couch because, well, I’m not sure why. Dawn and him are arguing, so he’s on the couch, but the problem seems fairly superficial and Xander’s impotence is actually quite disturbing. But what got me the most this issue was the police encounter. Apparently Buffy’s identity as a slayer is pretty easy to figure out if you’re a cop, so why is her identity not even more public? The disconnect between the necessity of the story and Buffy having a secret identity and people knowing about vampires, slayers, etc. doesn’t mesh well, and I am left disappointed in logic leaps taken to keep the story together. However, the issue is one piece of a much larger story, and there is enough entertaining dialogue and familiarity to keep the comic moving along, especially with the introduction of the character at the end. But if Season 9 is supposed to be the antidote for the failed experiment of Season 8, things are going to have to get better.
As with last time, I know Georges Jeanty is going to be the artist for the series, as he has been for a while, and he has a difficult job of balancing familiarity with drawing a comic, but I still do not like his style. The characters look off, their faces contort into bug-eyed melodrama whenever an emotion needs to be conveyed (which is not helped by inker Dexter Vines heavy lines). Random lines on faces also make characters look even stranger, and looking at them, the facial anatomy is only augmented by Jeanty's choice in strange angles. The only aspect I enjoyed and thought appropriate was Michelle Madsen’s strong colours, which worked much better this issue than last. There are still some issues with the characters’ faces, but at least they look less like zombies this time around. Overall, I feel the art could be better, especially for a book that can get numbers like Buffy if things looked good and read well.
Grade: B- Can be better if not still a little entertaining.