You know, I might make weekend comics a tradition ‘round my place. Every week or so, I’ll hole up inside (or outside, once it warms up) with a favoured series and perhaps a nice pot of tea. (Or a bottle of beer. Books + beer = happy Memory.)
Two weekends ago, I decided it was about durned time I revisit the premiere volumes of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, SEASON NINE and its cognate title, ANGEL & FAITH. My first reread (LIVE THROUGH THIS) was such a success that I promptly purchased the most recent bundled volume of each series from Dark Horse’s digital store and spent a few glorious hours wallowing in the Buffyverse.
Good times, y’all. Good times.
I’m loving both series, though I’ve found that it takes me a couple of readings to full appreciate each story arc. DADDY ISSUES and FREEFALL both began as 3.5s (books I really liked, but didn’t quite love) but jumped up to 4s (books I loved) the second time through, and it looks like FAMILY REUNION and GUARDED will run in the same vein. I remain excited about where each series is headed, though, and you can bet I’ll get the next bundles as soon as they go on sale. (Despite my recent conversion to digital comics--more on that at a later date--I’ve decided not to buy the individual issues. They're cheaper when they're bundled, and I know I wouldn't read them until the arc was complete anyways.)
ANGEL & FAITH remains my favourite of the two series. I love what writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs have done, and continue to do, with these characters. Faith’s in a relatively new position for her: she’s the responsible one. She’s got to look out for the other London Slayers, many of whom are still uncertain of themselves, and she’s got to keep Angel from self-destructing. She messes up along the way, but she learns from her mistakes and tries to improve. I love that about her.
Angel, now, is pretty well as obsessive as he’s always been, and it’s become apparent that this ain’t the way to live. As Faith points out to him, he’s always after the grand gesture; the one thing he can do to achieve redemption and make everything right again. Trouble is, redemption isn't a set of scales where you can balance every bad act with something good. There are no easy fixes, and the ones he tries to put in place almost inevitably hurt the people he cares about. His whole let’s-resurrect-Giles thing, for example, is dangerous on multiple levels, not least because it might destroy or fundamentally cripple the very person he’s trying to save. Even if he does succeed, there’s a good chance he’ll annihilate his own personality in the process. It’s bad news all around, as the text makes a little clearer with every volume.
I like how Gage and Isaacs make an effort to incorporate characters from Angel’s show, too. Harmony popped up at the end of LIVE THROUGH THIS, and FAMILY REUNION brings Angel back into contact with Connor and Gunn. (Though, way to do absolutely nothing with Gunn. He’s basically just a chauffeur. Doesn’t the guy deserve better than that?) I’ll admit, I’m a little sad they did away with a certain aspect of Connor’s personality (one I very much enjoyed during Brian Lynch’s run on ANGEL: AFTER THE FALL), but I can see why it would happen now that the world is cut off from magic. I hope they continue to explore the new Connor as the series rolls along, but I’ve got a feeling his appearance was a one-off type of thing.
BtVS, now, is crafted on a much more personal scale. Buffy’s sort of up against a Big Bad, insofar as Simone wants to end her, but that’s more of a side plot. The series focuses on What Happens Next. Buffy has changed the world, for good or ill, and it’s had a huge effect on her own prospects. She’s got a lot to figure out, personally and professionally, and she's reeling. As if dealing with the dramatic shift from a magic-filled world to a magicless world wasn't enough, the series has slowly stripped away her support system. Xander and Dawn are less active in her life now that they don’t all live together. Willow is off pursing her own projects, as are Buffy’s fellow Slayers. Spike got out for his own good. Andrew is more a hindrance than a help. Giles is dead, and Buffy can’t stand the sight of the guy who killed him (which: Angel).
The season feels like a testing ground for Buffy. She has the opportunity to try a bunch of different, grown-up-type things: roommates, a variety of jobs, life in a world where everyone knows about (and likes) vampires. It seems like the natural next step for her, after the epic events of S8, and I’m enjoying it all very much--even though it's utterly heartwrenching at times. The stuff with Spike and Andrew in ON YOUR OWN really got to me, but I think I'm perhaps most worried about where things are headed with Xander. We've had a couple of deeply distressing hints as to what's going on with him. I hope he'll get some more screen time nice and soon.
I believe there’ll be two more collected volumes in each series, plus two mini-series featuring Willow and Spike. (Spike’s just wrapped up, so I’ll buy it as soon as Dark Horse bundles it. I imagine that’ll be in a month or two.) I can haz tomorrow, please?
4 stars each to LIVE THROUGH THIS, FREEFALL, DADDY ISSUES, and ON YOUR OWN
3.5 stars each to FAMILY REUNION and GUARDED
YA author Mindi Scott, who is herself a big Buffy fan, has written novels called FREEFALL and LIVE THROUGH THIS. Coincidence? Probably, but it's still cool.
Back In the Day: