“Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Nine” #6 is a bold comic. Full stop.
The people in charge of this book — creators, editors and behind-the-scenes puppet masters (that’s you, Joss Whedon) — deserve huge credit for tackling the sensitive and controversial subject of abortion with unflinching honesty and realism. Like many fans, I worried when Buffy was revealed to be pregnant in last month’s issue. I worried that the creators would avoid the potentially polarizing “A-word” as even an option. Instead, they did exactly the opposite, attacking the topic head on and devoting an entire issue to Buffy considering all her options, including abortion.
By the end of this issue, Buffy decides to get an abortion. Whether she actually will remains to be seen (many women change their minds between making the initial decision and seeing it through). The interesting part of the story is not the decision she ultimately made, or the paternity, which remains unknown, but why she made the decision she did. Though her Slayer lifestyle is an obvious reason for Buffy to be hesitant about having a child (and she gives much weight to this consideration), in the end, Buffy decides she’s not ready because the woman part of her, not the slayer part of her, is not yet ready for motherhood.
Buffy takes a hard look at her life in this issue, even the arguably normal parts, and realizes it’s a mess. She lives with roommates (who want her to move out), has an unstable low paying job (that I seriously doubt comes with health care) and not much of a future plan beyond “slayer”. In short, she’s still figuring out who she is, what she should be doing and where she should be headed. Buffy’s decision is a considered and adult one, one she does not make lightly and one the story does not judge her for. Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings on abortion, it would have been a huge betrayal of the character and of the powerful feminist icon she has become not to address it. Her decision is handled smartly and respectfully and with exactly the right tone. As a result, this is a comic that makes me proud to be a fan of the character and the Buffyverse at large.
So why isn’t this a five-star comic book? Primarily because Buffy’s story is intercut with a flashback story of Nikki Wood, the only slayer we know of that’s had a child, Buffy’s friend and ally Robin Wood. Nikki’s story makes a natural parallel with Buffy’s situation, but it’s not well handled on the whole and comes off feeling like an after school special. It’s easy to understand why the creative team wanted to use the story to offset a largely talking heads issue, but the angle is tired, playing on cliche without subverting it. For such a bold issue in so many other ways, the use of Nikki feels obvious and banal in comparison.
Regardless of that misstep, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Nine” #6 is a comic to be reckoned with. If the creative team can continue to be this true to Whedon’s characters, we’re in for a run of powerful stories, indeed.