Just picking up this book and experiencing new Buffy was fantastic. It had been a long time since I’d spent time with these characters, and the same attachment that drove Joss to write the book drove me to read it. It is great to see Buffy and Xander again, to think that there could be new developments in their story after four years of stasis. It’s great to see.
Unfortunately, the end of season seven left us in not exactly the best place to continue the story. Buffy’s arc in the show was dealing with her role as the slayer, one girl chosen to combat evil. She could never reconcile that with having a meaningful personal life. However, in the end, she created many new slayers, thus granting herself freedom from the burden of being the one.
The elegance of this ending is undone by having her continuing to burden herself with the work of being a slayer, even more so now that she’s running a massive supernatural combat organization. The worst part of season seven was the idea of Buffy as a general, and unfortunately we get a lot of that here.
Her work with Xander’s mission control is more reminiscent of Alias than the Buffy we once knew. A lot of the show’s charm was in the fact that they were making world-shaping decisions in a library or a magic shop. A high tech headquarters was never what they were about.
The question also arises, where is the money for this stuff coming from? Old Watcher’s Council funds perhaps? That’s not a huge issue, but to go from not being able to repair a pipe in season six to having a helicopter in year eight is a big jump.
At the end of the issue, Buffy reflects on the fact that she misses home, she misses just being a person, not the leader of this group of slayers. By giving her this new conflict, Joss is able to preserve the central issue of the series. Her concerns are my basic concerns, but it’s a risky storytelling move to try and use the inherent flaws of your premise as character issues.
It worked well when the boringness of Riley turned into an exploration of why Buffy could never love an ordinary man. But, denying your reader the central pleasure of the series and trying to use that as a plot point is a bit riskier.
The joy of Buffy was always that it was relatable. That was most emphasized in the high school years, and I found their troubles in years five and six even more understandable. Feeling disconnected from the world is relatable even for people who haven’t come back from the dead, struggling to run a multinational paramilitary organization, not so much. I fear the direction Joss has chosen to take the story will prevent us from being able to just spend time with the characters, always the greatest joy of the series.
Now, I don’t want to knock the whole issue. While there are flaws, it’s still an absolute joy to be back in this universe. Some of the dialogue is a bit overdone with the Buffyspeak, but it mostly works, I particularly like Xander’s Nick Fury reference.
It’s great to hear what’s going on with Willow and Andrew, to understand that they have lives that are still moving forward, despite the series ending. That said, I do think the comic will be hurt by the fact that a lot of the best characters are off-limits. Spike is on Angel season five at this time, so he can’t meet Buffy, and Anya’s dead. The core four are still there, and Dawn, but that’s pretty much it.
Bringing the military back as villains is tricky. Season four’s The Initiative didn’t work out so well, but perhaps with the unlimited visual budget of a comic, this will work better. The revelation at the end of the issue was a great surprise, and indicates that the series will be tightly tied to continuity. I’m not sure who she’s working with, but I’m sure it will be another great surprise for the fans.
After a whole series of objectivity, it feels a bit odd to be given access to Buffy’s thoughts. I’m glad Whedon chose to use those captions, as it is the issue feels a bit light compared to a TV episode, and this at least gives us an efficient recap of her mental state. Still, it hurts to pay three dollars for something that gives us only a third or so of what an episode would.
Ultimately, I’ll forgive all the flaws because we’re back in the Buffyverse, and it’s been way too long since we got new stuff with these characters. It baffles me that Joss couldn’t get his direct to DVD movies set up somewhere, but at least we’ve got something. I’m eagerly awaiting issue two.