But life is life and this is probably about the level of promptness that we can expect from me for the duration of the series. Now let's see what kind of reaction we can expect from me!
Truth? I loved both issues and I am very happy. The Gage/Isaacs team is killin' it, and A&F doesn't even seem to be suffering as much as I thought it would without them. I don't want to sound unkind about this, but thank God Chambliss is gone, and I'm glad Jeanty is moving on to a new set of characters. (More on that later. I'd forgotten until just now that there's another Dark Horse Whedonverse title in motion.)
The characters sound like themselves again. Spike's dialogue seems like it should be easy to write, but it's not. Buffy's patter is a staple of the entire franchise. Everyone else has a distinct signature too, at varying levels of subtle, and I didn't notice a single one who seemed off.
But on a whole other level, what's been fixed here is that all of the characters who appeared (and whoa, that's actually a lot of characters!) had a moment that was just theirs. Everyone participated in the plot or action in some small way, and everyone said or did something that only they could have said or done. Dawn had a cheerful acknowledgment of her extraordinary normality, Andrew had an ill-advised geekism, Xander is poking fun at his own emotional deterioration, Anya IS, Faith saves the day sarcastically, Giles is stuffy only now he's cute while stuffy. It's a lot to juggle for one issue while still setting the scene and providing a balanced mix of dialogue, action, and plot advancement, and I don't expect every issue of the series to succeed so well, but I'm psyched that it happened once and nobody can take that away from me.
So, what's actually going on in this book? Buffy's hair looks great, so that's all we need to say about her. Xander and Dawn are having issues, which sound like the kind of issues that might tear the couple apart, so that gives me hope that it might stay together and begin to offer something interesting and true in the process. Not offering any guesses about Anya, but if they really knock it out of the park, we might have just seen the classic diversion technique: we're told that she's either a ghost or a hallucination, so the best thing she can turn out to be is, of course, neither. No, I don't know what that means. I adore Anya, though, and if they're going to bring anyone back from the dead, I give this choice a hell yeah.
It's nice that nothing spooky was hinted at regarding Dawn - I like her best as an ordinary girl with a crazy origin story, and I really want to see her finding her place in the world. Also, much as I dislike Andrew, I always thought her friendship with him was stronger than what we've seen in the comics so far, so it was cool to see her getting the latest "don't tell Andrew he's gay" joke.
And now the question on everybody's minds: what's in the cards for post-Buffybot/post-Darkplace Buffy and Spike? My answer: exactly what Buffy says. They finally earned the friendship they wanted and deserved, they've established an efficient battle team-up, they can tease and confide in each other, and seriously no seriously, good for them. Spike already has more potential for a character arc than he had for the entirety of Season 8 and 9. He gets to be cool again - and maybe funny too!
The only character I'm on the fence about is Willow, and that's just because I can't really tell what we should expect from her after the events of her S9 miniseries and then the season finale. Clearly she has to show some internal development considering the impact of bringing magic back into the world almost single-handedly, but she's also returned to flying around tossing magic splashes with her hands, and my eyes kind of glided right over her panels. What should we be looking for?
However, I have no problems whatsoever with Giles' return. I don't even have a problem with seeing it twice. People were saying it was sappy; well, why on earth would you want it to be anything else? Buffy lost someone she loves very much, and she just got him back. They're hugging and crying and fighting side by side and nothing hurts. Any more words would have been too much - not to mention that a full conversation will be something to look forward to in the next issue.
Which, from what we've seen? Is a great start. I know, who cares about Dowling - but the fact that Buffy's just been through another short-lived relationship is definitely worth a few pages of attention. Come to think of it, her relationship status could stand to get a few issues of exclusive attention. We can rant and rave about it all we like, but this was a story built on romance, and until the main character commits to a lifetime partner or commits to not having one, it's going to be an important plot element.
I'm finding I have a lot less to say about A&F, and on skimming through the issue again, I'm more interested in the art. I flip-flopped on it a few times already because I'm awfully picky about the way Angel is drawn and this guy wasn't right on target with every panel, but now I'm leaning more toward overall approval. The characters' faces aren't consistently perfect, but they're consistently good, very recognizable, and attractive without using any standard comic book exaggeration of sexuality.
Not only that, but I'm suddenly realizing how good the backgrounds are, and how important that is to a comic like this one. I think we all missed the noir vibe a little in S9, and now we might get it back. Much as I love Rebekah Isaacs and was sorry to see her go from A&F, she didn't seem as well-suited to the murky, dramatically shaded scenes as this new guy is. (No, I haven't learned his name yet. To all things their proper time.) There's also a lot of detail in foreground objects and clothing, and that always makes a panel more fun to look at. The monster designs were nifty and the background characters all had personality. I may end up hating the art in the next issue, but right now, I'm really excited to see more.
And on almost everything else A&F related, I'm holding back judgment. Nothing grabbed at my heart and nothing outright disappointed me. Sometimes, that kind of overall neutral reaction is an automatic death knell, but that's not how I'm feeling for this one. It just happens to be heavily weighted toward setting the scene, and the cast of TV-legacy characters is greatly reduced, not to mention our two titular heroes having their own distinct storylines on different continents. All of these are inherited problems and have nothing to do with the writer's skill or lack thereof. Since I didn't see a problem with style, pacing, characterization, or voice, I'm not losing hope for this series just because it didn't stun me in its first issue.
Since the last season ended I've been speculating that this one will involve an all-around team shuffle. That was a bit stymied by "Angel & Faith" keeping the title "Angel & Faith", but now I wonder if the gimmick will be a mid-season change of the title itself. Who's to say they can't, right?
Sorry for jamming all of this together, but I actually thought I'd be a lot briefer with my comments. As always, I'm all over the place but that doesn't mean I wouldn't love to talk about these comics with anyone who wants to. Also happy to host a conversation if any of you just want a post where you can talk to each other. Dark Horse Buffy forever!