The ninth season of Buffy kicks off around the same time as season eight ended, finding Buffy and friends relocated to San Francisco in a world without magic. More so than the previous season, the focus is really on Buffy as she struggles to find her place in the world while still being the Slayer. Spoiler warning.
Buffy’s actions in removing magic from the world last year have put her at odds with her slayer army, bringing the series back to basics. Willow is mad at Buffy for taking away her magic, making her weak and powerless again. Xander and Dawn are happily living together as a couple, but Xander seems to be hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, Spike is hanging around the background, still pining for Buffy.
The series starts off strong with series creator Joss Whedon finding time to handle the first issue among his other commitments, centring on Buffy’s housewarming party and her raging hangover the morning after. This situation really helps readers to empathise with the title character, as who hasn’t had a hangover from hell at one time or another? Throughout the first arc it is established that a dark power is rising that will cause issues for the Slayer, while she struggles with everyday issues like holding down a job and paying rent.
After the first issue, the rest of the series is written by Andrew Chambliss, who is able to imbue the classic characters with their familiar voices, though he does take some strange story choices. The first storyline is definitely the strongest overall, establishing the new threat for the season: the Siphon, who can drain magic from creatures – including slayers! He feels like a very real threat for the Slayer, especially as he gains more power later in the season.
The best individual issue of the series is issue six, which focuses on Buffy debating what to do when a pregnancy test comes through as positive. She visits Robin Wood, the son of a former slayer, to find out how it felt being raised by her. Spike is there throughout, suggesting that they could have a life together and raise the child. Eventually Buffy decides to have an abortion. For a girl in her situation it makes perfect sense – how would she ever support a child with her slaying commitments and demons running around everywhere?
Unfortunately, this whole plot is derailed the very next issue when it’s revealed that Buffy isn’t pregnant, she’s actually a robot. It’s a very stupid plot point that ruins a great issue, which could have dealt with the right of women to choose. The storylines very much go down hill from here. The next story reintroduces one of the most hated characters from the show, Kennedy, in a storyline where Buffy becomes a bodyguard. A later arc brings back Illyria from Angel, but doesn’t do much with the character, in fact weakening her greatly.
My favourite character, Willow, checks out for a great deal of the series, leaving in issue five and not returning until issue 20. In between, she appears in the far superior Angel & Faith (which I previously reviewed here) as well as getting her own miniseries where she struggles to restore magic to the world. Her story is one of the strongest of the season, so it’s strange that so little of it is actually spent in the main series. Spike, another favourite, also leaves early on, getting a much less impressive spin-off series that’s both dull and uninteresting.
San Francisco cop Robert Dowling is a new ally introduced this season but he doesn’t get much focus before disappearing entirely. The strongest character introduced is Billy, a gay teenager who takes it upon himself to fight off the vampire menace in his town, with the help of his boyfriend Devon, who takes on the role of his watcher. It’s a different take on the slayer story, as he chooses to be a slayer rather than being chosen. He’s a great, but painfully underused character, and not just because it’s always wonderful to have more LGBT characters in comics.
Georges Jeanty returns to the series, having previously drawn season eight. While the characters look mostly true to form and the monsters look great, there are times when characters look a little off or when the action is hard to follow.
The final storyline brings the main cast back together when Dawn is in peril, but rushes too much to end several stories. It also changes the main villain to slayer Simone and throws in the first vampire because there clearly just wasn’t enough going on. By the end of the series, things are reset to a more traditional Buffy set-up, the gang are reunited and magic is back.
The return to the status quo honestly just makes it feel like this season has been pointless, as nothing has been changed and season 10 will begin in a world very similar to that which existed at the end of season seven. As a devoted Buffy fan I will definitely check out the next season, but I wish this one had been stronger, rather than the worst one yet.