"Buffy The Vampire Slayer" is a hard comic for me to review, as I have to struggle to keep the emotionally invested fangirl parts of me balanced with the objective reviewer parts. Fortunately, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 9" #1 is a very good comic, so my job is made easy.
"Season 9" of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" picks up with Buffy trying very hard to find herself and her place in the world after the devastating events of the previous season battling the villain Twilight. These devastating events included but were not limited to very weird super sex (the less mentioned about that the better); the death of her longtime mentor and really, father, in all the truest senses of the word, at the hands of her former (and somewhat current) lover; and in the end, Buffy's decision to rid the world of all magic in an attempt to save lives and do the right thing. Buffy's decision has left her very unpopular with a lot of people, good guys and bad. This first issue finds an almost forcibly upbeat Buffy connecting with her core family and friends (as well as a few new faces) and trying her damndest to build a life for herself in the new world order, which in this issue, at least, includes a very large amount of drinking.
Seeing Joss Whedon's name on the writing credits on this issue ensures to anyone that knows anything about the Buffyverse that they'll be getting the best possible take on their characters. You can't get any closer to the source than Joss Whedon writing Buffy, and while there are many talented writers that also do a great job, at the end of the day I'm always happiest when it's Whedon. And in true Whedon fashion, he has upset the apple cart in the Buffyverse yet again, and is clearly enjoying the fallout. In "Season 8" Buffy was the general of a massive army of slayers throughout the world. Buffy now works in a coffee shop in San Francisco, has some roommates who don't know she's a slayer, patrols every night, and is basically trying to figure out her life. To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to this; it felt like a step backward. But, as usual, Whedon has proved me wrong and reminded me why he knows what's best for his characters and how best to keep them learning and growing. The voices, it probably could go without saying, are dead on accurate. The frantic and almost haphazard plot - most of the issue pirouettes between present day hung over Buffy and flashbacks to the night before as Buffy tries to remember it all - feels entirely deliberate to where Buffy is in her life at this particular moment in time. It works as an effective device in that way. Whedon weaves it all together effortlessly, and because he's Joss Whedon, he doesn't skimp on the jokes either. -- the kind of jokes that are obvious and that only someone 'in the family' can get. And it's all just very delicious.
George Jeanty and Dexter Vines' art is very strong in this issue. Jeanty's Buffy work has always been strong as he has a great feeling for these characters and this world, but there were a few frustrating inconsistencies that left some pages and panels feeling slightly rushed. The opening page of a hung over Buffy is almost hypnotic in its beauty and emotion, and illustrates how good the book could and should be on every page. But occasionally characters in this issue feel a bit off model, like Dawn looking a little strange, and Willow looking very little like the Willow I've come to know in either the comic or the television series. But there's a lot to see here, and massive party scenes are incredibly time consuming and difficult to execute, and in truth Jeanty delivers impressively for an issue filled with so much of...well, everything. The colors by Michelle Madsen are fantastic, jumping from overly bright party scenes to dark underworld type goings on with ease.
Joss Whedon has managed the impossible yet again, somehow reinventing and reinvigorating these beloved characters and putting them on entirely new paths and adventures. I cannot wait to see where Whedon is taking us this time, although I desperately hope that one of those places will be Buffy and Spike getting together. Hey, I said I struggled to keep the balance between critic and fan, I didn't say I succeeded.