The Middle Ground #97 | How Buffy got her groove back
There were, let’s face it, numerous warning signs about Buffy: The Vampire Slayer Season Nine, not least of all the way that Season Eight had turned out. But adding a second ongoing book to the line? Joss Whedon only writing the first issue instead of the first arc, because of his commitments to Marvel’s The Avengers? There was, it seemed, little possibility that the series could regain the support or excitement it had at the launch of Season Eight. And then, to quote Jarvis Cocker, something changed.
To be fair, the change had actually started with the final issue of Season Eight, which ended with a text piece from Whedon where he broke the hidden golden rule about making comics: Never admit that you’re wrong. In his trademark good humored tone, Whedon admitted that parts of Season Eight had strayed a little from what made Buffy Buffy, and had gotten so used to the idea of “It’s comics! With no budget worries, we can do anything!” that the question of “Is doing anything necessarily a good idea?” sometimes got left behind. It was a short essay that, in one fell swoop, won back a lot of the goodwill that the series had lost over its forty issue run just by being honest and recognizing some of the problems that had plagued the series throughout its run.
There was something to that, to the idea that the creators were aware of some of the things that had turned readers, turned me off the series up until that point. And yet, the nervousness about the new series remained: Two monthly series, including one starring the character many fans believed was “ruined” forever by Season Eight? Surely that would be disaster! And yet… Angel and Faith is, for me, the better of the two Buffy series these days, a surprisingly great book that jumps off from the events of Season Eight but doesn’t feel weighed down by them, with wonderful art by Rebekah Isaacs.
Buffy, too, is a surprisingly improved book. Whether it was the reaction to Season Eight or simply the new start afforded by the break and new volume, it has a focus and a level of “reality” — well, Buffy reality, at least — that the previous series didn’t, and new writer Andrew Chambliss manages to not only get the Whedon tone exactly right – The reveal at the end of #7 was spectacular, and seemed to fit in with some classic moments from the television series – but also makes it work in comic format in a way that the previous series didn’t.
There are, of course, still some problems with Season Nine, but those are more fanboy nitpicking than what was there before (Seriously, I am done with Spike already), but overall…? Buffy as a franchise has, against all odds, found its feet in comics in a way that I genuinely wouldn’t have expected to this far into its comic existence, and turned into a couple of series that I’ve found myself really looking forward to each month. Guess she somehow found a way to save her world (a lot) one more time.