Oddly enough, while Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 was clearly meant to be the flagship of Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy-verse, it has, in the last few months, been considered as the “runt of the litter” by many comic book readers. That all changed last week with release of Buffy: Season 9 #16 and the start of the “Welcome to the Team” arc, featuring the series regular team of writer Andrew Chambliss, penciller Georges Jeanty, inker Dexter Vines, and colorist Michelle Madsen. The return of Xander and Dawn to the mix, a potential new romantic interest for Buffy, and the return of a fan-favorite from the Angel TV series all serve to get Buffy: Season 9 back on track!
Here’s a quick summary of Issue #16:
This issue opens in San Francisco where zompires are still running rampant, but Buffy and her new team (Detective Dowling and male slayer Billy) are doing their part to keep the menace under control, despite running into an extra-strong zompire who manages to get away.
Back at Dawn and Xander’s place, Buffy’s little sister is feeling under the weather and is having trouble keeping the contents of her stomach inside said stomach. After stopping by her place, Buffy arrives just in time to catch the latest of Dawn’s vomiting. Once she recovers, Dawn and Xander interrogate Buffy about what kind of relationship she shares with Dowling, planting the seed for Buffy to starting think of the detective as a potential snuggle bunny.
Meeting Dowling before another round of patrolling, she jokes with Dowling about Dawn and Xander’s suggestion, but the flirty joking ends with Dowling inviting Buffy our for breakfast after patrolling. Billy shows up shortly afterwards, and the Scooby Gang: The Next Generation heads out to dust a local zompire nest.
Things get hectic during the dusting when Buffy spots the uber-strong zompire from the night before and realizes that she recognizes the creature from before it became a zompire. Just then, Buffy is suddenly teleported out of the nest, and Dowling finds his neck in the zompire’s mouth.
The issue wraps up with Illyria stepping out of the shadows to reveal herself to the teleported Buffy, telling her that she must join a mysterious council or perish.
Billy is still hanging with Buffy. After all of the debate over the last two months regarding why Season 9 was pausing to introduce Billy, it’s reassuring to see that he’s completely integrated himself in to Buffy’s life. It sill seems a little random that Buffy has no issues with the dangers that Dowling and Billy are placing themselves in, given her history with her friends, but at least this issue seems to indicate that Billy will be around for the long-term.
Oh hai, Illyria!!! We don’t see much of the blue meanie, but count me as one of the fans who is super excited to see her finally show up in the Dark Horse comics! Not only is it awesome to see her interacting with Buffy after all of her time on Angel, but it also speaks well for the rest of the “Welcome to the Team” arc, given that it’s been stated in a few different Season 9 interviews that Joss had some big plans for the character this season. I cannot wait to see what’s in store!
Really??? Dowling??? I was surprised to see so much positive response to this on the fan boards, because I am not yet on board the Dowling Express. Dowling is a stand-up guy and Jeanty sure draws him as “easy on the eyes” enough (anyone else think he kinda looks like Jeremy Renner?), but I just don’t feel any heat between him and our blonde slayer. At the same time, the last time we saw him, he had zompire teeth sinking into his throat, so this problem has already been solved (boy, is that morbid).
Where’s “Cute” Devon??? Hey, remember that guy that was all into Billy, traveled to San Fran with him, and was supposed to be his watcher? WELL, WHERE THE HELL IS HE??? Normally, I’d just think that he’d show up in the next issue, but given that Billy is sleeping solo on Buffy’s floor and is apparently also doing his own zompire research, his absence seems really fishy here. Let’s just hope we get some answers during the rest of the arc.
So, what’s making Dawn sick??? She’s not pregnant. And, I doubt we’d be spending so much time with her vomit if it was just a simple case of the flu. Dawn and Xander have been acting odd for a while, and it has my spider sense tingling. Are we finally seeing the effects of the destruction of the Seed on the human form of The Key? (More on that later.)
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )
While fan reaction for this episode has been very, very positive, the review sites have been pretty rough on Buffy: Season 9 #16, many considering it a shaky start for a new story arc and not the best work from penciller Georges Jeanty (they are SO wrong about this). That being said, the book still got good reviews from Comics Grinder and Comic Booked.
Did Dowling bite the big one? Hardcore Whedonites know the formula: as soon as a couple is remotely happy together, one should expect pain and death on the horizon. Given the blossoming romance between Dowling and the bloody fate that fell upon the detective at the close of this issue, many are wondering if Dowling’s next appearance will be as a zompire.
Is the world forgetting Dawn piece by piece? And, is she allergic to peanut butter? This issue has many fans speculating that Dawn’s sudden illness is related to her status as The Key and the effects of the destruction of The Seed on the magical elements in our world. Another clue that was pointed out by the fans was the apparent memory loss effecting Xander and Buffy (Xander forgetting Dawn’s birthday earlier in the series, Buffy forgetting her peanut butter allergy in this issue). Are the Scoobies slowly losing their magically created memories of Buffy’s little sister? Also, regarding that peanut butter allergy, it has yet to be established at intentional or an overlooked flaw in the writing, but any good Whedonite should know that Dawn never has a peanut butter allergy given her famous Season 6 experiment in making peanut butter and banana quesadillas. Finally, if Dawn is “fading away,” does that mean we should be worried about any other beloved characters? As one Whedonesque commentator mentioned, Spike and Dawn have also been resurrected by mystical forces . . .
Zompire Nisha? Quite a few people have pointed out that the uber-strong zompire is probably Simone’s lackey, Nisha. She’s the slayer that was stuck in the spider demon’s “web” during the “Predators and Prey” arc in Season 8. She has all the same clothes and the same hair streak as Nisha, so chances seem pretty good that’s where Buffy knows the zompire from, and it probably also means Simone is somehow involved in the San Fran zompire surge.
That’s all for now, Scoobies. I’ll be back later this week with a review of Angel & Faith #17 and a return of a demon from Gile’s past!
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer