Freefall, Part 1
Well, this isn't what I was expecting at all.
Not that that's a bad thing at all. I almost always like it when stories can defy my expectations. However, I had been expecting something very similar to Angel & Faith No. 1: a slow and thoughtful examination of the world these characters live in and a look at the kinds of things we should expect from the upcoming season. This is not what we get with Buffy S9 number 1. I realize now that it was pretty silly of me to think it would be at all similar to Angel & Faith. After all, they are completely different characters living halfway across the world from each other now, and the tone of both AtS and BtVS has always been quite different.
In any case, I'm still not sure how I feel about this issue. While I knew immediately after reading that I liked A&F, I'm still not sure how I feel about BS9 yet. So let's dive in and see what this is all about.
The story opens with Buffy waking up in an extremely messy bedroom, very naked and VERY hung over. Her first thoughts are: "God, what have I done?" This is obviously a commentary on her feelings about destroying the seed at the end of last season. However, the shot of Buffy lying naked in bed can't help but be reminiscent of the famous lesbian encounter with Satsu from last season, and that's where my mind jumps first.
Suddenly we are thrown into a flashback of the previous night, and Buffy's housewarming party. She already seems pretty tipsy when the first guests, Xander and Dawn, arrive. Oh Buffy, with your drowing of the sorrows.
We meet Buffy's two roommates, a girl named Anaheed and a dude named Tumble. (Anaheed and Tumble, really? I'm trying to make a joke about this but I can't seem to get past the "two strange names that sound even stranger together" part. Help me out if you can think of something.) I have to say that Xander's trademark wit still makes me laugh more than almost anything else about this world.
ANAHEED: The sister! Would you guys like something to drink?I could totally hear his voice inside me head there.
XANDER: No, we wanna feel this awkward all night.
ANAHEED: There's beer in the bucket, and I made a punch that is both fruity and dangerous.
XANDER: Not unlike myself.
Then, Willow arrives with some girl I don't think we've ever seen before. They seem to be together, so I assume that Kennedy is actually out of the picture now. Interesting. I wonder if we will get to see her. (Note: I never disliked Kennedy. She was no Tara, but I didn't have the vindictive hatred that most of the fandom seems to have for her.)
Suddenly, we switch back to the next morning. I have to say that I really liked the way this was done. The scene from the night before is very colorful, but as soon as it cuts back to NOW, the colors are instantly muted. I love that stuff. (Though, I have to ask. What does that panel with Buffy saying "Presto Change-O" and having surprise-face mean? It looks like it is still part of the flashback but I have no idea what it is all about. Is Buffy reacting to Willow's new babe? Or her haircut? Or... something else? It's not very clear to me.)
We get a brief tease that Buffy and Willow had sex last night, but it turns out that Willow had just stopped by to check on her and try her shower. Which is good, because I don't think that they should ever get together ever. That would just be too strange.
We then cut to a dead girl (slayer?) being examined by two... investigators. A guy and a girl. The guy seems to be a rookie, but the woman reveals that this dead girl has no clear cause of death (it was Lord Voldemort!) and is the third one found this month. Are these two characters going to return or were they just exposition people?
We cut back to the party the night before, as Riley, Spike, and... um... someone dude arrive. (Seriously, are we supposed to know who this is? Georges' art is very unclear. My only guess is that it's Andrew, but it looks nothing like him and I've always thought that Georges' did a very good Andrew. But if it's someone we don't know, it's odd we don't get a name here.) We get a nice exchange where Buffy invites her in and we get this adorable panel of her standing in the doorway with her arm resting on top of her head. I really like physical observations like that. Also, I commend Georges Jeanty for drawing Buffy in that shirt. It looks great, but must have been SUCH a pain to draw.
Then we get some more glimpses of the party, including an exchange between Buffy and Mystery Dude. Okay, this is getting ridiculous. WHO IS THIS? He talks like a hippie but then reveals that he lead a slayer squad? I don't understand. Is it Andrew? It doesn't look like him.
We then cut to two people hiring a demon to "make Buffy pay." They seem scared of the demon, that has a scale thumb and makes smoke happen. Is this at all related to the dead girls?
Buffy arrives at work to find her shift has been covered. Her boss implies that something happened last night. On my first read through, I thought they were implying that Buffy slept with her boss, but now I'm not so sure. I think it's implying she slept with SOMEONE, and she doesn't know who. It's kind of confusing.
Then we see an army of demons trying to prevent something escaping a magic glow-ball. They all die and a demon that has bad head-grammar escapes and wants to... kill all. I don't know who this guy is. It seems like they've set up quite a few different enemies/plotlines this issue so far and I'm kind of confused. How is this related to the dead girls and the two people hiring demons to get Buffy?
Buffy walks around San Francisco, trying to remember things she did the previous night. She remembers having a talk with Riley, where he basically proved that he is still as awesome as he ever was. She's very tipsy and ruins the door of his secret government van and he is surprisingly patient with him. He tells her that he thinks she made the right call on destroying the seed, no matter how guilty she feels about it. Then... she hits on him? But then decides that she would remember sleeping with Riley. So it wasn't him.
Buffy's roommates seem to have genuinely liked Buffy's friends, and they reveal that Buffy was very popular with everyone the previous night, even managing to charm the angry neighbor. I like this little detail: that Buffy is actually a really charming person even if she doesn't realize it.
Then we see that punk slayer from last season, with a hippie van filled with guns (ha!), and she seems to be planning some sort of terrorist act to prove that Slayers are better than normal people. Kind of like an extreme version of Faith's philosophy from Season 3. I was expecting this story to come back and am actually kind of excited to see where it goes, although I'm kind of nervous that the season is already stretched too thin. I mean, how many people are out to kill Buffy at this point?
We then see another flashback, revealing a conversation between Xander and Buffy the previous night. Xander seems upset about something, and Buffy asks if he wants to talk about "it." Xander doesn't want to talk about it and mentions that Dawn doesn't have to know. At the same time, Buffy touches his arm. It's a very physical moment and it really has me concerned. Did something happen between Buffy and Xander? It certainly looks that way. It's strange, though. I'm not sure what to think.
Buffy and Willow meet up with Spike while patroling later that night. Willow confronts Buffy about the seed, and Buffy responds in a way that seems like she's heard whatever Willow wants to say before and that she just doesn't feel like arguing about it. Then, the smoke demon shows up and dramatically threatens Buffy about...
Paying her student loans. Which is... strange. I suppose this was meant as a comedy beat but it just came off as strange. Is this really what those two people earlier were hiring the demon for? It seems so strange. I mean, I don't necessarily have a problem with exploring Buffy's financial problems, but we did that a bit in season 6 and it just seems odd to tie it to the demon world in this way. I don't know. I won't pass judgement on it now.
So, overall I think I liked this issue. I don't think it was as solid a first issue as Angel & Faith, but Joss has always been better with the follow through with the setup, so I'm not that worried yet. I like that this season really does look like it is going to be focusing closer on Buffy's life and not the grand cosmic stuff from last season. I like the character dynamics. The supporting cast seems great: Spike, Willow, Riley, Xander, Dawn. I already like Buffy's roommates, especially Ardeena, and I look forward to getting to see more of them in the future.
My biggest problem with this issue was probably the strange jumps in time. At first it was really well done because the coloring made it clear. But then we started to jump around and Buffy started going different places and we cut to different events and it became very difficult to follow. As I understand it, there are four external subplots being set up: The Kill-All Demon, the Student Loans Demon, The Punk-Rock Slayer (what is her name again?), and the Mysterious Dead Girls. Also, it is implied several times in the issue that Buffy slept with someone, but we never find out if she did or not. I'm inclined to think not, but I'm not sure and I wish it had been a bit clearer on that.
- Loved this line: "When you get right down to it, a nice hot shower is just thousands and thousands of scalding water drops screaming down at you like kamikazes in a never-ending wave of hate."
- I love San Francisco as the setting. It's just... nice.
- The reference to "Beer Bad" and how much everyone hates it. "Put a few drinks in me and I turn into Mrs. O'Leary's cow. Or a cave... person... Boy, was she popular."
- Buffy finding out what haberdashery was. This bit sounded a lot like it was written by Jane Espenson to me.
- Buffy being simultaneously grossed out by the idea of porn but also thinking she should maybe get into it anyway.
- Spike and Tumbler are starting a band.
- Buffy convincing the cops to join the party.
- "Stalky the Clown"
- Spike about to crack a joke at the end.