Written By: Andrew Chambliss
Pencils By: Georges Jeanty
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: OUT NOW
It’s impossible to discuss the merits of the latest issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without giving away the enormous dilemma Buffy faces. So: ** SPOILERS ALERT!**
**SERIOUSLY, MAJOR SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW**
**YOU’RE STILL HERE? WELL, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED…**
This comic is something that should be fervently discussed, not just amongst (possibly outraged) fan-boys and critics but also by academics, sociologists, politicians – heck – even religious leaders. It tackles a difficult subject head on, with a truthful ferocity that is so far unprecedented in contemporary pop culture.
That’s right, Scoobies; Buffy Summers, your beloved role model, hero and – if you’re like me – your first real crush, is getting the A-word. A ‘shmashmortion‘, as Jonah Hill so finely put it in Knocked Up. While that film quickly brushed over the reasoning behind such a difficult choice, this comic manages to explore the issue with both grace and finesse, avoiding feeling like an after-school special and, most commendably, proving emotionally compelling throughout. The only comparable example within pop culture that I can think of is an episode of Six Feet Under, which dared to actually show the process. However, as good as that episode was, it didn’t have zompires or a bug-piloted spaceship in it.
It’s actually a surprise that, for a show which frequently used allegory to touch upon real life issues, particularly those concerning feminism, the abortion topic has been avoided for so long within the Buffyverse. By finally addressing it here, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 achieves something that Season 8 could never quite manage (despite the fact that it’s something which made the original television run so treasured in the first place): it serves as a mirror for our own personal conflicts and, with the core fan-base now being in their late-twenties/early-thirties, it seems appropriate that the show has moved on from exploring the pains of adolescence, instead shifting gears to reflect the various crises we face in our middle years. Bravo, Team Whedon/Dark Horse, for sticking with your mission statement and keeping this season glued to the personal.
Joss Whedon doesn’t directly write this issue (though he carefully oversaw it, as he describes here), merely serving as Executive Producer, so he can’t take all the credit for the book’s many successes. Andrew Chambliss, the writer that Whedon has entrusted with the series, really comes into his own here. I was initially sceptical of his taking over the book, simply because Whedon has a mastery on these characters that no one else can match (after all, they are his creations). However, Chambliss really comes into his own with this chapter. He nails the tone, with not a beat feeling out of place, nor a word spoken out of character, yet it’s his handling of the resolution that is most impressive. Buffy’s choice feels both natural and right for her character, yet it’s also appropriately – though quietly – devastating. Chambliss doesn’t go for overblown melodramatics or drawn-out sentimentality; he simply voices her reasoning, as it dawns on Buffy that she can barely look after herself, let alone another person. It’s impossible not to be moved by her realisation, and the issue stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
Despite my praises, the book isn’t a masterpiece in comic book storytelling, with some minor quibbles that prevent the comic from getting a perfect score. Georges Jeanty continues to be wildly inconsistent with his pencils, with too many instances where there is detail lacking or, most bizarrely, where it seems he’s accidentally started using the likeness of some other, random blonde girl for a couple of panels, before quickly switching back to copying Sarah Michelle Gellar’s likeness. For the most part, Jeanty’s work is fantastic, though when I look back on those early issues of Season 8 the difference between then and now is staggering; one can only assume that he’s being rushed by editorial pressure to get the book out on time. Compare this to Rebekah Isaacs’ pencils on sister-title Angel and Faith, where she nails every character’s very essence, and you can’t help but feel like the story is losing impact as a result. It certainly takes you out of the moment too many times than I care to count.
However, these small criticisms don’t detract from what is both a very affecting issue and, perhaps most importantly, an extremely significant one. It is, arguably, the most important storyline in Buffy’s history, particularly when you consider it’s place in popular culture and how that could help shift modern attitudes towards this always controversial subject. Though anti-abortion lobbyists would like to make you think otherwise, Buffy’s decision is independent of personal politics or religious belief – it’s a choice unique to her, and her own individual situation – which, at it’s core, is the whole point of pro-choice activism. I have close friends that have faced the same dilemma and, as silly as this may sound, I really believe this book could have helped them if they’d have read it during that difficult time. So, once again, bravo Team Whedon/Dark Horse; you have really made a difference with this comic.