“Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9” #16 is a slow beginning of a new story arc by writer Andrew Chambliss and artist Georges Jeanty, who are getting the reins back after Jane Espenson and Drew Z. Greenberg had a turn and introduced Billy the Vampire Slayer in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9” #14 and #15. Unfortunately, while a lot happens in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9” #16, it has the texture of forgettable connective tissue and little meat.
Billy and Devon settle into slaying by assisting and apprenticing with Buffy on a zompire patrol, Dawn is ill, a foe triggers a connection in Buffy’s memory and things ramp up a bit with Buffy’s own new love interest Dowling, yet none of these plot developments feel as significant as they should. Part of it is that there’s just way too much going on. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9” #16 lacks focus. The plot bounces superficially from point to point, without any purpose beyond picking up plot threads before throwing them down again when yet another familiar face appears at the end of the issue to demand Buffy’s attention.
The primary antagonists through the last few issues have been zompires, which are remarkably bland and faceless for Buffyverse villains, without a memorable personality among them, although there is a hint that this may change soon.
Jeanty’s art hampers the story. His combat sequences have kinetic-looking foreshortening, but the characters fight with stiff limbs that are all wrong for martial arts and his anatomy and facial features change from scene to scene. All the characters appear strangely prepubescent. It’s a problem, especially in a romantic scene because while Dowling looks like a teenager, Buffy looks even further away from being legal when she’s supposed to be in her mid-twenties. In the opening scene, Buffy looks like she’s all of ten years old. Worse, the clothes are wrong for the character. Through depression and grief and maturation as a character, Buffy has never lost her fashion sense and her origins as a popular cheerleader, and her outfit is wrong from her hoodie to her shoes.
Chambliss’ dialogue is the best part of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9” #16. Much of the dialogue is smile-worthy quips and Scooby-Gang back and forth. Xander and Dawn’s conversation in the restroom felt especially in character and enjoyable to read, and there’s a great panel that features Xander nervously reaching behind Dawn’s back.
Overall, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9” #16 was a haphazard beginning for a new storyline. The story trajectory was muddled by too many intersecting plot points to have a strong core. Some fans may be pleased just to see Buffy and other favorite characters back in the saddle, but overall, it lacks the cohesion and sense of greater purpose of the previous mini-storyline focusing on Billy the Vampire Slayer.