We open with the preview pages of Giles' diary, where he talks about why he has no children over the scene of his battle with the demon possessing the little girl. (The Latin on the first panel translates roughly to "We exorcise you, all impure spirit".) The flashback constitutes the first five pages; on the sixth, it transitions to Faith and Angel fighting the same demon, headed by the closing note from Giles, "May God have mercy on their souls."
Angel vamps out and bites the girl to fool the demon into thinking its host body will die. When it leaves her body, the mother takes her out of the room and Angel and Faith continue to fight the demon's true tentaclicious form. They're hacking at it trying to find a brain when its shell/skin bursts and Angel gets blasted with green slime.
The memory that Giles sacrificed to bind the demon is released, and Angel experiences it, explaining to Faith that he just saw the day that Giles fell in love with Jenny Calendar. He's overwhelmed, but the demon is dead and the mother and child come back into the room. Angel and Faith tell Anne (the mother) that the job is done, and Angel apologizes for biting her daughter and explains why he had to do it.
The next page shows Faith and Angel walking from the house, talking about how they told the mother that Giles sent them. Faith says that it was the right thing to say, for the mother's sake, and asks Angel if he's going to go spacey again now that the job that roused him from his catatonic state is over. He says no, but heads home, telling her she's got places to be.
Next page is Nadira's entrance, where she's attacked by a vampirey-looking person who turns out to be Faith testing her reflexes. They head to a club together, and Faith coaxes her to talk about the death of her squad. Nadira's story is told through a flashback: a brother/sister team of humanoid demon people (their most notable feature is that the arms and legs of both are soaked in blood) are massacring the Slayer team with weapons and eye beams of green light. They're called Pearl and Nash, seem to love what they do, and are supervised by Twilight, who does nothing to stop them.
Nadira says that she almost died and that Willow found her and healed her. She didn't tell Faith about it before now because she'd heard things about her relationship with Buffy, and Buffy's relationship with Angel. She has mixed feelings about Buffy, acknowledging that she's probably already been punished enough, but can't forgive Pearl, Nash, or Angel, and she intends to kill them all. Faith finishes her drink and says, "We all gotta dream."
"Elsewhere": Whistler is doing his patented "the big moments" speech at a bar to someone unseen. He says he's about maintaining balance, that Earth's cut off from the mystic dimension, that he can't contact the PTBs, that his precognition isn't working properly, and that it's Angel's fault - for blowing off what Whistler told him. He asks his audience to help him again. The world still needs to evolve; it's dead but doesn't know it yet, and someone needs to do a lot of ugly damage to save them all. It won't be easy, and they'll probably have to go up against Angel.
On the last panel, he hands a beer to someone whose hand is drenched in blood and who says, "Stop." The next page shows that it's Pearl and Nash against a backdrop of murdered patrons of the bar. They accept Whistler's proposition for the sake of bringing in the next stage of evolution and getting payback on their old boss.
Back at Giles' house, Angel and Faith are arguing about what Nadira told Faith. Angel says that he did enlist Pearl and Nash, part of his plan to bring the bad guys together and focus them so that Buffy could stay strong. He was doing it, he says, to keep the world from going to Hell like LA did (which no one remembers but him). He tried to keep Nash and Pearl contained, but couldn't, and there were times that he was more under Twilight's influence than others, which affects his memories of those times.
However, when Faith offers him the loophole of "it wasn't you", he claims the fault is still with him, because he didn't ask the questions he should have or take what chance he had to think about what he was doing. He was weak, and he has a lot of death on his conscience. Faith says it's good to pick up the ball for Giles, but that Angel has to stop obsessing over it if he wants to take Giles' place.
Angel replies, "Take his place? I could never take his place. I'm going to bring Giles back to life."
First page is the one with Buffy red-eyed in a sloppy bed, wondering what she did. It cuts right to the party flashback, with Dawn and Xander arriving as the first guests. They haven't been there before, and Buffy introduces them to her roommates, Anaheed and Tumble. She's asking Xander if he wants to see the bedroom when Willow shows up with her girlfriend, Aura.
In the middle of the page we flash forward again (the colors become noticeably duller during these scenes, a good indication), to Willow checking on Buffy and teasing her with implications that they had sex. Buffy is very hungover, but Willow, while sympathetic, doesn't seem worried. She kisses Buffy's forehead and says, "I'm not the only one whose powers are gone..."
The next page continues the quote, "...Everyone's feeling some loss," overlaying a crime scene. A beautiful young woman lies dead on the sidewalk without a mark on her, and with no ID. One of the detectives, a young man who may be the new friend of Buffy's that we heard about, says he's a rookie. The other says this case is the third one like it this month.
Buffy welcomes Riley, Spike, and Andrew at the door. Spike tells his S4 story, Dawn questions Tumble about his name, Buffy bonds with Andrew.
Back to the washed-out present. Buffy is having a hard time with the shower and her shoelaces, and feeling not just pain and guilt but also dread. She remembers Spike at the party warning her about something inhuman and not nice coming for her, though he doesn't know if it has to do with the Seed. Bottom panel has an unfamiliar man and woman talking to someone who is shown on the next page to have scaly green hands. They hand him(?) packets of information about something that "has to be dealt with", and he removes a photo of Buffy and says (hisses) she'll pay in full.
Buffy world is back to normal colors, and she tries to go to work. Her boss says he already told her not to come in, "You know, after..." She still doesn't know what she did, but gets coffee and leaves.
A troop of demons with glowing spears is facing a ball of green flame. One says that the spells that bind it have weakened, and instructs them to move as one and protect the peace. Then an arm reaches out from the ball and rips his head off, putting an end to that plan. A larger, roughly humanoid demon breaks free and starts killing, having broken thoughts about his task, which seems to be "Kill all."
Buffy's out in the city drinking her coffee and trying to assess last night's damage. She remembers a chicken fight in the pool (everyone's dressed, and she's on the bottom supporting Andrew and exclaiming that this is fun and responsible). Next page seems to take place during the night of the party, as she's in that outfit, but she's alone with Riley and he's showing her his surveillance van while she talks about what she could do with her life. He's fighting terrorists, she's trying to convince herself that things are better now, he calls her out on it, she says the van needs a woman's touch.
Flash....forward-back? Colors are washed out again, but only for a panel while she frets about making a pass at a married man. Then she's talking to her roommates about her friends, whom they love. Anaheed says Willow's turned her bi-curious, and Tumble says he and Spike are starting a band. They admit the party got out of hand, but Buffy also made friends with a grumpy neighbor, and Anaheed says she's got a way of drawing people in.
Simone is driving a VW bus full of weapons through San Francisco and drinking a Red Bull. She's planning "something big", that "shows them we're still here."
Back at the party, Buffy demonstrates how small her room is to Xander. She has an extremely questionable conversation with him that involves her hand on his forearm and Dawnie never having to know. Dawn's in the kitchen, back to back with Anaheed, who's bemoaning her years of pointless education (she's now a fact checker for a website). Spike's telling Tumble about the dirigible. It continues with the montage page, and sad-Buffy-on-patrol in the middle.
When it pans out, we see Willow's with her. Spike appears too and adds to the tally of "after last night" comments. He's there to warn/protect Buffy, though Willow says she'd rather talk to Buffy alone - about the Seed, which Buffy doesn't want. They begin to argue about blame and consequences while Spike makes fun of them, until Willow says, "...I just don't want it to be too late." Green demon-hand shows up, saying, "It is too late." He's not the one who broke free of the flaming ball; he's the one hired by the pair in suits. When they turn to look at him, he's orc-ish and accompanied by tendrils of smoke, and he says "Buffy Summers, it is time for you to pay..."
Final page. Huge voice bubble. "YOUR STUDENT LOAN!"
To be continued.
I'll be brief with this because I'm not much for discussion lately (though you're welcome to hold it here of course, and I'll do my best to chime in), and should be concentrating on other things, but boy did I miss having new Buffy comics.
Buffy's own first issue was a lot of fun. I've said it before, I adore Buffy drunk and offer no apologies. So far all the reviews seem to be saying that she isn't showing much emotional maturity, and it's true, but it really doesn't bother me much more than it surprises me. As far as I can tell, Buffy was fully matured and at her peak in all ways in Season 5. Season 6 was about backsliding, S7 was recovering from the backslide, and S8 was recovering from the recovery - or just backsliding again, if there's a difference. Her character growth isn't going to be about maturity anymore; it's about figuring out what to do with herself once she acknowledges that she's awesome and powerful and worthwhile for her own sake. More backsliding and recovery will be involved, which doesn't make the story better or worse. It just is.
That said, the Buffy half of S9 isn't off to a great start. I have no doubt that it'll be fun to read, but most of the cast appears to be poised and ready to piss us the hell off. The speculation, comments by the team, and now the first two issues seem to be aligned in showing us that the real meat of the season is going to be in Angel's book. I'm fine with that, I just hope Buffy doesn't flounder too much in the meantime, because I'm still going to buying her each month and I want something more from my investment than a few chuckles and a check-in on her relationships.
But on that note, boy did this issue deliver on the chuckles. Buffy's voice is perfect, and everyone else gets a few good lines in too. This was a little lacking in A&F, but I honestly think it has more to do with the character distribution than the writing. The Scoobies are the ones who communicate in Buffyspeak, and Angel and Faith aren't Scoobies. (Apparently everyone who comes in contact with the Scoobies picks up the dialect, too. Anaheed certainly has it.)
Here's a couple favorite lines. Most - okay, all of them - are from drunk/hungover Buffy.
"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 wet hate. Shoelaces are also unacceptable."
"But I got dressed and I walked far and I opened the whole door."
"This is the blossoming of Buffy! The...Bluffoming."
"I could be a DJ! I know a whole bunch of songs! I know eight songs."
"Mistakes were made..." (This is a Reagan quote. I had an English teacher bring it up once as an example on how to use the passive voice to redirect blame.)
"And I scored best for being a police cop! That was what my aptitude scored at!"
My issues with the issue have a whole bucketload to do with a couple tiny panels, in which Buffy and Xander flirt. I'm okay with Buffy flirting with Xander. She also flirts with Riley, Spike, Willow, the cops, the neighbor, her boss, and probably the student loan demon right after the final panel. (I'm exaggerating about most of these, but there was a lot of flirtation.) But Xander appears to flirt back, and their touch at this point is very suggestive, as is the exchange, "Dawnie..." "--Never has to know."
I don't think they actually slept together (actually, I don't think Buffy slept with anyone, despite her fears and fuzzy memory), but it's already too far, and however this scene is accounted for later (like with some important personal non-sexual thing that Xander needed to discuss with a friend), there are obviously problems in the Xander/Dawn relationship. Already. If he's considering intimacy with Buffy, he's not the man I thought he was. If he isn't, he's still being less of a boyfriend than Dawn deserves.
She's gorgeous in this issue, btw, and looks like she's confident and easily connecting with people, and even has a line in which she acknowledges Willow's sadness, which is more than anyone else can say. I hope she's put to better use in this season than she was in the last one, even if she loses the promising relationship I wanted for her.
Oh, right, and Buffy with her flirtations. Don't worry about those. It's a lot different than actually attempting to seduce these people, and we saw the same thing in Season 8 - she tries to play the game just to convince herself she still can. Buffy likes being a hottie and it upsets her when she feels like she's losing it. When she's a little more grounded, she'll drop the habit.
No mention of Giles. Ouch.
One great line from a response in the lettercol: "By the way, Brian [Lynch] is very loyal to IDW, but we have talked about doing something down the road."
Jeanty's art, I'm sorry to say, fell short in this issue. Exception made for the panel where Buffy dances with the cops. She's got the moves.
Don't know what to make of the plotty pages; the mysterious deaths and the glowing green stuff. I stopped trying to analyze glowing green stuff after it didn't pay off in the last season. Anyone got anything?
Angel & Faith is looking tight. The comparison does hurt Buffy, so I'm going to try to not compare them. I also don't really have anything to say about A&F right now, though, since it's been two weeks and all and my brain got stale. The good news, though, is that these comics are different, undeniably distinct from one another. We're never going to get the same story twice. We can decide which characters are the big deal.
(Angel and Faith.)