Spoilers. You've been warned.
I’m going to have to put my fan feelings aside as much as possible while I write critically about this latest issue of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 9” because I’m not really a fan of the startling direction it potentially takes the series. But I’ve also learned to put a certain amount of faith in Joss Whedon; he’s rarely steered me wrong…though the end of “Season 8” was tough, so forgive me if I’m a bit more skeptical than I used to be.
This can be called the dream issue, because Buffy has three big slayer dreams, and not much else happens outside of those dreams. The first two dreams lead Buffy and Willow to team up on her dream (I’m not sure what the plan was there, but it all works out). And thanks to the third dream both women have realizations and embark on very different paths. Willow takes off with the broken scythe on a mission to bring magic back to the world, while Buffy learns that she’s pregnant. Like I said, spoilers.
Andrew Chambliss continues to do a fine job with the character voices and he does some nice character work with Buffy and Willow and their fractured, complicated friendship. Unfortunately, most of the book is dreams, and dreams are difficult to make interesting in fiction, despite how frequently they are used (or perhaps because of how frequently they are used). “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” has a pretty good history with using dreams to good effect (in both the comic and television show) but this is not one of the better examples I’ve seen. Perhaps I’m missing some great layered things that will come back someday and I’ll smack my head and go “of course!” that’s why that dream was so important! But right now, it’s all feeling pretty surface and obvious while also being annoying and cryptic.
Karl Moline’s pencils are not a great fit for this fill-in issue. Sometimes his work is quite lovely, and the beauty of several panels struck me, but it’s frustratingly inconsistent overall. Sometimes Buffy looks her appropriate young twenties self, but occasionally she looks at least forty, which is jarring to say the least. It’s particularly unfortunate that the weakest page of the entire issue is the last page, when Buffy’s reaction to that positive test result should tell us so much. It should make us feel. And yet her expression is impossible to read, and in truth it looks nothing like Buffy at all, which makes it hard to relate or care. Buffy also occasionally (and out of nowhere) has rather giant cantaloupe sized-breasts, which is equally as jarring as the other inconsistencies.
The issue of inconsistency isn’t just a complaint that Buffy does not look like “Buffy”, because that’s not ideal, but workable, but that Moline’s Buffy changes from page to page and just when you get used to her looking one way, she begins to look another. It’s frustrating. While on the whole Moline’s third (and longest) dream sequence is good, and Buffy looks the most “correct” in those pages, a dream sequence should at a minimum be a chance to really push the visual boundaries (as Steve Morris’ brilliant cover does) but instead it’s just serviceable. So much more could have been done in these pages, and so it ends up feeling like a wasted opportunity. I’ve liked Moline’s work in the past as it’s bold and fun, and he tells a story well, but this issue did not showcase his strengths.
I’ve decided to listen to my better angels and not lampoon you poor readers with my personal rantings on this whole pregnancy storyline. However, I will say that, as a fellow reviewer pointed out, many of these themes have already been explored very directly for Buffy in Season 5 (and beyond) through her relationship with Dawn and the death of Buffy’s mother, Joyce. Does it mean similar themes can’t be explored again? No, of course not. However, I remain skeptical given what we’ve seen this week. This has been an amazing new season for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and I hope the creators know exactly where they’re going as this seems very risky to this reviewer.