After the lackluster conclusion to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8," I think a lot of readers pinned their hopes on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" giving a more focused and strong conclusion. If "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #21 is any sign, though, history is about to repeat itself in a bad way.
Andrew Chambliss' story in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #21 has a few problems. First is the lack of an interesting villain to drive the series; neither Simone nor Severin has generated any sort of interesting aspect -- in fact, both of them have been coming across as shockingly generic bad guys that normally would have been relegated to a supporting role. The bigger issue, though, is the almost random amount of story elements that seem to be getting chucked together. With each new piece of past "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" lore thrown into the mix, I can see the idea that all of these different elements could click together in a way that is exciting and a nice bonus for long-time fans. That doesn't seem to happen here, though. Because of the out-of-the-blue nature of each new item or location, it's more akin to someone reading a Wikipedia list of "things that might hold magic" rather than a well-composed, thoughtful story where one moment leads into the next.
Chambliss tries his best, though, and there are some small bits that do work. Xander's betrayal last month continues to play out in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #21, and I like that Chambliss instantly makes readers wonder whose side Xander is really on. It's a nice little fake-out, and it's one of the few pieces of the comic that will capture your attention. The coordination between this title and the more interesting "Angel & Faith" is also good, with one character moving between them in a way that feels natural but also doesn't leave behind anyone who bought one but not the other.
Georges Jeanty and Dexter Vines's art in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" has always been a little erratic; some issues look great, others not so much. This is unfortunately falling into the realm of the latter. You don't have to look farther than page 2 for an example of the problems with the visuals this month. When Buffy first appears in profile, (there's no easy way to put this) she doesn't look like a person, she looks like a Muppet. If it wasn't for the blonde hair and dialogue, I'd have never guessed it was supposed to be Buffy, with a horse-like face, elongated neck and dumbfounded expression. Willow doesn't do much better, with a stiff and still face that feels more like a cheap mannequin based off of the character.
From that point on, the art continues to be erratic. Every time there's an all-right image (like Buffy's, "Let's get you some more magic" moment), you turn the page and suddenly Buffy's nose is long and pointy like a witch's, or Dawn's face looks like it's melting with one eye higher than the other. It's a mess, and I know that these guys are capable of much better.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #21 makes me feel a lot like I did around the conclusion of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8," namely that after all that lead-up it had come crashing down into disaster land. "Angel & Faith" has kept me from swearing off the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" continuations in general, but one "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" is over, I think I'm going to steer clear of future incarnations of the main title unless we end up with a brand-new creative team. Maybe things will turn around in the final issues, but for now this feels like another looming disappointment.