After the gut-wrenching events of the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, I was happy to see the team scaling back and getting back to basics with Season Nine. I couldn’t wait for it to start. And then the first five issues wound up in my backlog.
We all have that pile. The books we meant to read, the games we meant to play, the things we meant to do. In our new weekly feature Pile of Shame, we’ll be tackling our personal backlogs and seeing if these things were worth the wait, or better left tossed aside.
Warning: Minor spoilers for Season Eight and Nine ahead.
I still remember the day I found out about Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight. I was in a comic shop on South Street in Philadelphia, and Buffy, one of my all-time favorite shows, had been off the air for over three years. Yet there she was, Buffy Summers in all her glory, on the cover of Previews. I was elated, until I found out it wasn’t coming out until March 2007. That seemed like so far away.
After three great years, Season Eight concluded in 2011, and I mostly loved it. When it started, it felt so familiar, like seeing old friends again. As cheesy as that sounds, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on the air for seven years. It was there when I was in middle school, throughout high school, and for the first half of college. I was very attached to the Scooby Gang, and thrilled to see them return to action. With Joss Whedon very involved in the series, Season Eight was a smooth, natural progression from the events of the series finale.
However, sometimes the scale and scope of Season Eight were so large that it was hard to feel the same emotional attachment that I had with the TV show. Understandably, Joss treated it as the story he wanted to tell without the limitations of a television show’s budget and scheduling issues, which meant he went all out: insane monsters, varied locations spawning several continents, hundreds of slayers, multi-dimensional boning. I was glad to see that the world had changed after Sunnydale was reduced to a crater at the end of show; it just made sense within the context of that world that all the newly awakened potential Slayers would need something else to do, and that Buffy would be the one to lead them. Eventually, though, the international Slayer army took the story so far away from one of the things I loved about the TV show. These characters were supposed to be relatable, flawed, like us, only with a few extra powers or knowledge of the worldwide vampire epidemic. So after the gut-wrenching events of the end of Season Eight, I was happy to see the team scaling back and getting back to basics with Season Nine. I couldn’t wait for it to start. And then the first five issues wound up in my backlog.
Like most things in the pile, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to read them; Season Eight definitely left me wanting more. Whatever the reasons for slacking on my comic-reading, I’m all caught up on Buffy now. And I must say, I love this new approach to post-television Buffy Summers and company. They’re back in California, working mundane jobs, trying to fit in amongst the normal, non-demon-slaying folk and put the horrors they’ve seen behind them–it really feels like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer I watched almost every Tuesday for seven years.
There are some interesting new dynamics that make Season Nine feel fresh. Big sister Buffy is now the third wheel in her sister Dawn’s relationship with Xander. Without her witchy powers (which grew even stronger during Season Eight), Willow’s making a living as a computer programmer and pulling away from the group–she dumped Kennedy, blames Buffy for sucking all of the magic from the world, and has lost a huge part of herself. And though Buffy still has vampires to slay, she’s just another twenty-something without a college education, savings account, or marketable skills. After dedicating her life (and even giving it, on a couple of occasions) to fighting evil and saving the world, all Buffy has to show for it is a coffee shop job and a San Francisco apartment she shares with two roommates. Like in Sunnydale, she spends her nights patrolling, but her slayer skills are no longer a secret. Thanks to Harmony’s rise to fame as a reality TV star, vampires are admired, while Slayers are considered to be terrorists. Even the monsters are suffering; one, having been stuck in the wrong dimension, has been reduced to hassling college dropouts to repay their student loans. On top of that, the former army of potential Slayers aren’t exactly fond of Buffy, either.
After setting up the new lives of the Scoobies, I’m not really sure in which direction this story is heading, but I’m really excited to see Buffy and the gang attempt to resume normal lives after their Season Eight adventures. I’m planning on picking up the first few issues of Angel and Faith, the spinoff series about the adventures of the bad-girl slayer and Buffy’s one true vampire love, to see how it ties into the story. And starting next month, I’ll be reviewing individual issues of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine. Buffy’s back in a big way, and in my opinion, that’s five by five.