Sunday, 3 March 2013

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume 1: Freefall by Joss Whedon / Andrew Chambliss / Georges Jeanty etc

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume 1: Freefall (2012) (Dark Horse)
Joss Whedon (script), Andrew Chambliss (script), Georges Jeanty (art), Karl Moline (art), Jo Chen (cover)
Grade: B-/C+
Genre: graphic novel
Source: own
Buffy Season 9: (1) Freefall, (2) On Your Own, (3) Guarded

I have to admit to being a little dubious about Season 9 what with the way that Season 8 ended. It’s rather a pain to write this review without having already reviewed any of Season 8, but that’s life. I have exposed myself rather stupidly to some accidental spoilers for Season 9 and I’ve hated myself for it. Besides this, I’m not entirely sure what direction Joss is taking Buffy this season and in my attempts to protect my heart from further break, I’m a little reluctant to actually even venture to start Season 9. But, I saw Volume 2 on NetGalley and had to have it; but before that, I needed to read Volume 1 first. So here I am.

Season 8 ended with Buffy destroying the Seed: the core of all magic. I’m still a little hazy about it all works, but basically magic has been eradicated from the world and it’s all Buffy’s fault. I’m unclear as to why Willow can no longer do magic yet Buffy still has her Chosen One powers, but Willow explained it like this:

“All the Slayers, the vampires, even the demons with magical mojo. You all got to keep your power because it was inside of you. But everyone else got cut off from what made them tick. For me, it was magic.”

Understandably, a lot of people – well, demons – are pissed off and want Buffy’s blood. She’s just trying to survive in San Francisco with a crappy job as a waitress and no one left of her Scooby Gang to rely on: Dawnie has moved in with Xander; Will is still pissed off with her because she still doesn’t understand the consequences of what destroying the Seed really had and Giles … well, if you read my review of Angel& Faith: Live Through This, you’ll know about Giles.

Scores of John and Jane Does are cropping up all over San Fran and the police are turning up clueless. There is not a mark on any of the bodies to indicate how they died and it isn’t until investigators go back to missing person records that they have any luck identifying the bodies. Now that vampires are a matter of common knowledge, the police have an inkling that these bodies they’re finding are of the undead variety, but have nothing to cement their theories. When Buffy is found doing her job of keeping the streets safe, she’s hauled in for questioning. Escape may be the best thing to do in the circumstances, but it has put Buffy back on the most wanted lists and she’s going to have to work quickly to discover the cause of these deaths before she ends up captured again …

I was a little underwhelmed by Freefall. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but I’m disappointed – at least until the end of Freefall Part 4 where we came to understand what the whole arc was about. After the heartbreak of the end of Season 8, as I already mentioned above, it’s hard to figure out the new direction that Buffy is going to take and I don’t like it. However much I worship Joss Whedon and his geniousness, I knew that it was going to have to take something big to make me love Buffy again and I wasn’t convinced by the start that I was presented with in Freefall.

So I read Freefall some time ago now (i.e. September – yes, I had to look this up and yes, I’m ashamed and yes, I despise myself, don’t worry) and it was that underwhelming that I don’t remember a whole lot of it. Even re-reading through the summary that I had already typed as above hasn’t done much to jog my memory. Alas, I’m in need of posting a new review and this was going to be it.

The one thing I do remember about Freefall is how issue 5, (Slayer, Interrupted) ends. Wow. This was the thing that I had spoilered myself about, and so in a way, I was glad that it appeared early and I didn’t have to dread it coming up. My initial reactions (both on being spoilered and actually reading it) was one of shock, hence the ‘wow.’ Even remembering it now, shock is still my predominant emotion. I may not be too hot on the course that has been taken here and there has been some controversy surrounding it, but since I’ve yet to read on, I don’t know why Joss Whedon has chosen this storyline so don’t feel that I can comment adequately on it as of this moment in time.

I’m considerably upset about the cover. The one posted as above is the cover for the entire Freefall arc. Now, Buffy, Angel, Angel & Faith and Runaways might be the extent of my comic book/graphic novel repertoire, but Jo Chen is still my hero. Her art is amazing and I always look forward to seeing what new Buffy covers she comes out with. She may not have done all the individual issue covers, but she lays claim to the trade paperback covers and they’re all gorgeous. Except – in my opinion – this one. Feel free to disagree with me, but I just don’t like it. Mainly, although the likeness with Sarah Michelle Gellar is certainly there, Buffy just looks fat. Secondly, it’s just boring. Yes, that could be indicative of the new route that Buffy’s life has taken, but it’s still boring. What’s wrong, I ask, with the cover that was used for Freefall Issue 1? It really couldn’t have been more gorgeous, but I get that an issue cover can’t be used as the arc cover. But really, Ms Chen could have done better so much better.

So what did I actually like about Freefall, I hear you ask and understandably so. Rest assured, I’ll definitely be back. That spoiler I mentioned? It’s only the first half of more explosiveness and controversy to come and I want to see how it all pans out. For me, it was the single stand-out moment in Freefall and despite how it seems like my tone through this whole review has been one of mediocrity, I will crack open On Your Own – once I find it, that is.

Images courtesy of Book Depository and Dark Horse

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